ForgivenessThe Philosopher's Zone - ABC RN add
“To err is human, to forgive divine” – a popular notion, but what are we really doing when we forgive? Operating at the highest level of human sensibility? Or denying the wrongdoer an opportunity for valuable self-reflection? This week we’re picking at one of the less-interrogated areas of ethics.
Dignity and enhancementThe Philosopher's Zone - ABC RN add
Human dignity is one of those ideas that seem to have been around for as long as humans themselves, and few people would take issue with it. But like most ideas, human dignity has a philosophical pedigree, and there are in fact those who say we should abandon the notion—or at least modify its invocation.
Proof and beautyThe Philosopher's Zone - ABC RN add
Mathematicians routinely refer to complex proofs in aesthetic terms, citing their 'elegance' or 'beauty'. This has partly to do with the social aspect of such proofs—far from being a hermetic or exclusively cerebral practice, mathematics has never strayed too far from its roots in dialogue and debate.
Keeping them outThe Philosopher's Zone - ABC RN add
Most people agree that nation states don’t have any moral right to control the movement of citizens within their borders, or to prevent citizens from travelling beyond those borders. If states do see a need to exclude entry to refugees and immigrants, the reasons often appeal to a need to 'preserve' national values. But those arguments may not be so robust.
Women, autonomy and social justice in ChinaThe Philosopher's Zone - ABC RN add
Women in China have better access to education and job opportunities than ever before—yet a woman’s identity and value is still strongly linked with her role in the family, as wife and mother.
Ethics and absolutes in the classroomThe Philosopher's Zone - ABC RN add
The trouble with morality is that reasonable people keep disagreeing on what’s right and wrong. The science, as they say, isn’t settled. So that being the case, how can we argue for fixed moral standards to which everyone should sign up? And how should we introduce kids to this vexed field of inquiry?
The PragmatistsThe Philosopher's Zone - ABC RN add
Should philosophy be the attempt to articulate truth? If you’re a pragmatist, the answer is No. William James wrote of truth as a subset of expediency, and of truth’s 'cash value'. Richard Rorty saw truth—philosophical, moral, even scientific—in terms of contingent 'vocabularies'. At a time when The Washington Post reports that the leader of the free world has made over 3,000 false claims since becoming US President, pragmatic scepticism about truth could be a dangerous luxury.
Telling the storyThe Philosopher's Zone - ABC RN add
Philosophy is usually thought of as the province of ideas and abstract thought. But this week’s guest is taking philosophy in a slightly different direction, yet makes perfect sense. US academic Barry Lam is the creator and host of Hi-Phi Nation, a podcast that bringing together philosophy and storytelling—the results are rather wonderful.
Remembering Stanley CavellThe Philosopher's Zone - ABC RN add
Stanley Cavell, who died on June 19, was one of the world’s foremost contemporary thinkers, yet he always considered himself something of a philosophical outsider. His work ranged across the philosophy of language, aesthetics, ethics and epistemology—but also literature, cinema, and music. And his 'ordinary language' style and interest in questions of quality and value could be about to experience a renaissance.
When work stops workingThe Philosopher's Zone - ABC RN add
Why do we work? According to Judaeo-Christian tradition, work is the result of a divine curse—and for many people in today’s labour market that comes as no surprise. And as more and more jobs become automated, fewer and fewer people will have them. An ideal future is a 'post-work' world where everybody has access to a universal basic income—but maybe there's an even better way.
On EvilThe Philosopher's Zone - ABC RN add
'Evil is one of those words that seem to convey moral clarity—we all feel we know evil when we see it. But there was once a time when 'evil' simply referred to mundane mischance or wrongdoing; its transformation into something almost metaphysical is a relatively recent turn.
No laughing matterThe Philosopher's Zone - ABC RN add
Philosophers tend not to be funny—Nietzsche is a notable exception, and Plato had his moments—but philosophy can have a humorous side.
Backyard ethics: defending the NIMBYThe Philosopher's Zone - ABC RN add
Suppose a new hospital or drug rehabilitation centre needs to be built. If you’re a NIMBY, then you’ll be fine with the project—as long as it doesn’t negatively affect your property value. NIMBYism is often touted as the scourge of suburbia, but maybe there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Guilty or not guiltyThe Philosopher's Zone - ABC RN add
Second in a two-part series on Indian philosophy. Buddhism teaches that the self is an illusion—so what do we do with self-conscious emotions like guilt and shame, which can put useful brakes on ethical misconduct? If there’s no self to be ashamed of, how should we understand the emotion? The answer lies in an ancient series of Indian Buddhist texts: the Abhidharma.
The oblivion of IndiaThe Philosopher's Zone - ABC RN add
Indian philosophy has thousands of years of history behind it, yet Western philosophers have largely ignored it—and their assumptions about Indian philosophy may have influenced the Western philosophical canon.
Knud Loegstrup and The Ethical DemandThe Philosopher's Zone - ABC RN add
Danish philosopher Knud Loegstrup was a contemporary of Sartre, Arendt and Levinas—but his influence outside the world of Nordic philosophy has been limited. Scott Stephens speaks with Loegstrup’s two English translators about his masterwork The Ethical Demand, and about some unexpected resonances with English moral philosopher Iris Murdoch.
Making differencesThe Philosopher's Zone - ABC RN add
We're all keen on diversity these days—as long as it stays within proper boundaries. When it comes to moral values though, diverse perspectives can make us uncomfortable—so how do we manage it, and how can we do better?
Morals and the marketThe Philosopher's Zone - ABC RN add
Neoliberalism and human rights are often portrayed as standing in opposition to each other, with the fat cats at the big end of town pulling the economic levers. But neoliberalism and the discourse of modern human rights can actually be seen as close philosophical cousins.
RewildingThe Philosopher's Zone - ABC RN add
Most of us feel the itch of the primitive from time to time—to run without shoes, try a paleo diet, or just ditch the smartphone. The primitivist ideal exerts a seductive pull in tech-obsessed contemporary western society, but is the ideal based on a highly questionable set of philosophical assumptions?
The freedom of the CityThe Philosopher's Zone - ABC RN add
May 1968 was a watershed moment in political philosophy, and its ripple effect continues. We follow the long trajectory of May '68—from the universities and streets of Paris fifty years ago, via the work of pioneering feminist Luce Irigaray, all the way to the 'New Municipalism' that’s transforming the political and social landscapes of cities around the world today.