If you study engineering, medicine, law, or almost any of the other subjects taught at university, you learn this, and you learn that, and in the end you know some things that others do not. Philosophy is different, and rather unique in that regard. After studying it for many years, I feel like I know not more but less than when I started, and I suspect the feeling is common among philosophers. That is because philosophy is not so much about providing answers as it is about asking questions. A consequence, unfortunately, is that the value of studying philosophy is easily underestimated. After all, what use is an academic discipline that cannot provide definite answers? With so many mundane yet significant day-to-day problems, why waste time and resources on splitting hairs and pondering in abstract thought? The concern behind these questions might seem particularly relevant in Tanzania, where a large portion of the population still lives in poverty and there is an understandable longing for immediate practical results, and it might be part of the reason why the Department of Philosophy at Tanzania’s oldest public university, the University of Dar es Salaam, was finally established only five years ago, in 2013. Continue reading “Philosophy means business”→
Consider the following thought experiment: It is a pleasant day in September. It is not too hot, not too cold, and not too windy, and the sky is clear. You grab a blanket and head to one of Dar es Salaam’s public beaches, intent to make yourself comfortable by the seaside and enjoy the sunset. Once at the beach, however, your plans are rudely thwarted. You are informed by a law enforcement officer that the government has put a new policy in place. You are told that you may not access the beach – because you are black. Black people and only black people are no longer allowed on the beach. If necessary, that policy will be enforced by the use of physical force. Continue reading “Discrimination in plain sight: The moral case against borders”→
Sudan is a fascinating country with a rich archaeological legacy. Unfortunately, many archaeological sites in Sudan are difficult to access and hard to find. Here is a map of selected sites, followed by a table with the corresponding GPS coordinates:
Horrified by the tragic loss of innocent human life in the then-ongoing Vietnam War, a young philosopher by the name of Tom Regan went to the university library and buried himself in books on war, violence, and human rights, determined to prove that the American involvement in the war was morally wrong. One day, he picked up Mohandas K. Gandhi’s autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Reading it with great care and interest, he must have come across the following lines:
The way we think about and treat non-human animals is deeply confused, and scholars are in a unique position to provide some clarity. The Bangladesh Journal of Bioethics hence decided to dedicate two special issues to the relationship between human beings and other animals, and asked me to be the guest editor.
Less than two weeks after the first issue was published, the second special issues has now been published as well, and is available here. My editorial, which includes brief summaries of the articles, is available here, and this is the table of contents:
Bob Fischer (Texas State University, U.S.A.): Wild Fish and Expected Utility
Akande Michael Aina (Lagos State University, Nigeria) & Ofuasia Emmanuel (Olabisi Onabanjo University, Nigeria): The Chicken Fallacy and the Ethics of Cruelty to Non-Human Animals
Iván Ortega Rodríguez (Universidad Pontificia Comillas, Spain): Animal Citizenship, Phenomenology, and Ontology: Some reflections on Donaldson’s & Kymlicka’s Zoopolis
Rhyddhi Chakraborty (American University of Sovereign Nations, U.S.A.): Animal Ethics and India: Understanding the Connection through the Capabilities Approach
Robin Attfield (Cardiff University, U.K.) & Rebekah Humphreys (Trinity St. David’s University, U.K.): Justice and Non-Human Animals – Part 2
Last August, I accepted an invitation to edit a special issue of the Bangladesh Journal of Bioethics, devoted to animal ethics. The interest was so great that one issue became two, the first of which has just been published.
The first special issue is available here, my editorial, which includes brief summaries of the articles, is available here, and this is the table of contents:
Robin Attfield (Cardiff University, U.K.) & Rebekah Humphreys (Trinity St. David’s University, U.K.): Justice and Non-Human Animals – Part 1
Eric X. Qi (Rice University, U.S.A.): Special Relations, Special Obligations, and Speciesism
Yamikani Ndasauka & Grivas M. Kayange (University of Malawi, Malawi): Existence and Needs: A case for the equal moral considerability of non-human animals
Unter heftigem Beifall hat Angela Merkel letzte Woche beim CDU-Parteitag in Essen ein Verbot der Vollverschleierung gefordert, “wo immer das rechtlich möglich ist.” Diese Forderung wurde dann auch so von der CDU beschlossen.
