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Interview with Richard Kraut

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• Is the world eternal? YES
• Do humans have contra-causal free will (i.e., can humans do otherwise)? NO
• Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? YES
• Do humans have souls? YES
• Are there natural rights? YES
• Is it morally permissible to eat meat? NO
• Is the unexamined life worth living? NO
• Is truth subjectivity? YES
• Is virtue necessary for happiness? YES
• Can a computer have a mind? YES
• Can humans know reality as it is in itself? YES
• Is hell other people? YES
• Can art be created accidentally? NO
• Can we change the past? NO
• Are numbers real? NO
• Is it always better to know the truth? YES

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Richard Kraut was a teacher of mine in grad school. He’s a very thoughtful, generous philosopher with views well worth hearing. There is an interview with him at 3:AM here, and it covers his views of ancient philosophy and the relevance of history generally to contemporary philosophy, as well as his views of contemporary moral theory. An excerpt:

[T]he conception of well-being that I favour is not a philosophical invention alien to common ways of thought – something that a philosopher dreamt up out of the blue. It is part of our conceptual framework that infants and children are beings that need to grow, and that this process is good for them. There are wonderful things that we experience in childhood, but Peter Pan to the contrary, refusing to grow up is not healthy.

Other theories of well-being simply overlook this aspect of our common normative framework. Rawls, for example, as I’ve noted, focuses on rational planning: what is good for us is to achieve the plan that we would adopt with full deliberative rationality. But infants and small children are not yet able to engage in the sophisticated intellectual activity we call planning. They can’t look for reasons to pursue this end rather than that. Yet it is undeniable that much that they do is good for them, much that they do is bad for them, and much that willy-nilly happens to them is good or bad for them. It can’t be the case that we have two different concepts of what is good for a human being – one of which is applicable to infants and small children, and the other of whic is applicable to later stages of life.

Of course, the things that are good for small children are different from the things that are good for adults. But there is only one relation here: the relation of being good for someone. I think that one point in favor of the developmental conception of well-being that I derive from Aristotle is that it recognises this unity.


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