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I Owe You an Explanation…

Examining Ethics normally comes out on the last Wednesday of every month...except for the last few months. Christiane explains why, and also gives you an exclusive sneak peek of what we've been working on here at the Prindle Institute for Ethics. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Hit me up at examiningethics@gmail.com.

The picture for this episode is of my new kittens, just because.

41: 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.

Contact us at examiningethics@gmail.com.

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For the episode's transcript, click here.


Thanks to Evelyn Brosius for designing our logo.

  1. "Lahaina" by Blue Dot Sessions
    From sessions.blue
    CC BY-NC 4.0

To contact us, email examiningethics@gmail.com.

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. Read More

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

The Ethics of Privacy Online with Andy Cullison

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. Read More

29: A Dungeon Crawl Through Moral Alignments

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. Read More

28: Philosophy and #MeToo with Emily McWilliams

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. Read More

27: Perceiving Morality with Preston Werner

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. Read More

Forgiveness and More: Bonus Material with Myisha Cherry

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. Read More

26: Forgiveness and Moral Exemplars with Myisha Cherry

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. Read More

25: What’s the Deal with Philosophers?

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. Read More

24: The Art of Listening with Krista Tippett

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. Read More

23: Frankenstein and His Creation: Who’s the Real Monster?

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. Read More

22: Gaslighting, PTSD and Testimonial Injustice with Rachel McKinnon

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. Read More

Bonus: White Talk

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. Read More

21: Layered Landscapes

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 Read More