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Not a “family issue”

It is a pandemic of devastating proportions. It brings pain and suffering to women and their families. It ravages communities in every country and culture. And yet, we rarely talk about it, and we surely do not address it with the urgency it demands – in stark contrast to the other pandemic, which has been a constant presence in our collective consciousness for the last two years. Tanzania is a case in point. In the land of picturesque landscapes, tropical islands, and spectacular wildlife, this hidden pandemic casts a particularly dark shadow.

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Abstaining on Ukraine at the UN is Indefensible

Senior Russian officials continued denying their intent to invade Ukraine until the moment the invasion began. The Russians misled and miscalculated, and Europe is now in the midst of its largest military conflict and refugee crisis since World War II.

Neither NATO, a defensive alliance whose purpose is to protect its member states, nor Ukraine posed an existential threat to Russia prior to the invasion. As the International Court of Justice recently noted, there is also no credible evidence to support Russian claims that Ukraine was committing genocide against Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine. The Russian claim that their “Special Military Operation” is “de-nazifying” Ukraine is likewise laughable. The country has a democratically elected Jewish president, after all.

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প্রাণিমুক্তি: প্রাণিমুক্তি আন্দোলনের বিজ্ঞানসম্মত প্রামাণিক ধ্রুপদী গ্রন্থ

Peter Singer‘s Animal Liberation, a modern classic in the field of ethics, is now available in Bangla! It is one of the most important books that you will ever read. It might change your life. It did change mine.

প্রাণিমুক্তি

প্রাণিমুক্তি আন্দোলনের বিজ্ঞানসম্মত প্রামাণিক ধ্রুপদী গ্রন্থ


Pranimukti

Pranimukti Andoloner Bijjansammta Dhrupadi Grantha

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Ethics of Change: Winners’ Essays

On December 7 and 8, 2021, the Ethics of Change International Student Conference was held at the Centre de Recherche en Éthique. On this occasion, nine young researchers, selected after a competition in which over 200 proposals were received, presented their work.

The two best of these excellent presentations have been summarized and are available on the website of the CRÉ, and here:

Congratulations to these excellent researchers!

And enjoy reading their papers.

Ethics of Change International Student Conference

The way we live, and the norms, beliefs, and attitudes that shape our behavior are constantly changing. Much of that change is driven by people who refuse to accept the status quo and rise to ask critical questions about what is right and wrong in how governments, communities, and individuals treat others, including members of sexual, racial, religious, and other minorities, dissidents, people with disabilities, women, nonhuman animals, and the natural environment.

The Centre de Recherche en Éthique (CRÉ) in Montréal, Canada, will unite students from across the globe to come together to explore the ethical considerations around social and political activism, and strategies to achieve local and global change. The conference aims to allow students to exchange ideas across borders and make sustainable connections with each other as well as with the CRÉ.

The conference will be conducted online via Zoom on Tuesday and Wednesday, 7 and 8 December 2021.

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What does it mean for an argument to “beg the question”?

Arguments are sometimes criticized as begging the question. An argument is said to beg the question if the conclusion is taken for granted in the premises. The conclusion, however, is implicit – and hence, in a sense, “taken for granted” – in the premises of every deductively valid argument. That has led some philosophers to conclude that begging the question is not a formal fallacy, as otherwise every valid argument would be fallacious. In my latest article, which was just published in Philosophy and Progress, I argue that this conclusion has been drawn too quickly and propose an epistemic criterion that distinguishes between good and bad valid arguments.

Celebrating the Death of Lars Vilks Diminishes Our Humanity

Earlier this month, when the news broke that Lars Vilks tragically died in a car crash, comments sections from Bangladesh to Tanzania, from Indonesia to Pakistan, erupted in gleeful celebration. Vilks was the Swedish artist who in 2007 stirred worldwide controversy with a series of drawings that depicted Muhammad as a dog. One of the most common reactions to his death was “Alhamdulillah,” an Arabic phrase that means “Praise be to God.” I am not a theologian by any means, but doesn’t that border on blasphemy? After all, praising God for the car crash implies that God had a hand not only in the death of Vilks, but also in the death of the two members of his security detail who had nothing to do with the offensive drawings, and were just doing their job. One commentator proclaimed that he “bought a cake to celebrate,” and there was plenty of language used by other commentators that cannot be reproduced in a decent newspaper. Comments sections of course are not exactly known for nuanced and intelligent discussion. Rather, they often bring out the worst in people, and I am reasonably confident that the vast majority of Muslims do not share the jubilant attitude toward the death of Vilks and the two police officers. Yet, that attitude still seems to be prevalent enough to warrant reflection.

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What lessons can Socrates offer to the world of business?

Jackline, Neema, Michael, Nurath & Mbaraka

Philosophy is often dismissed as impractical and of little relevance to everyday life. But the reality of business speaks a different story. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs come from a philosophy background. Philosophers pay attention to every minute detail of a problem, yet don’t lose sight of the bigger picture, and have a unique set of skills that enables them to drive innovation and makes them valuable assets for any business.

I caught up with five of my former students at the University of Dar es Salaam who are now up-and-coming entrepreneurs, and I asked them about philosophy and their experiences as philosophers in business.

