Kinky Sexy Stuff: Speaking in Columbus, Ohio, This June

The Space's logo, showing a circle of humanist logos around a red outline of a heart, and in small black wording around the outside the full name as stated in the article.PolyColumbus and The Columbus Space for Alternative Self Expression are hosting a new talk I’m giving this June 14th (Tuesday, 2016) at 7 – 9pm (Eastern time). The Space is located at 180 Outerbelt Street in Columbus.

I will be speaking on Polyamory, Kink, and Philosophy. I’ll be outlining the role and importance of philosophy in kink and poly life.

Topics will include:

  • What should philosophy have to say about ethical non-monogamy and kink?
  • What use does philosophy have for those pursuing either?
  • How can ordinary people become good philosophers?
  • And how can philosophy help them become better non-monogamists and explorers of kink?

From the epistemology of consent to the metaphysics of love and sex to, of course, moral theory, even politics and aesthetics, philosophy has a lot to do with polyamory and other modes of ethical non-monogamy and kink.

Note:

  • Snacks will be available for purchase. Please bring you own soft drinks.
  • All activities at The Columbus Space are open to those 19 and over only.
  • The Columbus Space is a drug and alcohol free zone.
  • Discounts for annual & lifetime members of PolyColumbus? See note here.
  • Get your tickets early; least year when I spoke, it was a packed house!

-:-

Learn the Science & Philosophy of Moral Reasoning: Take My May Course!

Come join my online course on moral reasoning! It starts next month. It lasks a month. Study and participate at your own pace and on your own time.

We don’t just cover the philosophy of morality and moral reasoning, and why be moral and how to get better at moral decision making. We also cover what the sciences have discovered about all this. Which is more than you might think!

You can register now. And spread the word. Let anyone know you think might be interested. Especially let your local or national clubs or organizations know (any nonprofit), because there is a discount you or they might be able tap (see end paragraph).

The only required course text you need to order is Personality, Identity, and Character (eds. Darcia Narvaez and Daniel Lapsley). To save money on that I highly recommend just renting it on kindle for the month (unless you want to buy the kindle edition or a used print copy). All other materials will be provided at no extra cost.

-:-

Why take this course?

[Read more…]

Poly Family, Poly World…and Poly Among the Poor

Still frame from the ABC News video segment on Polyamory: The End of Marriage?, showing a woman with her two men all cuddling and reading a book to their baby.Polyamory solves more problems than it causes. And all the problems it causes aren’t really unique to poly.

All the reasons people might think monogamy is better (and not just for them, but for everyone), turn out not to be true, or lack evidence. And like Christian apologetics, monogamy apologetics will leave out data regarding the benefits of alternatives, in order to oversell the benefit of compliance with antiquated norms. Monogamy, after all, was invented for men to control women as property, and like a kluge, it has since been clunkily tinkered with to align more with our modern egalitarian values. But the two don’t really fit. You can’t value freedom, consent, diversity, equality, and autonomy, and insist monogamy remain the norm. Monogamy is an option. And for many, not the best.

Even when people are not specifically trying to defend monogamy as “better,” monogamy assumptions blind even well-meaning intersectional feminist efforts to make the world better. As in one example in particular: a recent debate over whether poor women need to “get married” for their own good. Which even some secular (?) feminists have argued. For good but still flawed reasons. Good, because they are calling attention to the class privilege of feminists who advocate for women’s liberation from the necessity of marriage. But flawed, because they assume selling sex for childcare resources (aka “getting married for the good of the children”) is the only option poor women have. And in this case, polyamory isn’t even the only other option being overlooked. But it, too, is being overlooked.

Today I’m going to talk about all of that. [Read more…]

Are Moral Facts Not Natural Facts? Everything Wrong with the Shafer-Landau Thesis

An old timey looking photo of a block of stone on which is written 'Nothing is written in stone'.Is moral truth a priori and not a natural property of the universe? So says Dr. Russ Shafer-Landau (as articulated in Whatever Happened to Good and Evil in 2003; and Moral Realism: A Defence in 2005). Even though I’m sympathetic to his project, he’s just wrong. And not merely wrong, but too obviously wrong for this to still be a thing in 21st century philosophy. Here I’ll explain why I think that. And in the process you’ll get a feel for how to actually think about moral realism, and how to better understand what morality actually is and how a morality is determined to be true.

This connects with a recent and very relevant interview of me on this same issue by J.J. Chipchase at Naturalistic Philosophy, titled On Moral Theory and Truth with Richard Carrier – Part I. There I outline many aspects of my take on metaethics that inform the following.

