Philosophers' Carnival VIII

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8th Philosophers' Carnival is at enwe's meta-blog. [Update: It's been moved here now.] I didn't submit any of my posts, not thinking I had anything philosophically worthy, but someone apparently disagreed, because my is in it. That's one of the nice things about the Philosophers' Carnival. People seem much more inclined to submit other people's stuff to it than with other carnivals. Here are some of the highlights for me.

I've already mentioned this, but my OrangePhilosophy co-blogger Mark Steen's I Ask the Big Questions asks the big questions, and it's also mysteriously found its way into this week's carnival. I heard a rumor that Mark thinks I was the culprit.

Another post that I've previously linked to appears, and that's David Velleman's Family Values at Left2Right, in which he argues, among other things, that the traditional family really is a good thing, just as conservatives argue, but that conservatives really ought to be more worried about surrogate mothers, sperm and egg donors, and other things that threaten the traditional family at least as much as gay marriage. The religious right seems to care only about people's sexual habits and not other things that are directly related to redefining the family. This is a caricature if it's supposed to describe evangelicalism as a whole, but it's dead on when dealing with those who seem to think gay marriage and abortion are the only moral issues out there.

Dinner Table Donts raises some interesting moral questions. At what point are you obligated to stay with someone who develops some condition that removes your significant other's capacities for relational interaction, i.e. becomes what many people call a vegetable (I assume leaving some room for vagueness in what counts as such a state)? I think Peter is assuming marriage vows give a moral obligation to care for the person, and he's suggesting an agreement to get married might as well but a mere relationship, perhaps even one of living together with no further commitment, does not.

Richard Chappell's post at Philosophy, et cetera explains quite nicely why psychological egoism, the view that everything we do is selfish is just completely at odds with how we use the word 'selfish' (and therefore at odds with what the word means). I have a minor disagreement with him regarding his definition of self-interest in terms of desire fulfillment (which seems backwards to me). His overall argument is just plain correct, though.

Studi Galileiani challenges two myths about Galileo. One is the popular one that Galileo was a martyr for science and that the Roman Catholic Church refused to heed him due to their blind allegiance to scripture (which doesn't clearly deny anything Galileo said anyway, but that's another matter entirely from the historical issues about what happened). The second is that Galileo hadn't really established his thesis, and the Roman Catholic Church simply wanted to wait for more evidence, while Galileo himself wouldn't relent, displaying extremely offensive behavior against those who simply wanted more research done. Hugo focuses on the second myth, but he provides a link to information refuting the first.

At blog.biothetics.net, there's a nice refutation of some of the arguments against cloning dead pets, particularly with respect to animal welfare worries. What's more worrisome is another kind of genetic engineering on the horizon. See the post to find out what. It's much more disturbing than creating an identical twin of your cat.

Finally, E.G. has a thoughtful post expressing the worry that a moral theory can't satisfy both of the following desiderata: (a) satisfying most or many of our moral intutitions and (b) giving us helpful (he says surprising, but I think helpfulness is what we really want) answers to moral questions that we might not have intuitions about or might have contrary intuitions. The author argues that it isn't impossible for a theory to satisfy both, because it might reflect all our intuitions about certain kinds of moral beliefs but give us helpful answers about ones we're not sure about (or that are controversial). That sounds exactly right to me. The skepticism at the end of the post about the likelihood that a theory might satisfy this seems to me to be a bit unwarranted, but it's an excellent presentation of the central issues of this problem and a clear presentation of why the problem isn't really a problem of principle.

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