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Philosophers and bizarre thought experiments, No. 4 – Lava

In Epistemology, Philosophy, Thought Experiments on January 18, 2014 at 8:17 PM

And some wonder why it is called the ivory tower:

Suppose that the mountain erupts, leaving lava around the countryside. The lava remains there until S perceives it and infers that the mountain erupted.  Then S does know that the mountain erupted. But now suppose that, after the mountain had erupted, a man somehow removes all the lava. A century later, a different man (not knowing of the real volcano) decides to make it look as if there had been a volcano, and therefore puts lava in appropriate places. Still later, S comes across this lava and concludes that the mountain erupted centuries ago. In this case, S cannot be said to know the proposition.

Source:

Alvin I. Goldman, “A causal theory of kn0wing,” in Sven Bernecker and Fred Dretske (eds.),  Knowledge: readings in contemporary epistemology, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), p.21.

Aliens

In Animal Rights, Philosophy on July 18, 2013 at 5:18 PM

A philosophical question is if it is not morally acceptable to kill another human and eat it, on what grounds can we kill non human animals and eat them? Are we guilty of “speciesism,” the characteristic of which is an unjustified prejudice against other animals? Speciesism can be compared to racism, an unjustified prejudice against other races, or sexism, an unjustified prejudice against a different sex. Peter Singer, a prominent utilitarian philosopher, believes that  many people are  unjustifiably speciesist. A different prominent philosopher, the late Bernard Williams, an opponent of utilitarianism, believes it not to be so. Both Singer and Williams use aliens to make a related  point.

Peter Singer, (Practical Ethics, [Cambridge University Press, Third Edition, 2011], p.68) appears unhappy that we might identify as members of the species Homo-sapiens and would prefer it if we identified as “self-aware beings” or, perhaps, “sentient beings.” He comments. “Personally, I would feel that an intelligent alien with whom I could communicate and share feelings would have more in common with me than a member of my own species who is so profoundly disabled as to be unable to have any conscious experiences at all – even if the latter looked much more like me.”

Bernard Williams, (Philosophy as a Humanistic Discipline, [Princeton University Press, 2006],pp.149-152) implies that if aliens land on earth and wished to live with us, whether they look like us or whether they are slimy and disgusting, “opponents of speciesism [would] want us to join them— join them…on principle.” In his fantasy, such people, presumably Singer included, would be the “collaborators.” Against them would be the “resisters,” those “organizing under the banner ‘Defend humanity’ or ‘Stand up for human beings.’” It is a question of whether people can be loyal to other human beings. The question to ask is “Which side are you on?”

Considering these two positions, I think I would fall into Bernard Williams camp. The nearest real life event to any of these fantasies that comes to mind is when Gary Kasparov, the chess grandmaster, played the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue at chess in the mid to late 1990s. At that point in time I desperately wanted Kasparov to win.  The reason for wanting Kasparov to win was because “he’s one of us.” Perhaps I am prejudiced in favour of humans, but I am not convinced that this is unethical.

Philosophers and bizarre thought experiments, No. 3

In Just War, Philosophy, Thought Experiments on July 4, 2013 at 11:41 AM

Jeff McMahan wrote a book, published in 2009, that sought to turn on its head what we understand about morality in war which is based on the centuries old tradition of Just War Theory. In the traditional theory, the morality of war is broken down into two major areas: just reasons for going to war (jus ad bellum) and just actions in the conduct of war (jus in bello). It is accepted that there is a moral equality of combatants. Hence, even if one side was unjustified in going to war, it does not mean that the combatants on that side are war criminals unless they commit unjust actions such as deliberately killing civilians.

This can be illustrated by a good example. It is not particularly controversial to say that the Allies were the just side in the war against Nazi Germany in World War II and the Nazi side were the unjust side. According to standard theory, Nazi soldiers who were involved in permitted actions of a soldier, such as fighting other armies and not killing civilians, are not doing anything morally wrong. This means that while SS officers who were involved in killing Jews were war criminals, Rommel’s Nazi troops who stormed around North Africa but obeying the rules of war such as proportionality and not deliberately killing civilians are not morally blameworthy.

McMahan thinks this is wrong. He thinks that an unjust war should not be participated in and that soldiers are morally blameworthy if they fight for an unjust side. He would view, contrary to the standard theory, Rommel’s Nazi troops as war criminals.

