Some words might simply no longer be productive for precise conversations

Moses holding the Ten Commandments

Ronnie de Souza has an interesting article at Aeon on why he thinks the concept of morality isn't helpful. His overall thesis is that the idea that there are things that are right or wrong without qualification, in and of itself, adds nothing useful to the conversation. We can find reasons why or why not … Continue reading Some words might simply no longer be productive for precise conversations

The necessary attributes of a responsible agent

Dominoes falling in a sequence

George Ellis has an article at Aeon on free will that is garnering some attention.  Ellis' case is a fairly classic one.  Brain are complex systems whose operations, due to chaotic and stochastic dynamics, cannot be predicted.  Furthermore, minds constrain the detailed physical reactions, a case of downward causation.  And if that weren't enough, there's … Continue reading The necessary attributes of a responsible agent

Is morality objective, yet relative?

Jason Mckenzie Alexander at makes an interesting proposition, that morality is a social technology, one that goes out of date and frequently needs to be upgraded. He first describes the common sentiment that morals are objective in some timeless platonic sense.   I discussed the problems with this view in a post a while back … Continue reading Is morality objective, yet relative?

Big societies came before big gods

Some years ago I reviewed a book by Ara Norenzayan called Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict.  Norenzayan's thesis was that it was a belief in big gods, specifically cosmic gods that cared about human morality, that enabled the creation of large scale human societies. In small societies, reputation serves as an effective … Continue reading Big societies came before big gods

Changing what makes us happy

from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (click through for the hovertext and red button caption) Greg Egan in his novel Incandescence posits an alien civilization whose ancestors, in order to survive, establish a series of space habitats.  In order to ensure their descendants will be happy, they bioengineer those descendants to feel satisfaction and bliss working within … Continue reading Changing what makes us happy

Is there a moral arc to history?

The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. As someone who isn't able to find an objective basis for morality, I've often wondered what that means for the above statement from Martin Luther King.  It certainly feels like we're making moral progress, that the status of previously oppressed or marginalized people … Continue reading Is there a moral arc to history?