The Exchange

Socrates Exchange
12:00 am
Fri April 15, 2011

Socrates Exchange: Why do we punish?

Kbjesq via Flickr/Creative Commons

Why should we punish?  To “balance the scales of justice”?  To exact revenge?  To deter crime?  To remove the offender from free society?  To reform the offender? Is punishment a moral act, or is it simply a form of social control? Is punishing children different from punishing criminal offenders? Is there a difference between torture and punishment? Is death ever justifiable punishment? Does punishment strip the punished of her dignity? Which rights should prisoners loose?  The right to vote?  The right to privacy?  The right to be a parent?

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Socrates Exchange
12:00 am
Tue March 15, 2011

Socrates Exchange: Does beauty matter?

Anna Gay via Flickr/Creative Commons

On the one hand we teach our children not to “judge a book by its cover,” but on the other we seek out beauty as one of life’s most profound experiences. What do we mean when we describe something as beautiful? When we speak of the beauty of a landscape, for instance, are we referring to its formal properties (how it looks) or to the content it conveys (such as the will of a god)? Are standards of beauty relative such that one can justifiably claim that Britney Spears makes more beautiful music than Beethoven, or can we be biased or otherwise mistaken regarding our opinions of beauty?

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Socrates Exchange
12:00 am
Fri February 4, 2011

Socrates Exchange: Can one person be better than another?

Throughout American history we have underlined the ideals of ‘equality’  The Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech have all declared  that all men are created equal, but are they really?  In the past people of color, new immigrants and women have been less equal. Gays still fight for equal rights.  Those of a privileged class may have the same rights as the poor, but still enjoy some benefits that the poor can’t.

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Socrates Exchange
12:00 am
Mon January 10, 2011

Socrates Exchange: Are human beings violent by nature?

Clover_1 via Flickr/Creative Commons

When we look at the nightly news or study history we might easily come to this conclusion. We have armies and police forces, lawyers and judges, in order to protect us from each other. Is all of this violence a result of something inherent in human nature or the human condition? Or is violence exacerbated by society, for example through violent entertainment or by encouraging competition in all aspects of life? Is it possible to imagine a world without violence? But, is violence always a bad thing?

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Socrates Exchange
12:00 am
Fri December 10, 2010

Socrates Exchange: Why do we give gifts?

alliecreative via Flickr/Creative Commons

Every year during the holidays we spend our time, energy, and money in the search for the perfect gifts for friends and family. But sometimes it feels like we are going through the motions or worse that we are just doing what is expected of us, not something that comes from the heart. Why do we go through this? Is it possible to give in a more genuine way? But there is any even more troubling problem. A true gift should be something that we give freely without any thought of our own benefit and that makes no demand on the recipient.

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Socrates Exchange
12:00 am
Thu November 18, 2010

Socrates Exchange: What is gratitude?

SnoShuu via Flickr/Creative Commons

Experiencing gratitude and appreciating various things seems essential to happiness and a good life. Why is this? What exactly is gratitude? Is it an emotion that we cannot control or is it a cognitive realization that I should express gratitude? If I do not “feel grateful” when someone gives me a gift I do not care for, should I expressed gratitude anyway? Why do we teach our children to say “thank you” when we feed them or otherwise give them something they deserve? Should I be grateful when a teller returns correct change?

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Socrates Exchange
12:00 am
Tue October 19, 2010

Socrates Exchange: Do we have too much information?

ryantron via Flickr/Creative Commons

We often hear of people suffering from “information overload.” To what exactly are we referring? Is it just that our brains are too slow to process the information now available? Does more information necessarily lead to more truth? Does more truth necessarily lead to a better world? What are the existential ramifications of living in a world where all information is always immediately available? Are there reasons to slow down our development of information technology? Is slowing down even possible given competitive global markets?

