The usual end to each year for me. I have been holidaying in southern NSW and now in Sydney waiting for some really hot weather. Posting will be intermittent at most until New Year. Enjoy the festive season – I hope Santa brings all my readers lots of good toys.
Update 1: Back in Melbourne but still holidaying and returning to my “recreational” interests in ethics and philosophy. Struggling through Derek Parfit’s 2-volume On What Matters – my lack of background makes this a particularly demanding assignment when golf and swimming are attractive non-cerebral opportunities. I greatly enjoyed this review of Parfit’s life and work by Lariba MacFarquhar in The New Yorker. Parfit is supposed to be one of the most significant modern innovators in moral philosophy and, among other things, this article gives a flavour of many of his core ideas. I originally read Parfit’s Reasons and Persons mainly because of my interest in optimal population issues and resource depletion. His line is fascinating – only worry about actual people who are born so depleting resources fast now does not matter much because the future population associated with high rates of depletion now would not have been born under a lower depletion scenario. Philosophers are funny people!
My guess is that game theorists from economics will eventually pounce on Parfit’s On What Matters and formalise the attempted philosophical synthesis of various ethical approaches. I’ll keep a watch-out for early efforts.
I have been re-reading Nietzsche on master/slave moralities, On The Genealogy of Morals, critiques of Kant etc. More on this later but I find many of the arguments compelling and confusing because they conflict with so many other ways of thinking about ethics. Need to grok this more fully.
Update 2: Without working too hard at it I have been improving my knowledge of ethics by going some online courses available for free from Oxford University, MIT and other places. I find access to classroom level discussions on these topics a useful adjunct to reading texts. It amazed me when I started to look around how much high-quality material – videos, podcasts, textbooks is now available online. Some can be conveniently downloaded into ITunesU. This is probably not a startling observation to many but I guess I have just not looked very seriously before. Open Culture is a good starting point but there are a wide range of starting points.
I’ll get back to some serious blogging in the early New Year. (1301)