[Read more…]

There’s No Time to Explain

Photograph of an American M1 Abrams battle tank rolling down a street.My brother in law, Brian Parra, has launched a groovy new podcast, There’s No Time to Explain. And I was his first interview subject (episode 1). It’s an example of my favorite kind of podcast, where we both chat about all kinds of things that mostly aren’t the usual things I’m talking about over and over.

[Read more…]

An Amazing Thing: The Humanist Experience

Production photo of Evan and Serah in a parking lot by trees holding up signs with the logo for The Humanist Experience, caption The Thumanist Experience Ep 2.Two humanists are traveling the country, living out of their car and on savings and donations for a whole year, interviewing or even embedding themselves among all sorts of people who are often ignored or ground under by the American system, and seeking empirical understanding of common human challenges and hardships. They are visiting the real America. And reporting on it. And reporting on what humanist values should mean for us in light of what they uncover.

This is The Humanist Experience. It’s a great podcast. And the most unusual to date. They are doing two things I’ve never seen before: (1) They are actually going all in, walking the walk, by actually giving up daily work lives to drive around the country experiencing things and talking to people, to hear and communicate their stories with understanding; and (2) They are using storytelling and experiential learning to do this. Their view is, you need experience to understand a thing, and you need understanding of a thing to have a valid opinion of it, in particular, an opinion of what to do about it, or even whether to do something about it. Storytelling, recording their own and others’ experiences, in their philosophy, is a crucial way to aesthetically communicate the reality of the world and to get people aware and comprehending of what’s going on in it. Part of their inspiration is This American Life, so fans of that take note. It’s fascinating. And I highly recommend checking it out.

Here is their description: [Read more…]

Open Letter to Academic Philosophy: All Your Moral Theories Are the Same

Graphic depicting the three standard moral theories and the two forms of consequentialism described in the main text, as well as the fourth way with the label of Foot, the other three are labeled Kant, Mill, and Aristotle. The one labeled Mill only marks the consequences for everyone box, but another form of consequentialism is listed, egoism. Finally, all three systems can serve as the foundation for Social Contract Theory, also thus depicted. And Foot's system of hypothetical imperatives is tied to all Moral Theories at the core.In my work I have repeatedly pointed out two things about what philosophers think the options are in developing a theory of moral truth: (1) that their standard assumption of only three options (consequentialist, deontological, and virtue ethics) curiously omits a fourth of equal importance, the only one developed by a woman, and (2) that these are actually all the same ethical theory and the fact that no one has ever noticed this is very annoying, and impeding progress in moral philosophy. Today I’m going to outline why both points are true, and matter a great deal. Philosophy will forever remain stuck and getting barely more than nowhere, until it acknowledges and integrates both facts in all future analysis of this question: What moral propositions are true? [Read more…]

Defining Polyamory

Diagram of a poly network, analogizing a polycule to a molecule, indicating Lisa and Maria as tertiary partners, and Maria having Amir and Kevin as secondary partners and no primary, and Lisa having Eric as a primary partner and no other bonded relationships than him and Maria. Diagram from What Do You Call It – Some Polyamory Network Terminology, by Violet Michelle Smith, published online at Life on the Swingset.Polyamory is relatively new, and consequently not well defined. The poly community is still experimenting and feeling out how to define its terms. I get asked a lot about what it means and whether one thing or another is or is not poly. When asked about my relationship status, I sometimes just say I am an ethical nonmonogamist, since that starts the kind of conversation I actually want to have with someone in order to explain my own sitch.

But my own sitch is my own sitch. Polyamory is inclusive of countless different relationship styles. One of the fundamental core values of the polyamory community is that we should get to negotiate the kind of relationships we want. Tradition is a square peg for a round hole. Rather than force ourselves to follow some culturally fabricated and packaged script of what a relationship is “supposed” to be or how it is “supposed” to proceed, we can just create the relationships we want, and proceed in the way we want. The outcome in practice is: there are lots of different ways to do poly. Mine is just what I’m doing now. In some respects it’s what’s best for me. It will never suit everyone else. In other respects it’s just what fits my current circumstances, which could change.

So what is poly?

[Read more…]

The Moral Bankruptcy of Divine Command Theory: Matthew Flannagan’s Failed Defense

Cover of Doctor Hector Avalos's book Bad Jesus: The Ethics of the New Testament, yellow background, with a frame including the key focus of a painting depicting Jesus whipping people in the temple square.Theology has no salvageable theory of morality. Theists complain atheists have no reason to be moral. But in fact theists have no reason to actually be moral, as in: to elevate compassion, honesty, and reasonableness above all authority, even the authority of their own gods. Unless they covertly adopt a naturalistic moral theory (and most do), they are not actually moral people. They are minions. Theists are essentially the unquestioning gestapo of whatever monster manufactured the universe. Or rather, whatever monster some men made up and duped them into thinking it made the universe. Which means, they are essentially the gestapo of whatever random ignorant madmen wrote their scriptures and now thumps their pulpits with sufficiently fiery claims of special divine communications at bedtime.

