We’re in an age known as the Anthropocene, an era in which humans have been the dominant force on earth. We’ve impacted the climate, we’ve shaped the land and in recent years, we’ve made changes on the atomic and genetic levels. Today’s guest, the philosopher Christopher Preston, discusses his book The Synthetic Age, which explores technologies that have the potential to radically reshape the world as we know it. We’re attempting to cool the surface of the earth by brightening clouds. We can introduce traits into wild species through gene drives and create entirely new organisms in the lab. While these new technologies are interesting and in many cases, potentially helpful, Christopher writes that we need to see them for what they are: a “deliberate shaping” of the earth and the organisms in it. He wants us to think carefully about what it might mean for humans to live in a world that they have intentionally manipulated.
Caring for other people can be difficult. Whether it’s your own children, your parent, or a friend, care work is emotionally complicated and can be physically messy and uncomfortable. Today’s guest, the philosopher Joel Reynolds, argues that the entanglements and complexities of care work are ethically significant. This insight came to him through his own work as a caregiver to his grandfather. His scholarship combines care ethics with response ethics through the lens of caregiving, producing “finite responsibility with infinite hope.”
We’re facing some pretty big problems these days. And whether they’re things like climate change, racism or poverty, these problems are all bigger than we are as individuals. So big, in fact, it can be tempting to give up responsibility for social change altogether. Today’s guest, the philosopher Robin Zheng, says that’s a mistake. She’s come up with a way of thinking about social responsibility called the Role Ideal Model. It’s a fascinating theory about the relationship between individual responsibility and structural injustice.
How do we obtain knowledge? Is it a purely objective, abstract process that has nothing to do with identity? Or does who we are, and where we sit on the social spectrum matter when it comes to how we form beliefs? On today’s show, we’re talking to Briana Toole, a philosopher who defends an idea known as standpoint epistemology. It’s the view that your identity has the power to help influence the kinds of knowledge you have access to.
It’s Banned Books Week, and so on today’s show, we’re looking at some of the unquestioned assumptions that tend to go hand-in-hand with the idea of banned books. A lot of people assume that book challengers are just a bunch of ignorant prudes, or that banning books really isn’t a problem–it’s just a marketing ploy trumped up by the American Library Association. However, after talking to Emily J. Knox, a professor of information science and an expert on censorship and information ethics, we realized this issue is a lot more complicated than it looks on the surface. Let us know what you think of today’s show. Did we help shift the way you think about banning books? Have you ever challenged or defended a library book? Record a voice memo on your phone and email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your first name and where you’re from. Or, if you’re shy about recording your voice, send us an email with your thoughts and we’ll read it.
We all interact with intellectual property on a daily basis, and you probably already have some general idea of what intellectual property is and why it might be an important thing to think about. But if you’re anything like us, you’ve never really thought beyond the surface. On this episode, we talk to intellectual property expert and philosopher Adam Moore to learn about some of the most important ethical issues related to intellectual property. Then, independent producer Sandra Bertin brings us the fascinating story of a fight for collective intellectual property rights in Guatemala. And we want to hear from you! Do you think we got intellectual property completely wrong? Do you have something to add to our discussion? Let us know! We’re going to start producing bonus episodes featuring your responses to the show. Just send a voice memo to us at email@example.com. If you’re shy about the sound of your voice, you can just send your thoughts in an old-fashioned email and we’ll read it on-air. However you share your thoughts, don’t forget to include your first name and where you’re from.
Slavery is immoral. There’s no debate about it these days. But Americans didn’t always think that way. The morality of slavery was a hotly contested issue in the 18th and 19th centuries. So how did we get from the point where preachers praised slavery in their sermons to today when no one would ever publicly question the wrongness of slavery? Shifts in moral thinking like this come about during a process called moral inquiry. On today’s show, we hear from the philosopher Elizabeth Anderson, who argues that the way people went about moral inquiry over two hundred years ago holds important lessons for how we ought to face questions of morality today.
