On the Morality of Assassination


Ilya Somin of The Volokh Conspiracy:

In my view, targeting terrorist leaders is not only defensible, but actually more ethical than going after rank and file terrorists or trying to combat terrorism through purely defensive security measures. The rank and file have far less culpability for terrorist attacks than do their leaders, and killing them is less likely to impair terrorist operations. Purely defensive measures, meanwhile, often impose substantial costs on innocent people and may imperil civil liberties. Despite the possibility of collateral damage inflicted on civilians whom the terrorist leaders use as human shields, targeted assassination of terrorist leaders is less likely to harm innocents than most other strategies for combatting terror and more likely to disrupt future terrorist operations.

Agree. The only better scenario would be to capture him live to be put on trial, however that would probably be too much public relation trouble for an American President to desire.

Preferred philosophy competition topics


I like to see a philosophy essay competition with these topics

  • How will our understanding of morality change?
  • Discuss the philosophy of a modern social phenomenon.
  • Which recent scientific discovery has have a significant impact on philosophy and why?
  • Ethics of modern medicine.
  • What will be the most significant philosophical question of the 21 century and why?

Modernized interpretation of reincarnation


From a Redditor:

[T]he components the make up “you” are broken down upon death and reused in other life forms.. thus causing parts of “you” to become worms, birds, snakes, etc. Thus rebirth.

…Buddhist doctrine of “anatta” which means “no-self” it states that there is/was never a single solitatary “YOU” that exists. It states that you are rather a multitude of things come together for a brief moment of time. A collection of things that decides to call itself “ME” and creates the illusion of the ego.

Under this understanding, “you” are a collection of billions of cells, or more precisely, trillions of chemicals, and even more precisely, quintillions of atoms….

So context is important here, “You” as in your identity, who you identify as.. dies permanently, because it was just an illusion, however your true nature (a massively complex configuration of the universe) does not die and instead takes upon new forms.

I like this view very much. Its very rational, enlighten and romantic to me, even if others may think of my impression as oxymoronic.

Stanley Kubrick on the meaning of life


Stanley Kubrick on the meaning of life:

Playboy: If life is so purposeless, do you feel that it’s worth living?
Kubrick: Yes, for those of us who manage somehow to cope with our mortality. The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning. Children, of course, begin life with an untarnished sense of wonder, a capacity to experience total joy at somethinig as simple as the greenness of a leaf; but as they grow older, the awareness of death and decay begins to impinge on their consciousness and subtly erode their joie de vivre, their idealism – and their assumption of immortality. As a child matures, he sees death and pain everywhere about him, and begins to lose faith in the ultimate goodness of man. But if he’s reasonably strong – and lucky – he can emerge from this twilight of the soul into a rebirth of life’s elan. Both because of and in spite of his awareness of the meaninglessness of life, he can forge a fresh sense of purpose and affirmation. He may not recapture the same pure sense of wonder he was born with, but he can shape something far more enduring and sustaining. The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death – however mutable man may be able to make them – our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.

This is exactly how i feel, but could never say as beautifully.

Also check out Wikipedia’s page on the meaning of life.

The Calculous of Abrahamic Religions


Followers of Abrahamic religion (christianity, islam or judaism) believes, by following the correct religious doctrine you will enter heaven in the afterlife, if not you will be consign to hell. This mechanism raise the ultimate cost and benefit of good and bad to infinity. Without it there is in the long run (death) no cost nor benefit to acting morally. This is perhaps what fear the Abrahamist about atheists the most. Not only do the atheist deny the existence of heaven and hell, they consider the very concept of afterlife to be complete nonsensical.

I suspect that there are closet-atheist-elitist (CAE) who denounce atheism and promote religion because while they are comfortable with themselves living without heaven or hell, they are uncomfortable with others doing the same. These CAE fear the freedom of knowing the ultimate cost and benefit is zero may lead to nihilist social unrest. They imagine nightmare of nihilists going around raping and pillaging, doing whatever they want with completely disregard for other people, and if thing turn for the worse, either because they got caught committing crime or whatever they can just kill themselves to set all balance to zero.

I as an atheist obviously do not subscribe to CAE’s fear. I am convinced that human internal moral compass develop via evolution and the incentive mechanism of modern legal institutes are very effective. To the contrary of CAE’s logic, if ultimately the cost/benefit is zero after death, than the only cost/benefit is that will affect you when you are a life. It does not make leading a life of crime more attractive, it make it less so.

While its extremely difficult to have a watertight demonstration of correlation between believe/non-believer and morality/criminality, because we dont have the technology (yet) to read peoples minds to know if they really believe in god or they are just paying lip service. There is at least some evident to suggest that atheism dont necessarily lead to more, but less crime.

More than half of Japanese consider themselves to be irreligious, they also have one of the lowest homicide rate in the world – 0.5 case per 100,000 people. While in the United States, where only 15% consider them self to be irreligious, their homicide rate is 10 times higher than japan at 5 cases per 100.100 people.

Ricky Gervais sums up the benefit of teaching your kids Christianity (he is now an atheist).