A conflict can occur when a just side would kill innocent civilian without intent but as a side effect of a just action. McMahan argues that while soldiers on an unjust side should not engage in combat with a just side, innocent civilians on the unjust side are permitted to defend themselves from harm resulting from actions of the soldiers on the just side. McMahan’s case is illustrated with a very bizarre thought experiment:

Suppose that just combatants are justified in destroying a storage facility for chemical weapons, but that the destruction of the facility foreseeably creates a cloud of toxic gas that will soon engulf an area inhabited by innocent civilians. If the civilians could somehow blow the cloud of gas away, they would be permitted to do that, even if their only option was to blow it over the just combatants, who would then be killed by it.

Source:

Jeff McMahan, Killing in War, (Oxford University Press, 2009), p.47.

Philosophers and bizarre thought experiments, No. 2

In Philosophy, Thought Experiments on May 5, 2013 at 7:13 AM

In article published in 2000*, the Harvard philosopher Frances Kamm considered the question of whether distance matters in a duty to rescue. The following two cases were reasonably mentioned:

Pond: I am walking past a shallow pond and see a child drowning in it. If I wade in and pull the child out, my $500 suit will be ruined. Intuitively, I ought to wade in to save him.

Overseas: I know there is a child starving to death overseas. To save him, I must send $500. Intuitively, I am not obligated to do so.

There is nothing too bizarre in either of those cases. However it was not to last. Reality went out of the window with this comment:

Suppose I stand in a part of France, but I have very long arms that reach all the way to the other end of France, allowing me to reach a child drowning in a pond at a distance….

*F.M. Kamm, “Does Distance Matter Morally to the Duty to Rescue?” Law and Philosophy, Volume 19, 2000, pp.655-681.

Off With Their Heads!

In Philosophy, Punishment on April 20, 2013 at 9:18 AM

The debate on the death penalty is an interesting one. There are many who wish it to be retained in the USA and those in the UK who would like it reinstated. I suspect that even of those who are in favour of the death penalty, not many would go so far as the late American philosopher, Louis P. Pojman:

My proposal is to broaden, not narrow, the scope of capital punishment, to include businessmen and women who unfairly and severely harm the public… the executives in the recent corporation scandals who bailed out with millions of dollars while they destroyed the pension plans of thousands of employees may deserve severe punishment and, if convicted, they should receive what they deserve. My guess is that the threat of the death sentence would have a deterrent effect in such cases. Whether it is feasible to apply the death penalty to horrendous white-collar crimes is debatable. But there is something to be said in its favor; it would certainly remove the impression that only the poor get executed.

Source:

Louis P. Pojman, “A Defense of the Death Penalty,” in Andrew I. Cohen and Christopher Heath Wellman, Contemporary Debates in Applied Ethics, (Blackwell Publishing, 2005) p.121.

A Problem with Democracy

In Anarchism, Philosophy, Thought Experiments on February 23, 2013 at 7:03 PM

I have previously commented on my interest in thought experiments. Michael Huemer has posed a compelling one in his recent book, The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), p.59. The term “tyranny of the majority” was popularized by Alexis de Tocqueville as he used it in his important 1835 book, Democracy in America. Michael Huemer provides a neat example:

Imagine the following scenario, which I shall call the Bar Tab example. You have gone out for drinks with a few of your colleagues and graduate students. You are all busy talking about philosophy, when someone raises the question of who is going to pay the bill. A number of options are discussed. A colleague suggests dividing the bill evenly among everyone at the table. You suggest that everyone pay for his own drinks. A graduate student then suggests that you pay for everybody’s drinks. Reluctant to spend so much money you decline. But the student persists: ‘Let’s take a vote.’ To your consternation they proceed to take the vote, which reveals that everyone at the table except you wants you to pay for everybody’s drinks. ‘Well, that settles it’, declares the student. ‘Pay up.’

Karl Popper, the Utilitarians, and the End of the World

In Philosophy, Utilitarianism on December 20, 2012 at 10:00 AM

In a recent blog post I commented that the basic principle of utilitarianism is Jeremy Bentham’s axiom:  “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong.”

