Philosophy

Commentary on “Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts”

Justin P. McBrayer recently argued in the New York Times that our children don’t think there are moral facts. Here’s what I take his argument to be:

Argument 1:

  • Premise 1: Common Core defines ‘fact’ as something that is true about a subject or something that can be tested or proven.
  • Premise 2: Common Core defines ‘opinion’ as what someone thinks, feels, or believes.
  • Premise 3: Common Core says all sentences are either facts or opinions.
  • Premise 5: Common Core labels all value judgments (any claim with good, bad, right, wrong, etc) as opinions, never as facts.
  • Conclusion: Common Core teaches that there are no moral facts.

Argument 2:

  •  Premise 1: Common Core teaches that there are no moral facts.
  • Premise 2: The school teaches that students have certain responsibilities such as “do your own work.”
  • Premise 3: Premise 1 is inconsistent with premise 2.
  • Premise 4: Outside of school, if there is no truth of the matter about whether cheating is wrong, then we cannot hold cheaters accountable.
  • Premise 5: We do (and should) hold cheaters accountable.
  • Conclusion: Outside of school, there is a truth of the matter about whether cheating is wrong (i.e., there are moral facts).
  • Conclusion: We should reject the Common Core teaching that there are no moral facts.

I agree with most of McBrayer’s argument. It is a rather elegant one. But his argument has come under serious attack by Daniel Engber over at Slate. In what follows, I shall defend McBrayer’s argument against Engber’s attack. I think Engber has built an elaborate strawman, but when he takes him down, McBrayer’s argument still stands tall.  (more…)

#thedress

My previous post was defending philosophy against objections from Neil deGrasse Tyson. I argued that scientific observation was no more sure or more important than philosophical argument.

Enter #thedress.

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The world is now divided on whether this dress is blue and black or white and gold. I’ve actually seen it as both, even in the same picture. Vox goes into the science here. I won’t get too into that, but I highly suggest you read it. As a philosopher, I want to raise a philosophical question. Can we ever trust our observations? (more…)

Philosophy and Science

Within the past year, the famous scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson said of philosophers, “if you are distracted by your questions so that you can’t move forward, you are not being a productive contributor to our understanding of the natural world.” This is just one of many things he’s said to attack the merit of contemporary philosophy. He believes philosophy once added to our understanding of the natural world, but it no longer does. I disagree.

First, Tyson assumes philosophers only ask questions. Philosophers are definitely concerned with the “big questions” of life: what is the meaning of life, does God exist, what is consciousness, do we have free will, etc. Philosophers will always be concerned with such questions. But philosophers do not only ask questions; we also answer them.   (more…)