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L’éthique après Darwin

Voici une traduction française de mon dernier article, qui a été publiée dans le Bangladesh Journal of Bioethics:

L’éthique après Darwin

L’article résume les principaux arguments de certaines de mes récentes recherches en éthique animale. Je soutiens que l’idée qu’il existe une différence moralement pertinente entre les humains et les autres animaux est incompatible avec la science moderne. Merci beaucoup à Valéry Giroux et surtout à François Jaquet pour la traduction, et merci également à Shamima Lasker pour avoir autorisé la réimpression de cet article en français.

What we can learn from almost murdering Joe the pigeon

As Joe the politician prepares to be inaugurated as the next President of the United States, another Joe has also been making international headlines. Joe the pigeon was found in a backyard in the Australian city of Melbourne last December. He was carrying a leg band that seemed to suggest that he had been in the US state of Oregon two months earlier, raising questions about how he made it across the Pacific – no small feat!

The story made it onto local news and Australian authorities took notice. They declared Joe a “biosecurity risk” and decided that he must be killed in order to protect local birds from possible infection. A spokesperson for the Australian government did not actually use the word “killed,” but instead said that Joe must be “destroyed,” as if Joe was a car, a stone, or some other inanimate object.

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Bangladeshi philosopher, feminist author, and social activist Hasna Begum dead at 85

Hasna Begum, former professor of philosophy at the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh, has died. She was known for her work in feminist, social, and moral philosophy, her poetry, and her love and kindness toward others.

Hasna was born on February 24, 1935 in Dhaka in what was then the British Raj. She went to school in Kolkata and Dhaka until her family arranged for her to get married at the age of only thirteen. For the next thirteen years, during which she gave birth to six children, she dedicated all of her time to her family. She then resumed her education and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Dhaka in 1968, followed by a master’s degree from the same university in 1969. In 1978, she was awarded a PhD in Philosophy by Monash University in Australia, where she was the first doctoral advisee of Peter Singer, now the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. For her dissertation, which was later published as a book, she investigated the moral philosophy of British philosopher G. E. Moore.

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Housewife to Professor, by Hasna Begum

Almost everything about my birth as a girl from a middle class family in the subcontinent presaged my life as a dutiful daughter, a good wife and mother. I was the elder of two daughters of Abdul Hafiz, a man of extraordinary scholarly achievement, and his wife Rabeya Khatun, modestly educated but an independent thinker. She saw no reason why her children’s gender should hold them back. My life began in 1935 in Dhaka, East Bengal, at the home of my mother’s elder brother, Dr. Momtazuddin Ahmed, House Tutor of Salimullah Muslim Hall. Dr. Shahanara Husain is my only sister.

As a young girl, I was enrolled in school in Kolkata. These were years of extreme political upheaval and communal strife among Hindus and Muslims at the conclusion of British colonial subjugation. Thus my early education was mostly home tutoring. When my family moved to East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, I actually completed an entire school year. My schooling was once again interrupted when my 39 year old cousin requested my hand in marriage when I was barely fourteen. My mother did not wish this for me and with her brother’s help, hastily arranged my marriage to the eldest son of Professor Kazemuddin Ahmed, Nuruddin Md. Selim. I became a young wife in 1949 and a mother to my first daughter within a year.

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Self-imposed exile is simply a matter of degree

Australian Women’s Weekly, January 16, 1974

Leaving behind family and friends in Bangla Desh, a grandmother has come to Australia to satisfy her longing for higher education.

A very young grandmother, Hasna Begum, who was 36 last month, was married at 13, which is unusual even in Bangla Desh.

“Arranged marriages are really no longer the custom in my country now,” she said when I called to see her in the outer Melbourne suburb of Clayton, where she is staying.

“Mine was the last in my family as my younger sister did not marry until after she gained her Master of Arts degree.”

Hasna Begum (which means Beauty Queen) was married to a cousin, Selim, who is ten years older but, she said, “very considerate.”

Her first child, a daughter Shama, was born when she was 14. “I was a child with a child,” she said rather ruefully. “But we had no sex education and had to cope the best way we could.”

Shama now has a six-month-old son of her own.

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Mahojiano: WanaLGBT Tanzania

🇺🇸 Please click here to find an English version of this interview.

Wasagaji, mashoga, wapenda jinsia mbili na wabadilisha jinsia (LGBT) wanakumbwa na ubaguzi na vurugu ambazo zimesababisha madhara makubwa pamoja na ubinywaji wa haki zao za msingi. Niliwahoji wanaharakati watatu wa LGBT wa Tanzania ambao ni wanachama wa jamii hii ili kujua zaidi kuihusu. Lulu ni msagaji mwenye zaidi ya miaka ishirini, Grace ni mwanamke aliyebadilisha jinsia mwenye umri wa kati ya miaka ishirini na Baraka ni shoga mwenye umri wa miaka thelathini na nusu. Haya sio majina yao halisi, maana wanaishi Tanzania na hawahisi salama kujitokeza hadharani. Wanayopitia ni ya kuhuzunisha kwakweli. Nawashukuru kwa kuwa na ujasiri wa kuhojiwa. Natumaini kusoma kuhusu gharama ya maovu ya chuki dhidi ya wapendao jinsia moja na wabadilisha jinsia itamsaidia msomaji kuelewa umuhimu wa kupigania haki za wanaLGBT nchini Tanzania.

