Choose a topic

.. Art
Fake art

.. Cognition
General Artificial Intelligence
Observing My Experience

.. Epistemology
Dialectics and Evolution

.. Evolution
What is a Species?
Why are Tropical Birds So Colorful

.. HUM
A Mind

.. Society
Cut Energy Use
Emotional Plague
Improving Democracy
Jesus and the Money Changers
Merry Christmas
Misinformation and disinformation
Moral Hazard
Red flags
Reusable Bags
Sleeping in a tent
Social Media

Culture is Ordinary

AI and Art
Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Excellence is a Plateau
Is this picture real?
NonFungible Tokens
Public Art
Tearing Down Statues
What is Art?
Working With Reality

Artificial Intelligence and the Collingridge Dilemma.
Bird Brains
Bounded Rationality
Competence Without Comprehension
Consciousness is More Like Fame Than Television
Developmental Processes
Emergence and Cognition
Gender dysphoria
I Lost My Knife
Incomplete Information and Stories
Intelligence and Motivation
Is free will an illusion?
Natural Law
Necessary Illusions
On Affordances
Pencil and Paper
Post Phenomenology
Reflective Equilibrium
Return of the Law of Forms
Shifting Meanings
Structures of Understanding
Taking Things on Faith
The Hard Problem
The I Love You Gesture
The Imagined Order
The Phenomenology of Swim Bladders.
Thinking about medical procedures
Thinking About Risk
Underdetermination and Redundancy
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
What Does Google Know?
What is going on?

A Country Is Not Like A Company
Alternate ideas lying around waiting for disaster
Blood and Money
Can Capitalism Survive?
Do Our Minds Own Our Bodies?
Everyday Communism
Invisible Hand
Job Creators
Job Destroyers
Money and Value
Money is Different
National Accounts
Necessary Production
Paper Wealth
Post Capitalist Society
Profit Motive Fails
Rentier Capitalism
Social Wealth vs Surplus Value
Spending Money Into Existence
The Metaphysics of Money
The Ontology of Debt
Thinking about Money
Wealth is What Money Buys

Blowing Up Pipelines

Absolute Knowledge
I do not know everything
Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics
Rethinking Knowledge
Rethinking Knowledge
Semiotics and Body Language
The Curious Ineffectiveness of Facts
The Past and the Future.
Uncertainty and Unpredictability
Whatever happened to The Truth?

Body Plans
Competition and Cooperation
Dr Malthus would be pleased
Error Correction
Evolution Defended
Evolution is not Religion
Evolution of Cars
Forces of Nature
Is Natural Selection Obsolete?
Politics and Evolution
The Evolution of Purpose.
The Problem with Natural Selection.
The Source of Bad Behavior
Thinking about Tails
Why Does a Leopard Have Spots?

Free Speech in the age of Twitter
Freedom and Badness
Freedom and Morality
Freedom From and Freedom To
Freedom in the Age of Convoys
Libertarian Coercion

10 Views of Landscape
Affect and Effect
I pay rent.
Listening to Corn
The Reform vs Revolution Paradox
What is Public Schooling For?

Levels of Abstraction
Levels of Abstraction and Minds
What is a newspaper?

As Much As Possible
Zipfs Law

Emotional Plague
Memes: Imitated Behavior.
The Problem with Memes
What is a replicator?

Beyond Rules Based Morality
Freedom and Morality
Moral Realism.
What do we owe animals?


Maps and Territories
Metaphysics Without Absolutes
Philosophy Buds
Sincerely Held Beliefs
Sorites Paradox
Stereoscopic Vision and The Hard Problem
The Gorilla in the Room of Science
The Purpose of Science
What is Going On?

If It Walks Like a Duck
Right Wing Freedom
The Sovereign Citizen
Tyranny of the Majority


Constructed Life
Correlation Wins
Quack Doctors
The Great Shattering
The Material Space
Thinking about Interconnection
Too Small to See
Watching Pigeons
Weirdness in Physics

A Job
A society needs a government.
Babies and Bathwater
Belly of the Beast
Cultural Appropriation
Drag Story Tellers
Family Values
Governance and Power
Griefers and Misinformation and Disinformation
I Distrust the News
Inclusion and Christmas
Its a Free Country
Life Extension
Moral Decline
Open Society and Falsification
Parents, Children, and Community
Rethinking Rights
Rules in a Knife Fight?
Sex and Gender
Should We Go to Mars?
Social vs Individual Responsibility.
Society and The State
Society evolved
Spheres of Influence
The Care and Feeding of Free Speech
The Collingridge Dilemma
The Common Good
The Dual Meaning of Power
The Homeless
The Problem with Hedonism
The Rule of Law.
Thoughts on Justice
To the Moon
Trial by jury
Virtue Signalling
We Live in the Present
What is to be said?
What made freedom a bad word?
Why is there a shortage of nurses?
Work - Productive, Useful, Worthless, and Bad.