We can construct the following hypothetical society: imagine a country where the majority take great delight in watching the torture of the minority. When individual members of the minority are tortured, hundreds of members of the majority come to watch and they have a seemingly insatiable appetite to view such a spectacle. The sum total of the additional happiness of those watching the torture is so great that it more than offsets the pain of the member of the minority being tortured. The utilitarians who follow Bentham’s axiom would know what to do: open torture theatres up and down the country and have numerous daily torture shows to maximise happiness.

The thought is horrific. Karl Popper was aware of such problems with standard utilitarianism. He wrote the following:

I suggest… to replace the utilitarian formula “Aim at the greatest happiness for the greatest number”, or briefly, “Maximise happiness”, by the formula “The least amount of suffering for all”, or briefly, “Minimize suffering”. Such a simple formula can, I believe, be made one of the fundamental principles (admittedly not the only one) of public policy. [1]

He went on to say:

A … criticism of the Utilitarian formula “maximise pleasure” is that it assumes, in principle, a continuous pleasure-pain scale which allows us to treat degrees of pain as negative degrees of pleasure. But, from the moral point of view, pain cannot be outweighed by pleasure, and especially not one man’s pain by another man’s pleasure. Instead of the greatest happiness for the greatest number, one should demand, more modestly, the least amount of avoidable suffering for all; and further, that unavoidable suffering—such as hunger in times of an unavoidable shortage of food—should be distributed as equally as possible…. It adds to clarity in the field of ethics if we formulate our demands negatively, i.e. if we demand the elimination of suffering rather than the promotion of happiness. [2]

Professor Popper’s negative formulation (negative utilitarianism or NU for short) of the standard utilitarian principle has a fundamental problem pointed out by R.N. Smart in 1958:

Suppose that a ruler controls a weapon capable of instantly and painlessly destroying the human race. Now it is empirically certain that there would be some suffering before all those alive on any proposed destruction day were to die in the natural course of events. Consequently the use of the weapon is bound to diminish suffering, and would be the ruler’s duty on NU grounds.[3]

If the human race were to continue in existence for an infinite amount of time, no doubt there would be an infinite amount of suffering to go with it. According to this ideology, it is far better to have a finite amount of suffering and end the world now.

Bernard Williams concluded his critique of utilitarianism with the following words:

The important issues that utilitarianism raises should be discussed in contexts more rewarding than that of utilitarianism itself. The day cannot be too far off in which we hear no more of it.[4]

There are those who predict that the world will end tomorrow, December 21, 2012. NASA has denied that this will occur.[5] While those putting forward the prediction are not blaming negative utilitarians with a world ending weapon for this disaster, the negative utilitarians might look forward to its occurrence. I have been trying to think of any good that will come of the end of the world and have finally come up with something: Bernard Williams’ prediction that the day will come when we will hear no more of utilitarianism will finally be fulfilled.

References:

[1] K.R. Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, Volume 1: The Spell of Plato, (Fifth revised edition, Routledge, 1966), p.235n6(2).
[2] Ibid., pp284-285n2.
[3] R.N. Smart, “Negative Utilitarianism,” Mind, New Series, Vol. 67, No. 268 (October, 1958), pp. 542-543. A copy of this is available freely on line.
[4] Bernard Williams, “A critique of utilitarianism,” in J.J.C. Smart & Bernard Williams, Utilitarianism: for and against, (Cambridge University Press, 1973,) p.150.
[5] http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012.html.

Fruits of Labour, Entitlement, and the Road to Ruin

In Libertarianism, Nozick, Philosophy on December 12, 2012 at 10:32 PM

Normblog, the weblog of Norman Geras, is one of my favourite blogs. He has recently written a series of ten blog posts on the subject “Fruits of Labour.”[1]

I wish to pick up one point that Norm has made in his tenth post in the series: his example that he calls “Wilt who?” It is quite clear that Norm has loosely based his example on Robert Nozick’s famous Wilt Chamberlain example which Nozick used for a difference purpose to that of Norm.[2] Both Nozick and Norm have a very talented basketball player, Wilt, who is a draw to the game. Spectators are happy to pay extra if Wilt plays. In Norm’s example there is a dispute between Wilt and the fans as to who is entitled to the money from the additional gate receipts. Norm has Wilt believing he is entitled to the additional money, but the fans are of a different opinion: they think that perhaps some of the additional money can go to Wilt, because in Norm’s case, Wilt is having difficulties, but the balance should be used on improving spectator facilities. This dispute does not come up in Nozick’s example for a key reason: Nozick have the fans drop 25 cents of the admission price into a separate box that has Wilt’s name marked on it. The implication is clear: the 25 cents is to go directly to Wilt and not to the club. Nozick is explicit:

