The April '09 Philosophy-in-LA Discussion group (http://philosophy-in-LA.tribe.net) is happening this Sunday, April 19, 5:00 PM - 7:30 PM. New participants from all backgrounds, points of view and religious belief (or non-belief) are most welcome. We'll be at our usual venue, the Community Room of the Yahoo Center, 2500 Broadway, between Cloverfield & 26th, Santa Monica, 90404. Detailed driving directions will be in the next email in a few days.
After the meeting, feel free to join us for dinner and more conversation. Location and details will be in the next email. FYI, mark your calendar with the dates of our next two meetings: May 17 at 5 PM (the usual 3rd Sunday) and June 21 at 5 PM (3rd Sunday).
As usual, we are voting on the meeting's topic now. Below, I've listed 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 will send a reminder email Tuesday night or so, letting you know which topic won the vote and what optional readings we have.
1) THE boundaries between things: What is a "boundary" and in what sense is it real? What demarcates or separates a thing from its surroundings? Do the boundaries we talk about exist in nature and reflect the structure of the world, or do our minds or languages create the boundaries we seem to perceive?
2) TRUST: what is it, when is it worth it, and how valuable is it? What does it mean to place trust in someone? Can you make yourself trust someone by an act of will? To what degree should you trust others? How well must you know another to trust them? Can you ever know someone well enough that you know they won’t betray you? And, can you be confident you won't be surprised by what they do or what they think of you?
3) DO WE HAVE MORAL OBLIGATIONS TO DEAD PEOPLE? What do we owe the dead? Do dead people have interests? Is a dead person harmed when his reputation is smeared, or when his will is not followed? Is a dead person harmed when his or her body is dug up, without prior permission, and the body parts used for scientific experiments or medical treatments? Such things are illegal in most or all states, but are they morally wrong, too? If so, why are they wrong?
4) IS IT OKAY FOR THE STATE TO RESTRICT (OR DISCOURAGE) PEOPLE FROM HAVING CHILDREN, OR HAVING ADDITIONAL CHILDREN, OR RESTRICT WHEN THEY CAN HAVE THEM? Are there any procreative or reproductive rights? If so, what are they, and what, if anything, limits them? Put another way, when is it morally permissible for a person to procreate? Can the interests of a person who wants to have children be restricted in the name of limiting harm to society, or limiting harm to that person's future children? Why or why not?
One controversial example is that of the "one-child" policy in China. Is it a violation of parental rights, or simply a prudent social policy in conditions of crowding or overpopulation? Another example: Is it okay to discourage or prohibit teenagers (under 18) from having children? Is it inconsistent to place limits on teenage reproduction but not on adult reproduction?
5) TORTURE AND INTERROGATION: how do you define torture, should we ever do it, and if so, when? Does sleep deprivation, placing prisoners in "stress positions" or water boarding count as torture? The issue is again in the national spotlight and generating debate as Obama is changing the Bush administration's controversial rules on "enhanced interrogation techniques." Other politicians are calling for the war crimes prosecution of officials who authorized water boarding. These politicians and officials have, implicitly or explicitly, taken a position on what constitutes torture, why it is torture, whether it's ever morally justified and, if it is, under which circumstances.
A further question arises. If enhanced interrogations are ever justified, are the past actions of the prisoner relevant? On the "No" side, many philosophers hold that torture (or anything close to it) is unjustified because it violates the basic rights or dignity that all humans deserve, regardless of their actions, and/or because the choice to torture is an indictment on our character as a people. On the "Yes" side, some claim that, if prisoners are from nations or groups that don't follow the Geneva conventions of conduct in war, for instance, then they don't merit the Geneva Convention protections regular soldiers enjoy. Therefore, the argument goes, if Guerilla soldiers or terrorists don't wear uniforms or carry their weapons openly, or if they take hostages, target civilians, or torture U.S. soldiers, then it's permissible to treat them less humanely. That treatment might include rougher techniques of interrogation that, depending on your definition, constitute torture.
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.
See you there!
Ps. One of our very long time, regular members, Eric Vollmer, organizes lively "Voice in the well" literary/ musical/ comedy events once a month. His next event is Wednesday, April 22 at 7:30 pm:
Tonight, our Literary Cabaret presents dramatic scene readings, Drawing upon great Screenwriting scripts of the Silver Screen: NINOTCHKA, THE BIG SLEEP, HIS GIRL FRIDAY, MEET JOHN DOE & SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS. Village Books, 1049 Swarthmore, Pacific Palisades 90272. Featuring: Lee Boek, Brian Knudson, Layla Alexander, Valerie Dessaint & Bill Bassett. Theme Music by Violinist Deborah Vukovitz.
FLO LAWRENCE to read the Lauren Bacall part in a scene from THE BIG SLEEP. LAYLA ALEXANDER to co-present a scene from NINOTCHKA (Greta Garbo). VALERIE DESSAINT to read from either LILI or LES ENFANT DU PARADIS. Brian Knudson to present a scene from Frank Capra's MEET JOHN DOE. Tentatively MIRJANA DELANEY to read the Rosalind Russell part from HIS GIRL FRIDAY. Tentatively Juliette Arnold & Chuck Bradley offer a scene from SULLIVANS TRAVELS. LEE BOEK reads a defiant letter that Groucho Marx sent to the WARNER BROS. Deb Vukovitz celebrates the Cinematic Music of Max Steiner.
FREE – Donations Appreciated. A Public Works Improv Theater Production In Association with Voice In The Well. Produced & Hosted by Eric Vollmer (310) 489-0299. For more information, email Eric, email@example.com