Interview: Animalkind – What We Owe to Animals

Are you an animal lover if you dote on your cat but then happily tuck into a plate of chicken or pig? Do horses and apes have equal rights to humans? We spoke with Jean Kazez author of Animalkind: What We Owe to Animals about her exploration into the ethical tensions between animals and humans.

The Philosopher’s Eye: Why did you decide to write Animalkind?

Jean Kazez: I got the idea to write this book when I was working on my first book, The Weight of Things: Philosophy and the Good Life (Blackwell 2007).  There are a few pages in there about what it is for animals to live good lives.  I wanted to write more about that–“The Good Life for Dogs,” maybe? As I got started, the subject gradually changed. The truth is, billions of animals in the world are living very bad lives as a result of human decisions.  I wound up writing a book that’s about animal lives, but also about our decisions. Continue reading “Interview: Animalkind – What We Owe to Animals”

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Interview: Comic Relief – A Comprehensive Philosophy of Humor

What makes something funny? John Morreall has been studying humor for more than 25 years and, as well as being a professor of religious studies at the College of William & Mary, he is the author of Comic Relief: A Comprehensive Philosophy of Humor. We were lucky enough to catch up with John recently, and he told us about his long term interest in the subject, and explored some of the themes in his book.

The Philosopher’s Eye: Why did you decide to write Comic Relief?

John Morreall: I’ve been teaching and writing about humor since the early 1980s.  My book Taking Laughter Seriously came out in 1983, and then my anthology The Philosophy of Laughter and Humor in 1987.  Since then my thinking about humor has matured, so I wanted to refine old ideas and articulate new ones.  The big idea I wanted to work out in this book is that humor is a kind of play.  Play is an essential part of life, but it gets very little attention from philosophers.  Analyzing humor as a kind of play generates insights into its value and also fits well with current scientific thought about the evolution of laughter. Continue reading “Interview: Comic Relief – A Comprehensive Philosophy of Humor”

Interview: Who Owns You? The Corporate Gold Rush to Patent Your Genes

Surely you own your own genes, don’t you? Think again. Presently, more than one-fifth of the human genome is fully patented. Corporations and universities now own the exclusive rights to many precious parts of you. We spoke to David R. Koepsell, author of Who Owns You? The Corporate Gold Rush to Patent Your Genes about what led him to write about the realities and implications of gene patenting.

Philosopher’s Eye: Why did you decide to write Who Owns You?

David Koepsell: One of my major research topics over the years has been the philosophical aspects of intellectual property. My first book, The Ontology of Cyberspace (Open Court 2000) explored the nature of IP in computerized media. I had been doing some reading on the Human Genome Project and was astounded to learn that genes had begun to be patented during the HGP, and well afterwards. Continue reading “Interview: Who Owns You? The Corporate Gold Rush to Patent Your Genes”

Interview: Meaning and Mystery: What it Means to Believe in God

We recently caught up with David Holley, author of Meaning and Mystery: What it Means to Believe in God. David talks about his motivations for writing, and something unusual about his writing style…

Philosopher’s Eye: Why did you decide to write Meaning and Mystery: What it Means to Believe in God?

David Holley: The beginnings of the book go back to an experience of listening to a very bright high school senior talk about how he was trying to decide whether to continue believing in God. The young man had grown up in a church environment, but had come to the point where he thought he needed to decide things for himself. The type of reasoning he pursued would be familiar Continue reading “Interview: Meaning and Mystery: What it Means to Believe in God”

Interview: What Is Nanotechnology and Why Does It Matter?

We recently interviewed Fritz Allhoff, co-author (along with Patrick Lin and nanoscientist Daniel Moore) of What Is Nanotechnology and Why Does It Matter?: From Science to Ethics. Fritz talks about his motivations for writing, and the unique approach of the book.

Philosopher’s Eye: Why did you decide to write What Is Nanotechnology…?

Fritz Allhoff: Back in 2004, my colleague Patrick (Pat) Lin and I started nanoethics.org, a non-partisan group that provided a forum for social and ethical implications of nanotechnology. Our previous work had been in applied ethics—particularly the ethics of emerging technologies—and nanotechnology was beginning to draw a lot of attention. We got funding from the US National Science Foundation for some of our work, and this monograph emerged from that grant.

PE: What makes this area interesting to you? Continue reading “Interview: What Is Nanotechnology and Why Does It Matter?”