Each of these persons chose to give twenty-five cents of their money to Chamberlain. They could have spent it on going to the movies, or on candy bars, or on copies of Dissent magazine, or of Monthly Review. But they all, at least one million of them, converged on giving it to Wilt Chamberlain in exchange for watching him play basketball.[3]

One wonders if Norm would agree whether Wilt would be entitled to the 25 cents from each fan for each game if his own example were in line that of Nozick’s.

A further point that is explicit in Nozick’s example is that Wilt is a free agent. Nozick is also explicit that “Wilt Chamberlain is greatly in demand by basketball teams.”[4] This means that if Wilt does not get the 25 cents from each fan for each game, he would be free to find another club to take him on at his terms. Norman Geras does not really deal with this matter in his dispute between the fans that turn up to Wilt’s games and Wilt himself. The fans, in Norm’s example, can argue as much as they want that Wilt’s value “depends on them” but what would Norm have them say if Wilt turns round and says “If that is how you feel, I will leave the club and go and play for a different team.” Would Norm, or the fans in his example, restrict other basketball clubs from offering Wilt a contract on terms that both the club and Wilt could agree?

I now wish to use my own example, but to make a point similar to that Nozick made with his Wilt Chamberlain example: that liberty upsets patterns.

Consider two families that live next door each other: the Adams family and the Brown family. The Adams family comprises Mr and Mrs Adams, and two children aged ten and eight. The Brown family contains Mr and Mrs Brown and two children of identical ages to that of their neighbours. Mr Adams and Mr Brown work in the same factory in an identical job earning an identical salary. Likewise Mrs Adams and Mrs Brown both work part time in identical jobs earning identical salaries. At a given point in time, the value of the assets of the Adams family matches that of the Brown family to the last penny. The egalitarians can look at these two families and smile at the equality that exists.

Now consider the lifestyle differences. Mr and Mrs Adams both smoke whereas Mr and Mrs Brown do not. Mr and Mrs Adams and their children spend their weekends lazing at home watching television, whereas the Brown family spend quite a lot of time cultivating a vegetable patch in their garden, the produce of which they consume thus reducing their weekly grocery bill. Finally, the Adams family have a weekly night out to a cinema or a pizza restaurant, whereas on that night of the week, the Brown family bond with each other via playing Scrabble or a card game together. The net difference is that Adams family spend on average £150 a week more than the Brown family. After a few weeks, the Brown family have accumulated enough money from saving to purchase an iPad for their children to share. The Adams family do not have one. The two Brown children are continually arguing as to which one of them can use the iPad and their parents, fed up with the constant arguing, a few weeks later purchase a further iPad so both children can have their own.

The point Nozick would have made with this example is that nobody has done anything wrong; it is not unjust that the Brown family now has two iPads whereas the Adams family has none. The egalitarians, on the contrary, might wish to interfere. They could claim that it is unjust that Brown family has two iPads whereas the Adams family has none and insist that the Brown family give an iPad to the Adams family. Nozick’s point is that if you set up to create an egalitarian society or any other society whereby there is a “pattern” of the distribution of assets for justice, there has to be “continuous interference with people’s lives.”[5]

I now wish to go a stage further and discuss the consequences of such interference. Imagine, in my example above, the Brown family continually have to give things to the Adams family to keep the planned distributional pattern. After a while one might expect that they get tired of it. On Saturday afternoons while the Browns are toiling away at their vegetable patch, they can look over their garden fence and see through a window to the Adams family’s sitting room where the family are all lazing around watching television. Mr Adams has even cracked jokes to Mr Brown telling him to pay particular attention to the output from the vegetable patch as his family will be entitled to the benefits of half of it. The Browns might begin to feel that because they only get the benefit of half of their savings from not spending money like the Adams family and they only get to benefit from half their labour in their vegetable patch, that they will simply not bother continuing their more frugal lifestyle.