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Interview: The LGBT community in Tanzania

🇹🇿 Tafadhali bonyeza hapa kupata toleo la mahojiano haya kwa Kiswahili.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Tanzania experience substantial prejudice, discrimination, and violence, which has a significantly negative impact on their well-being, and are being denied their most basic human rights. I talked to three Tanzanian LGBT activists who are themselves members of Tanzania’s LGBT community to learn more about the lives of LGBT people in Tanzania. Lulu is a lesbian woman in her late twenties, Grace is a trans woman in her mid-twenties, and Baraka is a gay man in his mid-thirties. These are not their real names, as they live in Tanzania and do not feel safe coming out to the general public. Their experiences, however, are painfully real. I am grateful to them for having the courage to speak up, and I hope reading about the human cost of the evils of homophobia and transphobia will help the reader better understand the urgency of LGBT rights advocacy in Tanzania.

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Interview with the Postcrossing project

I have been interviewed by the Postcrossing project. Click here, and read about fostering global friendship and understanding through postcards, traveling, and public philosophy. Join at www.postcrossing.com!

A license to rape

Sudha was a healthy 16-year-old student in South India. Now she is dead. It was not COVID-19 that killed her – not directly anyway. She was found hanging in the village of Ranganathapura at the end of last month, and died shortly afterwards at a nearby hospital. Sudha committed suicide, after being forced to marry a relative. Allegedly, police initially attempted to hush up the case, but eventually the parents of both the bride and the groom were arrested. The groom is still at large. The government body tasked with the prevention of child marriage told local press that the marriage remained unnoticed by the authorities for longer than usual because the responsible officer was not working, due to India’s coronavirus lockdown. If the marriage had come to the attention of the authorities earlier, maybe Sudha would still be alive.

Each year, 12 million female children across the world are married. That is nearly one girl every three seconds. Countries in West and Central Africa as well as South Asia have the highest prevalence of child marriage. In Niger, for example, 76 percent of women between the age of 20 and 24 were first married before they were 18 years old. In Bangladesh, it is 59 percent. While there are differences in prevalence within and across countries, child marriage remains a universal challenge, and occurs across regions, cultures, and religions. Continue reading “A license to rape”

An evolutionary argument against exclusively human dignity

Traditional morality assumes that there is something morally special about being human. The fact that someone is a human being, rather than, say, a dog or a cow, makes a big difference in how he or she may be treated. Humans have full and equal moral worth or dignity and thus may not be killed, even if doing so would promote the greater good, whereas non-human animals have a lesser moral status and can be sacrificed for even the most trivial human pleasures.

This moral worldview fits well with the Aristotelian idea of a hierarchy of being, according to which each species is a static group of organisms with a distinct essence. The philosophical line that morally distinguishes humans from other animals corresponds to the empirical line that Aristotle thought distinguishes the human species from other animal species. Since the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species in 1859, however, we know that there is no such line on the empirical side of things. We now understand that all life is interrelated, and that biological characteristics come in degrees and continually evolve as a result of natural selection. As the principle of evolutionary continuity informs us, any differences between species are differences in degree, and not in kind. The real picture looks something like this:

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Philosophy Tanzania mailing list

Philosophy Tanzania is a Tanzania-based mailing list for everyone, everywhere with an interest in philosophy.

The list features philosophical discussions, book and article recommendations and reviews, philosophy videos, news, and events, calls for papers, information about graduate programs and scholarships in philosophy, and more.

To join, send an email to philosophy-tanzania+subscribe@googlegroups.com, wait for the response, and follow the instructions. Karibu sana!

Child domestic labor: We must refuse to accept the unacceptable

Moyna cannot sit at the table and eat with the rest of the household. She is the other — in the house, but not a member of the house. Her humanity is reduced to the work she does. Who she is as a person, those around her do not know. She functions in the background, keeps the household running. She is a six-year-old domestic worker in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. “I wake up at six in the morning and go to bed at midnight. My daily chores include sweeping and wiping the floors and stairs, doing the dishes and laundry, opening the main gate downstairs, switching on machines, a little bit of shopping, cleaning the toilet.” In the morning, her workload is particularly heavy, Moyna tells a researcher with the Bangladesh-based Alternative Movement for Resources and Freedom Society. “I help to prepare breakfast, and I eat two breads for myself in a hurry. The same situation arises during lunch and dinner time; I always eat last.” Moyna has no father, and her mother remarried a man who beat her for no reason, which is why her grandmother sent her to Dhaka to work. She has never been to school. Her employer does not allow her to watch TV or talk to outsiders, and makes her wear worn-out clothes. She is slapped or verbally abused for small mishaps, and brutally beaten and locked up for up to 24 hours without food for what her employer considers more severe offenses. Continue reading “Child domestic labor: We must refuse to accept the unacceptable”