Abgesehen davon, dass es in Deutschland praktisch keine vollverschleierten Frauen gibt und es sich deshalb um eine reine Symboldebatte handelt, ist die Forderung nach einem Verbot von Burka und Niqab strategisch falsch. Rechtspopulisten wie die AfD bekämpft man mit einem überzeugenden Eintreten für freiheitliche Werte, nicht mit mehr Populismus und dadurch, dass man deren Positionen legitimiert. Sie ist darüber hinaus sachlich unbegründet. Continue reading “Populismus bekämpft man nicht mit mehr Populismus”→
This presentation by Professor Tom Regan (North Carolina State University, USA) was recorded at the University of Heidelberg in Germany on May 24, 2006. It is a great resource for the classroom and anybody with an interest in animal ethics.
Abstract. Philosopher Tom Regan begins by contrasting the fact that many people make a firm distinction between the animals they live with (cats and dogs, for example) and other animals. He explains how it is that Animal Rights Advocates (ARAs) extend the same sense of compassion and respect that they feel for companion animals, on the one hand, to the other animals who routinely are turned into food, clothing, and the like, on the other. Not all ARAs, he explains, arrive at this destination in the same way. In particular, some need to be convinced; some need a logical argument. Professor Regan accepts this challenge and invites others to consider the main factual and moral questions whose answers inform the conviction that animals have rights.
It had been almost three months since we started from my hometown of Adelmannsfelden in Germany, and we had traversed ten countries, when we finally entered the last country on our itinerary on the 30th of July, 2011. Continue reading “South Africa: The Rainbow Nation”→
We left Malawi and entered Zambia through the Mchinji border crossing on the 21st of July, and then made a stop in Chipata, the capital of the Eastern Province of Zambia. The city boasts fancy hotels, restaurants, and shopping malls, and an abundance of banks and ATM machines. This was quite a contrast to where we just came from. It is an observation we made throughout our journey, that things suddenly and often surprisingly change as one crosses borders. Continue reading “Victoria Falls, and free-roaming lions in Botswana”→
We had just crossed the Kenyan-Tanzanian border at Namanga and were about to enter the town limits of Longido, when suddenly a car rolled onto the highway. The elderly driver saw us, probably panicked, and stopped his car, blocking the narrow highway in its entirety. I had no option but to slam on the brakes, but it was too late. We crashed into the car’s side, were thrown over the car, and hit the asphalt. Continue reading ““Welcome to Africa!””→
We spent the night of the 20th of June in the border town of Moyale, and headed out for Marsabit in northern Kenya in the morning. As we rode from one country into the other, the asphalt road ended. We did not think much of it at the time. The first 120 kilometers on the dirt road were easy and fun, and brought us to the village of Turbi. But then, as we entered the Dide Galgalu Desert, the troubles began. Continue reading “Stranded in the Kenyan desert, and a visit to the land of the Maasai”→
The terrain of Sudan is generally flat, and the climate is dry and extremely hot, whereas Ethiopia is mountainous, hence sometimes referred to as the Roof of Africa, making it considerably cooler than other regions around the globe at a similar latitude. Around the border at Gallabat/Metema, that contrast is particularly stark, and experiencing it as we crossed the border was amazing. Within a short distance, the sparse desert landscape turned into a dense collection of abundantly green hills, valleys, and mountains, and the scorching heat gave way to a mild breeze. Continue reading “The Simien Mountains, and the first hijra in Islam”→
Last time, we left off at the Egyptian desert highway from Alexandria to Giza. The distance between the two cities is only a little over 200 kilometers, and it did not take us long to reach our destination.
Do you speak African? Well, neither do the more than one billion people living in Africa, where about 2,000 different languages are spoken, none of which is called “African.” Too often, people think of Africa as if it was a single country, defined by disease, poverty, hopelessness, and corruption. This tiring image is at best misleading, and has little to do with reality. In fact, Africa is all but monolithic, and arguably the most diverse continent of all. Africa is home to 15 percent of the world’s population and an incredibly large number of ethnicities and cultures, the second largest continent in terms of both area and population, and consists of at least 54 countries. Three of the ten economies forecasted to be the fastest-growing in 2016 by the Economist Intelligence Unit are located in Africa, and 25 Nobel Laureates were born there.