Category Ethics

Winged Horses and Respect

Yesterday, on the academic symposium Twitter, there was a bit of drama when Richard Dawkins (with his usual commitment to dispassionate inquiry) started questioning our treatment of weird beliefs.

I think the question he asked is an interesting and reasonable one, even though I think it was gratuitously personal, and so a little out of line.

Down Syndrome and Prenatal Screening

Russell Blackford on The Hellfire Club has drawn our attention to calls for a professor of bioethics to resign on account of his views on screening for Down syndrome in the womb.

Russell’s main claim in his post is a fairly weak one – whatever your views on this, we should not call for the resignation of academics because of their professional opinions, especially when those opinions are considered respectable by their peers. I agree with that wholeheartedly, but I wanted to offer some of my own (poorly-researched) thoughts on this rather sensitive issue.

When is Intent ‘Magic’?

Justin Vacula has written about blame and intent in a recent post titled “Blame and Intent”. His purpose is primarily to argue against the claim that “intent is not magic”, the meaning of which is, according to him:

that the feelings and beliefs of a person who is a recipient of a message, rather than the intent of the individual, takes priority.

I gave this phrase a quick google (as I don’t recall ever seeing it in any philosophical literature) and it appears to have it’s origin in 2010 in post called “Intent! It’s Fucking Magic!” on a blog called “Genderbitch: Musings of a Trans Chick”. As fascinating as the blog sounds, rather than argue specifically against it I’ll use it to spark some thoughts about the role of intent in meaning, and argue that while intent is not magic (and as far as I can tell, nobody is claiming that it is), at least according to one plausible theory it is an important part of the analysis of meaning.

Unable to Consent

Apologies in advance for this DramaPost – perhaps I’ll regret writing this, but what the hell. Leeeeeroooooooy…

“Skepchick” Rebecca Watson has a new “I can’t believe they said that!” post up.