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Ethics

This tag is associated with 296 posts

The Thought Police

Detective Ed Gillespie has made the ancient Greek philosopher part of Baltimore Police Department’s annual in-service training. Here are some suggestions for what should be on any police force’s reading list.

Can a dog really be brave?

Seeing animals as too like or too unlike ourselves are equal and opposite mistakes. The way to avoid this error is not to imagine that other animals are more human-like than they really are, but to accept that we are more like other animals than we generally believe.

Our obsession with empathy is flawed

Given a choice between complex cogitations and simple emotional reactions, most of us, most of the time, opt for the latter. This choice is usually automatic and unconscious. The emphasis on empathy encourages us to indulge this weakness, to believe that feelings are all we need to be better people in a better world.

Six things… that challenge truth

I’m not convinced we live in a post-truth world. But truth is certainly in some kind of trouble, challenged on many fronts. Surprisingly, the sources of several of those challenges are good things…

A level playing field? No thanks, we’re British

It was just a small practical change to help keep people moving. Transport for London painted some green lanes on the King’s Cross Victoria line platform to keep space clear for passengers to alight without having to face a wall of commuters just as eager to get on. But not since Mars of Slough removed the little cardboard tray from its Bounty bars has so much outrage been caused by so little…

The inescapability of the ethical

Social epidemiology never generates straightforward policy prescriptions. Even if we know something makes us live longer, we still have to ask if it is right to promote it. It might be that many features of more traditional societies, including religiosity and tight social relations, are good for health. But it does not follow that we can or should try to turn back the clock. That is a philosophical and political question, not one for epidemiology.

Is this really a post-truth world?

To rebuild belief in the power and value of truth, we can’t dodge its complexity. Truths can be and often are difficult to understand, discover, explain, verify. They are also disturbingly easy to hide, distort, abuse or twist. Often we cannot claim with any certainty to know the truth. We need to take stock of the various kinds of real and supposed truths out there and understand how to test their authenticity.

The vacuous religious vacuum theory

There is no religion-shaped space that needs to be filled. Rather, there are many spaces which religions have managed to occupy. The need for meaning, for example, is not religious, but it is a need religions attempt to fulfil. The same is true of the needs for values, community, the marking of life-stages.

The end of the line for queueing

To think of queueing as morally superior is to confuse fairness with orderliness, a particularly British mistake. It is no coincidence that the golden age of queueing was when the class system was still rigidly in place. Queues offered reassuring images of egalitarianism when the reality was anything but.

There’s more to Britain’s wealth than its bank balance

Governments should be concerned with more than wealth, but they should steer clear of making subjective measurements of their citizens’ welfare. Rather than seek an alternative focus of measurement to wealth, we should instead seek to measure wealth better.

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