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The Santa Monica Philosophy Meetup Group Message Board › Vote for the topic for the Philosophy Meetup! (This Sunday, Dec. 9 @ 5 pm)

Vote for the topic for the Philosophy Meetup! (This Sunday, Dec. 9 @ 5 pm)

Group Organizer
Woodland Hills, CA
Hi Everyone!


The December 2012 Meetup (­ and ­http://philosophy-in-...­) is this Sunday, December 9, 5:00 PM - 7:30 PM (the usual 2nd Sunday of the month).  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.  Location TBA. 


FYI, here are the dates of future gatherings: January 13 (the 2nd Sunday at 5 pm), February 10 (the 2nd Sunday at 5 pm) and, tentatively, March 10 (the 2nd Sunday at 5 pm). 


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 (very 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 in a day or two to let you know which topic won the vote and what readings, audios and/or videos we have for it. 



1)  VAGUENESS, AMBIGUITY AND GENERALITY:  what is vagueness?  How do vague ideas and statements differ from ambiguous ideas and statements, or from general/broad ideas and statements?  Is all vagueness linguistic or do some kinds of vagueness exist in the world?  Let's take a look at the ways philosophers try to account for and explain the various kinds of vagueness. 



2)  ETHICAL OBLIGATIONS TOWARD SENTIENT MACHINES AND ARTIFICIAL LIFE FORMS:  many scientists think it probable that, one day, we will be able to create computers or artificial life forms with sentience comparable to that of humans.  If and when this happens, would we be morally obliged to grant them personhood or citizenship?  Would it be wrong to destroy them, unplug them, or put them into "hibernation mode" for a few months? 



3)  ENVY, JEALOUSY AND RESENTMENT: what exactly is envy, and how is it different from the related emotions of jealousy and resentment?  Are these emotions always or typically unhealthful, irrational, immature, or wrong to feel, as they are typically accused of being?  Or, do any of these emotions have their salutary sides?  If these emotions have a purpose (evolutionary or otherwise), does that make them psychologically healthful or admirable, at least some of the time? 



4)  WHAT LIMITS SHOULD WE PLACE ON LAWS?  One kind of limit to laws is practical, that is, some laws may have unintended effects that defeat the goal of the law or that otherwise make the law too socially costly.  Alcohol Prohibition is a familiar example.  That much is uncontroversial.  Apart from practical limitations, though, the more interesting question is what principled limitations we should have to the laws we want to pass.  For instance, what principles do we have against passing laws against every single action we consider harmful or immoral?  What principled reasons, if any, make it wrong or inadvisable for the law to reach into all aspects of our lives? 



5)  WHICH NATIONS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR ADDRESSING THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE?  The debate has sometimes been framed as a justice dispute between economically developed and developing countries. 


Economically developing nations can argue that, since the economically developed economies have been the largest cause of and beneficiaries from the CO2 emitting fuels that have caused global warming, they are mainly responsible for taking action to reduce global warming, to mitigate its damaging effects in less developed countries, and to compensate developing countries for damages suffered. 


Counter to this, technologically developed countries can argue that they are not morally culpable for the bulk of climate change, since they didn’t know, until relatively recently, that global warming was occurring or that CO2 and methane emissions were responsible for it.  Furthermore, we should focus our efforts on those countries that are currently emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases, not those that have done so in the past.  In addition, they can argue, developing countries have advantages that already-developed countries didn't have in the past.  We now know the path to economic development in a quicker, more efficient (low-carbon emission) manner.  In addition, developing countries do not have to invent the technology needed for development, since it has already been made available by the developed world.  Thus, the argument goes, developing countries have little or no claims on developed countries for compensation.  And, developing countries should be no more exempt from emitting greenhouse gases than are developed countries. 


Note:  these ethical and justice disputes around climate change assume that recent climate change is real and largely human-caused, and that attempts to mitigate it are doable.  That's consistent with what the overwhelming majority of climate scientists believe.  If you disagree with these claims, we can spend a limited amount of time arguing the rationality of believing or disbelieving the position of the large majority of experts in the area.  However, we won't debate the details of climate science, as that's a scientific debate, not a philosophical one, and we're not in a position to argue the detailed science of it.  The main focus of the discussion will be on ethical and political obligations that arise when you concur with the scientific consensus on the issue.   




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,


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