Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Murder of James Bulger

James Bulger (16 March 1990 – 12 February 1993) was a victim of abduction and murder in Liverpool, England, in 1993. His killers were two 10-year-old boys, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson (both born in August 1982). Thompson and Venables were released on a life licence in June 2001, after serving eight years in prison, when a parole hearing concluded that public safety would not be threatened by their rehabilitation. The court ordered details could not be published about the boys, for fear of reprisals. The injunction remained in force following their release, so their new identities and locations could not be published. They are now living new lives with new names.

Public feeling ran very high (especially in Liverpool) both during their trial and after their subsequent release. There was a riot outside the court after their first trial. Would you consider that their actions in kidnapping James were immoral or perhaps amoral?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Top 10 Moral Dilemmas

The website below lists 10 dilemmas in which you have to make a decision based on your own moral code. Please take the time to read through them and honestly say what you would do in each situation:

Top 10 moral dilemmas

Confusing your perception

When you try to focus on more than one visual task at the same time, your perception can become confused. Does this tell you anything more about perception? Take a look at the following clip from Brainiac and see if you can do the test:

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ethics in the News

The BBC has produced a series of podcasts called "Everyday Ethics", based on current affairs which involve moral and ethical decisions. This first episode was broadcast in March 2009, and deals with the topics: the Catholic Church and condoms, whether Joseph Fritzel really is "evil", whether preference should be given to local jobseekers, and the public response to the death of British reality TV star Jade Goody.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Can God and Science co-exist?

The Templeton Prize (worth £1 million - believe it or not), awarded each year for contributions to "affirming life's spiritual dimension", has been won by French physicist Bernard d'Espagnat, who has worked on quantum physics with some of the most famous names in modern science. He suggests that the strange behaviour of sub-atomic particles are compatible with a spiratual view of the universe.

There is an article from the BBC about the prize here

And another article from Scientific American here

And finally, the Templeton Prize website is here

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I think Calvin doesn't really mean he "doesn't believe in ethics any more". I think he means to say that he belives in "moral relativism".

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Moral Relativism

Shortly before he was elected Pope in 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger deliverered a withering criticism of moral relativism. The position of the Catholic Church is one of "absolutism" in which there is only one moral truth (the teachings of the Church).

"We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires"
Pope Benedict XVI
However, it could be argued that, strictly speaking, the current teachings of the Church take a position of relativism, since they are often at odds with the values of western liberals. You might also take the view that the Pope has misunderstood the meaning of moral relativism as a belief system in which simply "anything goes"

There is an article from the BBC about this here


Sunday, March 8, 2009


This is a way of life originally proposed by the Greek philosopher Zeno (333 BC-264 BC) which advocates:

  • That in order to find true happiness, we must learn to be indifferent to external influences.
  • If we can learn this indifference to external events, no matter how horrible (like slavery, torture, rape, imprisonment, etc.), then others will have no power over us in any significant way.
  • That virtue resides in the will; therefore, the exercise of free will alone determines what is good and what is evil.
  • A good life comes from being able to free oneself from desires and passions (stoicism shares this value with Hinduism and Buddhism).
  • Your essential character cannot be destroyed by external events in your life.
  • Virtue consists in a will that is in agreement with the happenings of nature in which all is part of a divine design that is unalterable.
  • That all behavior is ultimately determined by natural laws, but without free will no one can be held responsible for their own actions.
  • That responsibility for becoming good or bad resides with the individual and not with society at large.

from "Ethics in a Nutshell with Cartoons"

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Emotional response

Do you think your emotional response to something depends on its context? For example the following two pictures depict somebody in a state of anguish, but is your response different in each case? Should it be?

Thursday, March 5, 2009


A famished fox saw some clusters of grapes hanging from a vine, She resorted to all of her tricks to get at them, but wearied herself in vain, for she could not reach them. At last she turned away, hiding her disappointment and saying “ Those grapes are sour and not as sweet as I thought”

Rationalisation is the justification of bad reasoning by somebody in an emotional state

Monday, March 2, 2009

Primary Emotions

Japanese scientists have finally cracked the problem of giving a robot primary emotions (well... not quite). But which is which? (fear, surprise, anger, disgust, happiness, sadness):

Sunday, March 1, 2009

What is a Knowledge Issue?

Please visit the following site and look at the material provided there to develop your understanding of knowledge claims and knowledge issues:

IBTOKspot - knowledge issues