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Reparations - Justice, Love, and Healing Require Atonement for the Sin of Slavery

In this video, you'll learn why reparations for slavery are owed to African Americans. Slavery involved economic injustice in the form of stealing labor, and its fruits, from slaves. It also involved immoral physical and psychological abuse. Such racist treatment of African American continued through policies that treated black lives as less valuable than white lives. Jim crow, segregation, share cropping, redlining, police brutality, and mass incarceration institutionalized racism. This video helps you think philosophically about the possibility of reparations for such harms.

After looking at comments by prominent African American leaders in the United States, you'll discover how Trevor Noah responds to an objection that reparations are not uniquely owed to African Americans. You'll then learn about 6 key facts concerning past and present injustices against African Americans. Such facts come from current bill H.R. 40 on reparations put forward by the House of Representatives....

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Charles Mills Refines Trevor Noah's Powerful Thoughts About George Floyd's Murder

In this video, you'll learn key features of Charles Mills' "The Racial Contract." We'll apply Mills' ideas to refining Trevor Noah's suggestive thoughts about George Floyd's murder and the protests and looting that followed.

Noah suggests the looting is a result of a broken social contract between black American's and those in power. Mills refines Noah's thoughts by implying the social contract is still in place. It isn't null and void. The contract still in place is not the classical social contract of Hobbes, Locke, Kant, or Rousseau. It's the Racial Contract between whites and nonwhites that maintains white supremacy.

The Racial Contract is enforced through violence and ideological conditioning. This explains Noah's claim that "police in America are looting black bodies." Looting such bodies is a way of maintaining and enforcing the Racial Contract. White people will be, as Mills says, "unable to understand the world they themselves have made." The Racial Contract imposes and...

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The Murder of George Floyd and the Immorality of Racism

This video presents the ideas and experiences of those who have experienced racism in America. As I white male I do not pretend to understand what it's like to have to deal with systemic racism. Though I was deeply disturbed by what happened to George Floyd as he was murdered by law enforcement, I cannot imagine how hard it has been on those that confront racial profiling, police brutality, and fear for personal health and safety on a regular basis. This is wrong. Racism is unjust.

In this video, I transmit and unpack the ideas of African American writers, statesmen, and people from other minority groups. I hope these ideas will open your eyes as they have mine. As a society we need to heal the wounds of the history of racism. We need to stop killing black men and boys. We need to stop disproportionately disadvantaging people of color. I don't pretend to have any tidy solutions. But we can start by listening.

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Albert Camus vs. Richard Taylor on The Meaning of Life

In this video (below), you'll discover how a debate between Albert Camus and Richard Taylor on the meaning of life might go. Camus embraces absurdism—the absurdity of life makes it meaningless. While Taylor embraces subjectivism—meaning in life is a matter of how things appear to you from a first-person perspective. If you find life satisfying because you're doing what you most desire to do, then your life is meaningful.

After getting these views on the table, Camus responds to Taylor. Taylor's tweak of the Sisyphus case doesn't make Sisyphus live a meaningful life. Instead, Sisyphus is not only condemned to an eternity of pointless toil, he's also unable to embrace the truth of his situation and actually take ownership of his fate. In Taylor's tweak of the case, the gods implant in Sisyphus a desire to roll stones. This makes Sisyphus subjectively-fulfilled, but it also makes him manipulated and deluded. Living a lie doesn't make life meaningful even if it makes life...

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Ethical Disagreement - Can Science Ever Resolve a Moral Disagreement?

Charles L. Stevenson’s “The Nature of Ethical Disagreement” 

Today we’re discussing an influential reply to a challenge to morality. The challenge is that moral disagreements are unresolvable by scientific means. Disputes in science can be settled through data confirming or disconfirming hypotheses. Yet, moral disputes cannot be resolved through scientific methods.
But, what if science can help resolve ethical disagreements? Is that possible? Wrestling with is challenge will help you better strategize how to resolve ethical disagreements in your life. Welcome to The Philosophical Life!
Watch a video version of this post below. Or, skip over the video to read the post.

Two Kinds of Disagreement 

Stevenson identifies two types of disagreement. The first kind is disagreement in belief. Let’s illustrate this form of disagreement by way of a current example.
Right now in the United States we’re still actively trying...
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Happiness and Morality - Can You Achieve Real Happiness by Acting Immorally?

