Waiting Room Policy

What should the policy be?

A clip from Curb Your Enthusiasm…

Posted in Critical thinking, Ethical issues, What should the policy be? | Leave a comment

Conceptual Analysis

A brief introduction to a common practice in contemporary philosophy
By Andrew Cullison

Several more resources




Posted in Conceptual Analysis, Consistency, Criteria, Critical thinking, How to, Learning tools, Logical Argument | Leave a comment

Robot Ethics

One problem is that the concept of “harm” is complex, context-specific and is difficult to explain clearly to a robot. If a robot doesn’t understand “harm”, how can they avoid causing it? “We realized that we could use different perspectives to create ‘good’ robot behavior, broadly in keeping with Asimov’s laws,” says Christoph Salge, another scientist involved in the study.



Posted in Conceptual Analysis, Consistency, Ethical issues, What should be done?, What should the policy be? | Leave a comment

The Problem of Perception

“Many people can’t tell when photos are fake. Can you?”


Posted in Epistemology, Perception | Leave a comment

Trolley Problem in Orange is the New Black

Trolley Problem in Orange is the New Black, Season 5, Episode 8


Thanks for the heads up Sydney!

Posted in Consistency, Critical thinking, Ethical issues, Thought experiments, What should be done? | Leave a comment

How to Study Effectively

Link to video


Posted in Learning tools | Leave a comment

What is your criteria?

Numb3rs “Mind Game”

00:10:04 … whether they admit to it or not.

00:10:06 – Thank you for destroying any confidence I had in public safety.

00:10:09 – What is your criteria for this categorical dismissal of parapsychological phenomena?

00:10:13 – Reality.

00:10:16 – Oh, yes, reality. What would that be? Newtonian reality? Einsteinian reality? Quantum reality?


Posted in Conceptual Analysis, Criteria, Critical thinking | Leave a comment

Technology Issues Jackpot

A great source for ethical dilemmas and policy issues in science and technology:


Posted in Ethical issues, What should be done?, What should the policy be? | Leave a comment

Justification of Cockroach Cyborgs

Is it ethical to sell kits that turn cockroaches into cyborgs?

Here’s a company that does exactly that: www.backyardbrains.com

… and here’s the introduction of their explanation of their justification:

Our experiments are not philosophically perfect and without controversy; however, we believe the benefits outweigh the cost due to the inaccessibility of neuroscience in our current age. We have received several messages from adults and parents of children with neurological afflictions thanking us for making neuroscience easier to understand. We are constantly surveying the animal kingdom for easier and less invasive ways of unequivocally demonstrating neural activity. The cockroach leg preparation is the best we have found so far.

Some disagree, and that is important. Our methods raise many ethical questions including

  • Are animal experiments for educational purposes valid?
  • What is the proper way to treat fellow creatures of the Earth?

In our classroom demonstrations we do discuss these ethical positions and take them seriously. Here we outline our ethical stance on the use of insects for education.

How many standards of ethical conduct are being appealed to here? What standards, specifically? Do any of the standards that are being appealed to here conflict?

Posted in Consistency, Critical thinking, Ethical issues, Learning tools, Logical Argument, Moral theory, Question Thinking, What should be done?, What should the policy be? | Leave a comment

Wear your Critical Thinking Question skills!


Posted in Learning tools, Question Thinking, QuestionThink | Leave a comment

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs


Posted in Basic needs at stake, Care Ethics, Conceptual Analysis, Social contract, Values | Leave a comment

Prisoners Dilemma

Episode details

Numb3rs | “Dirty Bomb”
Season 1 Episode 10 | Aired: 04/22/2005
Don must find the hijackers of a truck carrying nuclear waste before they detonate a dirty bomb in Los Angeles.


Posted in Learning tools, Logical Argument, Social contract | Leave a comment

Kill 1 or 5 or….. 6?

Thanks Keaton for sending this my way!

