Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Deontology

Is It Morally Okay for My Little Brother to Work for a Defense Contractor?

As some of you might know, I have a little brother named Adam (he appears on the blog once in a while). Adam is one of my favorite people–he’s a remarkably kind, thoughtful, and gregarious person. If you met him, you’d like him. Just about everyone does.

Adam's on the left; I'm on the right

Adam’s on the left; I’m on the right

My little brother is studying at the University of Southampton in the UK, where he’s studying to become an aerospace engineer. Becoming an aerospace engineer literally is rocket science, and it’s not easy. Not only are Adam’s classes exceptionally grueling, but he needs to spend this coming summer doing an internship to get work experience and ensure that he’s competitive on the job market when he graduates. These internships are hard to get, especially if you want to be paid for your work. Recently, Adam was able to score a paid internship at a major American defense contractor. As a political theorist, this raises some interesting moral issues for me–no matter your position in international relations, it’s more or less inevitable that when you get involved in designing and manufacturing weapons, the weapons you make will be used in some conflicts you don’t agree with to kill people you don’t think deserve it. Is it okay with me that Adam wants to do this?

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Neil DeGrasse Tyson is Wrong about Philosophy

I love Neil deGrasse Tyson. It’s absolutely wonderful to have scientists as public intellectuals, making science more comprehensible to laypeople and raising its public profile. However, in a recent podcast, Tyson dismissed the intellectual value of philosophy. Given that I do quite a bit of that here, I feel a duty to stand up for myself and for those others who take an interest in political and moral philosophy. I wish to emphasize that I’m a great fan of much of Tyson’s work, and it pains me to have to write a piece like this about something he said, but it has to be done.

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Nye vs. Ham: The Broken Evolution/Creation Debate

Yesterday, on encouragement from my little brother, who is an aspirant aeronautical engineer and a huge Bill Nye fan, I watched the debate between Bill Nye (of Bill Nye the Science Guyand Ken Ham, who is president of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. I also ran across this piece on Buzzfeed, in which Ham supporters ask lots of questions that, based on what I’m reading on my Facebook, don’t seem especially reasonable to Nye’s guys. Instead of contributing to the internet flame war, I’d like to try to use what philosophical skills I have to highlight what precisely the difference is between the two positions, because the gulf is incredibly vast, more vast than I believe most of the participants on either side of this debate commonly understand.

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A Critique of Habermas

Today I’d like to put on my democratic theory hat and offer a critique of Jürgen Habermas‘ theory of deliberative democracy. Habermas gives his answer to the question of what kind of government we ought to have by appealing not to any specific goal or end that he thinks government ought to have, but by instead offering standards by which we can judge a procedure through which one would determine one’s society’s ends. I argue that Habermas relies too much on moral intuitionism to substantiate these standards and consequently provides insufficient reason why we should choose to determine our form of government by appeal to procedure rather than by appeal to result.

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Divorcing Morality from Metaphysics

Religious deontologists and subjectivist relativists have something in common–both believe that they can derive moral conclusions from their metaphysical theories. This is the most significant mistake made by both groups.  Here’s why.

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