I’m sorry to say, but that’s the truth. Theism actually has no moral theory.

This is why.

Hannibal Lecter created the universe? He escaped from a future holodeck simulation and then used a stolen TARDIS to Make the Universe after evaporating God by discovering the Babel Fish? Oh crap. Well, I guess we better get down with murder and elegant cannibalism or else he’ll be angry with us and send us to hell. Because he is now eternal and the supreme being and made the universe. So we can’t deny, his will and character is now the ground of all morality. And, oh yeah. This all totally makes sense.

Is that any more sensible than…?

A cosmic Jewish zombie named Jesus who telekinetically fathered himself by a virgin and now resides in outer space, is possessed by the spirit of a supernal ghost that is in some sort of parallel-dimensioning identical with but distinct from himself and an ancient Canaanite storm god, and promises to make you live forever in an alternate dimension if you symbolically eat his flesh and drink his blood, and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that has eternally tainted our mammalian flesh ever since a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree. So you better do what he says.

And lest we forget, that’s the Jesus who has nothing to say against slavery or the subjugation and disenfranchisement of women or the execution of homosexuals, other than, at best, that you shouldn’t invite sluts and homos to legally murder the sluts and homos because that would be hypocritical (John 7:52-8:11, a forgery). Oh no, you are supposed to wait for Jesus to murder them (Matthew 3:12). This Jesus is actually a morally dubious person.

You can always invent any Jesus you want, of course. A Jesus who fought for abolition and women’s suffrage and the decriminalization of homosexuality—and, oh, let’s say, promoted democracy and human rights and universal education (also not things Jesus ever says one word for in the Bible). But that’s just a guy you are making up in your head. Because you don’t like the guy on paper. Except… That you have to invent a better Jesus than the one that’s in the Book, really says all that needs saying here.

Matthew Flannagan & My Article for Philo

Several years ago (though it entered print only a couple years ago) I published a paper in the philosophy journal Philo, responding to Christian fundamentalist Matthew Flannagan on behalf of noted atheist philosopher Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, whom Flannagan had written an article against, defending William Lane Craig’s Divine Command Theory against Sinnott-Armstrong’s rather scathing destruction of it. Sinnott-Armstrong was probably bored at this point. I was recruited to write the rebuttal. The result is Richard Carrier, “On the Facts as We Know Them, Ethical Naturalism Is All There Is: A Reply to Matthew Flannagan,” Philo 15.2 (Fall-Winter 2012), pp. 200-11, I think so far my favorite paper for a peer reviewed philosophy journal.

The abstract reads:

In responding to Matthew Flannagan’s rebuttal to Walter Sinnott-Armstrong’s argument that ethical naturalism is more plausible than William Lane Craig’s Divine Command Theory of moral obligation (DCT), this author finds Flannagan incorrect on almost every point. Any defense of DCT is fallaciously circular and empirically untestable, whereas neither is the case for ethical naturalism. Accordingly, all four of Armstrong’s objections stand against Flannagan’s attempts to rebut them, and Flannagan’s case is impotent against a properly-formed naturalist metaethic.

In this paper I found Sinnott-Armstrong indisputably correct on every point but one, and even on that one he was correct, he just didn’t adequately prove it. My other peer reviewed paper on normative ethics, the chapter “Moral Facts Naturally Exist (and Science Could Find Them)” in The End of Christianity (ed. by John Loftus: Prometheus, 2011: pp. 333-64, 420-29), is an example of proving the point he intended, which is that grounds for morality not only do, but necessarily must exist independently of any gods, because in no other way can moral claims be sufficiently motivating so as to be true.

Flannagan has since published replies to my critique of him on his website (“Richard Carrier and the Arbitrariness Objection,” 5 September 2014, and “Richard Carrier and the Abhorrent Commands Objection,” 5 October 2014, and “Ethical Supernaturalism Is Still More Plausible Than Naturalism: Carrier’s Preliminary Objections,” 20 August 2014). Below I will summarize my paper in Philo, which summary already refutes most of what Flannagan now says—since what he now says pretty much ignores what I said, so restating what I said is a more than adequate rebuttal. And then I’ll address the remainder of Flannagan’s new rebuttals. The end result is not any different from where we started…

[Read more…]