This category contains 6 posts

Morality and filth

cleanliness is next to godlinessDisgust is an odd emotion. I can be (and am) disgusted by ketchup. I can also be (and also am) disgusted by cruelty. We use the same word – disgust – to mean both physical revulsion and strong moral disapproval, and yet it’s not terribly obvious why they might be related, at least logically speaking. In a long essay¬†published in Aeon, Katherine McAuliffe explores how triggers for physical disgust may affect or sense of morality. As with much of sociobiology, there is a lot of correlation without much certainty of causation, but the data and accompanying speculation are interesting.… Read the rest

What do we need to know?

This video from the RSA is short but entertaining.… Read the rest

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

Is it possible to separate what is said from how it is said? It would be comforting to think so, to believe that we don’t judge a book by its cover, so to speak. It turns out that isn’t so easy to do. Have a look at this writeup on research conducted by the University of Chicago. Truth is harder to recognize if it is spoken with a funny accent.

Do you imagine yourself to be more distrustful of people with foreign accents? Are there ways of “compensating” for this? Do we have an ethical duty to trust people equally regardless of their accent, physical appearance or nationality?… Read the rest

Book Review: The Happiness Hypothesis, by Jonathan Haidt

I know what you’re thinking – the last thing the world needs is yet another self-help book telling you to be nice to people, love yourself and ask the universe for stuff. And generally, I’d agree.

But The Happiness Hypothesis is different. Haidt is a psychology professor and researcher at the University of Virginia, and his book his a well-written, fairly dense synthesis of the latest research on happiness expressed in laymen’s terms. Haidt organizes his discussion around ten pieces of “ancient wisdom” – one might be forgiven for suspecting that his publisher forced him to put it this way – but the result is a broad exploration of things that studies have consistently shown contribute to human happiness, along with a certain amount of speculation on the evolutionary advantages of certain behaviors and inbuilt reactions.… Read the rest

The Ten Commitments

The American Humanist Association has elaborated what they call the Ten Commitments, an obvious parallel to the Ten Commandments, as an attempt to define the core values – values not defined by the belief in a deity – that we should be teaching in schools. As an attempt to crystallize a set of goals for the teaching of values independent of specific religious sources, it is laudable and helpful. But can we, as they suggest, teach values”¬†free of ideology and theology.” Or are values necessarily derived from a specific ideological worldview and a specific position with regard to the nature of, or existence of, a supreme lawgiver?… Read the rest

Olympic badminton and the penumbra of values

Eight Olympic badminton players have been disqualified for throwing matches in order to obtain what they considered a more favorable position in the tournament.Click here for the details.

There is always a certain gap between the bare bones of what the rules say and what they intend, between the letter and the spirit of the law. This gap is a dangerous and contentious zone, primarily because it is within this zone that we must appeal to the higher, more nebulous concept of values. The rules lay out what we all agree to be clearly intolerable. When we enforce concepts not within the rules, we inject uncertainty into our dealings with others, which is what the rules are there to avoid.… Read the rest

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