Category Archives: philosophy

introspect to reenchant the inner life

John Stewart Mill was the son of a great classical utilitarian. He was taught that happiness could be measured on a one-dimensional scale from pain to pleasure. Since he was only one of many millions of human beings, he should focus on helping others to … Continue reading

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the grammar of the four Noble Truths

We’re reading about Buddhist ethics in my Introduction to Philosophy course, and the Four Noble Truths are our focus. Here is how the first Truth is presented in the Sermon at Benares (attributed to the Buddha himself): “Now, this, O bhikkhus [monks], is the noble truth … Continue reading

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first year college students and moral relativism

Justin McBrayer, a philosophy professor, wrote not long ago in The New York Times, “philosophy professors with whom I have spoken suggest that the overwhelming majority of college freshmen in their classrooms view moral claims as mere opinions that are … Continue reading

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my Introduction to Philosophy seminar

I will be teaching Intro to Philosophy at Tufts this semester, starting tomorrow. This course can be taught in several different ways: for instance, with a chronological sequence of major works, with a focus on one large issue, or with … Continue reading

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structured moral pluralism (a proposal)

(New York) Isaiah Berlin recalled that the Russian novelists he read as boy shared with “the major figures [of philosophy], especially in the field of ethical and political thought,” a common “Platonic ideal.” This ideal implied, In the first place that, as in … Continue reading

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the lack of diversity in philosophy is blocking its progress

I’m on vacation this week and most of next, so I’m not blogging. However, a piece of mine has just appeared in Aeon, entitled “The lack of diversity in philosophy is blocking its progress.” It begins: Philosophy is a remarkably … Continue reading

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pragmatism and the problem of evil

Discussing Dewey in the Summer Institute of Civic Studies yesterday, I (and, I think, several colleagues) had the sudden recognition that American pragmatists tend not to deal with evil very persuasively. In The Public and its Problems, Dewey writes: Nevertheless, … Continue reading

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an alternative to Moral Foundations Theory

Jonathan Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory is one of the most influential current approaches to moral psychology and it exemplifies certain assumptions that are pervasive in psychology more generally. I have been working lately with 18 friends and colleagues to “map” … Continue reading

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who says that binary thinking is Western?

I often hear that binary oppositions are typical of Western thought. The implication is that “we” should strive to avoid being trapped by such oppositions. To be sure, certain distinctions (white/non-white, male/female, Christian/non-Christian) are the basis of injustices. Those distinctions have been important in Western … Continue reading

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aphorisms, proverbs, maxims, and the purpose of this blog

If you search the Internet for “aphorisms,” you’ll find a mix of authors, from Lao Tze to Jean Baudrillard. Some are literary figures who are eminently quotable–good at writing short, memorable passages that stand on their own even if they were originally composed … Continue reading

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