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Everyday Philosophy

When philosophy meets the ordinary, you are on to some entertaining surprises.

What Is Beauty?
The nature of beauty is one of the most fascinating riddles of philosophy. Is beauty universal? How do we know it? How can we predispose ourselves to embrace it? Nearly every major philosopher has engaged with these questions and their cognates, including the great figures of ancient Greek philosophy such as Plato and Aristotle.

The Self
The idea of a self plays a central role in Western philosophy as well as in the Indian and other major traditions. Three main types of views of the self can be discerned. One moves from Kant’s conception of rationally autonomous self, another from the so-called homo-economicus theory, of Aristotelian descent. Both those types of views theorize...

Lying for Santa
Most hands agree that lying is bad. And yet, there are so many exceptions to the rule, that the topic of lying has become a favorite philosophical terrain of dispute. Christmas offers an excellent case for the circumstantial moral plausibility of lying; and it is not a casual lie that we are talking about, but a plotted lie, which often may start months ahead of Christmas time and be carried out in the minutest details until Christmas gifts are presented to the kids.

Chuck Norris and Philosophy
The eccentric figure of Chuck Norris, the American martial artist and actor born on March 10 1940, has spurred considerable attention by philosophers. The great deal of "legendary deeds" about Norris that has circulated over the past few years, indeed, has suggested a wealth of examples that amuse and, at times, open up suggestive scenarios. So,...

Christmas and the Ethics of Consumerism
Christmas. Gift-time. The coupling is so immediate to most people who are acquainted with Christmas time that trying to render the equation by means of some numbers is beyond the point. How many gifts are people exchanging for Christmas throughout the world? How should we go about counting them? Counting by number misses the structure of a gift – for instance, a three-months cruise would count as much as a pencil. Counting by expenditure seems to miss the significance of a gift and the varieties. We could count by amounts and genres – trips, events, toys, clothing, food and dining, and so on. But, really, what is of significance is that Christmas has surpassed any claim of consumerism.

Philosophy of Hunting
The philosophy of hunting is a subfield of the philosophy of food, which deals most importantly with the ethical, environmental, and evolutionary aspects of the practice of hunting. Among its central questions: can hunting ever be regarded as morally good? Which methods for hunting are most ethical? Is hunting for sport rather than for food,...

The Caducity of Pleasure
“For I know one thing. Love comes on a wing. | For tonight I will be by your side. But tomorrow I will fly.” In "To Be By Your Side" Nick Cave sings the caducity of pleasure. Love, health, a wonderful meal, a memorable day, the intense moment with a friend or relative: we quickly learn that experiences that most brings us pleasure appear to be...

Surf and Philosophy
"Perhaps there is no activity that is not potentially philosophical, but it has always seemed to me that the collision of (as Sartre would say) the in-itself (the wave) and the for-itself (the surfer), with all its possible outcomes of pleasure and pain (the wipe-out and the hold-down), and especially the tube-ride, with its narrative of being buried and then (ideally) re-born, naturally gives rise to a contemplative state." Thus Andy Martin comments in a blog post in The New York Times Opinionator. Is surfing a more philosophical sport with respect to other sports? And, if it is, why?

Philosophy of Sport: Body and Soul
Sport can help us think through the relationship between body and soul. Although the bodies of athletes are often taken as symbols of the sport itself, it is seldom the case that a great champion is found to lack exceptional abilities to figure out the best winning strategies and to maintain the concentration necessary to carry them to...

Philosophy vs Lifestyle
The term "philosophy" is often employed in everyday discourse. A restaurant may state its cooking philosophy on its menu or its website; an investment banker may be invited to lecture colleagues on her investing philosophy; a farmer may see herself as following a specific farming philosophy; and so on. There is, in other words, the tendency to use philosophy in conjunction with the exposition of one’s style, manner of carrying out a task, or methodology. In such contexts we are not really doing philosophy or being exposed to philosophical ideas – many philosophers would like to say. Yet, how to tell philosophy from lifestyle? And, what is the relationship between philosophy and lifestyle: are philosophers held – to any extent –accountable for their own actions?

Philosophy and the Systematics of Storms
Philosophers are typically intrigued with understanding the structure of reality and the ways in which humans may get it wrong. This is indeed the goal of those vested to study metaphysics and epistemology. The systematics of storms makes for a good case study, at times leaving meteorologists and their audience baffled. Sandy, the tropical cyclone that swept the Caribbean, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeastern United States towards the end of 2012, is the most recent example of the puzzles of classification posed by storms. Let’s see why.

