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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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Morality is Independent of God

In this post, you’ll learn how philosopher Steven M. Cahn argues that morality is independent of God. He argues that God’s existence is no guide to what’s right and wrong. It’s not a moral compass. And he argues that morality doesn’t depend on God for its justification. As Cahn concludes, “regardless of our religious commitments, the moral dimension of our lives remains to be explored.”

Yet his argument rests on Plato’s famous Euthyphro Dilemma. After discussing the dilemma a solution to the dilemma is presented. Welcome to The Philosophical Life.

Watch a video version of this post below, or scroll down to read the post.

Methodology Moment 

Cahn’s opening move is worth learning from as a powerful way to do philosophy. Let’s explore it in a “methodology moment.” 

Cahn’s opponent is a theist that thinks morality crucially depends on God. Instead of arguing against the theist by claiming that God...

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Public Health Ethics: Coronavirus and The Moral Justification of "Shelter in Place" Policies

As Coronavirus spreads throughout communities around the globe, “shelter in place” policies are being mandated to help flatten the curve of the spread of the virus. Such policies violate the moral consideration of autonomy or freedom of movement.

But I argue that shelter in place policies are likely morally justified based on 5 factors for resolving moral conflicts in imposing public health policies. The five factors are effectiveness, proportionality, necessity, least infringement, and public justification.

Welcome to this special episode in the Exploring Ethics Series. Watch the video below.

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From Almost Flunking Out to Getting My PhD and Founding The Philosophical Life

It was my junior year of college. I received a letter from the university. It was not good. I was placed on academic probation. I was steps away from failing out of school.
But I discovered something. I discovered the major of philosophy: exploring big ideas, wrestling with important ethical issues. I was captivated. My grades turned around.
Fast-forward: I completed a master’s degree in philosophy and went on to achieve my PhD. Along the way I gained invaluable tools for sharp thinking, sharp learning, and better decision making that led to better living.
How did I go from almost flunking out to achieving my doctorate? What skills did I learn along the way? I’m excited to share with you what I learned!
I believe you’re only one logical train of thought away from things you desire out of life: growth, happiness, purpose, influence, and so on. If you’re ready when the moment strikes, you can use your mind to positively influence...
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