Beware of [YA Dystopias] Bearing Gifts?

This post contains vague spoilers for the Hunger Games trilogy.  I'm speaking in generalities about the moral development of some of the characters, but do not discuss any specific plot developments.  Consider yourselves warned.I really enjoyed the Hunger Games series (and had a great time dressing up for the movie) but I'm mainly pitched it to people in tragic terms.  Unlike many other YA dystopian hero/ines, Katniss is marked and warped by the cost of bringing down her society.  During par … [Read more...]

Moral Intuitions Quiz: Lobotomized Meat

Remember you can vote once per day for the Atheism Awards.  I'm one of five nominees for Best Atheist Blog.  More details here.Via the Daily Dish, André Ford, a student in the architecture department at the Royal College of Art came up with a kind of grotesque final project for a class focusing on "how a dense and vertical architecture can bring back food production and consumption in the city." Ford designed an apparatus that would give a whole new definition to the phrase "f … [Read more...]

Isn’t that Sweeney there beside you?

I'm in transit today.  It's the weekend of the Harvard-Yale football game, and I'm headed up early to see the campus production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.  So while I navigate wind and rain and buses and trains, you can check out the paper I wrote on Sweeney's moral code for my Sondheim seminar last year.  I've uploaded the document "If Only Angels Could Prevail: The Moral Tragedy of Sweeney Todd" to Scribd.To be honest, I love Sweeney and Sondheim so much that I' … [Read more...]

Not Even if it’s the Right Thing to Do

So after kicking around the idea of sin-eating -- trying to take on the burden of someone else's evil, I still think it might theoretically be a moral act, but I've come around to recommending that nobody do it.  It seems to fit neatly into the type of ethical injunctions Eliezer Yudkowsky recommended for computers (and people): "You should never, ever murder an innocent person who's helped you, even if it's the right thing to do; because it's far more likely that you've made a mistake, than … [Read more...]

Assenting to Sin

If someone has made up their mind to do something evil, is there any benefit to them if someone else prevents them from carrying out their intended action? The hypothetical doesn’t need to be as extreme as the examples of the last few days, where someone else commits the evil act preemptively to prevent you from managing it. Imagine instead someone swapping out PZ Myers’s consecrated wafer with an unconsecrated wafer before he desecrated it, or just stealing it back from him alt … [Read more...]

Harry Potter Spoilers and Ethical Quandaries in this Post

I'd like to expand the discussion on taking on the burden of someone else's sin that was taking place in one of the foolish virgins threads.  The example I'm using is the major spoiler from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, so if you haven't read it, don't already know, and don't want to, I'm sorry to say you should skip the post.  (That's what you get for not going to the midnight release).  Spoilers ahoy!Ok, so everyone who's still here knows exactly what I'm talking about: the mo … [Read more...]

More on the Damnably Foolish Virgins

UPDATE: there are Harry Potter spoilers in the comments section.  If this is a problem for you, don't read my reply to Christian H or anything that follows.Thanks a lot to everyone who weighed in with exegesis of the parable of the ten virgins.  More perpectives and references are quite welcome.  Several people said it was impossible (physically and metaphorically) for the wise virgins to save the foolhardy ones; no mortal can fully redeem another person.  A number of people took this as a ju … [Read more...]