The Conversation

By Woojin Lim and Daniel Shin

Courting Controversy

On April 20, 2020, a group of philosophers officially began accepting article submissions for the Journal of Controversial Ideas, an open-access and peer-reviewed journal designed to promote academic freedom. It offers “a forum for careful, rigorous, unpolemical [sic] discussion of issues that are widely considered controversial, in the sense that certain views about them might be regarded by many people as morally, socially, or ideologically objectionable or offensive.”

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Ethics for the End of the World

Moral duties have been traditionally framed in reference to individuals, not institutions. Large bureaucracies such as corporations, states, and universities tend to take the separation of ethics and politics for granted. After all, the dominant intellectual framework for decision-makers at the highest levels of these institutions is an amoral calculation of what actions best serve the institution’s ends. Morality is often pushed aside in favor of popular support and self-interest.

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Trump and the Trolley Problem

Often smuggled into modern introductory courses in normative ethics, the “trolley problem” is an infamous thought experiment that originated in the writings of philosopher Philippa R. Foot. A simple rundown — no pun intended — of the moral dilemma is as follows. Fatefully, you are the driver of a runaway tram that will strike and kill five people unless you redirect it onto another track where it will kill only one workman. Morally speaking, what ought you do?

Another version of the trolley problem takes place in the surgery room. Imagine that you are a doctor who can kill a healthy patient to obtain his body parts and save several other patients from dying. Should you kill the healthy patient or spare him? What is the right answer, if any?

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The Right Way to Eat an Oreo

Since its inception in 1912, “Milk’s Favorite Cookie” has been around for over a hundred years, dominating CVS store shelves, and serving as the go-to snack for comp meetings, social gatherings, and late-night study sessions. The Oreo cookie has come in glossy blue packaging, in limited editions and countless varieties, with thick and thin stuffings, with flavors like birthday cake and lemon twist, and with bright colors of all sorts.

Despite its enticing packaging and crunchy savoriness, the vegan two-wafered cookie has given rise to heated debates between friends and family members, angry Redditors, YouTube commenters, and banterful Crimson Editorial editors. Each person has their own way of answering the question, “What is the right way to eat an Oreo?”

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Forgetting Art

If you visit an art museum today, chances are you will find throngs of visitors huddled around some famous oil painting or a provocative piece of sculpture, taking pictures of it with their smartphones or posing with their buddies for selfies to post online.

There is nothing inherently wrong about documenting one’s visit to an art museum by photographing an artwork one found to be particularly memorable. But many visitors today seem more interested in taking photos of a cool-looking Miró, or smiling with their friends for a social media post with a Monet, than in standing back to contemplate and enjoy the artwork for its own sake.

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