While Mr and Mrs Brown do not take up smoking, they decide to go out with their family once a week to a decent restaurant and a further night to the cinema and also to jack in the vegetable patch so they can sit at home at weekends and watch television like the Adams family. By changing their lifestyle to spend as much money per week as their neighbours, they now do not have to make any regular transfers to their neighbours. By having some of the benefits of the fruits of their labour – the vegetables they grow in their garden – taken away from them, they lack the motive to grow the vegetables. In other words, they lack the motive to work at weekends. If this is replicated on a bigger scale around the country, it seems to me that it is the road to economic ruin.

References

[1] The link to the tenth in the series is
http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2012/12/the-fruits-of-labour-10.html.
This post provides the links to the earlier nine posts.
[2] Norman Geras admits in footnote 48 that his own example is used for a different purpose to Nozick.
[3]Robert Nozick, Anarchy State, And Utopia, (Basic Books, 1974), p.161.
[4] Ibid., p.161.
[5] Ibid., p.163.

The Queen v Dudley and Stephens, Redux

In Philosophy, Utilitarianism on December 6, 2012 at 4:00 PM

An interesting news item from Russia has appeared in the press. The basics of the story are that four fisherman disappeared in remote and inhospitable areas of the country in August. Two of the four have since been discovered as well as the remains of a human body including chopped up bones. The news article leads one to conclude that the two men located are suspected  of murder and cannibalism to stay alive. A murder probe has been launched and the two men are on the run.

One of the reasons why this case is interesting is the facts as stated will lead lawyers in many countries to recall one of the most famous cases in English criminal law: R v. Dudley and Stephens. The full judgement, from 1884, can be read, but the basic elements of the case were that four men jumped into a lifeboat with very little food. When the food ran out, and after a number of days, some in the boat came to the conclusion that the only possibility of staying alive was to eat one of the passengers. While a decision to draw straws as to which one was eaten was ultimately abandoned, at one point after 19 days adrift, a prayer was said, and the cabin boy, Parker, who did not give his permission, was killed for his flesh and blood to eat and drink. The men were ultimately rescued and Dudley and Stephens were tried and convicted for murder. The reason the case is so well known is that an important principle of law, one still in existence today, was established via the judgement: necessity is no defence to murder.

Dudley and Stephens is also interesting to students of philosophy as it is can be used as a real life example to those studying utilitarianism. The Harvard philosopher, Michael Sandel, uses it both in his Justice lecture series (Episode 1, part 2) and his  associated book, Justice: What’s the right thing to do? (Penguin, 2010) for precisely this purpose. It is Jeremy Bentham’s axiom (A Fragment on Government, 1776, preface)  whereby “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong,” that is often taken as the basic principle of utilitarianism. It is not the actions themselves which matter but the consequences of the actions. In the case of Dudley and Stephens, the consequences of killing the cabin boy was that three survived and one died, whereas had the cabin boy (or someone else) not been killed, all four could have died. Moreover, Parker was an orphan and had no dependants who would miss him. The others had families. Based on this, for the greatest happiness to the greatest number, taking into account people’s families, then the death of the cabin boy would cause the least amount of pain.

Bentham went so far as to envisage (An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, 1781, Ch. 4) that values could be ascribed to pain and pleasure. Intensity, duration and other factors would all be measured. The correct action to take would be the one that produced the highest utility: the difference between the sum total of the pleasure values less the sum total of the pain values. This whole idea was ridiculed in an amusing fashion by Steven Lukes in his book, The Curious Enlightenment of Professor Caritat: A Novel of Ideas, (Verso, Second Edition, 2009). The author invented a fictitious place known as Utilitaria where “Everyone treasured pocket calculators” (p.43) and many used them at all possible occasions in order to decide how to act.

“A critique of utilitarianism,” was written by Bernard Williams. (It is contained in J.J.C. Smart and Bernard Williams, Utilitarianism: For & Against, [Cambridge University Press, 1973], pp.75-150). In this essay (pp.98-99), Williams uses a thought experiment whereby twenty captured people are to be shot but Jim is offered a gun and if he agrees to shoot dead one captured person, the other nineteen would go free. Williams explains that the captured men and all other villagers are begging Jim to accept. He poses the question: “What should he do?”  He correctly states that for the utilitarians, not only is it correct for Jim to shoot someone dead, it is “obviously” correct. The right thing to do is to maximise the value of pleasure over pain, and if that means shooting an innocent person or killing someone and eating them, so be  it.  In a damning conclusion, Williams states: “utilitarianism, at least in its direct forms, makes integrity as a value more of less unintelligible.”

