Friday, October 28, 2011

Giving What We Might Be Able To

One Oxford undergraduate was so inspired by Toby Ord that he has apparently pledged to donate 10% of his future earnings to charity.

Given that he's assuming he'll be earning £40k/year, and the 10% is taken after student loans (not clear about other deductions), that should still leave him fairly well-off. Nonetheless, I think we have good reason to praise those doing more than most, even if we think they're doing less than perhaps they ought. The amount that this one person gives over the course of his life, assuming he keeps his pledge, will do a lot of good.

I wonder if that counts as research impact?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Incest in an Elevator

The other day one of my seminar groups spent a good half hour discussing whether a Millian state could prohibit incest. It's actually an example I've used myself in lectures (though not this year). For what it's worth, I think the answer is no: such interference would presumably be moralistic (or perhaps paternalistic) - it's unclear that it could count as harmful since, even if a deformed child is born as a result, that child would not have otherwise existed (and therefore cannot be harmed) and, in any case, no child need result, so at most the state should prohibit incestuous couples producing children, rather than incestuous relationships per se.

It seems that, while our state may be more liberal than in Mill's day, incest is still punished by both the courts and society, as this recent/local example shows.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Organs and Funerals

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has suggested that the NHS could pay for the funerals of those who donate their organs. (News reported here.)

I find it somewhat curious that they draw a sharp distinction between this move and payment for the organs. Presumably this incentive is only likely to increase donation rates insofar as it is regarded by donors as a payment. So either it's a payment and thus undermines altruism and raises worries of exploitation, or it's not a payment but it's questionable whether it will really increase donation.

(Personally, I'm not convinced that donation need be wholly altruistic and am therefore open to the possibility of incentives.)

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Dick and Philosophy

Yesterday one of my students asked whether Philip K. Dick and Philosophy was out yet. (I presented a draft version of my chapter to our student philosophy society last year.) It's not and, at the time, I had no idea when it's scheduled for release but, checking Amazon, I was pleased to see that it's out 24th November. My chapter, concerning appointing rulers by random mechanisms (as in Dick's Solar Lottery), is number ten.