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Socrates Exchange
12:00 am
Thu May 27, 2010

Socrates Exchange: Is it ever right to do what is wrong?

lejoe via Flickr/CreativeCommons

Do the ends ever justify the means? Assuming, for example, that lying, torturing, stealing, and murder are wrong, are such actions justified in rare instances in order to avoid some terrible consequence, or to achieve some great good? If so, how far does this go? Are all actions potentially justified, so long as the benefit is sufficiently great? Or are some actions so horrible that they are never justified, no matter what the consequences? What makes actions right or wrong in the first place-the consequences, or something else?

Guest

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Socrates Exchange
12:00 am
Thu April 22, 2010

Socrates Exchange: Are there ethical limits to biotechnology?

Alfred Hermida vis Flickr/Creative Commons

Our next Socrates Exchange discussion begins! This time we ask we ask “are there ethical limits to biotechnology?” From aspirin to artificial limbs many of us enjoy the benefits of biotechnology, but is there a point where it crosses the ethical line... steroids in sports, cloning or choosing the genetic makeup of your child? Post your thoughts below and respond to other postings.

Guest

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Socrates Exchange
12:00 am
Wed March 31, 2010

Socrates Exchange: Is Censorship Ever Acceptable?

Andrew Rennie vis Flickr/Creative Commons

Are there some forms of expression that are simply too crude or too offensive to be allowed to be disseminated? What kinds of things, if any, should be censored? Who should do the censoring?

Guest

  • Max Latona, Associate Professor of Philosophy at St. Anselm College

 

Background Reading 

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Socrates Exchange
12:00 am
Fri March 12, 2010

Socrates Exchange: What does government of, by and for the people really mean?

~MVI~ via Flickr/Creative Commons

Citizens have a role to elect their representatives in, but then what is the role of the representative? Where should federal power end and state power begin? And in the end, who is really in charge, the citizen, the representative or the courts? The country, the state, the town or the citizen?

Guest

  • Max Latona, Associate Professor of Philosophy at St. Anselm College

 

Background Reading 

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Socrates Exchange
12:00 am
Thu February 4, 2010

Socrates Exchange: Should animals have rights?

RiffRaff via Flickr/Creative Commons

Are non-human animals merely a natural resource for human use? Do we have a responsibility to treat animals with dignity or to consider their suffering? Are we justified killing mosquitoes or pigs while pampering our pets? Do "smarter" creatures deserve more rights? If an animal is more intelligent than a cognitively disabled human, does the animal deserve more rights? Post your thoughts below and respond to other postings.

Guest

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Socrates Exchange
12:00 am
Tue December 22, 2009

Socrates Exchange: Is there one true religion?

Each of us within a particular religion think our religious beliefs are true, but how do we make sense of our neighbor, who thinks the same about her religion? Can all religions be true, even though they often contradict one another? Can they all be false? How can we make sense of religion in a pluralistic society? Post your thoughts below and respond to other postings.

Guest

  • Max Latona, Associate Professor of Philosophy at St. Anselm College
Socrates Exchange
12:00 am
Tue November 24, 2009

Socrates Exchange: Has technology helped or hurt us?

Since the beginning of time, human beings have been making tools to make life easier, better, faster or more efficient, but is that always a good thing? Are human beings happier today, whether individually or collectively, because of telephones, washing machines, text-messaging cell-phones, and iPods? Are there limitations on how much technology we should produce, or allow in our lives?

Guest

  • Max Latona, Associate Professor of Philosophy at St. Anselm College

 

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Socrates Exchange
12:00 am
Mon October 19, 2009

Socrates Exchange: Are individual rights more important than the common good?

Are we an excessively individualistic- and even selfish- culture? Does New Hampshire's "Live Free or Die" ethos place too much emphasis on the rights of the individuals and not enough on the well-being of our communities? Is it ever justified to sacrifice an individual's rights for the sake of the collective? What are the dangers of valuing the collective more than the community? Post your thoughts below and respond to other postings.

Guest

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