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JLeslie's avatar

Can you suggest some topics for a philosophy discussion?

Asked by JLeslie (57657points) August 12th, 2016 from iPhone

Or, is it philosophical discussion?

I went to a philosophy study group last week and the person who organizes it asked me to lead a discussion. I would need to choose a subject, give a 2 to 10 minute schpiel about the topic, and then the group discusses the topic. The group is sent the topic ahead of time, and many of them do some research before class and come prepared with information.

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10 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

If you get teleported by a Star Trek Transporter, is the person that steps off the transporter pad after the teleportation still you, or a different person?

janbb's avatar

Is morality universal or is it culturally specific?

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Off the top of my head – feel free to ignore or adapt…

We are connected to people through our phones and the Internet, but we ignore people in front of us to use our phones and the Internet.

What rules of etiquette can we make to balance?

Not sure if this is a philosophical question.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

What is the future of Philosophy research?

Inspired_2write's avatar

Read “The Synchronicity Key ” by David Wilcox for numerous questions.
Do we have a devine purpose to fulfill?

Coloma's avatar

The Power of Now. A great Eckhart Tolle work from around 2005–6. The concept of being in the present moment, how past is gone and future does not exist, except in our minds.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

If the world is just thew world and we are here by a fluke for no apparent purpose, why not get all you can, while you can, from who you can, because what you don ‘t do for yourself when you die is like timeouts left at the end of the game you failed to use but could have.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Since it’s an election year, here are a couple of political options:

1. John Rawls’ theory of justice

This is one of the more popular political theories these days. The basic idea is that society should be built in a way that maximizes liberty and minimizes unjustified inequalities. Rawls settles on two principles of justice: the liberty principle (which says that every individual should have as much freedom as they can so long as that is consistent with all other individuals having the same freedoms) and the difference principle (inequalities are unjustified unless it works out to everyone’s advantage that they are allowed; in later versions of the argument, Rawls thought that inequalities didn’t need to be to everyone’s advantage, but did need to be to the advantage of the worst off in society).

Rawls thinks any rational person would endorse if thinking in an unbiased (but still self-interested!) manner. The thought experiment he uses to argue for this goes roughly as follows. Imagine you have been tasked with designing a society. However, you have been placed behind a veil of ignorance (meaning you do not know what race, sex, class, religion, etc. you are). What kind of government and laws would you establish knowing that you could end up anywhere in this society (including at the very top or the very bottom)?

Rawls thinks that people will generate a society that adheres to the two principles, even if they don’t realize that is what they are doing. The discussion leader needs to be prepared to call out instances of biased reasoning here.

2. Moral luck

One of the underlying problems of political thought is what to do about the gains and losses that accrue to people through no effort or fault of their own. Some people are born stronger, smarter, or faster. They have natural assets that put them ahead of others who have put in the same amount of work. Others are born weaker, dumber, or slower. They have natural liabilities that put them behind others who have put in the same amount of work.

There is also circumstantial moral luck: imagine two drunk drivers who, on separate occasions, accidentally drive over the same section of sidewalk. In one case, there driver kills a person standing on the sidewalk. In the other case, there is no one on the sidewalk to be killed. So one of the drunk drivers is guilty of vehicular homicide.

What should be done about moral luck? Should anything be done about it? In the case of people born with natural liabilities, it seems odd to punish them for their bad luck. Yet in the case of the drunk drivers, it seems unfair to give them the same punishment. Someone like Rawls will argue that the effects of moral luck ought to be minimized. If you didn’t earn your natural assets, then you didn’t earn everything that has come your way. You therefore have no grounds for objecting to the state redistributing some of what you have to those who are suffering through no fault of their own. (But does this

Robert Nozick, on the other hand, would argue that nothing should be done about moral luck. If you’re born tall and find a way to monetize that, good for you. The state would obviously be overreaching if it tried to forcibly shorten you, but taking extra from you because you are better able to get things for yourself is basically just an indirect way of doing exactly that. If you’re born dumb and that costs you, too bad. You may not deserve the suffering, but it’s not anybody else’s fault that you’re in that situation.

Nozick isn’t being heartless (at least, he doesn’t think he is). It’s just that liberty upsets patterns, including whatever pattern of resource distribution you might think is best. He gives the following thought experiment in favor of this view. Consider a society in which everyone has exactly the same material resources (or whatever other distribution of resources you think is ideal). Assuming people are free, they can trade those resources as they see fit. Suppose, then, that an extremely popular basketball player (e.g., Wilt Chamberlain) agrees to play only if everyone who comes to one of his games pays an extra 25 cents that goes directly to him.

If one million people voluntarily take him up on this offer, Chamberlain will have an extra $250,000 and those one million people will each be down 25 cents. This has disrupted the “ideal” distribution of resources we started with, yet no one who wants to uphold liberty can object to a million people voluntarily handing over a quarter. Therefore, this new distribution of resources cannot be objectionable even though it is not the same as the supposedly ideal one we started with. So even though Chamberlain is lucky to be so talented and popular, it would be wrong to forcibly revert the distribution of resources back to the original one. Liberty upsets patterns. And more specifically, says Nozick, liberty is incompatible with attempts to minimize moral luck.

Note that this last point is basically a way of saying that you can’t have both of Rawls’ principles. So if you don’t want to discuss moral luck, you could bring the Nozick argument into the Rawls discussion as an interesting objection. The two topics are related precisely insofar as moral luck is really behind a lot of the major political disagreements that exist today.

olivier5's avatar

“What makes for a good philosophy question?”

Ideas of responses:
– highly debatable—leads to interesting discussions
– not satisfactorily resolved by science or common sense
– moral / behavioral
– important, relevant to our lives

LostInParadise's avatar

Harvard professor Michael Sandel has a wonderful set of videos of lectures he gave centered on the idea of justice. Any one of these lectures would make for a good discussion topic.

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