About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Michael’s Picks

by Michael De Dora

* A record 64 percent of Americans consider the honesty and ethical standards of members of Congress “low” or “very low,” according to a new survey from Gallup.

* William Saletan, journalist and author of Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War, recently participated in a public dialogue with Ann Furedi, the chief executive of British Pregnancy Advisory Service, on the role of fetal development in the abortion debate. You can read Furedi’s remarks here, and Saletan’s follow-up essay here. Or you can watch video of the event here.

* While it might seem like common sense to most people that fertilized eggs are not persons, such thinking has important implications for the logic of the abortion debate, according to philosopher Gary Gutting.

* What drives your moral thinking? Surely you’ve thought this over, and perhaps even wrote or spoken about it. But now Robert Aunger has come up with an extensive survey that he claims accurately measures what makes you moral.

* Jim Schutze in the Dallas Observer defends legislating morality with an example I would have never thought of: laws that require dog owners to pick up after their dogs. Take a look.

* “Do we want our professional football players to be single-minded destroyers ... or do we want a little humanity to mask the stench of our weekly bloodlettings?” Stefan Fatsis discusses on Slate.

* A new study shows that laws legalizing medical marijuana have resulted in a nearly nine percent drop in traffic deaths and a five percent reduction in beer sales. Brian Palmer talks about the study’s implications.


  1. Michael:

    Dog poop as a moral issue? At best it's a question of good manners. I know you favor legislating morality, but this article gives nothing to support the notion.


  2. gralm
    >"Dog poop as a moral issue? At best it's a question of good manners."
    This is how morals become morals.....you can call them morals, mores, manners, or whatever. They are all about individuals perceiving what behavior his or her culture will punish one for. Infractions can be punished or discouraged in many ways...from scowls, to harsh words, or to more harmful punishments. The point is that society can create new moral standards which individuals will eventually internalize....by passing laws, rules, regulations, etc. Those that obey....will react negatively to violators.

  3. From the test page: "The Test Your Morality experiment is exploring the ‘Human Superorganism Theory’ of morality. This theory states that human society behaves like a single, huge organism. This organism has functions like reproduction, memory and waste removal that have parallels in individual organisms and even individual cells."

    This is not a "new theory" as they espouse on the site. This is called functionalism, and it fell out of favor in the social sciences 50+ years ago. Whoever came up with this needs to go back to some classical sociological and anthropological theorists like Comte, Spencer, Durkheim, Mauss, Radcliffe-Brown, and Malinowski, all of whom used the idea of a social organism (or, as this person calls it, a superorganism) as a metaphor in the same way. Based on their brief discussion/summary of this theory, I fail to see how it is at all different from functionalism or structural functionalism.

  4. DJD, don't mix up ethic and etiquette.

  5. gralm
    There are similarities and differences. The differences are in degrees. The main similarity is in the etiology.


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