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AuthorShakked Noy

Author Archive: Shakked Noy

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June 5, 2018

As with most other academic fields, people have a lot of misconceptions about philosophy. These misconceptions range from the idea that philosophers spend all day arguing about “the meaning of life”, to the erroneous belief that philosophy is too abstract to be relevant to everyday life. In reality, blanket statements about any field are rarely […]

May 21, 2018

The philosopher Derek Parfit, who we discussed last column, believes that a dominant theory of rationality — what he calls the “Self-Interest Theory” — is internally inconsistent. The Self-Interest Theory is a theory of rationality which tells us to do whatever would maximise the total wellbeing of our whole life. So according to the Self-Interest […]

May 7, 2018

We can reject theories about morality for many reasons. One potential reason is that it produces results which conflict with strong intuitions that we have. For example, many philosophers reject the moral theory of utilitarianism, which says that we ought to do whatever maximises total happiness, because it provides very counterintuitive answers to a variety […]

April 16, 2018

This week’s Salient theme is “taboo”. Fortunately, there’s quite a substantial intersection between “things which are philosophical” and “things which are taboo”. So in honour of the theme, here are some very counterintuitive philosophical arguments with (potentially) taboo conclusions. Note: all of these are real arguments that have been made by real philosophers. Why killing […]

March 26, 2018

Going to Heaven for all of eternity seems like it would be pretty great. In fact, it seems so awesome that any finite sacrifice I could make during my life would be worth it if it meant I got to go to Heaven. Given that, why don’t I make the finite sacrifice of choosing to […]

March 12, 2018

Imagine two groups of hunter-gatherers in the year 2,000,000 BC. Group A’s members are completely amoral. They have no concept of fairness or justice or duty, and pursue their own desires independently of moral constraints. Group A’s members steal from each other when no one is looking. They never risk their lives to help each […]

February 26, 2018

Does anything really matter? Many of us, in our more existential moments, might find ourselves thinking about this question. Nihilism – the proposition that nothing matters, or that nothing has value, or that we have no reason for doing anything – might appear very plausible. After all, it seems that a modern scientific worldview leaves […]

October 16, 2017

Few ideas are as divisive as “moral relativism” — the belief that morality, rather than being a universal constant, varies from context to context. Moral relativism has never enjoyed widespread support in academic philosophy, but it has had a few very prominent defenders — among them Gilbert Harman, and Bernard Williams, widely considered one of […]

October 2, 2017

Can an act be morally wrong even though it leaves no one worse off? Imagine that there is a large quantity of radioactive waste that we have to deal with. We have two options: spend some money to contain it permanently, or build a cheaper, temporary shelter which will deteriorate over the next couple of […]