Category Archives: mortality

In the end, what really matters?

In my view there is no good death, but some deaths are better than others. B. J. Miller came close, losing both his legs below the knee, as well as his left forearm, in a foolish stunt as a sophomore at Princeton, climbing on top of the famous “Dinky” train and getting electrocuted by the wires. Since then he’s become […]

Oliver Sacks on “filter fish”

Just a note about what may be Oliver Sack’s last published work, or at least the last thing that he wrote that was published most recently. It’s a piece in the New Yorker (free access) called “Filter Fish“. It is of course about the Jewish dish gefilte fish (something I can’t abide, but always call “filter […]

Let’s stop talking about “rights”, or at least don’t assert them as unquestionable givens

Now that I’ve established my philosophy cred, I want to talk about “rights”. These are just some off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts inspired by the video I’ve posted below. There are two ways we can interpret the meaning of the word “rights” as applied to humans or animals: a. Social, political, or legal conventions that help society run the way we’d […]

Regrets of the dying

If you’re a determinist like me, it’s useless to have deathbed regrets about what you didn’t do in the past, for you couldn’t have done otherwise. However, we can, by hearing about others’ regrets, modify our behavior, for neuronal rewiring in the face of experience does not violate determinism. Herewith is a list I found on Facebook, […]

A good man faces his end

There’s little doubt that Jimmy Carter doesn’t have long to live: he has liver cancer, and now four spots of melanoma have metastasized to his brain from an unknown source. The prognosis is, of course, very dire. (See the New York Times article here.) Characteristically, Carter held a press conference yesterday at his eponymous Center to discuss […]

Oliver Sacks on the Sabbath—and his death

As most of you know, Oliver Sacks is in the process of dying. His metastatic cancer began in his eye, and then spread to his liver and now to other places. He doesn’t have long to live, and has documented his decline, and his thoughts on impending mortality, in three pieces in the New York Times. I posted on […]

Dan Dennett: misguided about free will, accurate about Templeton

I was originally going to write in the title that philosopher Dan Dennett was “wrong” about free will, but whether or not humans have “free will” seems to be a matter not of right or wrong, but of semantics—how we define the term. “Compatibilists” like Dennett, who see free will as perfectly consonant with a world in […]

Daniel Fincke: morality is objective

Several of the talks at the Pittsburgh Atheist/Humanist meetings were excellent, and I hope to have time later to discuss one or two more. But first I want to say a few things about Daniel Fincke’s talk, titled “Empowerment Ethics.”  Daniel (I don’t know if he goes by “Dan”), as you may know, is a […]

The moral obligation to drink coffee?

I have to confess that I sometimes read HuffPo, but just for the articles—not the pictures! Seriously, folks, I do peruse two sections, “Food” (a perennial topic of interest to me) and “Travel” (ditto). And in the food section I found this weird headline and the article below it:  What? Science tells us we have a moral […]

The good and bad of humanity

It is a truism of both religion and biology that humans are simultaneously selfish and altruistic.  The faithful say the selfishness comes from original sin and the goodness from God, while the biologist imputes our selfishness to evolution (for how better can you ensure propagation of your genes than by taking care of yourself and […]


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 36,223 other followers