Day on the Quad

Wednesday, August 31st is USU’s “Day on the Quad,” and Philosophy Club has reserved a booth (near the middle – stop by and say hi!). Does anyone have access to some sort of canopy we can borrow, to prevent philosophers’ brains from boiling while out in the sun?

Ethics Bowl 2016-17!

Ethics Bowl is sort of like debate. Teams from different schools present perspectives on contemporary moral problems, and they get points for being fair, responsible, and judicious. Students learn A LOT – about various interesting social problems, and also about presenting arguments and objections. More here.

If you think you might be interested in Ethics Bowl, send a note to me – charlie.huenemann(at) We’ll have an organizational meeting early in the fall, arrange for regular meeting times, and begin to prepare for the regional competition this fall! The top teams will go to the national competition in Dallas in February 2017.

2016 PST induction

Eight new members were inducted into the USU chapter of Phi Sigma Tau! Pictures here.

Good news for a couple of grads

Congratulations to Mathias Fuelling and Alex Tarbet! Mathias majored in philosophy at USU, has gone on to gain a Master’s degree in history here at USU, and will be going on to the PhD program in history at Temple University in Philadelphia – after a few weeks in Prague to learn more Czech. Alex also majored in philosophy, stayed on at USU to gain a second bachelor’s in history and complete his minor in classics, and will be going on to the PhD program in classics at the University of Michigan. Two great success stories!

No doubt I’m missing others – please let me know!

What can/should money buy?

Here is an interesting review of a book arguing that the good of using markets to help distribute goods outweighs the sometimes distasteful appearance of buying things that in some intuitive sense shouldn’t be bought.

I’ll explain a bit. Michael Sandel, in his book What Money Can’t Buy, argues (surprisingly) that there are some things money shouldn’t buy. Consider, for example, a service that writes personal, heartfelt speeches for best men to give at their pals’ weddings; or consider the companies that, for a tidy sum, will send someone over to apologize to someone on your behalf. Consider getting out of jury duty by paying someone else to serve in your stead, or selling U.S. citizenship, or selling organs, or blood. In many of these cases, there is a worry that putting such things up for sale corrupts our moral relations to other people, or simply provides unfair advantage to those with more money.

On the other hand, one of the most efficient ways to get goods to those who value them the most is to put price tags on them. The best man who pays a lot for a heartfelt speech is showing how much he cares by paying a lot; same for the person who apologizes by proxy; and so on. It may be that the presence of these price tags offends our moral sensibilities; but if those sensibilities are accidents of evolution or culture anyway, perhaps that offense is a “price” we should be willing to pay for a more efficient distribution of goods. As the authors write, “when there is a clash between [these intuitions] and consequences, consequences win.”


Amartya Sen to visit University of Utah

Next Friday (April 22). Details here.

Join the Philosophy Honor Society!

It is that time of year when we solicit applications from those wishing to join Phi Sigma Tau, the national honor society for philosophy. One needn’t be a major or a minor; one need only have been at USU for over a year, and have completed (or about to complete) at least 3 philosophy classes, with at least a “B” average. Well, that, and $25 for the national membership fee. More details here. Each spring we have a silly indoctrination ceremony, with plenty of philosophical phellowship and good cheer. Please contact Huenemann if you are interested in joining!