Implications of Very Productive Technology
Modest Proposal
Problems with Universal Basic Income
Tormenting Unlucky People
Why there are oligarchs

What do we owe animals?

Sir - have you no decency?

Martha Nussbaum is one of my favourite philosophers. Along with Armatya Sen she developed an idea called The Capabilities Approach; a method of measuring how well a society meets human needs.
The Approach considers all the things a person needs to flourish. We don't just need food and water and shelter. We need opportunities of many sorts: from love and security to satisfying work to participation in culture and politics.
In this article, Nussbaum uses the Capabilities Approach to examine what we owe to the other forms of life that we share the planet with.

The theory - which got its start in development economics—focuses on the ability to select valued activities and to avoid the frustration of choice. Sen uses the approach for comparative purposes: it is more illuminating to compare capabilities than to compare utilities, or GDP per capita.
My version is different: it creates a theory of basic justice, focusing on the duty of nations to create sufficient opportunities for significant activity in some particularly important areas, including life, health, bodily integrity, emotional health, choice and affiliation, and leisure time.
With valuable input from a group of younger members of the international Human Development and Capability Association, I have recently been developing my theory into a theory of justice for nonhuman animals.

We share this fragile planet with other sentient animals, whose efforts to live and flourish are thwarted in countless ways by human negligence and obtuseness.
This gives us a collective responsibility to do something to make our ubiquitous domination more benign, less brutal—perhaps even more just.

. . . thus even expert scientists have long denied the extent of the abilities of birds, who have no neocortex and therefore (many have thought) cannot be very bright.
But evolution does not take just a single route. In the case of birds, "convergent evolution" has produced abilities very similar to those of apes (tool use, complicated social strategies, the ability to deceive others) through a totally different biological path.

(I did an introduction about birds last week that touched on that. It's available @
She mentions some biases that historically have influenced our ideas about animals.

".. . the tendency to think that humans are the only creatures with language, and that this sets us utterly apart from the rest of sentient life." or ". . . the idea that reflexive self-consciousness is the be-all and end-all of intelligence, and that we humans are unique in possessing it."

Behind these biases lies a more general failing, which the Dutch primatologist Frans de Waal calls "anthropodenial": the denial that we are animals of a certain type (the anthropoid type), and the tendency to imagine ourselves, instead, as pure spirits, "barely connected to biology."

As de Waal puts it in a preface,
"We used to think in terms of a linear ladder of intelligence with humans on top, but nowadays we realize it is more like a bush with lots of different branches, in which each species evolves the mental powers it needs to survive."

When I was young the normal idea was that humans were the peak of evolution. Maybe even the 'goal' of evolution. I've since learned that that is incorrect.
Are humans more highly evolved than dolphins or octopi or crows?
Once we shed the biases mentioned above that question becomes almost meaningless.

Nussbaum applies the Capabilities Approach to the problem of our ethical obligations to animals.
The idea is that each has evolved to have a certain set of drives that enabled them to live in an environment. They are unhappy if those drives are thwarted.
So, for instance whales that evolved to swim long distances singing to their friends and family grow unhappy if isolated in a small tank.
Or chickens that evolved to forage for their food are unhappy when trapped in cages where they can barely stand up let alone spread their wings.
This has been measured.

As Nussbaum puts it:

We seek flourishing: free movement, free communication, rich interactions with others of our species (and other species too). Why should we suppose that whales, dolphins, apes, elephants, parrots, and so many other animals seek anything less? If we do suppose that, it is either culpable ignorance, given the knowledge now so readily available, or a self-serving refusal to take responsibility, in a world where we hold all the power.

This argument holds a lot of weight for me but it is not absolute.
Wolves strive to eat deer and deer strive not to be eaten. One way or another somebody's striving will be thwarted.

What do you think?

Star I present regular philosophy discussions in a virtual reality called Second Life. I set a topic and people come as avatars and sit around a virtual table to discuss it. Each week I write a short essay to set the topic. I show a selection of them here.

I've been thinking and reading about philosophy for a long time but I'm mostly self taught. That is I've had the good fortune to read what interests me rather than follow a course of study. That has it's limits of course but advantages. It doesn't cost as much and is fun too.

My interests are things like evolution and cognition and social issues and economics and science in general.