Infinity and the Problem of Evil

God pops into existence and – with his newly found omniscience – realizes he’s only thing that exists.  Since he’s omnipotent, he can create absolutely anything. Since he’s benevolent, he thinks “I’ll create the most perfect of universes!” At this point, the god will either realize that it’s not possible to create a perfect universe …

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Transmitting Credences and Transmitting Evidence

Your credences are how likely you think something is given your evidence and your priors, and reporting them can be much more useful than reporting beliefs. Telling you that I believe it’s not going to rain is good if I want you to know that an umbrella is not necessary, but it’s bad if you …

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Against Jargon

In his 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language”, Orwell suggests the following rule: Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. I think this is sensible advice. Of course, it’s sometimes useful to introduce new terms into discourse. This is true …

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Some Noise on Signaling

Sometimes when people publicly give to charity or adopt a vegan diet or support a cause like Black Lives Matter, they get accused of ‘virtue signaling’. This is a criticism that’s always bothered me for reasons that I couldn’t quite articulate. I think I’ve now identified why it bothers me and why I think that …

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Vegetarianism, Abortion, and Moral Empathy

When people disagree about moral issues, they often don’t treat the moral beliefs of those that they disagree with as genuine moral beliefs: instead they treat them like mere whims or mild preferences. They lack what I am going to call moral empathy. Having moral empathy for someone doesn’t mean that you agree with their moral …

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Can we offset immorality?

People ‘offset’ bad actions in various ways. The most salient example of offsetting is probably carbon offsetting, where we pay a company to reduce the carbon in the atmosphere by roughly the same amount that we put in. But there are arguably more mundane examples of acts that look a lot like offsetting (“I know …

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Prison is no more humane than flogging

Many people believe that corporal punishment -the infliction of pain for the purposes of punishment through caning, beating, whipping, amputation, electrocution, branding, and so on – has no place in a modern criminal justice system. Instead imprisonment is seen as a more ‘humane’ form of punishment, and it is one that is employed in most modern criminal …

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Is the “born this way” message homophobic?

The message of “born this way” is that your sexual orientation is something you’re born with rather than something you choose. And it’s considered an important point in the justification of gay rights. I’m a strong supporter of gay rights, but I realised just over a year ago that something about this slogan didn’t sit …

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