August 2019 Philosophy Think & Drink (Missoula)

This month’s Philosophy Think & Drink — facilitated by 2019 Merlin Student Scholar Fellow, Henry Kramer — was chock-full of inquiry, tasty grog, and great discussion.  A mash-up of philosophical, environmental, and political exploration, our group ended up spring-boarding from two initial questions — a question about lying and systems — into an ocean of additional interesting queries and conversation.   In fact, we’re so jazzed about the discussion…many of the questions will inevitably end up being raised and explored again in in future Think & Drinks!!  Here are some of the things that we explored and some resources.

The First Question We Chose As a Group

  • Is lying ever permissible?

Some Questions Raised Along the Way (About Lying)

  • Is it ok to lie if it causes less pain to others?
  • Is it ok to lie if it will lead to better results (the ends justify the means)?
  • Is it ok to lie if you have confidential information (like state secrets)?
  • Are there other principles that you might hold higher than honesty, such as kindness, that would justify lying to someone in order to be kind?
  • Is it permissible to lie in order to maintain group cohesion, and to bring people together? Have human beings evolved certain “mass lies” (such as, perhaps, that we have “natural rights”) for this purpose?
  • Does lying rob someone of their autonomy, of their ability to act freely in the world with as much information as possible? Or is it sometimes OK to lie to protect someone?  Also, is there a way in which telling the truth can rob someone of their autonomy (such as telling them you hate their hat, which activates insecurity and makes it more difficult for them to function)?

Thank you everyone who came out to this month’s gathering and for generating so many great questions and ideas!!

Which then led to…the Second Question We Chose As a Group

  • Is it ok to accept a system withe serious flaws, but that also carries many benefits?

Some Questions Raised Along the Way (About Systems…and More)

  • What is the social function of “natural rights?” What about the exclusion of animals or other things in nature from the system of rights?
  • Can animals be people? What about rivers, such as the Whanganui River in New Zealand?
  • How is it so easy for us to disregard the lives of animals (such as approving the killing of the last two wolves of a pack in Washington)?
  • Is it hypocritical for us to talk about environmental issues while taking advantage (with our cell phones, cars, and privilege) of the ways we have exploited the earth?
  • How do you determine a hierarchy of animals? Are horses more valuable than mice? Are humans more valuable than horses?
  • How much should we bear personal responsibility for the way the world is, when so much of it has to do with systemic issues and/or corporate exploitation? Are those of us making bad choices victims of systems that force us into those choices, or do we have personal autonomy?
  • How do we deal with things that feel good but are actually bad, such as recycling that can end up being more wasteful than throwing your trash in the garbage can?
  • Is it helpful to demonize corporations, when really they are also collections of people trying to get by, and making individual choices? – Do some people’s opinions matter more on certain topics because of who they are (for instance, does a woman’s opinion matter more regarding abortion)? How does this differ from listening to expert opinion?
  • Should students have as much of a vote in local elections as locals, since they are only transient parts of the community?
  • Can you have social safety nets and open borders at the same time?
  • Is it hypocritical to not want anyone to move to Montana, but to be in favor of immigration into the US?

Some Resources

  • Kant’s “Axe Murderer” Example (see video below)

Thank you to the Philosophy Learning & Teaching Organization (PLATO) and Montana Internet for supporting philosophy in the community and helping us bring activities like these to the Missoula community! 

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