Philosophy of Sport
Whether the thought of it was implicit in your attitude or whether you actually took the time to spell it out, there is a great deal of philosophical substance in sport. Any sport, really. From team sports such as football and basketball to individual sports such as tennis and car racing, it is easy to devise a plethora of philosophical issues...

Philosophy of Honesty
While it may be tempting to define honesty as speaking the truth and abiding to the rules, this may turn out to be overtly simplistic. Telling the truth – the whole truth – is at times practically and theoretically impossible as well as morally not required or even wrong. Suppose your new partner asks you to be honest about what you have done...

Carnival: A Philosophical Take
To many, carnival is just a big lousy party. But that’s just an effect, not the substance of it. The roots of carnival lie in ancient traditions involving masking and key civic rituals. Let’s see, more in specific, why this is the case.

What Is Verbal Violence?
Violence is a central concept for describing social relationships among humans, a concept loaded with ethical and political significance. Yet, what is violence? What forms can it take? Can human life be void of violence, and should it be? These are some of the hard questions that a theory of violence shall address.

On Being Good (for Christmas)
Every year, for Christmas time, it is frequent to encounter people who try to achieve some sort blessed status. At least for Christmas, be good, be nice to those around you. It’s disputable whether being good is of more importance during Christmas time than during any other part of the year; certainly, it seems that Christmas time offers an opportunity for everyone. The goal is to try and be good. For a day, perhaps two or three. I find this manner of thinking intriguing, from a philosophical point of view. In this article I survey the themes that I find more appealing.

What Is Physical Violence?
Violence is a central concept for describing social relationships among humans, a concept loaded with ethical and political significance. Yet, what is violence? What forms can it take? Can human life be void of violence, and should it be? These are some of the hard questions that a theory of violence shall address. In this article we shall...

Best Philosophy Jokes
There are plenty of hilarious philosophy jokes out there, some of which could easily be incorporated as teaching materials, both for children and adults. Here is a little guide to them, which I look forward updating from time to time. Hence, suggestions are welcome!

Ethical Arguments for a Non-Vegetarian Diet
Vegetarianism seems to be backed up by a wealth of reasons, despite the difficulties in its formulation. At the same time, most people do not practice a vegetarian diet. It might well be, of course, that they are immoral – after all, who ever said that the majority of people is morally blameless? However, there may be also considerations leading to defend a non-vegetarian diet. In this article we shall review the main ones.

Christmas and Environmental Ethics
Christmas time raises a host of issues suitable to environmental ethicists. The first, which regards Christmas trees, takes the form of a dilemma. Follow, then, questions pertaining to food consumption during Christmas time as well as over-comsumption.

What Is Psychological Violence?
Violence is a central concept for describing social relationships among humans, a concept loaded with ethical and political significance. Yet, what is violence? What forms can it take? Can human life be void of violence, and should it be? These are some of the hard questions that a theory of violence shall address. In this article we shall...

The Four Conditions of Lying and Their Troubles
Lies are peculiar sorts of entities: while we often encounter them during our day, be it in the media or an acquaintance, they are actually hard to pin down. With time, scholars have individuated four standard conditions that seem to be required for lying. It turns out that each of them is problematic. Let ‘s see why.

On Optimism
What does it take to be an optimist? And, is it good to be such minded? While optimism is often associated to religious worldviews and to committing to some form of future improvement or even progress, some optimistic worldviews need not encompass either of the two aspects.

Ethical Arguments for Vegetarianism
Despite the difficulties in nailing down its details, vegetarianism seems to be backed up by a wealth of ethical arguments. For this reason, turning to a vegetarian diet seems to be one of the most pressing issues for our contemporary society. In this article we shall review the main reasons in favor of a vegetarian diet.

Maps and Philosophy
One of the remarkable traits of human beings is the ability to produce rankings, classifications, taxonomies. Human life can be seen as an endeavor to group, cluster, sort out things for different endeavors. And the human rank can be renamed "Homo taxonomicus," as I discuss in a separate article.

Philosophy of Authenticity
Each one is unique and, more often than not, would like to believe that her life has something special to it, that her contribution to humankind is unprecedented. "Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken," recites an unsourced saying often attributed to Oscar Wilde. Unfortunately, such expectation is often disavowed by the opinion of others....

Some Philosophical Remarks
When is it that someone is lying? In many scenarios, a definition like the one appearing on the Oxford English Dictionary would do: "To lie is to make a false statement with the intention to deceive." However, there are several circumstances that apparently involve lying yet do not fit the definition. Let’s review them, along with the four...

