Tuesday, August 04, 2020

A civil debate on abortion

The debate about abortion consists of the pro-life person screaming ABORTION IS MURDER as loud as possible, while the pro-choice person screams A WOMAN HAS THE RIGHT TO DO AS SHE PLEASES WITH HER OWN BODY as loud as possible. Whoever screams the loudest wins. 

 Just kidding (I hope). 

Does murder mean homicide without sufficient moral justification, or does it mean something more than that? If you can argue that abortions are homicides and that they are not justifiable homicides, is that all you mean when you say that abortion is murder? Or is something else needed?

The pro-life debater in this debate thinks it's a mistake to say that abortion is murder. The pro-choice debater thinks that there are a significant number of abortions that are morally unjustified. See this discussion.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Does universal causation entail determinism?

In order to universal causation to entail determinism, "cause" has to mean a set of circumstances and causes which, taken together make it so that no other event could have occurred. However, the word "cause" is ambiguous, and does not always mean that, given the cause the effect is inevitable. For example, we can say that smoking causes cancer without implying that there is some law guaranteeing that every instance of smoking will result in cancer. Some chain smokers, as we all know, live to 100 cancer-free.

The case against soft determinism

The main arguments against soft determinism are there. 1) There is insufficient reason to believe that determinism of any sort is true with respect to human actions. 2) If soft determinism is true you are being praised or blamed for actions that, in the final analysis, are the result of circumstances beyond your control.


Assume, for example that there is a God. Suppose God creates you in such a way that he guarantees that, on 8/3.2020, you commit the crime of murder. Suppose the day after that, you die. You meet God at the last judgment, and God tells you that you are going to have to spend eternity in hell because you are a murderer. But God, you  reply, given the way you created me, I could not have avoided committing the murder. What are you damning me for something you made me do. Can God reasonably say “You wanted to do it, so it really is your fault, not mine.”

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Soft Determinism: The key difference

The key difference between soft determinism and the other views is the definition of freedom. For them, freedom means being able to carry out your will. But, you will is just as strictly determined on soft determinism as it is on hard determinism. The question is, if your will is determined by past causes, but you can carry out your will, do you have an excuse if you act wrongly. You did what you wanted to do, but, given the past, you could not have done otherwise from what you did.


Friday, July 31, 2020

Five problems for assisted suicide

Five problems for assisted suicide:
1. Assisted suicide is a deadly mix with our broken, profit-driven health care system. The Oregon Health Plan told two chemotherapy patients it would not pay for their chemo, but would pay for their assisted suicide.
2. In spite of denials and claims that this is not permitted, persons with psychiatric disabilities such as depression are given assisted suicide in Oregon.
3. Families who want assisted suicide for the loved ones can just find another doctor if the doctor says no.
4. A six month diagnosis of often wildly mistaken, and often given to those who are not terminally ill.
5. The Oregon law does not protect patient facing family pressure, emotional or financial, which may distort patient choice.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020


In America, because we have not listened to the scientists, have fallen behind other countries who have listened to them and used masks, social distancing, testing, and contact tracing to control the virus. Hence, Taiwan can have a normal baseball season, but we can’t start ours with fans in the stands, and even now 11 of the Marlins are sick.


Monday, July 27, 2020

Which roommate would you prefer?

We think there is a moral difference between killing someone and letting them die.
However the cases may not be so different. Imagine Smith, who stands to inherit money if his six year old cousin dies. He finds him in the bathtub and drowns him.
Jones, on the other hand, stands to inherit similarly, but sees the child slip and fall, and he lets the child die. Both men’s actions are directed toward the same goal, but one of them actively causes the child’s death, and the other does not.
Rachels says there isn’t. The two people have the same intentions. The difference has to do with what opportunities each had.
However, James Wallace, my instructor at University of Illinois at Urbana, argued against this. He asked us to consider two roommates. One of them is willing to kill you. The other won’t kill you, but is prepared to let you die. Which would you prefer as your roommate? Amanda Knox? 

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Cleckley On Psychopathy

The psychopath…is incapable of kindness and consideration for the rights of others, and he is lacking in gratitude, affection, or compassion…..Whether judged in light of his conduct, or his attitude, or of material elicited I psychiatric examination, he shows almost no sense of shame…He does not…show the slightest evidence of major humiliation or regret. This is true of matters pertaining to his personal and selfish pride and to esthetic standards that he avows as well as to moral and humanitarian matters. If Santayana is correct in saying that “perhaps the true dignity of man is the ability to despise himself,” the psychopath is without a means to acquire true dignity. (Hervey Cleckley, The Mask of Sanity, 4th ed. St, Louis, 1964.)
In other words, "I don't take responsibility at all."

C. S Lewis's Myth Became Fact