Friday, August 24, 2012

Should we assume that Lance Armstrong is doping?

Today, the news came out that Lance Armstrong is no longer going to fight allegations made by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) that he used performance enhancing drugs. The USADA says they want to strip him of his Tour de France titles but they don’t necessarily have the authority to do so. Armstrong, who maintains his innocence, says that there is no point in fighting a corrupt organization and promises to sue them if they continue to make false claims about him.

For cycling fans this is a big deal. Philosophically, though, we have to ask whether his refusing to fight suggests some sort of guilt and what kind of evidence is necessary to establish his guilt (f there is any). These were the topic of an excellent discussion I had with friends on Facebook. Instead of writing a new blog entry, I’m offering-up the transcript for your reading pleasure.

It seems rare to have a good, calm, thoughtful conversation on Facebook. No one gets mad, no one insults anyone else, and although there is some playfulness and anger at the beginning, it clams down very quickly into a real interaction. I offer this is a model of what a difficult and often philosophical conversation might look like on a social network. (I’m proud of my friends!) Feel free to add your own two cents in the comments section.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Can a single person intentionally change language?

 I recently posted the following message on Facebook:

I would like to announce that I have invented a new euphemism for sex: Sheboygan. Proper use: "woo hee, that is one sexy upper-Midwesterner. I sure would like to take her to Sheboygan."

The word is gender neutral (containing both 'she' and 'boy') and has the added quality of sounding like a Yiddish word used by vaudevillians.

Other examples: {sorry I didn't answer your text, we were on a trip to Sheboygan."


‘It was really disappointing, I thought the trip to Sheboygan would take all night, but we got there sooner than expected.’

What started as a joke is now a genuine question for me. Can I, someone with a relatively small audience, inspire widespread use of a new term?

Monday, August 20, 2012

New feature: ask PQED a question!

PQED is trying out a new feature. Inspired by the success of Yo, Is This Racist and Savage Love, two of our favorite ways to pass some time, we’re going to answer reader questions in the blog itself. Silly or serious, personal or political (or both, as the feminists will tell us), we’ll try to make philosophy out of them. We won’t get to them all, but we’ll try our best.

So, send your questions to And with enough luck, maybe Jack will get to be the guest philosopher on Dan Savage’s advice show. Why dream if you can't dream big?

Should a person be fired over a single joke?

Last week, Gregory Sullivan, a professor at the United States Merchant Marine Academy, set up a movie for his class to watch. As he walked out, he told the class that “if someone with orange hair appears in the corner of the room, run for the exit.” This, of course, is a reference to the shootings at the Aurora, Colorado screening of The Dark Knight Rises. It turns out, though, that one of Sullivan’s students lost his father in the shootings – a fact the teacher likely knew – and left the room upset. It looks as if Sullivan will be fired for making the joke. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Is “slut-shaming” immoral?

This afternoon, I walked away from a (now deleted) Facebook thread that came to the bizarre conclusion that it is okay to be a white supremacist or wear a Nazi swastikas, but that it is immoral to "slut-shame." I don't think the first part of that statement necessitates comment, but the question of slut-shaming is actually fairly interesting. Is this something people shouldn't do?

Monday, August 13, 2012

WHY? Goes to China! A Special Radio Event

In May, 2012, WHY? was invited to China to take a look around, interview who we could find, and take a fresh look at a country that seems to be blamed for all of America's problems. The result: a half-dozen shows with guests ranging from Chinese college students to four African musicians trying to make it big in Shanghai. What is it like to be an expatriate living in China and do they have more freedom than Chinese nationals? What can we learn from the principal of an elite Chinese private high school? What is the state of environmentalism in the polluted country and how much hold does Confucius's philosophy have over the country and its politicians? All these questions and more will be answered when WHY? goes to China!