I am very aware that it is easy to sit in a comfortable home in London with plenty of food available to eat and moralize as to how others should behave in a desperate situation. I have never been starving to death in a lifeboat or in inhospitable areas of Siberia and quite frankly I do not know what I would do if I were in that situation. What is known is that when people are starving to death and the only food they have to eat is other humans, then they resort to cannibalism. There are a number of examples. In his recently published book, Tombstone: The Untold Story of Mao’s Great Famine, (Allen Lane, 2012), Yang Yisheng cites (p.135)  a 1961 report on what happened in Mao’s famine:

Cannibalism occurred in many places. Among 41 production brigades in ten communes in Lixnia City, 588 people ate the remains of 337 others. In Hongtai Commune alone there were 170 people who ate 125 corpses as well as killing and eating five other people. Cannibalism occurred in six of the eight production teams of the Xiaogoumen brigade, with 23 households eating 57 people. In some cases individuals barbarously consumed their own parents, children, spouses and siblings…. In Qiezang Commune’s Tuanjie production brigade, a poor peasant couple, Ma Yibula and his wife, killed and ate their fourteen-year old daughter, and after Ma died, his wife ate him.

On and on it goes. I have little to say about the specific actions of those that I have listed that resorted to murder and cannibalism; my issue is with utilitarianism, an ethical theory of which some of its adherents would get out their calculators, determine that the greatest difference between pleasure and pain was reached by killing and eating people and judge that not only had nothing been done wrong, but that that the murderers were morally correct to act in the way that they did. While they ultimately only received a short sentence, it was right that Dudley and Stephens were found guilty of murder. If it is accurate that the two men on the run in Russia did indeed murder and eat a third man, then the fact that they are on the run is indicative that they might be aware that they have done wrong; they are not, at least at this stage, declaring that they acted for the greatest good for the greatest number.

Hat Tip: M.R.

Philosophers and bizarre thought experiments, No. 1

In Abortion, Philosophy, Thought Experiments on December 1, 2012 at 7:39 PM

I have an interest in bizarre thought experiments that philosophers invent in the ivory tower. This blog is named after such a thought experiment, one whereby people are not born with eyes but obtain them when they walk under an ocular tree.  Two favourites of mine of those of which I am aware were used by Judith Jarvis Thomson  in her seminal 1971 essay, “A Defense of Abortion.” One of them involved someone being kidnapped and a famous unconscious violinist being plugged into their body for the rest of their life. The other involves “people-seeds” that drift into someone’s house through an opened window, attach to the carpet and grow into a “person-plant.” While these thought experiments are created to provide a point, the sheer bizarreness of them makes one wonder what was going through the philosopher’s head at the time.

I have just come across some more thought experiments, these ones written by Jonathan Bennett and published in his book, The Act Itself, (Oxford University Press, 1995), pp.209-211. Bennett is discussing the distinction between the foreseeable and intended consequences of an act. Using a thought experiment relative to the debate on abortion, he says the following:

it does not stop us from thinking that the surgeon intends the child’s head to be crushed but does not intend it to die, for the crushing does not absolutely, conceptually entail the dying: there are worlds where God steps in and restores the ruined head to its former condition, and others where crushing a head is the first step in a helpful curative procedure.

So much for crushing heads, how about killing people by terror bombing?

I said that the [terror bombing] raid leader intended to kill civilians so as to lower enemy morale, but the truth is finer grained than that. Really, he intended only that the people’s bodies should be in a state that would cause a general belief that they were dead, this lasting long enough to shorten the war: nothing in that scheme requires that the dismaying condition of the bodies be permanent; so nothing in it requires that the people become downright dead rather than merely seemingly dead for a year or two.

Bennett is now is full absurdity mode:

…the arsonist who does not intend the building to be permanently destroyed, just that it be reduced to ashes long enough for the insurance company to pay up.

This, dear reader, is the sort of thing that is discussed in philosophy departments of some of the world’s leading universities.

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