We’ve long considered privacy on the internet to be a privilege we can freely give up, at no harm to ourselves. But in light of the recent Cambridge Analytic scandal, that perspective is beginning to change. Examining Ethics resident ethics expert Andy Cullison explains why we should all protect our privacy online — for our own sakes as well as for others. Continue reading
Can necromancers be good people? Can dragons be feminist care ethicists? Why are we asking? In this episode, producer Eleanor Price asks resident ethics expert (and fellow role-playing game enthusiast) Andy Cullison about the moral theories behind games like Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder. They guide producer Christiane Wisehart through the game mechanic called moral alignment — an attribute that shows how good or evil you are in the game — and how closely these imagined ideas align with real-world philosophy.
In late 2017, women’s stories of sexual assault, abuse and harassment took the center stage on social media with the hashtag MeToo. But this isn’t the first time people have shared these stories–tales of these experiences have been around for hundreds of years. The MeToo movement itself has been around since 2006. But last fall, the MeToo hashtag went so viral that mainstream media couldn’t ignore it. Today’s guest, the philosopher and the Prindle Institute’s Schaenen scholar Emily McWilliams, explains the connections between the MeToo movement and the philosophical concept known as hermeneutical injustice. Examining Ethics producers Eleanor Price and Christiane Wisehart join Emily for a discussion of the ways movements like MeToo might address the problem of epistemic injustice around sexual violence and harassment.
Can you see goodness with your eyes or feel immorality in your heart? The philosopher Preston Werner thinks so. He defends an idea called moral perception, which means that just like you are able to see or feel things like the color of an orange or the softness of a sweater, you’re also able to perceive, or feel, morality. Some philosophers argue that perceiving morality is a key part of how we make moral judgments about situations. There are a lot of people who are skeptical of this idea. And as you’ll hear in this conversation with Preston Werner, our producer Christiane Wisehart also needs some convincing to believe that moral perception might be true. Preston explains what moral perception is, and also explains why it’s an idea worth defending.
In Episode 26, producer Christiane Wisehart spoke to philosopher Myisha Cherry about her work on forgiveness and moral exemplars (people who exemplify excellent forgiveness practices — for better or for worse). They had a great conversation, so much so that producer Eleanor Price put together this bonus episode to showcase more of Myisha’s wisdom. Myisha explains who might have stake in someone’s forgiveness, and whether a person should ask for forgiveness. Continue reading
Forgiveness is a big, complicated topic. We often see stories about forgiveness play out in the media, and it probably plays a large role in our personal lives as well. That’s why we wanted to talk about it with philosopher and host of the UnMute Podcast, Myisha Cherry, who’s put a lot of thought into the ethics of forgiveness. On today’s show you’ll hear about a fascinating facet of her work: the ethics of convincing victims–particularly victims who are marginalized–to forgive. When people try to persuade victims to forgive, they often resort to using “moral exemplars of forgiveness” or models of forgiveness like Martin Luther King Jr. or Nelson Mandela. Myisha claims that when people try to persuade victims to forgive, using moral exemplars alone to convince them is wrong.
We’re talking about the culture and quirks of the world of moral philosophy on this episode. Specifically, we’re asking questions about the parts of the field of ethics and philosophy that confuse us the most. First, independent producer Sandra Bertin roams the streets of New York City, looking for people who can correctly define moral philosophy jargon. Then, producer Christiane Wisehart sits down with our resident ethics expert Andy Cullison and another ethicist, Emily McWilliams, to ask them some questions she’s always had about the world of ethics and philosophy.
Deep, meaningful conversations require active listeners. It’s obvious that part of what makes a good discussion is listening. But as it turns out, being an ethical listener requires effort. Krista Tippett joins us to share her insight into what makes a good listener. She’s the host of a public radio show and podcast called On Being. She’s been on the radio for almost two decades, and in that time, she’s become one of the best interviewers on the air. And it’s not because she asks hard-hitting, clever questions or goads people into saying something controversial. It’s because she is so clearly present, and has so clearly cultivated a kind of listening superpower.
We’ll also hear an essay by the philosopher and ethicist Bob Fischer, who explores what it means to do this real work of being present for one another and for the causes we believe in.
Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein introduced the world to archetypes we’re still familiar with: the mad scientist and his terrifying creation. But the novel is more than just a horror classic. It also asks questions about the ethics of scientific and technological innovation–questions that we still struggle with today.
On this episode, we explore one of these questions: is it wrong for scientists and innovators to work or create in isolation? First, we introduce you to “sociability,” an important, behavior-shaping idea in the scientific community of the nineteenth century. Then, we discuss whether scientists and innovators working today have similar ethical obligations. We cover things like the importance of transparency in the ethics of scientific and technological innovation. We also explore the value of democratic oversight to the world of science and technology.
Trans people are vulnerable to many types of harms. And unfortunately, some of these harms can come from their “allies”– people who claim to want to help them. On today’s episode, Andy and Christiane talk to the philosopher Rachel McKinnon, who writes about allies and their relationship to the trans community. She tells us that one of the bad behaviors that allies can be guilty of is something called gaslighting. Rachel describes for us two of the major problems with gaslighting: it’s a particularly harmful form of epistemic injustice and it can lead to a type of post traumatic stress disorder.
Ethics On My Mind is our special bonus series for quick discussions of timely ethics issues. Earlier this month, large groups of white supremacists held rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia that erupted in violence, killing one person and injuring at least 19 others. These rallies are just the latest manifestations of a growing white supremacist movement in the United States. It can be easy for well-meaning white people to try to distance themselves from the hateful actions of a small number of self-identified supremacists. But as we’ll hear from the philosopher Alison Bailey and women’s studies scholar Tamara Beauboeuf, white oppression can take many forms. A behavior known as “white talk” is just one of these forms of oppression. For this episode of Ethics on My Mind, we’re re-releasing a segment about the behavior known as “white talk” from episode 6: The “Burden” of Whiteness.
What is a layered landscape? How should we restore places with complex social and cultural legacies? Producer Christiane Wisehart traveled to Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge in Madison, Indiana to explore how the former military site was restored into a landscape that is now home to many endangered species. She unpacks the concept of “layered landscapes” with scholars Marion Hourdequin and David Havlick, editors of Restoring Layered Landscapes. This idea is helping to re-shape how restorationists ought to approach their work.
We’ve created a new bonus series called “Ethics On My Mind” for quick discussions of timely ethics issues. On this episode, host Andy Cullison explains why we should care about recent changes to net neutrality laws. Want to hear more from Andy about this issue? In this article, he outlines epistemic threats to democracy posed by the internet. Continue reading
Are protests productive? Should they be? And if they should be productive, what does that productivity look like? In part two of our ethics of protest series, we interview Tabitha St. Bernard, the youth and family coordinator for the Women’s March. We also hear from Derek Ford, a DePauw professor and long-time protest organizer. Continue reading
Happy Earth Month! Many people think of climate change as something that will affect the world equally sometime in the distant future. But that’s not true. Some communities are already experiencing the effects. Join special guest host Jen Everett and producers Christiane Wisehart and Sandra Bertin as we learn how to challenge our thinking about the environment with scholar Kyle Whyte.
On this episode, producer Sandra Bertin tells the story of the Freeman Field Mutiny, a protest that led to the desegregation of the United States military. Even though the men who participated in the protest were peaceful and nonviolent, they were still criticized for their methods of protest. This got us thinking, is it ever okay to criticize a protester’s methods? Or should we be focusing on something else?
What are achievements and how should we think about them? How should we talk about them?
Philosopher Gwen Bradford’s work on the nature of achievement inspired us to talk about the ethics of naming achievements for other people. Can you tell someone they have achieved something if they don’t think they have?
What do you think? Send us a comment or a voice memo to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow us on Twitter @ExaminingEthics. You can also find us on Facebook.
- Listeners can receive a 30% discount on Gwen Bradford’s Achievement from Oxford University Press
- Gwen Bradford
- Gwen Bradford recently gave two fascinating talks on the nature of achievement at the Prindle Institute
- Stella Young’s Ted Talk, “I’m Not Your Inspiration”
A recent trip to the Creation Museum caused producer Sandra Bertin to be very skeptical of, well, skepticism. Sandra returned to the studio to interrogate the idea of skepticism with host of the show Andy Cullison and our other producer, Christiane Wisehart. We turn skepticism inside out and upside down with philosopher Barry Lam and geologist Jeane Pope. Do you have thoughts about skepticism? Send us a comment or a voice memo to: email@example.com.
