Category Archives: Philosophy

Apples and oranges – part III: Bookkeepers and enforcers

Despite the criticism it attracts (which is mostly aimed at a caricature or at inappropriate application), utilitarian thinking is a valid guide to decision making. But while it can certainly handle pleasure and pain, it does have its limits and, … Continue reading

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Apples and oranges – Part II: Is Utilitarianism unfit for purpose?

(featured image via DALL·E) Utilitarianism receives a great deal of criticism. Is it a useless tool for making decisions, or are the detractors overstating their case? (Part I is here.) Imagine a business – say, a bakery – that has … Continue reading

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Apples and oranges – Part I: what is wrong with utilitarianism, anyway?

<featured image: <apples and oranges.jpg> via DALL·E) Utilitarianism is a philosophy to guide the choices we make, in which these should be judged on their consequences, against a requirement of maximizing happiness and well-being (or minimizing harm) for all affected … Continue reading

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Choosing what we care about

(image via DALL-E) What we do not care about does not affect us. That gives us a kind of superpower to be happier, which we don’t always use as much as we could An unexpected bonus, the person we want … Continue reading

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The ‘how’ and the ‘what’ of Effective Altruism (and of good decision making)

(Featured image: Tumisu/Pixabay) Good decision making is more about the “making” than about the “decision” Altruism is an intriguing phenomenon. Many of us make material sacrifices in money, effort or time that benefit others, without a clear immediate material benefit … Continue reading

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The good death

Featured image: <verdiende rust.jpg> image: Martine/Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0) Decisions are a matter of trade-offs, and end-of-life decision-making is literally a matter of trading off life and death. But our society exhibits a status quo bias that raises big ethical … Continue reading

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The difference (or why utilitarians have a harder time)

(featured image via the author) What difference does our ethics framework make to anything, and what difference can we ourselves make to anything? It was already past dinner time on this warm late spring day, but my friend and I … Continue reading

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The bitterness of doing nothing

When we should really challenge our own, and other people’s omission bias Biases (cognitive and behavioural tendencies) and heuristics (mental shortcuts) are often associated with bad decisions, but it is worth bearing in mind their evolutionary origins before we label … Continue reading

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Why rules should not be rulers

(featured image via Pixabay) When we treat rules, however well-intentioned, as unconditional imperatives. we may end up doing more harm than good When I was younger, so much younger than today, I joined the Institute of Advanced Motorists, a British … Continue reading

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Everything is unfair

(featured image: EliasSch via Pixabay) Ethical concerns are an important factor in policymaking, and fairness often figures prominently in this respect. But are we really using it in the way we do? In last week’s post, I referred to the … Continue reading

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