Thomas Pogge, Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs chair, Yale University
With some of the goods and services we consume, supplying the first unit costs vastly more than the rest. Building a subway line costs billions. The additional cost of making it carry more passengers is minuscule by comparison: pennies per ride for
Human Rights are all the rage. They have become, currently, a very popular arena for both political activism and rampant discourse. Human rights, as we all know, are the rights humans are due simply by virtue of being human. But there is nothing simple here, since both “human” and “rights” are concepts in need of investigation. One deep philosophical issue that invigorates debates in human rights is the question of their foundation and justification, the question “where do human rights come from, and what grounds them?” There are two essentially different approaches to answering that question — the religious way and the secular, or philosophical, way.
Though conditions of captivity vary considerably for humans and for other animals, two of the central philosophical issues that emerge in discussions of human imprisonment prove instructive in thinking through the ethical issues raised by captivity for non-humans — autonomy and dignity. When captives have their physical and immediate psychological needs met and are free from suffering, so they are not being harmed in those ways, we can we still ask if there something wrong with holding them captive.
Some nonhuman animals resemble normal humans in morally relevant ways. In particular, they bring the mystery of a unified psychological presence to the world. Like us, they possess a variety of sensory, cognitive, conative, and volitional capacities. They see and hear, believe and desire, remember and anticipate, plan and intend. Moreover, what happens to them matters to them. Physical pleasure and pain—these they share with us. But also fear and contentment, anger and loneliness, frustration and satisfaction, cunning and imprudence.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that could provide specifically for the formation of trade unions and “periodic holiday with pay”, might have mustered the specificity to mention women sometime, other than through “motherhood,” which is more bowed to than provided for. If women were human in this document, would domestic violence, sexual violation from birth to death, including in prostitution and pornography, and systematic sexual objectification and denigration of women and girls simply be left out of the explicit language?
A trans-species perspective is an all-encompassing stance towards nature that embraces the continuity and comparability of all species’ lives. It shapes the way we view ourselves in relation to other animals and involves changing our current model of those relationships from one of separation and condescension to one of communalism and respect. Given the mass extinctions, global destruction of habitat, environmental degradation, and continued mass exploitation of other animals, nothing short of a shift in human psychological perspective is needed to turn things around.
by Peter Railton, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
In “The Metaphysician’s Nightmare”, Bertrand Russell described a Hell in which there is a special torment for practitioners of each branch of scholarly inquiry. In the place in Hell reserved for statisticians, for example, a pack of monkeys walk aimlessly and endlessly on typewriters, each time creating a perfect rendition of a Shakespearean sonnet. Our
This is a précis of an argument that I developed in an article called “Did Darwin Write the Origin Backwards?” The article was published in 2009 and may be found on my web set at http://philosophy.wisc.edu/sober/recent.html. An expanded version of the argument is the first chapter of a book that I’m publishing at the end
Our Forum is for scholars in the humanities and sciences to share their ideas and research. The Forum offers specialists as well as members of the public the opportunity to engage experts on questions concerning the meaning and significance, if any, of human life, especially at its edges. Read more...
alex rosenberg: I'm glad to be taken to task by Geoffrey Harpham in so indulgent and learned a manner. Pleasure, enjoyment, enrichment, the rewards of reading, listening, watching and looking, are...
Bill Benzon: Well, it's one thing to argue that, for example, the newer psychologies and other developments are relevant to humanistic inquiry and ought to be taken into account. It's something rather...
Charels T. Wolverton: The essence of Frank Williams' Popper quote seems to be that determinism implies that decision making is an illusion. To which I can only reply "doh!". For a somewhat more...
Do you know what you're doing?
In a remarkable archival study, Pelham and colleagues (2002: 474) found that “women were about 18% more likely to move to states with names resembling their first names than they should have been based on chance” -- 36% more likely for the perfect matches Virginia and Georgia (Pelham et al. 2002: 47...