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.

Contact us at examiningethics@gmail.com.

Click here for the episode’s transcript!

Show Notes:

Thanks to Evelyn Brosius for our logo. Featured image is in the public domain and was taken by U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Johansen Laurel.

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To contact us, email examiningethics@gmail.com.

We take in massive amounts of information on a daily basis. Our brains use something called pattern-recognition to try and sort through and make sense of this information. My guest today, the philosopher Megan Fritts, argues that in many cases, the stories we tell ourselves about the patterns we see aren’t actually all that meaningful. And worse, these so-called phantom patterns can amplify the problem of misinformation.

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Most of us probably think of war as violent conflict between countries. There are aggressors and victims, and it’s essentially a battle between groups of people. My guests today, Kyle Fruh and Marcus Hedahl, complicate this notion of war. They argue that many island nations around the world are currently in a war and fighting for their survival. For these places, the enemy isn’t other nation states, it’s climate change.

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Reparations and climate change might at first glance seem unrelated. My guest Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò argues that they are inextricably linked, and that racial justice cannot happen without climate justice.

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Regina Rini holds the Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Moral and Social Cognition at York University and she joins us today to discuss why we might be disturbed when we learn about the role that psychology plays in our moral decision-making.

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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…

Although they didn’t set out to, the British philosophers and friends Mary Midgley, Iris Murdoch, Elizabeth Anscombe and Philippa Foot revolutionized the field of ethics in the middle of the 20th century. Our guest today, the philosopher Benjamin Lipscomb, explores the unique friendship and work of four women who changed the face of moral philosophy in his book, The Women Are Up to Something: How Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Mary Midgley, and Iris Murdoch Revolutionized Ethics.

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Before Jana Mohr Lone became a philosopher, she was a lawyer who worked with families and children. She noticed that the legal system often robbed her clients of a voice. She watched with dismay as children were disempowered again and again. In her current practice as a philosopher, she’s dedicated to using philosophy to help young people experience the power of their own voices. She joins us to discuss her book, Seen and Not Heard: Why Children’s Voices Matter.

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Many of us rely heavily on our smartphones and computers. But does it make sense to say we “trust” them? On today’s episode of Examining Ethics, the philosopher C. Thi Nguyen explores the relationship of trust we form with the things we use. We not only can trust non-human objects like smartphones, we tend to trust those objects in an unquestioning way; we’re not thinking about it all that much. While this unquestioning trust makes our everyday lives easier, we don’t recognize just how vulnerable we’re making ourselves to large and increasingly powerful corporations.

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 If you don’t know much about gaming, it can be easy to dismiss video games as violent wastes of time or to think of board games as something you pull out when there’s nothing else to do on Thanksgiving. My guest today, the games designer Kat Schrier, believes that there’s something much more to gaming. In her book, We the Gamers, she explores the many ways that civics and ethics educators can use games to build deeply immersive and rewarding learning experiences.

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Calls for increased transparency and oversight are common in the public realm. Our guest today, the philosopher C. Thi Nguyen argues that transparency can actually erode important parts of community life. He claims that while transparency might root out corruption, it also has a sort of chilling effect on the very work people are required to be transparent about.

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Giving away money and resources is great, right? What harm could it do? Philanthropy expert Shariq Ahmed Siddiqui, who is a professor at the Lilly School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, joins us to explain that the ethics of giving is a lot more complicated than we think.

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Alison Bailey opens her new book, The Weight of Whiteness with an invitation to “wade slowly and mindfully into the weight of whiteness, and to attend to the ways white supremacy has misshapen our nation, our communities, and our humanity.” She writes that while black, indigenous and people of color feel the weight of whiteness daily, most white people tend to numb themselves to this weight.

She argues that white people need to do the work of investigating the weight of whiteness, and its effects not just on the mind, but also on the heart. This work involves philosophy and epistemology, but it also involves genealogy. It requires white people to feel the weight of white supremacy they’ve inherited from their ancestors.

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The last time philosopher Candice Delmas was on the show, we explored civil disobedience. On today’s episode, we’re discussing the uncivil side of disobedience. She explains that the very reasons that we might be obligated to follow the law in just societies can also impose a duty to break the law in societies that are unjust. And she says that this doesn’t always have to be an act of culturally-approved civil disobedience. Sometimes injustice requires behaving without civility.

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Deliberative democracy is a school of political thought in which conversation takes on a central role. It’s different from representative democracy, which involves voting and polling, because it focuses on discussion and understanding to move forward on issues. Sheron Fraser-Burgess, professor of social foundations and multicultural education at Ball State University, explains that educators can take principles from deliberative democracy and apply them to a classroom setting. In her work, she advocates for democratic deliberation, which is a means of teaching students not only how to work through cultural differences, but also how to be better citizens in a democracy.

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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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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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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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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 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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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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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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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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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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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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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 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…

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…

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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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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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. Our resident ethics expert Andy 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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 and another ethicist, Emily McWilliams, to ask them some questions she’s always had about the world of ethics and philosophy.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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We’ve created a new bonus series called “Ethics On My Mind” for quick discussions of timely ethics issues. On this episode, our resident ethics expert Andy explains why we should care about recent changes to net neutrality laws. 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.

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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?

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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: examiningethics@gmail.com.

Follow us on Twitter @ExaminingEthics. You can also find us on Facebook.

Show Notes:

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Should society always follow the wishes of the dead?

Listen to friend of the podcast Barry Lam dissect this question in the first episode of his new podcast, Hi Phi Nation.

We’ll be back with regularly scheduled programming on February 22nd, 2017.

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A recent trip to the Creation Museum caused producer Sandra Bertin to be very skeptical of, well, skepticism. On her return to the studio, we all interrogate the idea of skepticism. 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: examiningethics@gmail.com.
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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 examiningethics@gmail.com.
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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 →

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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.

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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, we discuss what responsibility civilians in the United States have for foreign wars.

What do you think? Send us a voice memo to: examiningethics@gmail.com. Or leave a voicemail: 765-658-5857. We might feature your comment on a future episode!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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 a conversation with David Benatar and David Wasserman, authors of Debating Procreation: Is It Wrong to Reproduce? out now from Oxford University Press.

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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.

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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 resident ethics expert Andy’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.”

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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.

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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: examiningethics@gmail.com. Or leave a voicemail: 765-658-5857. We might feature your comment on a future episode!

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Summary: In this episode, we tackle the question, “Can Animals Be Moral”? We interview 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?

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Summary: In this episode, we interview 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).

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Summary: In this episode, the cultural historian Chris Hager joins us 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?

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Summary:
In this episode we hear from producers Sandra and Christiane about their voices. We’ve also got an interview with Rebecca Gordon about her new book Mainstreaming Torture, and Robin Zheng discusses her work on racialized sexual preferences. Continue reading →