Benjamin Studebaker

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

Tag: Morality

Cecil the Lion and the 3 Pitfalls of Outrage Politics

The viral story of the week is the tragic shooting of Cecil the Lion. Cecil was a famous lion that was tracked by researchers from the University of Oxford. The shooting has many people outraged at the hunter–American dentist Walter Palmer. Palmer is receiving an immense amount of abuse on the internet, and some are even calling for Palmer to be hurt. It is and should be a crime to kill research animals and it is and should be a crime to lure protected species out of their protected areas for the purpose of killing them. Nonetheless, the reaction and the reactions to the reaction are leaving me a bit uneasy. Outrage politics is ugly politics. When we are motivated by rage and righteous indignation, we rarely show thoughtfulness or empathy. Let me show you what I mean.

Read the rest of this entry »

Who Matters?

Lately I’ve been thinking again about a question of moral philosophy that has long interested me. This is the question of who matters. Most of the time, when we talk about moral philosophy, we talk about what matters. Answers to that question vary–some propose that happiness is what matters, or suffering, or virtue, or equality, or liberty, or some other value or set of values. But whose happiness matters? Whose suffering? Whose virtue, equality, or liberty? This is something we don’t talk about as often, but different views about these matters have profound consequences for our politics and have serious consequences for ordinary people.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Starks are Not the Good Guys: Morality and Game of Thrones

I’m a big Game of Thrones fan (both the books and the show), but there’s something that sets me apart from other fans–I hate the Starks. It’s my view that they are without question the most villainous family in Westeros, far worse than the Lannisters. This is a controversial view, but hear me out. I think I have a pretty strong case.

Read the rest of this entry »

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Should People Have a Right to Have Children?

Many of my blog posts make some pretense of having something to do with a current event or news item. But sometimes I find myself thinking about larger issues of general principle that do not easily map onto any of the day’s controversies. This is that sort of post. I’ve recently found myself thinking about whether or not human beings should have an inalienable right to have children. It seems to me that we commonly assume that people do or should have this right, but it is not at all obvious to me that this is really the case. Here’s why.

Read the rest of this entry »