Rochester Community And Technical College
  •  231
    This is the text of a paper (along with appendixes) delivered at the 2019 annual meeting of the Minnesota Philosophical Society on Oct 26 in Cambridge, MN. Beauchamp and Childress’s “Four Principles” (or “Principlism”) approach to bioethics has become something of a standard not only in bioethics classrooms and journals, but also within medicine itself. In this teaching-focused workshop, I’ll be doing the following: (1) Introducing the basics of the “Four Principles” approach, with a special foc…Read more
  • In the 2016 film Doctor Strange, the title character undergoes a radical transition from successful neurosurgeon to highly skilled sorcerer. Unsurprisingly, he finds this transition difficult, in no small part because he thinks that sorcery seems somehow “unscientific.” Nevertheless, he eventually comes to adopt sorcery as wholeheartedly as he had embraced medicine. Some of his reasons for making this transition are personal, such as his desire to fix his injured hands and, later, to help others…Read more
  •  20
    The acrimony between Karl Popper and Ludwig Wittgenstein has become the stuff of philosophical legend (Edmonds and Eidinow 2002). In the mid-20th century, they offered sharply divergent ideas about the best path for philosophy going forward. While Popper remains a mainstay in introductory courses in the philosophy of science, his "critical rationalist" approach to philosophy has remained marginal with analytic philosophy, especially when compared to the overwhelming influence of Wittgenstein. To…Read more
  •  62
    Martin Peterson’s The Ethics of Technology: A Geometric Analysis of Five Moral Principles offers a welcome contribution to the ethics of technology, understood by Peterson as a branch of applied ethics that attempts ‘to identify the morally right courses of action when we develop, use, or modify technological artifacts’ (3). He argues that problems within this field are best treated by the use of five domain-specific principles: the Cost-Benefit Principle, the Precautionary Principle, the Sustai…Read more
  •  286
    This is a guide to writing philosophy papers aimed at introductory students prepared by the philosophy faculty at Rochester Community and Technical College. It includes sections on reading philosophy and writing philosophy, as well as an explanation of common grading criteria for essays in philosophy.
  •  363
    The Problem of Evil in Virtual Worlds
    In Mark Silcox (ed.), Experience Machines: The Philosophy of Virtual Worlds, Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 137-155. 2017.
    In its original form, Nozick’s experience machine serves as a potent counterexample to a simplistic form of hedonism. The pleasurable life offered by the experience machine, its seems safe to say, lacks the requisite depth that many of us find necessary to lead a genuinely worthwhile life. Among other things, the experience machine offers no opportunities to establish meaningful relationships, or to engage in long-term artistic, intellectual, or political projects that survive one’s death. This …Read more
  •  30
    As modern viewers, it is tempting to interpret Frank and Claire’s manipulations of democratic institutions as representing perversions or distortions of democratic ideals. After all, most of us think (or at least hope!) that real-world democracies we actually live in aren’t quite that badly governed. Whatever the moral faults of our leaders are, they don’t (as a rule) murder journalists, crudely provoke international crises for political gain, or cleverly set up their political adversaries with …Read more
  •  59
    Not So Human, After All?
    In C. Lewis & K. McCain (eds.), Red Rising and Philosophy, Open Court. pp. 15-25. 2016.
    If asked to explain why the Golds’ treatment of other colors in Red Rising is wrong, it is tempting to say something like “they are all human beings, and it is wrong to treat humans in this way!” In this essay, I’ll argue that this simple answer is considerably complicated by the fact that the different colors might not be members of the same biological species, and it is in fact unclear whether any of them are the same species as current humans. Explaining why exactly this is so will lead us to…Read more
  •  53
    Competitive quiz shows, and Jeopardy! in particular, occupy a unique place among TV game shows. The most successful Jeopardy! contestants—Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter, Frank Sparenberg, and so on—have appeared on late night talk shows, been given book contracts, and been interviewed by major newspapers. This sort of treatment is substantially different than, say, the treatment that the winners of The Price is Right or Deal or No Deal are afforded. The distinctive status of quiz shows is evidenced i…Read more
  •  28
    Do Good Games Make Good People?
    In Kevin Decker (ed.), Ender's Game and Philosophy: The Logic Gate is Down, Wiley-blackwell. pp. 89-99. 2013.
    Ender Wiggins, the title character of Ender’s Game, spends much of the book playing games of one sort or another. These games range from simple role-playing games with his siblings (“buggers and astronauts”) to battle room contests to a strange fantasy game in which he must kill a giant and confront his deepest fears. Finally, at the end of the book, Ender and his Battle School classmates play one final “game” that leads to them (unknowingly) destroying the bugger homeworld and wiping out nearly…Read more
  •  449
    Two Concepts of Law of Nature
    Prolegomena 12 (2): 413-442. 2013.
    I argue that there are at least two concepts of law of nature worthy of philosophical interest: strong law and weak law. Strong laws are the laws investigated by fundamental physics, while weak laws feature prominently in the “special sciences” and in a variety of non-scientific contexts. In the first section, I clarify my methodology, which has to do with arguing about concepts. In the next section, I offer a detailed description of strong laws, which I claim satisfy four criteria: (1) If it is…Read more
  • Runaway Memes
    In Nicolas Michaud & Jessica Watkins (eds.), Jurassic Park and Philosophy: The Truth is Terrifying, Open Court. pp. 29-39. 2014.
