Policing and Ethics with Ekow Yankah

Police have had a fraught relationship with communities of color since the earliest days of law enforcement in the eighteenth century. Our guest today, professor of law Ekow Yankah, argues that police power has often been deployed in a misguided attempt to solve deep economic and social problems. And this typically comes at the cost of harming people from marginalized communities. Instead, he argues, we need to imagine healthy communities where police play a background role.

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Thinking While Walking with Martin Bunzl

Nature has always fascinated the philosopher Martin Bunzl. After retiring to California, he was excited to live near the Pacific Crest Trail. The close proximity of the famous foot path inspired him to embark on a new project of thinking while walking. For him, this spectacular setting proved to be fertile ground for reflecting on philosophical puzzles and questions about nature and ethics.

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Just Immigration with Allison Wolf

When the philosopher Allison Wolf heard a news story in 2014 about Central American children migrating to the United States, she was angry. She wasn’t upset about the minors coming in the first place, she was furious about the heartlessness of her fellow Americans reacting to the crisis. It wasn’t until she started writing about immigration that she discovered what was at the heart of the issue. By examining the stories at the center of dehumanizing policies, she realized that feminism, and its focus on oppression, could shed light on the problem of justice and immigration.

Send questions or comments to examiningethics@gmail.com.

For the episode’s transcript, click here.

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Naomi Zack: Government Should Be Boring

The subject of identity politics is part of a constellation of heated issues in the United States. Politics in general has been fraught with conflict in the last decade or so. Naomi Zack, professor of philosophy at Lehman College, CUNY joins us on this episode Examining Ethics to discuss identity politics and argues that it has no place in the government. She offers an alternative vision for the future of American government and identity politics.

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Civil Disobedience with Candice Delmas

Civil disobedience is an inherently tricky moral issue. It involves intentionally breaking laws, and purposefully upsetting norms. Candice Delmas, professor of philosophy and political science at Northeastern University, is on the show to help us understand civil disobedience, and its potential value to society.

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The Ethics of Love with Ashley C. Ford

Ashley C. Ford is a prolific writer who covers a lot of subjects. Some of her most compelling writing is about the ethics of love. In the fall of 2019, we sat down together to discuss her thoughts on--and the ethics of--self-love, relationships and family. Her new memoir, Somebody's Daughter will be out June 1 from Flatiron Books.

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A Spirit of Care with Maurice Hamington

Care impacts all of our lives intimately. Whether you’re the recipient of care, a caregiver, or both, you know that the practice of care can be fraught with ethical and moral questions. On today’s episode of Examining Ethics, we’re going to discuss the basics of care ethics with Maurice Hamington, a professor at Portland State University whose work on care spans decades. He explains that unlike utilitarianism or virtue ethics, care ethics can be difficult to reduce to a simple set of guidelines.

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Vaccine Equity with Govind Persad

Many of us have vaccines on the brain recently--whether because we've just received a shot, or because we are trying to access one. Who gets vaccinated and when they get their doses is a decision largely in the hands of state public health officials. Many states use age as the primary factor in determining who gets priority. On this episode of Examining Ethics, Dr. Govind Persad--an expert in bioethics and health care law--argues that legislators should think through more equitable options for distributing vaccines.

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Meena Krishnamurthy and Political Emotions

What are the roles that emotions play in politics and civic life? Do feelings like rage, happiness or tension get in the way of political progress, or are they important tools in the fight for social justice? On this episode of Examining Ethics, Christiane interviews Meena Krishnamurthy, a philosopher whose recent work explores the value of political emotions in Martin Luther King Jr.'s writing and activism.

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The Kindness of Strangers with Michael McCullough

How did humans turn from animals who were only inclined to help their offspring to the creatures we are today--who regularly send precious resources to total strangers? With me on the show today is Michael McCullough, who explores this difficult question in his book, The Kindness of Strangers: How a Selfish Ape Invented a New Moral Code.

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Moral Grandstanding with Brandon Warmke

Brandon Warmke joins Christiane on the show today for a discussion of the importance of moral discourse. In recent years, you may have noticed a rise in the use of hyperbole and grand statement-making on social media, in the news or in political speeches. With his co-author Justin Tosi, Brandon Warmke explore this turn towards big, unapologetic statements in their book Moral Grandstanding: The Use and Abuse of Moral Talk.

