Traditionally, morality and the question of right and wrong have been the province of religion. More and more people do not identify as religious or follow a particular religious teaching. Useful for consideration: Aristotle's Virtue Ethics, Moral Relativism, Abraham Lincoln's essay on the importance of upholding the law, Martin Luther King's Letters from a Birmingham Jail, Utilitarianism, Deontology, Kant's universal law.
As we improve our understanding of the human brain and the human body, we get closer to the ability to repair it like we would any other machine. With that, we also start to look at the source of consciousness and self, what has been often called the soul. Consider what would happen if an entire person, all of their memories and neurons and physical characteristics at a subatomic level, could be simulated or "uploaded" to a computer system.
In theory, a sufficient understanding of genetics, and the technology to implement that understanding, could lead to the ability to create custom people. CRISPR-Cas9 has delivered significant successes in genetic engineering, including human experiments in China in which a scientist used the technology to alter human embryos to remove a disease-causing gene sequence.
Prison reform has been a subject of debate for many years now, and there has been a lot of discussion, especially in the past year or so, about what role prison is really supposed to fill. Is it punishment? Disincentive? Reform tool? Protection for society? These debates are not new; similar conversations have been occurring at least as far back as the days of Mesopotamia. In a way, it's probably a problem and a debate that comes along with the existence of society - wherever there is society, there will be those who do not obey its strictures (for whatever reason).
We've talked a bit about statistics before. Sometimes, it seems that our modern society has a numbers fetish. Every argument seems to come down exclusively to data, decisions are made based on data, and the world turns on enormous quantities of data (I really should do a post on "Big Data" and its implications). All of that data is presented in the form of statistics, but statistics can be made to say almost anything.
Artificial intelligence continues to advance at a rapid pace, and some experts predict that we could have some form of a conscious computer in less than a century. In the last Sententia discussion, we considered the biological definition of life. This expands on that idea, and brings in definitions of "consciousness" and "sentience."
The search for extra-terrestrial life tends to focus on the requirements for life on Earth: carbon, oxygen, liquid water, and so forth. There are arguments that support the idea that any life would have similar needs. Yet there are also arguments that life could be so alien that we might not even recognize it as life. Indeed, the biological definition of life can be interpreted to include things like stars, which are generally not considered "alive."
Ayn Rand suggests that we are fundamentally selfish creatures, and that such selfishness is not a bad thing (we touched briefly on this in our Pride post). Her philosophy of objectivism argues that even an act of apparent charity is at its core a selfish act, a moral transaction of sorts - the recompense you receive for your "selfless" act on another's behalf is the sense of satisfaction or boost in reputation which you experience as a result.
Orwell, author of 1984, wrote an essay decrying the decay of the English language. Specifically, he lamented that when most people go to write or converse, they rely on stock phrases which they stich together into different patterns, rather than developing original content.
I am excited to announce that for 2021, IGC Publishing will be hosting a Sententia discussion series. This is something that I've wanted to do for quite some time, and have attempted before in various formats to varying degrees of success, so hopefully this forum will help finally promote the concept. Twice a month, I will post a "Sententia" here on the site, and it will be open for comments and discussion, the idea being to foster original thought and productive conversation about complex, relevant, and interesting topics.