    Charles Darwin famously argued that that life on earth was not the product of intelligent design, and that it instead had arisen through the entirely natural of process of evolution via natural selection. Darwin’s theory of evolution (together with Mendel’s theory of genetics) now forms the foundation of all the biological sciences. Jurassic Park, however, raises an interesting question: just how does Darwin’s theory apply to lifeforms that are the products of explicit, intelligent design? In th…Read more
  •  179
    The Medical Ethics of Miracle Max
    In R. Greene (ed.), The Princess Bride and Philosophy: Inconceivable!, Open Court. pp. 193-203. 2015.
    Miracle Max, it seems, is the only remaining miracle worker in all of Florin. Among other things, this means that he (unlike anyone else) can resurrect the recently dead, at least in certain circumstances. Max’s peculiar talents come with significant perks (for example, he can basically set his own prices!), but they also raise a number of ethical dilemmas that range from the merely amusing to the truly perplexing: How much about Max’s “methods” does he need to reveal to his patients? Is it real…Read more
  •  87
    You Can't Choose Your Family: Impartial Morality and Personal Obligations in Alias
    In Patricia Brace & Robert Arp (eds.), The Philosophy of J.J. Abrams, The University Press of Kentucky. pp. 173-189. 2014.
    In this essay, I critically examine the ways in which the characters of Alias attempt to balance their impartial moral obligations (e.g. duties toward humanity) and their personal obligations (e.g. duties toward one's children). I specifically examine three areas of conflict: (1) choices between saving loved ones and maximizing consequences, (2) choices to maintain or sever relationships with characters who are vicious or immoral, and (3) choices to seek or not seek revenge on the behalf of lov…Read more
  •  386
    Evolution and Neuroethics in the Hyperion Cantos
    Journal of Cognition and Neuroethics 3 (3). 2015.
    In this article, I use science-fiction scenarios drawn from Dan Simmons’ “Hyperion Cantos” (Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, The Rise of Endymion) to explore a cluster of issues related to the evolutionary history and neural bases of human moral cognition, and the moral desirability of improving our ability to make moral decisions by techniques of neuroengineering. I begin by sketching a picture of what recent research can teach us about the character of human moral psychology, with a p…Read more
  •  1590
    Over the course of the Twilight series, Bella strives to and eventually succeeds in convincing Edward to turn her into a vampire. Her stated reason for this is that it will allow her to be with Edward forever. In this essay, I consider whether this type of immortality is something that would be good for Bella, or indeed for any of us. I begin by suggesting that Bella's own viewpoint is consonant with that of Leo Tolstoy, who contends that one could not have meaningful life without immortality, b…Read more
  •  40
    Climbing the Ladder of Love
    In Adam Barkman & Robert Arp (eds.), Downton Abbey and Philosophy: Thinking in the Manor, Open Court. pp. 249-259. 2015.
    Downton Abbey is, at its most basic, a story driven by intimate, romantic relationships: Mary and Matthew, Bates and Anna, Sybil and Branson, Lord and Lady Grantham, and many others. As viewers, we root for (or against) these characters as they fall in love, quarrel, break up, reconcile, have children, and deal with separation and death. But what do we get out of this? Is it merely an emotional “rush,” or is it something more meaningful? In this essay, I’ll attempt to answer this question by exa…Read more
  •  304
    Concepts of Law of Nature
    Dissertation, University of Illinois. 2011.
    Over the past 50 years, there has been a great deal of philosophical interest in laws of nature, perhaps because of the essential role that laws play in the formulation of, and proposed solutions to, a number of perennial philosophical problems. For example, many have thought that a satisfactory account of laws could be used to resolve thorny issues concerning explanation, causation, free-will, probability, and counterfactual truth. Moreover, interest in laws of nature is not constrained to meta…Read more
  •  857
    Karl Popper: Philosophy of Science
    In James Fieser & Bradley Dowden (eds.), Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, . 2016.
    Karl Popper (1902-1994) was one of the most influential philosophers of science of the 20th century. He made significant contributions to debates concerning general scientific methodology and theory choice, the demarcation of science from non-science, the nature of probability and quantum mechanics, and the methodology of the social sciences. His work is notable for its wide influence both within the philosophy of science, within science itself, and within a broader social context. Popper’s earl…Read more
  •  377
    Alice encounters at least three distinct problems in her struggles to understand and navigate Wonderland. The first arises when she attempts to predict what will happen in Wonderland based on what she has experienced outside of Wonderland. In many cases, this proves difficult -- she fails to predict that babies might turn into pigs, that a grin could survive without a cat or that playing cards could hold criminal trials. Alice's second problem involves her efforts to figure out the basic natu…Read more
  •  1913
    Daniel Dennett's Intuition Pumps (review)
    Reason Papers 37 (2). 2015.
    A review of Daniel Dennett's Intuition Pumps (W.V. Norton: 2013).
  •  98
    Leonard Cohen as a Guide to Life
    In Jason Holt (ed.), Leonard Cohen and Philosophy: Various Positions, Open Court. pp. 3-15. 2014.
    As any fan of Leonard Cohen will tell you, many of his songs are deeply “philosophical,” in the sense that they deal reflectively and intelligently with the many of the basic issues of everyday human life, such as death, sex, love, God, and the meaning of life. It may surprise these same listeners to discover that much of academic philosophy (both past and present) has relatively little in common with this sort of introspective reflection, but is instead highly abstract, methodologically complex…Read more