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Ashley C. Ford and the Ethics of Love

Ashley C. Ford is a prolific writer who covers a lot of subjects. Some of her most compelling writing is about the ethics of love. In the fall of 2019, we sat down together to discuss her thoughts on--and the ethics of--self-love, relationships and family.

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Is It Possible to Be Too Good?

Is it possible to be too good? Is it possible that thinking about morality could cause clinical levels of emotional and mental distress? On today’s show (hi, it's been a while!), Christiane talks to two philosophers who explore a disorder known as Scrupulosity. People with Scrupulosity are obsessive about morality, checking and re-checking to make sure they haven’t done something wrong. Our guests, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Jesse Summers, explore the philosophical implications of these obsessions with moral behavior. Christiane also talks to Dr. Laura Crosskey, who treats patients with Scrupulosity.

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Ethics Education with Thomas Wartenberg and Chris Robichaud

We often take for granted the active process of learning about ethics and morality, so today's show focuses on the source of ethics education: the educators themselves. We hear from two superstar teachers: Chris Robichaud is a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School with an interest in creating moral simulations for education, and Thomas Wartenberg is the creator of the Teaching Children Philosophy program and website. Both share their ideas on learning philosophy and ethics, fiction, and more.

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40: Morality Scaled Up with Joshua Greene

We often discuss individual morality and ethics on the show--how people should or should not behave on an interpersonal level. But what about groups of people? How should they make sense of their competing value systems? On this month's episode, we’re talking to Joshua Greene, who has an idea about how groups--what he calls modern tribes--should get along. He thinks people should develop something he calls a metamorality. And for him, the best contender for this metamorality is utilitarianism. He also describes how our brains make moral decisions--and why this matters when we're thinking about morality amongst groups of people.

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39: The Authentic Encounter with Beth Benedix

Beth Benedix is a professor of religious studies, world literature and community engagement and in her book Ghost Writer (A Story about Telling a Story), she explores the ethics of narrative. We covered some of the ethical issues of storytelling in episode 38. Today, we’re going to dive into a sort of parallel topic: the ethics of encounter. Beth’s book is a story about telling a story, but it’s also a story about encounters: Joe Koenig’s brushes with death, his experience of the Holocaust; Beth’s meetings with Joe; and Beth’s repeated encounters with Joe’s taped testimony. We'll also discuss my encounter with this work.

These encounters are important to draw out, because they highlight the ways in which our behavior, our lives are not isolated practices in perfection. Our encounters with each other and with the stories we tell are going to affect the way we think through ethics.

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38: A Story about Telling a Story (about Telling a Story) with Beth Benedix

Humans are captivated by stories. Stories draw people in--they take raw facts and infuse them with meaning and significance. But is it acceptable to take the facts of someone’s life and turn them into an entertaining story? Are we, on the other hand, obligated to make stories of human suffering interesting? And what does that actually mean in practice? When is it okay for someone to tell a story that isn't their own? Beth Benedix is a professor of religious studies, world literature and community engagement and in her book Ghost Writer (A Story about Telling a Story), she explores the ethics of narrative. In this episode, we introduce the man at the center of her story, Joe Koenig. He's a Holocaust survivor with an amazing testimony of survival. Beth discusses what it meant to take on telling his story, and the importance of sharing stories of suffering. Read more

37: Pushing Back on Epistemic Pushback with Alison Bailey

If a professor told you about pushback from their students, you might assume that their students are complaining about having too much homework, or that the assigned reading is boring. The philosopher Alison Bailey says that she often encounters a different, and much more problematic, form of resistance in her classroom. She calls it “epistemic pushback” and explains that students often do it without even noticing. On today's episode, we discuss the phenomenon of "privilege protective epistemic pushback." It's a form of resistance in which students who are members of dominant groups derail classroom conversations that make them uncomfortable into an "epistemic home turf" where they feel more comfortable. Alison Bailey explains exactly what epistemic pushback is, and discusses the ways it slows down classroom conversations. Read more

36: Facing the Synthetic Age with Christopher Preston

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. Read more

35: Finite Responsibility and Infinite Hope with Joel Reynolds

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." Read more

34: Roles and Responsibilities with Robin Zheng

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. Read more

33: Identity Matters: Standpoint Epistemology with Briana Toole

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.

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32: Busting Myths about Banning Books with Emily J. Knox

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 examiningethics@gmail.com. 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. Read more

31: Exploring Intellectual Property Rights with Adam Moore

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 examiningethics@gmail.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. Read more

30: Learning from History with Elizabeth Anderson

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. Read more