Can a person that acts immorally truly be happy? Or is immorality incompatible with true happiness? Consider a case discussed in chapter 9 of Exploring Ethics. Steven Cahn lays out the case of an adulterous physician and his blackmailer as found in Woody Allen’s movie Crimes and Misdemeanors:
Suppose a man who is happily married and highly respected as a physician makes the mistake of embarking on an affair with an unmarried woman whom he meets while she is working as a flight attendant. When he tries to break off this relationship, she threatens to expose his adultery and thereby wreck his marriage and career.
All he has worked for his entire life is at risk. He knows that if the affair is revealed, his wife will divorce him, his children will reject him, and the members of his community will no longer support his medical practice. Instead of being the object of people’s admiration, he will be viewed with scorn. In short, his life will be shattered.
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Ethical Egoism - James Rachels Shows You How NOT to Argue Against an Egoist

Imagine that you’re having a calm conversation with an acquaintance and you decide you want to punch him in the face just to see what it’s like to hit someone. You don’t have anger issues and you’re not a member of Fight Club. Plus even if you were a member you couldn’t talk about it.
Is the fact that it would cause him pain were you to hit him in the face a reason not to do it? 
Today we’re considering a radical theory that answers “no”. Ethical egoism holds that an act is morally right just in case it’s in the person’s self-interest. If you want to punch your acquaintance in the face, it’s morally okay for you to do so. His pain doesn’t give you a reason not to hit him.
We’ll uncover logical holes in this theory. And we’ll end with a special bonus. We’ll follow Rachels in considering the limits of philosophy. Welcome to The Philosophical Life!
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Psychological Egoism - All People are Selfish in Everything They Do

Psychological egoism is the theory that self-interest is the only motive from which anyone ever acts. This is a challenge to morality because morality involves taking into account the interests of others. Today's video breaks down objections to psychological egoism raised by James Rachels.

Rachels identifies two arguments thought to support psychological egoism. The first argument involves the claim that all acts are selfish because the person performing the acts always does what she most wants to do. Rachels raises two objections to this argument.

The second argument for egoism I've dubbed The Rolling Stones argument. All acts are selfish because they aim at the person's self-satisfaction. People always try to attain satisfaction (i.e., a pleasant state of mind). Rachels objects to this argument as well.

This is the first part of the 8th episode of the Exploring Ethics Series. Watch a video version of this post below or scroll past the video to read the blog post.

Rachels' "Egoism...

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Thomas Nagel - You Should Act Morally as a Matter of Consistency

Thomas Nagel argues against a moral skeptic that doesn't care about others. He argues that moral right and wrong is a matter of consistently applying reasons. If you recognize that someone has a reason not to harm you in a certain situation, then, as a matter of consistency, that reason applies to you in a similar situation.

In today's post, I lay out Thomas Nagel's argument, and I raise objections to it. This is the 7th installment in the Exploring Ethics Series. It will help better understand moral skepticism so you can thoughtfully address it when it arises in everyday life.

Note: For your convenience, you can watch a video version of the post, or you can read the post by skipping over the video below.

Thomas Nagel "Right and Wrong"

Imagine that you catch a coworker stealing a stapler from work. You know one of those red Swingline staplers like Milton had in the movie Office Space.

You think him stealing the stapler is wrong. You call him out on it and say that he...

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Cultural Relativism: A Seductive Yet Disturbing Theory

What Is Cultural Relativism and Why Does It Matter?

You likely believe that certain acts are morally wrong no matter what culture a person lives in. This might include things like murder, stealing, and genocide. Cultural relativism challenges your belief. It holds there are no universal moral truths that hold across cultures. Moral truths only hold relative to particular cultures. 

In this post, you’ll learn about philosopher James Rachels’ objections to cultural relativism so you can keep on believing that, say, genocide is wrong no matter what culture a person happens to live in.

This is the sixth episode in the Exploring Ethics Series. A link to the other videos in the series is in the description. My name is Christopher Michael Cloos. I have a PhD in philosophy and taught ethics at the university-level for many years. Now I teach philosophy online, and I’m glad I get to explore cultural relativism with you today. Let’s jump in.

Key Commitments of...

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