Those Crazy Philosophers

In the last week I've read an amazing amount of stuff by philosophers that the ordinary person would regard as stark raving mad.  I wonder about this. Is that the job of philosophy--to take seriously what nobody else takes seriously?  Or do academics suffer from boredom, and need to find ever more outrageous things to say? Or does the pressure to publish favor positions that no one else has ever taken?  OK, here's my parade of horribles (stealing the phrase from this week's Supreme Court hearings)--
  1. Our thoughts are not about anything. You can't possibly think about Paris. Since you can't think about Paris, you also can't make a plan to go to Paris.  It can't be your purpose to go to Paris. Theists don't think about God (that he exists), atheists don't think about God (that he doesn't exist). Biologists don't think about evolution. Nobody thinks about anything.  (Source: Alex Rosenberg, The Atheist's Guide to Reality).
  2. Dogs should be citizens, cats should be citizens. There should be chicken citizens and cow citizens.  Animal citizens would have not only negative rights (they can't be eaten or used for medical research) but also positive rights.  We have to give them the same freedom of movement that humans have.  Not allowing cats in restaurants is treating them as if they were second class. It's like not letting black people in restaurants. They're entitled to medical care, like humans are.  They're entitled to political representation.  Excluding them is like excluding people with disabilities. (Source: Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka, Zoopolis).
  3. To solve the problem of climate change, it would be a good idea to encourage people to have smaller children.  They could do this by having children using IVF, and using pre-implantation diagnosis, or by giving their kids growth-retarding hormones.  People who had smaller children would have smaller ecological footprints. If you could shrink your kids enough, you might be entitled to have three children instead of two. (Source:  Matthew Liao, Anders Sandberg, and Rebeca Roache, "Human Engineering and Climate Change," forthcoming in Ethics, Policy and the Environment.)
I have some other items for the parade of horribles, but that's enough for now. Some day in the far future, some descendant of mine may have a large family of tiny children--six inches tall at most, a tiny citizen chicken living in the spare bedroom, and a commitment to never presume to be having thoughts about anything.  When one of the tiny kids says "I'm thinking about our tiny chicken" he will be scolded for stupidity, like today's theists are scolded by atheists.  Call me old-fashioned, but this doesn't sound good to me.


Wayne said...

Yeah, reading your summaries of zoopolis, I just can't get behind them... This talk of citizenship seems pretty radical. I'm not sure how homeless people are to be treated, but if animals have to be put to work....

But back to the point... I think Plato said it best when he said, that new ideas sound really crazy at first... Women being educated... Silliness!

If we want to be a progressive society, and improve on our faults, or even improve on our excellences, we need to be open-minded about all ideas, and take them as seriously as the arguments warrant.

Jean Kazez said...

Possibly my problem is encountering citizen chickens, miniature people, and "no aboutness" all at once. Any one of these ideas, by itself, I could have dealt with in the spirit of Plato. All at once ... noooooooo!