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What would aristoteles do to answer the trolley problem ? would he kill the 5

What would aristoteles do to answer the trolley problem ? would he kill the 5 people or switch the tracks to kill only one ?

Great question, and one that is rarely discussed in the over-worked trolley problem literature, mainly because the cases are set up to illuminate a conflict between the utilitarian response that seems to suggest killing 1 to save 5 regardless of the means of doing so and the Kantian response that seems to allow switching the track to save 5 (with a mere side-effect of allowing 1 to die), while disallowing pushing 1 intentionally as a means of saving 5. But what would a virtue theorist like Aristotle, or the originator of the trolley problem Philippa Foot, say?

Well, there's no simple answer since virtue theory is (intentionally) open-ended and detail-driven. It would say that right thing to do in each case is what a virtuous person would recognize as the right thing to do, given the specific details of the case. Personally, I think the virtuous person would say it is morally required to switch the track in that case and morally wrong to push someone to stop the trolley in the other case. In part, that's because a virtuous person will recognize that the agent in the 'push' case is not justified in believing that it will work to save 5 people (hence it risks killing 6), while she is justified in believing that switching the track will save 5 at the cost of 1.

But one worry is that I may be justifying my intuitions about the cases by ascribing them to the virtuous judge.

Great question, and one that is rarely discussed in the over-worked trolley problem literature, mainly because the cases are set up to illuminate a conflict between the utilitarian response that seems to suggest killing 1 to save 5 regardless of the means of doing so and the Kantian response that seems to allow switching the track to save 5 (with a mere side-effect of allowing 1 to die), while disallowing pushing 1 intentionally as a means of saving 5. But what would a virtue theorist like Aristotle, or the originator of the trolley problem Philippa Foot, say? Well, there's no simple answer since virtue theory is (intentionally) open-ended and detail-driven. It would say that right thing to do in each case is what a virtuous person would recognize as the right thing to do, given the specific details of the case. Personally, I think the virtuous person would say it is morally required to switch the track in that case and morally wrong to push someone to stop the trolley in the other case. In part,...

Dear Philosophers,

Dear Philosophers, Can someone recommend a biography of Baruch Spinoza? Thank you

I haven't read Rebecca Goldstein's biography of Spinoza, but she's a great writer (with PhD in philosophy) and my dad liked it. I can't vouch for how thorough it is, but it will give you a sense of his philosophical views as well. http://www.amazon.com/Betraying-Spinoza-Renegade-Modernity-Encounters/dp/0805211594

Is the consensus in favor of Neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory as strong among

Is the consensus in favor of Neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory as strong among philosophers of science as it is among scientists in general?

Yes. As far as I know, there is not a live debate in philosophy of biology (or philosophy more generally) regarding the viability of neo-Darwinian theories of evolution. There are lots of interesting debates about the details of the theories (e.g., levels of selection, how to understand the mechanism of natural selection, etc.), but no respectable philosophers I know of defend Intelligent Design as an alternative biological theory to evolution by natural selection. There are debates about how to treat the debate itself (e.g., whether ID should be taught--I like to teach Darwin vs. ID in my intro to philosophy class to teach abduction or argument to the best explanation), and philosophers still teach the teleological argument or Design argument for the existence of God (the new versions of these arguments that invoke the probabilities regarding the laws and constants being 'ripe' for a stable, evolution-friendly universe are interesting to discuss). But philosophers often teach such arguments as exercises in the history of ideas and in how to uncover what makes them unsound.

But again, the answer is yes, the consensus is that neo-Darwinian theory is the only viable theory that provides unifying and informative explanations of biological phenomena.

Yes. As far as I know, there is not a live debate in philosophy of biology (or philosophy more generally) regarding the viability of neo-Darwinian theories of evolution. There are lots of interesting debates about the details of the theories (e.g., levels of selection, how to understand the mechanism of natural selection, etc.), but no respectable philosophers I know of defend Intelligent Design as an alternative biological theory to evolution by natural selection. There are debates about how to treat the debate itself (e.g., whether ID should be taught--I like to teach Darwin vs. ID in my intro to philosophy class to teach abduction or argument to the best explanation), and philosophers still teach the teleological argument or Design argument for the existence of God (the new versions of these arguments that invoke the probabilities regarding the laws and constants being 'ripe' for a stable, evolution-friendly universe are interesting to discuss). But philosophers often teach such arguments as...

Why do you think philosophers act like they are qualified to answer questions

Why do you think philosophers act like they are qualified to answer questions about physics, psychology, anthropology, and neuroscience when they have studied none of these?

Just to add to Prof. Greenberg's response, the question suggests that philosophers regularly make claims about physics, psychology, anthropology, neuroscience, and other sciences without studying those fields. That is false. Few philosophers do so. Many who write about the sciences or use information from the sciences in their philosophy have formal training (coursework and sometimes degrees) in these fields. Many more read widely in these fields, and given their education, are able to understand what they read well enough to make claims about the philosophical implications of the science and even raise theoretical concerns about the methodology or results of the science. Some philosophers practice science by running experiments with scientists. I'd venture to say that more often you see scientists without much training in philosophy make claims about the philosophical implications of their scientific research.

Just to add to Prof. Greenberg's response, the question suggests that philosophers regularly make claims about physics, psychology, anthropology, neuroscience, and other sciences without studying those fields. That is false. Few philosophers do so. Many who write about the sciences or use information from the sciences in their philosophy have formal training (coursework and sometimes degrees) in these fields. Many more read widely in these fields, and given their education, are able to understand what they read well enough to make claims about the philosophical implications of the science and even raise theoretical concerns about the methodology or results of the science. Some philosophers practice science by running experiments with scientists. I'd venture to say that more often you see scientists without much training in philosophy make claims about the philosophical implications of their scientific research.

A famous philosopher is coming to visit my university. Would it be inappropriate

A famous philosopher is coming to visit my university. Would it be inappropriate to ask for his autograph?

I thought about the article idea. And, back in the day, one might have had an off-print for someone to sign. (I once saw an off-print that had apparently belonged to Henry Sheffer, he of the Sheffer stroke, signed by Gottlob Frege!) But it does seem odd to ask someone to sign a photocopy of an article. Anyway, it's nonetheless true that some people like to collect autographs, and that a blank card is often the format of choice, and there's nothing wrong with that. But don't do the napkin. ;-)

It depends on the setting. But if after the talk, there is an informal reception or something where you could talk with the philosopher and unobtrusively have him/her sign a book, I suspect s/he would be flattered not bothered. We philosophers tend not to get many such requests! (alas, not many of us count as famous)