Viewport width =


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 […]

September 18, 2017

The knowledge of philosophy that exists in Western societies tends to be tragically Eurocentric, and not many people are aware of the rich philosophical traditions that exist in other cultures. For example, most people associate the concept of the “state of nature” with Thomas Hobbes, an English philosopher from the 17th century (even if you […]

August 21, 2017

It’s not often that a large majority of philosophers come to agree on controversial topics. And when it does happen, it’s usually a case of “negative progress” — agreement that a particular philosophical position is bad, and should be rejected. This sort of progress typically creates a great deal more disagreement, rather than solving anything. […]

August 7, 2017

Let’s imagine for a moment that God is creating the universe. In an instant, God determines all of the physical facts about the universe, down to the exact position of every single atom. The question now is — is God done? That is to say, has God created everything that exists? “Physicalists” would say yes. […]