The Politics of Sport
Every athletic competition can be looked at from its simplest side: it’s just a game. It does not take that much, however, that any dismissive attitude towards the relevance of sport falls short of finding a reasonable justification. Even following the rules of a civil society, or fighting a war, can be regarded as games where life and other...

Sport Metaphysics: Truth and Identity
Athletic competitions have raised puzzling metaphysical interrogatives. Among the most poignant, the truth of what happens during a competition, the identity of a team, and the boundaries of a sportive event. Let’s address them in order.

Age and Philosophy
Is there a more privileged age for doing philosophy? And, even supposing that there is not just one specific age, are there topics or methods more proper to one moment in life than another? Let us consider the two questions in order.

Philosophy of Sport: Creativity, Luck, and Emotions
Much of the marvel and fascination of sport lies in its unpredictability: even the most apparently doomed competition, could reserve some surprise. This element, which much resembles other spheres of living, depends by and large on the creativity of athletes as well as on a fatalistic element we may refer to as luck – be it bad luck or good luck...

Philosophy of Non-Violence
Violence is a central concept for describing social relationships among humans, a concept loaded with ethical and political significance. Yet, can human life be void of violence, and should it be? These are the two central questions around which the non-violent or pacifist movement takes shape.

Why Are Humans Violent?
We may be shy or even ashamed to admit it, but violence is one of the central modalities through which humans relate to each other. Not only we are violent against strangers or acquaintances, but we are often violent also against ourselves. Why is it so? Why is violence one of the main modalities through which we relate to the world?

Violence Against Oneself
Human beings do violence to themselves in different forms and for a variety of reasons that are often hard to pin down. Physical violence, in the guise of corporal punishment or starvation are one form of violence that humans inflict to themselves (famous the images of the Medieval monks flagellating their bodies); yet, humans often take courses...

Sport Ethics
Sport ethics is that branch of the philosophy of sport addressing the specific ethical questions that arise during and around sport competitions. With the affirmation of professional sports in the past century as well as the rise of a voluminous entertainment industry related to it, sport ethics has come to be not only a fertile terrain for...

The Philosophy of Humor
What is humor and how is it used among humans to enhance or hinder their relationships? Plenty of philosophers have asked this question, trying to come up with a theory of humor that could also separate such a state from mere laughter as well as good from bad quality humor.

What is a desire? Such notion is often taken for granted in contemporary analytic philosophy. But to provide an answer to that question is all but straightforward. There are several important nodes to be untied before having a viable notion of desire. Let’s see seven of them.

The Philosophy of Sex and Gender
Is it customary to divide human beings among male and female, men and women; yet, this dimorphism proves to be also ill-taken, for instance when it comes to intersex (e.g. hermaphrodite) or transgendered individuals. It becomes hence legitimate to wonder whether sexual categories are real or rather conventional kinds, how gender categories get...

Best Online Philosophy Sources I: Encyclopedias, Radios, and TVs
Since the advent of internet, philosophy sources on the web have grown steadily both in number and varieties. Nowadays, having an online profile and being up to date with regard to the latest debates, trends, and news on the subject has become a (almost obligatory) routine for professional philosophers, aspiring ones, and amateurs. Here we shall...

What Is Coercion?
Coercion is a key concept to depict human relationships, to denounce abuses and episodes of violence. Yet, when is it that an agent is coerced by another? That is, what are the conditions on the coercion-relationship that make it possible to take place? What need the coercer do in an episode of coercion? And, who is to say that there was an...

Can Violence Be Just?
Violence is a central concept for describing social relationships among humans, a concept loaded with ethical and political significance. In some, probably most, circumstances it is evident that violence is unjust; but, some cases appear more debatable to someone’s eyes: can violence ever be justified?

Food and Art: Three Encounters
Can food be art? This question may be declined in two ways: the first, centered on art objects, asks whether there are any edible items that can be regarded as works of art; the other, which I regard as more sound, asks whether there are gastronomic experiences that may be regarded as artistic experiences. Of course, the way the question is answered will depend also on the specific aesthetic perspective we assume; here, however, I wish to draw a distinction between three forms of ways in which art can encounter food, following a parallel distinction drawn by Nicola Perullo.

Can Food Be Art?
Can food be art? This is a question that has received increasing attention over the past few decades in aesthetics; in this article we shall deal with the main reasons that have been brought forth against the palatability of gastronomic experiences being, in some instances, forms of ultimate artistic experiences.

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