Wednesday, 02 January 2019 16:22

The Moral Limits of Markets

From paying people to queue for you to selling permits to allow factories to pollute, Michael Sandel (Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University) is uncomfortable with the creeping marketisation of our society. Is attaching a price to something a morally neutral act that might help us to achieve our aims more efficiently or can the act of paying for something devalue and degrade the very thing we hope to obtain? Sandel certainly thinks so.

Published in Blogs

 Some people, perhaps many people find numbers terrifying. For others they are just ‘not good at maths’. The bad news is that there are lots of people out there who will use that, deliberately or accidently, to blind you with figures and convince you what they are saying must be right. The good news is that with a bit of thinking and a little help from us, even those of you who consider themselves number phobic will be able to spot the common disguises the unscrupulous use and ask the right questions.

There are lots of tools in the pseudo-scientist’s arsenal but here are 3:

Published in Good Thinking
Tuesday, 20 March 2018 10:58

A Guide to Good Thinking 1 - Lazy Logic

Even if it they are unstated, all arguments have assumptions (premises) that they start with and work their way through logical steps to a conclusion.

To be valid an argument just needs to be logically consistent e.g. people who wear glasses are geeks, John wears glasses, therefore John is a geek. This is a perfectly valid argument but it is also a false argument because the premise (that people who wear glasses are geeks) is not correct. It is always important to examine the premise of an argument before accepting it but even if the premise is correct, the argument could still fall flat.

Published in Good Thinking
Saturday, 28 March 2015 00:00

1. Introduction to Philosophy

The traditional view of a philosopher is probably an old man, with a beard, sitting in a wing back chair, overcomplicating the apparently simple. It will not surprise you to hear that this wide of the mark. What is true however, is that many things that appear simple may not be as straightforward as they appear. Straightforward statements that we take for granted in everyday speech have a whole host of assumptions that Philosophy attempts to unpick. “What do you know about chess?” may seem like a straightforward question but before answering it a Philosopher interested in Epistemology (the study of knowledge) would first want to ask “how do I know?”, “what can I know?” and “what is knowledge?” all before he even starts on chess. If all of that sounds very abstract to you then you might be right - Philosophy is a very broad subject and some areas are more grounded in the real world than others. Areas of philosophy include Epistemology (mentioned above), Metaphysics (looking at the ultimate nature of reality), Philosophy of Religion, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy and many more.

The key to being a good philosopher is to question but it is also not to question too much – if you are considering freedom and the nature of human rights, it is probably not the time to consider whether the world we see around us really exists. That is a legitimate question but to make headway on freedom you will need to temporarily simply assume the existence of other cognisant beings. There are no hard and fast rules as to where to stop but experience will show you what works and what doesn't. 




Published in Getting Started