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Foundations in Philosophy

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2018 Programme: Ethics in the 21st Century

Topic 1: Eating Animals (Dr Elisa Galgut)

The argument for vegetarianism / veganism is based on principles that seem obvious: for example, "refrain from causing unnecessary pain to another" is a basic tenet of our moral system. And yet, despite the mounting evidence that animals suffer enormously in industrialised agriculture, many, if not most, people who consider themselves to be morally decent continue eating meat. In this talk, we'll explore some of the arguments for vegetarianism, as well as some possible reasons why these arguments are resisted by many.

Topic 2: Is Democracy Still a Good Idea? (Dr Greg Fried)

Democracy, a political system in which the people at large hold power, is a cherished ideal in many regions of the world, and many people have fought and died to achieve it. Some contemporary thinkers, however, regard democracy as a deeply flawed system, one that entrusts crucial decisions to a mass of individuals who lack the unbiased expertise to make the right choices. These thinkers draw on a range of sources, from the work of ancient philosophers to recent failures and crises in democratic states. We will explore some current criticisms of democracy, and you will be asked how you might respond to these concerns

Topic 3: Giving and Taking Offence (Professor David Benatar)

Giving and taking offence is a common phenomenon. Although it is not new, there does seem to have been a recent resurgence of the proclivity to being easily offended. Those with these tendencies are sometimes criticised for being “snowflakes”. They in turn accuse those who offend as, at best, insensitive, but not uncommonly as racist, sexist, or homophobic, for example.

In this lecture we shall examine three questions: (a) What is offence; (b) When is it wrong to offend (and when is it not)?; and (c) How should we respond to those who offend us?

Warning: Some parts of the lecture may offend, but that won’t be because they are wrong.