Foggy thinking among confused undergraduates

Everyday Philosophy A friend who shares my fate of being a graduate student in philosophy was recently regaling me with tales of what teaching undergraduates was like. She informed me that an increasing number of them at her university were “both utilitarians and relativists”. She said it laughing, because this quite a mean feat. The…

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Reasons to be a philosopher

Everyday Philosophy What’s the point of philosophy? I don’t mean to offer a justification for my own attempt to get a career out of it. When it comes to academic philosophy the standard reaction – “sure there’s no jobs in that” – could best be described as “harsh but fair”. No, I mean, what’s the…

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Wokeness and conceptual clarity

Everyday Philosophy Modern academic philosophy is divided into two broad camps or traditions: ‘analytic philosophy’ and ‘continental philosophy’. They each have their own stereotypes. Continental philosophers, the heirs of Sartre, Nietzche, Heideggar, and Camus, are stereotyped as being interested in big, existential questions – but writing about them in ways that range from ‘poetic’ to…

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Break your barrier to truth-seeking

Everyday Philosophy If you think about the intellectual virtues needed to be a good philosopher, or just a good thinker, ‘humility’ doesn’t immediately spring to mind. The way philosophers conduct themselves may have something to do with this, but it’s also just not the most intuitive or obvious answer. ‘Curiosity’ comes to mind before it…

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The needless horrible suffering of sentient creatures

Everyday Philosophy What do St Thomas Aquinas’s position on divine command theory and factory farming of animals have to do with each other? Plato’s Euthyphro dilemma asks whether things are good because God wills them, or whether God wills them because they are good. Divine command theory takes the first position: that the only thing…

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Is it bigoted to be sure we’re right?

Everyday Philosophy How open-minded should a Christian be? On the one hand, open-mindedness is generally a good thing. Being open to the possibility of learning new things, and to the possibility that one is mistaken, is a mark of a healthy mind. It’s also a sign of humility. Openness to being wrong is an acknowledgement…

When ‘prudential judgment’ becomes moral relativism

Everyday Philosophy There’s a standard bit of ethical terminology that gets thrown around a lot in Catholic circles: the difference between moral questions that involve ‘intrinsic evils’ and moral questions that involve ‘matters of prudential judgment’. This comes up a lot in politics: support for certain things like abortion and euthanasia are supposed to be…

How we can talk meaningfully about God

The idea that you can’t say anything meaningful about what you don’t understand has a lot of intuitive appeal. If, after all, you know nothing whatsoever about the thing you’re talking about, then you can’t say anything whatsoever about it either. Imagine overhearing the following exchange: “I just happened across a Fringle.” “Oh cool! What’s…

On following moral rules

Everyday Philosophy There’s an interesting tension in Catholic moral thought. On the one hand, we have the prevalent idea that living well as a Catholic is not a matter of rule-following. The last few popes have spoken extensively about how authentic faith is not about obeying a set of rules, but a relationship with God.…