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AuthorShakked Noy

Author Archive: Shakked Noy

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September 17, 2018

Historically, philosophers have defended a wide variety of views about sex and sexual activity; some of these have been traditionally liberal, others traditionally conservative, and some truly bizarre. In this column, I will briefly describe the views on sex expressed by three famous philosophers: beginning in the 18th century with Immanuel Kant, fast-forwarding to the […]

August 20, 2018

Utilitarianism is an ethical doctrine which states that the morally right action is the action which maximises net welfare. Formulated most famously by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill in the 19th century, utilitarianism is a radical ethical theory with a number of counterintuitive conclusions. Among these conclusions is the doctrine of “negative responsibility”: the […]

August 6, 2018

Imagine that we live in a post-apocalyptic society. The apocalypse has had one particularly pernicious effect: it has shattered and fragmented the natural sciences beyond repair. Scattered bits of pre-apocalyptic science turn up – a few pages of a biology textbook here, a chemistry paper there. But these fragments are entirely devoid of scientific context, […]

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 […]