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The FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile is the sort of ‘lethal defensive weapon’ the US may consider supplying to Ukraine. Wikimedia Commons/US Army

Purely ‘defensive weapons’? There’s no such thing for Ukraine or anywhere else

Barack Obama is considering supplying "lethal defensive weapons" to Ukraine. But how meaningful is that description? There are simply "weapons", all of which can be used for defence or for aggression.
The Allied bombing of Dresden, which killed 25,000 civilians, during the Second World War is but one example of state terrorism. German Federal Archive

When talking about terrorism, let’s not forget the other kind

To overcome the kind of relativism captured by the cliché “one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter”, we need to define terrorism independently of who is employing it. Here is the definition…
The tragedies of ancient Greece underpin Nietzsche’s understanding of what it means to be an artist. Hans Runge/Flickr

Living life as an artist: Nietzsche on creativity

Love or loathe him, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) offered a unique way of considering creativity in his first major work, The Birth of Tragedy, published in 1872. Competing creative energies…
Australians don’t like the death penalty – we just don’t want the discomfort of having to care about the people it’s applied to. EPA/Made Nagi

The Bali Nine, and how not to argue for the death penalty

Barring some sort of last-minute miracle, two relatively young Australian men, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, are going to be killed by the Indonesian state. They will not be the first to die this way…
Stéphane Charbonnier’s Charlie Hebdo offended people of all religions, but when does causing offence become unethical? EPA/Yoan Valat

How do we decide if offending someone is unethical or not?

Causing offence to others often causes hurt. Such actions have been condemned as unethical, even immoral behaviour in a civilised society. There have been many examples. The Bill Henson photographs of…
When violence erupts, we can be tempted to make judgements about collective responsibility based on our own allegiances, rather than consistent moral principles. EPA/Ian Langsdon

Charlie Hebdo attack: when should we hold a group responsible for a member’s evil?

When should we hold a group morally responsible for a member’s evil? In the wake of the Charlie Hedbo attacks, many will demand answers about Islam’s role in promoting violence. As we brace for the inevitable…
To Tolkien, the machine represents a means to attain power over others. His orcs – deformed and ugly creatures, whose hands are sometimes replaced with weapons – embody this lust for power. LOTR Wikia

Tolkien and the machine

My grandfather was a carpenter, and I don’t think he ever developed much of a sense of trust in machines. I remember him laboring away at our home one summer, transforming our screened-in porch into a…
Prepare children to think. mezzoblue

Why there should be a philosophy GCSE

Our world is built on ideas. We have ideas about how science should be conducted, how a liberal society should defend itself, how discussion is better than conflict, how far toleration should be extended…
It’s World Philosophy Day today, a good time to consider the tougher questions about our lives. Jef Safi/Flickr

Love, wisdom and wonder: three reasons to celebrate philosophy

Today is UNESCO World Philosophy Day, a day aimed to “underline the enduring value of philosophy for the development of human thought, for each culture and for each individual”. However, it was not so…
The dead can’t be insulted by our failure to honour them. Bob Prosser

It’s Remembrance Day, so what do we owe the dead?

Remembrance Day is an occasion when people are supposed to remember and honour those who died in their nation’s wars. But why should we believe that this obligation exists? The dead are dead. They can’t…
The shocking brutality of the first world war has had ongoing consequences. Archives New Zealand

Did ‘high ideals’ survive the first world war?

US philosopher William H.F. Altman will deliver the keynote address at Crisis and Reconfigurations: 100 years of European Thought Since 1914, a conference hosted by the European Philosophy and the History…
There are many different conceptions of God, and endless questions. Waiting For The Word

We don’t know if God exists, but we should keep asking

Disputes about the existence of God — like most disputes about religion, politics, and sex — almost always generate heat but not light. The question of the existence of God seems intractable. As with other…
Movies such as Matrix Revolutions are explicit about their desire to make us think. AAP Image/Warner Brothers/Village Roadshow Films

Thought experiments: the films that turn us into philosophers

Showbusiness is about entertainment, right? Film-going should be fun. We want to laugh or squeal or sigh as emotion arises in us when the music swells and the camera zooms in for an extreme close up…
Does an education in everyday ethics really require an understanding of moral philosophy? Jef Safi/Flickr

Why moral education should involve moral philosophy

Ethics are increasingly a part of the school curriculum, and practical introductory classes in applied ethics are part of the training that nurses, scientists and soldiers undergo. Ethical education is…
Philosophy begins, as Aristotle remarked, with curiosity and wonder. kozumel

Free your mind – but are there ideas we shouldn’t contemplate?

You’re a free thinker – congratulations – but does that mean you can, and should, approach everything with an open mind? Let me try to convince you you shouldn’t. I do not want to argue with him: he shows…
Good moral character comes from practice. Moyan Brenn

Happy days: virtue isn’t just for sanctimonious do-gooders

When we think of morally upright, virtuous citizens, do we imagine boring do-gooders? Is the idea of being virtuous out-dated and old-fashioned? Or is “being virtuous” still something we should aspire…

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