Posted in Philosophy Humor, Thought experiments | Leave a comment

Do rivers qualify for personhood?

“Three Rivers are now legally people…”


Posted in Conceptual Analysis, Personhood | Leave a comment

“But I don’t even know what a person is…”

Speaking of persons, a very wonderful one named Hibaq, who is currently in one of my Ethics courses, sent me this via email today; she said it reminded her of one of the topics we recently discussed in class.

Posted in Conceptual Analysis, Personhood, Philosophy Humor | Leave a comment

“A better way to argue about politics”


Posted in Discussion techniques, How to, Values | Leave a comment


Series: Numb3rs
Season: 1
Episode: 3
Episode title: Vectors

When they apprehend Weaver, toward the very end of the episode:

Step back off the curb, away from the church.

Is all this truly necessary? You wanted to prove your virus was more powerful, so you tested it on innocent people?

Yes. I had to, to save lives.

Save lives?

If the vaccines and treatments are made from the wrong pathogen, and the Spanish flu reemerges, which I assure you it will, we will not be ready millions will die.

So you justify these deaths to save more lives later.

If you had been around deadly pathogens as long as I have, you would understand that I had no choice, Agent. They are unforgiving we have to take every possible measure to protect innocent people.

Did you think I was planning to release the virus again? … I have no reason to do that … We’ve already established that our strain is the more deadly releasing it again would be insane.

Script source: here
Episodes: here
Numbers episodes by math topic: here
Episode summaries here

Posted in Moral theory, What should be done? | Leave a comment

Don’t Judge Too Quickly

Class Activity for Introducing a First Round of “Socrates” Questions

(this is what I send out to students who missed the particular session that featured this activity…)


1. Watch each video indicated below. Ideally, watch them with a friend or family member so you can discuss your observations and conclusions with someone else.

2. Come up with an answer to each question listed in the “Questions” section below. Don’t worry too much about what I mean by each question– consider different interpretations of each question, consider different answers, etc. I will say more about these questions as we proceed through the term.

3. Over the next week, ask the following question at least three different times, to three different people; journal the experience, the response, your insights, etc., in your class notes.

“Can you help me understand what led you to that conclusion?”

Be very polite and sincere when you ask this. Do not use this question as a weapon. Use it to uncover and understand their reasoning. No follow up questions are necessary; be sure to thank them for engaging with you and answering your question; feel free to explain that this is required for your critical thinking class.

4. Share your answers to the questions, and your experiences with asking the question, the next time you see me in class.



Watch the first, third, and fourth video.

Of course you can watch ALL of them– but those are the ones we watched in class.


  1. What is being assumed? By whom?
  2. What led them to their conclusion?
  3. Was there any other explanation? I.e., Was any other conclusion possible?
Posted in Critical thinking, Learning tools, Question Thinking | Leave a comment

Women’s March discussion resources




Posted in Critical thinking, Ethical issues, What should be done? | Leave a comment

Heinz Dilemma



Posted in Care Ethics, Ethical issues, Learning tools, Thought experiments, Video | Leave a comment

The definition of “broad”

Useful for discussions about developing, analyzing, and evaluating definitions…

Posted in Conceptual Analysis, Consistency, Critical thinking | Leave a comment

Conceptual clarification

Here’s a good article for a discussion about the role of conceptual analysis / clarification in discussions about high stakes policy decisions.

“Trump Vows To End ‘Sanctuary Cities,’ But No One Can Agree What That Label Means”


  • What definition / conception of “sanctuary city” is being asserted, in each case?
  • What traits (if any) are asserted in each case? Put another way, what are the necessary or sufficient conditions asserted in each case?
  • Are any of those traits logically defensible?
  • Do any of those traits correspond with reality? If yes, what exactly?
Posted in Conceptual Analysis, Consistency, Critical thinking, Ethical issues, What should be done?, What should the policy be? | Leave a comment

Trust in the Media — focus group

What led each individual to their conclusion?

What definition or standard of measure is each individual operating on?


