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The Santa Monica Philosophy Meetup Group Message Board › Vote for the topic for the Philosophy Meetup! (Sunday, July 10 at 5 PM.)

Vote for the topic for the Philosophy Meetup! (Sunday, July 10 at 5 PM.)

Group Organizer
Woodland Hills, CA
Hi Everyone!

The July 2011 Meetup (­ and ­http://philosophy-in-...­) is happening Sunday, July 10, 5 PM - 8 PM (the 2nd Sunday of the month, NOT this Sunday). We'll be at our usual venue in Santa Monica. Driving directions will arrive in an email a few days before the meeting. New participants from all backgrounds, points of view, political and religious belief (or non-belief) are most welcome.

If your plans to attend have changed, please update your RSVP! If you're not able to make it, please free up a space on the RSVP list for someone else.

After the meeting, feel free to join us for dinner and more conversation. This month, we're going to Monte Alban restaurant, 1.17 mi. / 4 minutes from our meeting. They're an inexpensive and tasty Mexican/ Oaxacan eatery that's open till midnight, 11927 Santa Monica Blvd, West LA, 90025 (310-444-7736). Take Broadway to 26th st, go left, then a quick right on Santa Monica Blvd and you're there in 0.98 mi, past Bundy, on the left hand side at Brockton.

Here are the dates of the next three gatherings: August 14 (the 2nd Sunday, 5:30 pm – the room is occupied right up to the start of our gathering), September 11 (the 2nd Sunday, 5 pm) and, tentatively, October 16 (the 3rd Sunday, 5 pm). FYI, the conversation from our last meeting, The Problem of Testimony, as well as five other topics of discussion, has been active within the last month or two on our club's discussion board. Contribute your own ideas or respond to the postings of others, at ­http://philosophy-in-...­

As always, we're voting on the meeting's topic now. I've listed, in order of length, five philosophical questions or conundrums suggested by the group during previous meetings or by email. Please reply to this email (soon) with the name of the topic(s) that you would most like to talk about! (Anybody can send in a vote, even if you haven't been to previous meetings.) I'll send a reminder email, probably on Sunday or Monday, letting you know which topic won the vote and what readings, audios or videos we have for it.

1) CAUSATION: what is it, and is it a real process in nature, a figment of our ways of talking and thinking, a convenient way we summarize our observations, or something else? What's the difference between a cause and a background condition? What's the difference between a causal relation and a correlation? Must causes always precede effects?

2) DISTRIBUTIVE JUSTICE: what principles or theories show us how to justly distribute wealth and resources throughout society? Or, in the words of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on distributive justice, which principles should, "guide the allocation of the benefits and burdens of economic activity?"

A variety of competing views or principles vie to answer this question. Here's one list of them: equality, need, merit, utility, desert, equity, transparency, the difference principle, libertarian views, communitarian views, feminist views, rights-based views, virtue-based views.

3) THE CONCEPT OF HISTORY: can history be a science, or do irresolvable matters of interpretation and other barriers make it something more akin to literary criticism? Is our view of distant human events so colored by our present experiences and beliefs that we can't form a clear picture of it? Can we know how people in the past experienced their lives? Can history, at its best, be a more-or-less accurate record of what happened and why? What forces drive the course of human history? Does history as a whole have a meaning, structure, or a direction, beyond the individual events and actions that make it up (or is history "just one damn thing after another")?

4) POWER: is it a good or bad thing, overall? And, is the desire for power a sign of health and/or good character, a sign of pathology and/or bad character, or neither? For our purposes, we can define Power, of any sort, whether it directly involves other people or not, as "the ability to do, accomplish, influence or control." Whatever your views on Power are, it's a morally and politically loaded word, an object of fascination for most people, and most hesitate to admit (publicly or to themselves) that they want it as much as they do.

One (but not the only) way to look at the matter is to consider these four competing views. First, power is a "necessary evil," an inherently bad, negative and/or dangerous thing, though if often can and must be used for good purposes. Second, power is inherently a good and healthy thing, though it can sometimes be used in an unhealthy or immoral way. Third, power is neither good nor bad in itself, but becomes good or bad by virtue of how it's used. Fourth, some kinds of power are ethically and psychologically virtuous, others ethically and psychologically suspect. As an example of the latter, one may hold that power or control over others is necessarily a bad or dangerous state of affairs, while power or control over oneself is necessarily a good or healthy one.

5) IS IT WRONG TO CELEBRATE SOMEONE'S DEATH? Is cheering the death of someone you deem a threat, or responsible for terrible crimes, a laudable reaction? Or, does it reflect poorly on your moral character? Are such public celebrations ethically justified? Would discouraging these public celebrations be ethically justified? Did these celebrations benefit or harm our society?

In the last month or two, many cheered Osama Bin Laden's killing, though some of the same people also said they felt unsure about celebrating any person's death, even while they thought it appropriate, for example, to feel happy that Bin Laden no longer poses a threat, or that a measure of justice had been done. Others had a stronger reaction, feeling saddened or offended by public celebrations of someone's death. Who has the most morally respectable response? Apart from your reactions to these questions, how would you explain to children that it's a good thing or, conversely, a bad thing, to celebrate the death of Bin Laden (or any public figure)?

Lastly, when people celebrated Bin Laden's death, is it clear what precisely they were celebrating? That is, were they cheering a person's death, or killing, per se? Were they cheering the cessation of a threat? Were they cheering the accomplishing of justice? Were they cheering the deterrence effect of his killing? Were they cheering retribution against someone who did great harm? Were they cheering something else, or all of these things?

Send in a vote for your favorite topic(s) now!

Also, if you have a philosophical question or topic you've been dying to talk about, email it to me. That's how we get the topics we vote on each month.

I hope to see you there!


A former member
Post #: 3
Um, where do you send in your vote to?
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