Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward







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Recent Posts


Simone de Beauvoir’s authentic love is a project of equals

Kate Kirkpatrick writes: The desires to love and be loved are, on Simone de Beauvoir’s view, part of the structure of human existence. Often, they go awry. But even so, she claimed, authentic love is not only possible but one of the most powerful tools available to individuals who want to be free. So what, exactly, is this authentic love? In The Second Sex (1949), Beauvoir argued that culture led

In untold numbers, animals are suffering and dying, and we are either partly or wholly responsible

Jeff Sebo writes: At the time of writing, Australia is on fire. The fires have killed at least 25 humans and more than a billion animals. Animals such as koalas are especially at risk, since their normal response to threats – climbing to the tops of trees – leaves them vulnerable in the case of fire. As a result, an estimated 25,000 koalas have died and many more will die

A farmed animal is someone not something

Lori Marino writes: We’ve all heard them and used them – the common references to farmed animals that appeal to the worst part of human nature: ‘pearls before swine’, ‘what a pig’, ‘like lambs to the slaughter’, ‘bird brain’. These phrases represent our species’ view of farmed animals as not particularly bright, uncaring about their treatment or fate, and generally bland and monolithic in their identities. My team of researchers

Pope Francis: Catechism will be updated to define ecological sins

America magazine reports: Following through on a proposal made at the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, Pope Francis said there are plans to include a definition of ecological sins in the church’s official teaching. “We should be introducing — we were thinking — in the Catechism of the Catholic Church the sin against ecology, ecological sin against the common home,” he told participants at a conference on criminal justice

How Trump operates above the law and outside ethical standards — even those he set for himself

The New York Times reports: The rules are clear for nearly everyone who works in the executive branch: Officials are prohibited from playing even a minor role in a decision that directly creates a financial benefit for the employee or the employee’s immediate family. But those rules do not apply to the president and vice president, the only executive branch officials who are exempt from a criminal statute and a

As Amazon fires burn, Pope convenes meeting on the rainforests and moral obligation to protect them

Georgina Gustin reports: Pope Francis convened nearly 200 bishops, climate experts and indigenous people from the Amazon on Sunday for an unprecedented meeting in Rome to discuss the fate of the Amazonian rainforests and the world’s moral obligation to protect them. The meeting, or Synod, is the first of its kind to address an ecosystem, rather than a particular region or theme. It comes as fires continue to consume the

The fast track to a life well lived is gratefulness

By David DeSteno For the Ancient Greeks, virtue wasn’t a goal in and of itself, but rather a route to a life well lived. By being honest and generous, embodying diligence and fortitude, showing restraint and kindness, a person would flourish – coming to live a life filled with meaning and finding an enduring, as opposed to ephemeral, happiness. Today, that view hasn’t much changed. While we hear plenty of

Hunter Biden and the corrupt culture of influence-peddling that has long been deemed socially acceptable

Sarah Chayes writes: How did this get to be standard practice? The whistle-blower scandal that has prompted the fourth presidential impeachment process in American history has put a spectacle from earlier this decade back on display: the jaw-smacking feast of scavengers who circled around Ukraine as Viktor Yanukovych, a Moscow-linked kleptocrat, was driven from power. Ukraine’s crisis was the latest to energize a club whose culture has come to be

Climate change is morally wrong. It is time for a carbon abolition movement

Eric Beinhocker writes: Human-induced climate change is a moral wrong. It involves one group of humans harming others. People of this generation harming those in future generations. People in the developed world harming those in the developing world. Each of us is emitting carbon that is harming those caught in climate-driven superstorms, floods, droughts and conflicts. And there’s the greatest moral wrong of all – the mass extinction event we

Vegans are right about ethics and the environment

Farhad Manjoo writes: Many of us, myself included, engage in painless, performative environmentalism. We’ll give up plastic straws and tweet passionately that someone should do something about the Amazon, yet few of us make space in our worldview to acknowledge the carcass in the room: the irrefutable evidence that our addiction to meat is killing the planet right before our eyes. After all, it takes only a few minutes of

Jeffrey Epstein hoped to seed the human race with his own DNA

The New York Times reports: Jeffrey E. Epstein, the wealthy financier who is accused of sex trafficking, had an unusual dream: He hoped to seed the human race with his DNA by impregnating women at his vast New Mexico ranch. Mr. Epstein over the years confided to scientists and others about his scheme, according to four people familiar with his thinking, although there is no evidence that it ever came

The Bible says to welcome refugees

A new Trump ruling will prohibit virtually all Central American migrants from seeking asylum in the United States. AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell By Mathew Schmalz, College of the Holy Cross The Trump administration will stop accepting asylum applications from migrants who could have claimed asylum in a different country before entering the U.S., it announced on July 15. The new interim immigration rule upends a 60-year-old policy that protects refugees from

White evangelicals, ignoring the Bible, are least likely to say U.S. should accept refugees

Stephen Johnson writes: It might seem like non-religious people would be most likely to say the U.S. doesn’t have a responsibility to accept refugees. After all, nonbelievers don’t follow a unified doctrine that explicitly tells followers to offer love, shelter and compassion to foreigners — you know, like Christians do. For example, the Bible states: Leviticus 19:34 — “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the

Trump’s concentration camps

Charles M Blow writes: I have often wondered why good people of good conscience don’t respond to things like slavery or the Holocaust or human rights abuse. Maybe they simply became numb to the horrific way we now rarely think about or discuss the men still being held at Guantánamo Bay without charge or trial, and who may as well die there. Maybe people grow weary of wrestling with their

Most people seem to value integrity more than money

The Guardian reports: Here’s a moral dilemma: if you find a wallet stuffed with bank notes, do you pocket the cash or track down the owner to return it? We can each speak for ourselves, but now a team of economists have put the unsuspecting public to the test in a mass social experiment involving 17,000 “lost” wallets in 40 countries. They found that a majority of people returned the

GOP lawmakers are quietly turning against the death penalty

Madeleine Carlisle writes: David Welch’s wife died on Christmas Day 2016. He doesn’t remember much of what happened that next year. But in the grips of grief, he came to a fundamental realization, he told me: The death penalty is “just morally wrong.” Welch has served as a Republican in the New Hampshire state House for more than three decades. For most of that time, he had consistently voted to