Festive Philosophy?

Well – ’tis the season to tolerate the tabloids feigning outrage at the alleged suppression of Christmas traditions in the name of political correctness (see HERE for an example, and HERE for an article from the Guardian on the topic.).

We discussed this last year (see: http://r-p-e.blogspot.com/2006/12/christmas-banned.html ), so will leave it for now: but I did wonder, amidst the songs, the tinsel and the crowds in the shops this week: Is it morally acceptable to lie to children about the existence of Father Christmas / Santa Claus ?

Leaving asides cheap jibes about believing in a fictional old man, who you can’t see: why do we perpetuate this falseshood? An interesting discussion at http://urbansemiotic.com/2005/09/12/lying-to-children/ also (as well as mentioning the Tooth Fairy) takes it on to a more serious note with discussions of how much doctors should or should not reveal to seriously ill children. I suppose a number of questions emerge from thinking about this:

– Is it somehow less wrong to lie to children? Is our (apparent) epistemological superiority sufficent warrant for us to deceive them? Would it be wrong to lie to an adult for the same reason.
– When we tell children things about Santa that are not wholly factual – is it for their benefit (the magic of Christmas) – or our own – an attempt to recapture our own lost innocence?

How would/should we react if someone were to tell us that they were going to always be honest with their children – including about the Tooth Fairly and Father Christmas? (or the culturally-specific equivalents)

Of course, you can always read Stephen Law’s The Philosophy of Christmas, if you really want to think more deeply in a festive vein…
ps – comments still welcome on the School Uniform debate at: http://r-p-e.blogspot.com/2007/11/sir-sir-its-causal-fallacy-school.html
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Got A Complaint?

Philosopher Julian Baggini is currently writing a book on Complaint and asking as many people as possible to contribute by completing a short online survey. After taking the survey you may also want to read his piece for Comment is Free in which he sets out his stall for the book. Incidentally, Julian will be giving a talk on religion and ethics at Cheltenham Ladies College in February and has agreed to also talk at FCH (more details to follow).

Christmas meal final details

Well – chaos and confusion rule – but Shajaat has finally sent me the FINAL details:

I’m really sorry, but among all the chaos and confusion the situation has been resolved. Due to David Webster’s talk at the Beehive at 19:30-20:30 on Monday 10th December, the meal at 18:00 would have been too rushed. Therefore, we can still meet at 18:00 for drinks in a pub in the Montpellier area (Suffolk Arms?). Then go to David’s talk at the Beehive Pub on Religion being Good or Evil followed by a meal afterwards…21:00-21:30 (Possibly Spice Exchange?) .

Cafe Scientifique, 10th December ’07: Religion – Good or Evil?

The people from Cafe Scientifique have persuaded me to do an evening talk on Monday 10th December at the Beehive pub, Tivoli, Cheltenham: see http://cafescientifique.org/cheltenham.htm or download details at http://cafescientifique.org/downloads/religion%20good%20or%20evil1.pdf

The topic is Religion: Good or Evil? So, nothing too heavy then…
Come along and heckle if you must – free wine is rumoured..
Dave

Robots, AI, Ethics and Military Technology

Now, we rarely post articles (or links to) from the US Armed Forces Journal on this blog, but I was sent the link to an interesting one, entitled: Fast Forward to the Robot Dilemma. This talks about the ethical issues involved in placing AI (Artifical Intelligence) systems in control of military technology…

He (Major David Bigelow) concludes: It is unethical to create a fully autonomous military robot endowed with the ability to make independent decisions unless it is designed to screen its decisions through a sound moral framework.

Which sound moral framework, I wonder, would that be though? I thought RPE blog readers may find his piece of interest….
Dave