This month, we bring you our New Year’s resolutions. But we’re not talking about things like eating less sugar–we’re discussing our ethics-related resolutions. Listen in as we talk about implicit bias prevention walls, effective altruism and fast fashion. And hey–we’d love to hear what your New Year’s resolutions are. Send a voice memo recording of your resolutions to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Election day is coming up very soon, so we thought we’d give you all some things to think about as you head to the polls (or if you’re thinking about abstaining). Our producer Sandra Bertin shares some reporting she did on the ethics of voting. Listen in with our other producer Christiane Wisehart to hear the voices of experts and everyday people discussing their thoughts on how to vote. We managed to get through the entire episode without even mentioning who you should vote for! Continue reading
A lot of people wouldn’t guess that the first women’s prison in the nation was built in Indiana in 1873. Though it has moved locations and changed names, it is still open and imprisoning women. Its current name is the Indiana Women’s Prison. We talked to two researchers who uncovered stories about the early history of this prison, stories that call the official textbook account into question. But this isn’t just the story of the first women’s prison in the nation, it’s also the tale of the journey of the two researchers who exposed the prison’s dark beginnings.
On today’s episode, we have one major question for philosopher Seth Lazar: is it ever acceptable to kill civilians in war? As with all good questions in philosophy, it turned out to be a lot more complicated than we initially thought. Lazar wrote Sparing Civilians, out now from Oxford University Press. He lays out what it takes for a civilian or soldier to be considered a threat, what it takes for someone be responsible for that threat, and how to weigh risking harm to other people. Then later in the show, host Andy Cullison sits down with producers Sandra Bertin and Christiane Wisehart to discuss what responsibility civilians in the United States have for foreign wars.
What do you think? Send us a voice memo to: email@example.com. Or leave a voicemail: 765-658-5857. We might feature your comment on a future episode!
Producers Sandra and Christiane want to hear your opinions on voting! Not who you are voting for…but how you think about voting. Do you think everyone should vote? Do you think people should vote in their own self interest? What’s the right way to protest something you don’t like about the election process? Call 765-658-5014 and leave a 1-3 minute voicemail with your thoughts on voting, your name, and your email to contact you with. Your voicemail could be featured on an upcoming episode!
What does the idea of “Hoosier Hospitality” really mean? In this month’s episode, we tell the story of a group of hospitable Hoosiers who–in the face of tremendous wartime hysteria–helped Japanese American students escape West Coast internment camps and resettle in Indiana during World War II. This story inspired our discussion about courage and the ethics of state-determined borders. This episode was made in partnership with Indiana Humanities. This episode is an officially endorsed Indiana Bicentennial Legacy Project.
Poet Tarfia Faizullah joins us to discuss her new book, Seam. Tarfia wrote Seam after winning a Fulbright grant to travel to Bangladesh to interview women who were sexually assaulted during the 1971 war with Pakistan. Friend of the podcast and poet Joe Heithaus interviews Tarfia.
This is a story of a failed transportation project that bankrupted the state of Indiana… 200 years ago. We uncover the human suffering this canal system causes and the moral questions it raises. We also discuss questions like: when is it morally permissible to go into debt to fund a big project? When is it OK to tax? This episode was made in partnership with Indiana Humanities. This episode is an officially endorsed Indiana Bicentennial Legacy Project.
We’re going on a break this month and the month of May in order to work on a very special project. We’ve partnered with Indiana Humanities to create a special three-episode miniseries in which we will explore questions in ethics that have been raised by some fascinating moments in Indiana history. We’ll reveal the connections between Indiana’s failed canal building projects and the ethics of legislation. We’ll hear from two experts on the troubling history of the Indiana Women’s Prison. We’ll explore issues of immigration and refugees in Indiana. If you’re not listening in Indiana (and we know a lot of you are not!), we promise this will still be worth your time. We’re so excited about the stories we’ve been gathering, and we hope you’ll join us for the first episode of Season Three on Wednesday, June 29. Hot dog!
