Thursday, 4 April 2013

Check your philosophical health!

Since your life is a function of the choices you make, your philosophical health may be just as important as your physical health.

Take your philosophical health check here.

Do it now!

(Hat tip Russell W., who scored zero. And so did I, for what that’s worth.)


  1. Zero also. Thanks for the link.

  2. Zero for me too.

  3. My test revealed two supposed tensions (or contradictions) in my beliefs:

    "You agreed that: The environment should not be damaged unnecessarily in the pursuit of human ends
    But disagreed that:People should not journey by car if they can walk, cycle or take a train instead"

    The key word in the first that made me agree was "unnecessarily" - why would you damage the environment if it's unnecessary (eg: dump rubbish in a waterway for no benefit) - and I don't agree that driving a car is harming the environment anyway. So I can't see the contradiction.

    "You agreed that: In certain circumstances, it might be desirable to discriminate positively in favour of a person as recompense for harms done to him/her in the past
    And disagreed that: It is not always right to judge individuals solely on their merits"

    The key words in the above statement being "certain circumstances" and "might". If you're dealing with someone in a private situation you might choose to make some allowance for them if they come from a fucked up background and you can see they're trying to overcome it. It still means you judge them on their merits, but that judgement should take into account relevant context, including their background and where they've come from. So again, can't see the contradiction here.

  4. That sites implication that I don't understand there are tensions between principles is a bit insulting.

  5. Mark, I suppose on the first one you would need to justify why it is necessary (as opposed to merely desirable) to pursue human ends by car, which includes building not only cars but roads also. After all, human ends have been achieved for all but the last century without cars. Extracting the materials and clearing the land to build roads and cars requires mining, deforestation, etc, so I think that would qualify as exploiting (i.e. damaging) the environment. But in destroying the environment, man reshapes it to suit *his* needs - i.e. it becomes *his* environment. So it comes down to what is more important: the needs of 'the environment' separate to man, or the needs of man.

    Re the second one, discriminating is defined as "to make a difference in treatment or favor on a basis other than individual merit". So your actions would not be consistent with your judgments if you want to 'positively discriminate', since you agree you should only ever judge someone on the basis of their individual merit (i.e. "demonstrated ability or achievement).

  6. Thanks Terry for your comments - I suppose it comes down what definitions of the words "necessary" and "discriminate" you adopt in each context.

    On the first one I took "necessary" to simply mean necessary for my own well being, not necessary for my survival. In saying that, it is necessary in a deeper sense for humans to exploit nature for our own survival - but in doing so we're not necessarily "damaging" the environment, we're just changing it.

    I agree that by your definition of "discriminate positively" there would be a contradiction, and on reflection this is probably what the question intended. All I had in mind was that when judging someone by merit, it's rational to take account of where they've come from. For instance there's a lot more credit due to someone like Hirsi Ali rejecting Islam then there is someone born in the secular West - and if someone from her sort of background was going through that transition phase (as she did), I'd certainly give her a lot more leeway than a person born in the secular West who was contemplating a conversion to Islam.


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