On Critical Thinking

by Gerald Dworkin Having taught Philosophy for 46 years in three Universities—two State and one private—and never taught a Critical Thinking course one might have some questions about my choice of topic. My response is two-fold. First, there is a sense in which no matter what the topic of a particular course philosophy is always…

The Costs of Free Speech

by Gerald Dworkin In October, 1961, I was sitting in The Jazz Workshop, a San Francisco nightclub, listening to Lenny Bruce doing his infamous routine Are there any Niggers here tonight? It begins with asking that question and proceeds to make comments using racial slurs for every racial group he could–kikes, guineas, wops, spics, polacks,…

Lying Quotes

by Gerald Dworkin In three previous columns I have discussed the ethics of lying. I am still working on this topic and, in the course of doing so, have accumulated some interesting remarks. Here is a sample: Some topics–is it decaf?–require absolute honesty. With others–military secrets, some non-contagious diseases–some legitimate exceptions may be allowed. —Michael…

The Night Of

by Gerald Dworkin From time to time my friends, knowing that I watch many television series, ask me what current show I recommend. I always start by asking if they have watched The Wire. If they say they have not, I suggest they watch all five seasons and then I will make suggestions about what…

California Dying

by Gerald Dworkin I am finishing the six months a year that I live in California. While here I have been working on the campaign, led by an organization called Compassion and Choices, to get a bill passed by the California legislature–SB128. This is a bill to allow medically-assisted dying in the state of California.…

Civil War

by Gerald Dworkin By some strange coincidence, the Chancellors of the two Universities at which I spent the longest periods of my career– University of California and University of Illinois–have turned into poster children for current administrative cant about free speech and its limits. Chancellor Wise and the Salaita decision were the subject of my…

This title is not funny

Image from here. by Gerald Dworkin Some of my readers may recall from an earlier blog post or Justin Smith's review of my Philosophy: A Commonplace Book that for many years I have been collecting humorous quotes, epigrams, aphorisms, parodies, etc. that have some connection to Philosophy. The connection is sometimes that it is from…

Framing Morality

by Gerald Dworkin It has been a well-recognized phenomenon for some time that how we frame our questions to others affects the answers they give. The best known work on the topic is by Kahneman and Tversky. They give examples such as the following. Subjects were asked to choose between two treatments for 600 people…

Cutting Edge Bioethics

by Gerald Dworkin In this country 58% of male infants are operated upon shortly after birth. A part of the body is cut off and the operation usually does not use an anaesthetic. There are three relevant features which prompt ethical reflection. The infants cannot consent to the operation. There is no convincing evidence that…

Moral Dilemmas

Moral philosophers spend a good bit of their time reflecting on what they call moral dilemmas. It is not entirely clear—nothing in philosophy is ever entirely clear—how to characterize them. But the usual course is to consider a case in which an agent is faced with two courses of action, only one of which can…

Food Fight

As some of my previous blogs attest I have a big interest in food. This extends beyond the buying, cooking and eating of food to social and political issues concerning food. So it was with some interest that I noticed the latest Atlantic contained a piece by Caitlin Flanagan entitled “Cultivating Failure.” The little headline…