What we're about

"Human understanding is marvellously enlightened by daily conversation with men, for we are, otherwise, compressed and heaped up in ourselves, and have our sight limited to the length of our own noses." - Michel de Montaigne

"To look life in the face, always, to look life in the face and to know it for what it is..." - Virginia Woolf

It's not easy to find a place to have formal discussions about intellectually oriented topics. So that's what this group is for. It's a discussion group based on articles, essays, books, videos, podcasts, and films. The source material will be based on ideas, in other words substantial stuff. The choice of topics will be eclectic and wide-ranging.

Please note: A priority of the group is a rational (reason-based) approach (scientific and/or critical thinking). We're looking for people who have considered opinions but aren't dogmatic about them, people who are open-minded and able to talk about opinions that differ from their own in a cooperative way. This is a requirement of membership in the group.

The meetings will be on weekends at a pub or restaurant on the Westside.

The events of the group are only for members. The group will be kept small to allow members to become familiar with each other, but new members are welcome! If you’re interested in joining, please be sure there's a recent realistic photo of yourself. Then apply by answering these questions, which will appear when you click on the ‘request to join’ button:

  1. Please list three non-fiction books, articles, or essays you’ve read recently (please be specific).
  2. Please list three videos, podcasts, or lectures that you've found interesting (please be specific).
  3. Where do you get your news?
  4. What sorts of topics do you most like to talk about?

Thanks...
Michael

*All ideas and content for this Meetup group are created solely by the organizer. There is no affiliation with any other organization. Copyright ©

Upcoming events (1)

Peter Singer - Altruism and its Limits

Needs a location

The Australian moral philosopher Peter Singer (Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University) is famous (in some camps, infamous) for insisting that our moral care & concern should extend all the way out to embrace every human being who exists. He would also extend it to all sentient beings (animals), and as such his writing has been a cornerstone of the vegan & animal liberation movements.

The Wikipedia article on Singer paraphrases him as "demanding that one give the same weight to the interests of others as one gives to one's own interests. He posits that citizens of rich nations are morally obligated to give at least some of their disposable income to charities that help the global poor. We should take a significant portion of the money that we spend on our possessions and instead donate it to charity.”

One obvious problem with this view is that these philosophical admonitions are in direct conflict with the natural selection drive of all biological organisms (including humans) to be primarily egoistic - i.e. pursuing one's own self-interest (roughly libertarianism). BUT... various forms of altruism (cooperative behavior) do exist in many species including humans. This is thought by most evolutionists to be a result of ‘kin selection' or ‘inclusive fitness theory’, so there is a genetic basis for at least some of it. (J.B.S. Haldane, who set out the mathematics of kin selection in 1932, famously joked that he would willingly die for two brothers or eight cousins.)

To help figure this out we might also use the “veil of ignorance” thought experiment from John Rawls. And in line with the philosopher David Hume’s widely useful is/ought fallacy, we should keep in mind that: just because something is a certain way doesn’t mean it ought to be that way. But realistically and unavoidably, evolved human biology & psychology constitute the foundational parameter for all of these behaviors.

So the first big question is, does altruism really exist, and if so in what forms. Then the crucial question is: How far should our individual, and societal, care & concern be expected to reach and what criteria or rules should we use to determine this?

The answers to these basic questions have a multitude of applications, just for starters: private charity, socialistic aid of all sorts provided by states to citizens, international aid, tolerance of those who are different from us and racial profiling, national laws regarding immigration, animal welfare, et al.

Please read the Wikipedia article on Peter Singer as a basic summary. And of course you’re welcome to find other sources as well.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Singer

~Michael

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