Posted in Consistency, Critical thinking | Leave a comment

“I AM citing the facts”

Are facts enough?

Posted in Critical thinking, Logical Argument | Leave a comment

Critical Thinking @ The Motley Fool

The Motley Fool’s Gaby Lapera and John Maxfield dig into how investors, and people more generally, can improve their critical-thinking skills and thereby boost the performance of their portfolios.

A podcast of the episode is here:


…The first, most important, most basic step is: Ask a question. It can’t be any old question, and you can’t just ask it any old way..

…Precision is really important. Precision of language, precision of thought, is really important when you’re formulating your question, when you’re doing your research.

…[Y]ou don’t just want sources that confirm what you already believe. What’s the point in doing a whole bunch of research if you’re just adding more substance to what you already think or know?

…You have to be open to information that contradicts your feelings, your expectations, and your worldview. In order to do this at all, you need to be able to acknowledge any bias you might hold.

…[A]nytime you’re going to make a decision, there’s always the possibility that you’re going to be wrong. You have to factor that into the decision-making process.

Posted in Critical thinking | Leave a comment

Fallacy alert

Need to practice your fallacy detection skills?

Check out the comments section for this article:


Posted in Critical thinking, Fallacies, What should the policy be? | Leave a comment

Philosophy Humor

My significant other came across these two satirical takes on Philosophy today– if you don’t like curse words, don’t read these:

@ The Onion: here

@ UNC’s The Minor: here

Posted in Philosophy Humor | Leave a comment

Driverless Cars

Here are a couple resources sent my way from a current student (thanks Kolby!) who came across them while further researching a thought experiment we covered one day in class…



Driverless cars pose a quandary when it comes to safety. These autonomous vehicles are programmed with a set of safety rules, and it is not hard to construct a scenario in which those rules come into conflict with each other. Suppose a driverless car must either hit a pedestrian or swerve in such a way that it crashes and harms its passengers. What should it be instructed to do?



Posted in Consistency, Ethical issues, What should be done? | Leave a comment

Fallacy: Moving the goal post

A fallacy at stake

Special pleading / moving the goal post


Case study

See video above. Original video @ CNN.


Several issues are raised in this discussion. One by one:

  • What is the question at stake?
  • What position does each individual take in response to that question?
  • What standard or value does each position appeal to?
  • Is the standard being appealed to change?
  • If yes, when and how?


  • What words does Tapper put in Giuliani’s mouth?
  • Vice versa?
Posted in Critical thinking, Fallacies | Leave a comment

Colin Kaepernick discussion

“Colin Kaepernick creates friction in hometown”



1st resident: It was really disrespectful. And I think he’s an idiot.

2nd resident: One of the nice things about this country is that you get to make choices… but we didn’t want it to become a political football.

Interviewer: It was a business decision that most of his customers agreed with.

3rd resident: Here in Turlock loyalty is a lot. The community is very loyal. So we’re going to stay loyal to our hometown boy as his career continues .

Interviewer: They support their hometown guy… not the way he has decided to protest.

4th resident: I was very disgusted… and disappointed… it hurt. Like I said I believe in the flag, I believe in the United States of America.


  • What are the main questions at stake?
  • What question is each resident answering?
  • What is each resident’s position in response to the question they’re answering?
  • Does the resident offer a reason in support of that particular position?
  • If yes, what are the main reasons given?
  • What does the basic argument look like in standard form?

Standard form:

List and number the argument’s premises (an argument contains one or more premises) and conclusion; make the conclusion the last statement, insert the word “therefore”:

  1. Premise
  2. Premise
  3. Therefore: Conclusion


For each actual argument given:

  • What concepts and standards are at stake?
  • How is each of those being defined?
  • What are the main criteria for each definition?
  • Do the premises lead logically to the conclusion?
  • Is each premise true? On what basis?
Posted in Conceptual Analysis, Critical thinking, Ethical issues | Leave a comment