Welcome to the second episode in our “Ethics in Focus” series. These bonus episodes get right to the point for people with backgrounds in ethics or philosophy. There are no explanations, just the full-length interviews with some of our expert guests. Regularly scheduled episodes of Examining Ethics will still be released at the end of every month. But every once and a while, keep an eye out for one of these “Ethics in Focus” interviews. Today’s edition of “Ethics in Focus” features our host Andy Cullison’s conversation with David Benatar and David Wasserman, authors of Debating Procreation: Is It Wrong to Reproduce? out now from Oxford University Press.
When thinking about whether or not to become a parent, there is a lot more at stake than just deciding when you’re ready or if you even want to. But what are the questions we should be asking ourselves when we think about parenting? In this episode, we discuss the ethics of having children and more with Samantha Brennan and Sarah Hannan, the editors of Permissible Progeny: The Morality of Procreation and Parenting, out now from Oxford University Press.
Welcome to a new series called “Ethics in Focus.” These bonus episodes get right to the point for people with backgrounds in ethics or philosophy. There are no explanations, just the full-length interviews with some of our expert guests. Regularly scheduled episodes of Examining Ethics will still be released at the end of every month. But every once and a while, keep an eye out for one of these “Ethics in Focus” interviews. Today’s edition of “Ethics in Focus” features our host Andy Cullison’s conversation with Professor Caspar Hare, author of The Limits of Kindness out now from Oxford University Press. Hare is a professor of philosophy at MIT, and his work focuses on ethics, practical rationality, and metaphysics. His book The Limits of Kindness addresses questions in moral philosophy by starting with an uncontroversial principle, that being moral “involves wanting particular other people to be better off.”
Comedian, actress and tap dancer, Maysoon Zayid joins us to discuss the ethics of comedy, discrimination, and General Hospital. We discuss questions like, “Is it ever okay to make fun of someone?” and “Should you be allowed to make fun of Donald Trump’s hair?” Join us as Maysoon answers these questions and more.
Ever wonder what role white people should people play in fighting against racism? The legendary feminist scholar and racial justice activist Peggy McIntosh has some ideas. Maybe you have also wondered, “why does it always feel like white people avoid the topic of race?” To answer this question, we bring on the philosopher Alison Bailey to discuss a phenomenon known as “white talk.” Join us on a journey through whiteness in the United States in which we explore a Crayola crayon factory, police stations in Massachusetts, and Donald Trump claiming to be “the least racist person you will ever meet.”
What do you think? Send us a voice memo to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or leave a voicemail: 765-658-5857. We might feature your comment on a future episode!
Summary: In this episode, we tackle the question, “Can Animals Be Moral”? Our host, Andy Cullison interviews philosopher Mark Rowlands to get his perspective. Join us on the journey from animal videos on YouTube to metaphors that liken humans to mindless corks bobbing on a sea. We will leave you with not only questions regarding the morality of animals but also, what should you do if they are moral?
Summary: In this episode, our host Andy Cullison interviews Lori Gruen and Martin Wilkinson. As a group or nation, we like to own pets and keep people in certain kinds of jails, but Lori Gruen will explain to us why she thinks our current practices might be problematic as they relate to the autonomy and dignity of individuals (including animals) in captivity. There is a worldwide organ shortage. As a group, we have an interest in procuring organs of the recently dead. Martin Wilkinson will explain to us how difficult it is to balance that need against individual rights (even after they’re dead).
Summary: In this episode, our host Andy Cullison joins the cultural historian Chris Hager to discuss the phrase, “the right side of history.” When did we start using this phrase? When is it most often used? Is it legitimate reason to change one’s mind about an issue?
In this episode we hear from producers Sandra and Christiane about their voices. Our host Andy interviews Rebecca Gordon about her new book Mainstreaming Torture, and Robin Zheng discusses her work on racialized sexual preferences. Continue reading