Happy 75th Birthday to The Hobbit!

To celebrate the sixtyfifteenth birthday of J.R.R. Tolkien’s much-loved tale we’d like to give away a brand new advance copy of ‘The Hobbit and Philosophy’ publishing in November. You can read a free chapter here, right now, but just for fun we’d like to invite you to tell us, in the style of Tolkien, why we should give you our precious as a birthday present. The rules are as follows:

  1. One paragraph or less
  2. Posted in the comments field below
  3. Let’s keep it clean

The winner will be chosen by us based on originality, logical brilliance, hobbityness or just plain making the effort to have a go. The decision of the judges will be final. Competition closes October 5th. Good Luck.

The Big Lebowski and Philosophy – win a copy

The folks over at Dudeism.com (aka the Church of the Latter-Day Dude) are currently running a competition, offering fifty copies of the The Big Lebowski and Philosophy, a book which highlights the work of a man who many believe to be one of the foremost philosophical geniuses of our age.

Aspirants are entreated to go here and answer the question “What have you learned from The Big Lebowski?” to be in with a chance of winning.

This book could really tie your room together.

Take part in the Bioethics Forum ‘Reply All’ contest!

We’re looking for your short, sharp responses to two bioethics questions and a cartoon drawn by Eric Juengst. You can answer one, two, or all three with a serious or lighthearted reply. Entries are due by October 7. Read the Questions & Participate »

You can also vote on the finalists at The Hastings Center booth at ASBH, or right here at bioethicsforum.org.

The entries that receive the most votes will be published on Bioethics Forum and the authors of these responses will be entitled to a complementary individual subscription to the Hastings Center Report for one year.

Ludwig Wittgenstein Competition: ‘Wittgenstein Sixty Years On’

This spring marks 60 years since the death of Ludwig Wittgenstein on 29 April. A summary of events taking place over the next few months can be seen here.

To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the death of Wittgenstein, the BWS is running a competition. Write an essay or a poem of no more than 1500 words on the theme: ‘Wittgenstein Sixty Years On‘ . It can be a personal view or you might like to try your hand at a little pastiche of Wittgenstein’s writing. You could outdo Michael Frayn by producing your own affectionate tribute along the same lines: a piece that reads like Wittgenstein whilst evidently being something wittily different.

The winner will be invited to attend the BWS annual conference in Gregynog (see opposite) where they will read out their essay, poem or pastiche. A selection of entries will also be published on the website. The deadline is 15 June. Please send entries as email attachments to bws@herts.ac.uk. Entries will be judged by the Executive Committee. Results will be announced by end of June. (Prize includes conference registration fee, accommodation and all meals)

Will Science Beat Religion? And What are they Competing for?

In a recent interview with Diane Sawyer, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking said that, “There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.”  This statement is indicative of the on-going debate between science and religion.  In fact it seems to disclose a great many of the assumptions that underlie the debate.

The debate is hardly a new a one.  However, in its contemporary form many of the interlocutors, regardless of on which side their allegiance falls, agree about the fundamentals of the argument in Hawking’s quote.  For instance, that religion and science are in a competition; they seem to provide mutually exclusive answers to Continue reading “Will Science Beat Religion? And What are they Competing for?”

The competitive spirit

Christopher Hitchens takes to the pages of Newsweek to publish a glorious anti-Olympics rant.  The subtitle is the thesis:  “How the Olympics and other international competitions breed conflict and bring out the worst in human nature.”

Hitchens is too quick to declare the issue settled, but he’s on to something interesting.  What should moral philosophers– especially virtue ethicists– say about the character trait of competitiveness?  Hitchens is making the “vice” case:  excessive competitiveness can, indeed, bring out the worst in us.

There’s no doubt that the competitive spirit, allowed or encouraged to run amok, can have the terrible consequences Hitchens catalogs.  But the same can be said of uncontroversial virtues.  Generosity, allowed or encouraged to run amok, can lead to terrible outcomes.  Consider the excessively (or exclusively) generous person who might help a jonesing addict buy his next dose of heroin, or help a struggling thief carry a heavy painting away from a museum.

But what of a competitive spirit bounded by virtues like kindness, generosity, and perspective?  It seems to me that, bounded by other virtues, a competitive spirit might be revealed as a virtue.  It is, or can be, a major driver of self-improvement.  It is, or can be, the competitive spirit that drives the violinist to stay up late practicing in hopes of winning first chair.  It is, or can be, the competitive spirit that drives the inspiring sorts of achievement we sometimes see in events like the Olympics.

Related articles:

Kantian Virtue
By Anne Margaret Baxley, Washington University in St. Louis
(April 2007)
Philosophy Compass

Contemporary virtue ethics
By Karen Stohr, Georgetown University
(February 2006)
Philosophy Compass

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