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🔢 Key Takeaways

  1. Children have a natural curiosity and inclination towards philosophy, which adults can learn from. Scott Hershovitz encourages questioning beliefs, considering the art of thinking and explores thought-provoking topics such as revenge, retribution, employment systems, and justice.
  2. Philosophy is not just for academics - it helps us think critically and consider alternative perspectives. Incorporating philosophy into our daily lives can lead to more meaningful conversations and a better society.
  3. The study of law and philosophy can illuminate complex legal issues and ethical questions, as demonstrated through real-life legal cases, offering unique insights and perspectives.
  4. While resentment is a natural response to mistreatment, seeking revenge can be dangerous. Legal avenues provide a means of ensuring accountability and preventing messy situations. It's crucial to live in a world where violence is not tolerated, regardless of social status.
  5. When addressing public wrongdoing, institutions have a responsibility to uphold community norms and perpetrators must be willing to apologize and make amends. Moving on from toxic relationships is a valid option for prioritizing personal wellbeing.
  6. Forgiveness is beneficial for emotional wellbeing but it's important to ensure that apologies are sincere and not just fake gestures. Taylor Swift's approach of leaving negativity behind is commendable.
  7. Insincere apologies can still serve a purpose in social interactions and legal systems can be used to reset social norms and reject harmful messages.
  8. Harsh punishment may work, but it's vital to treat children and prisoners with respect and focus on rehabilitation. Treating people like animals isn't worth the supposed deterrent effect.
  9. Emotions can cloud judgment, but it's important to understand and respect them. Encouraging philosophical thinking from a young age can lead to better decision-making in the future.
  10. Children have the ability to engage in philosophical thinking, but parents and mainstream education may not always recognize this. Prioritizing philosophy as a valuable aspect of life can lead to better decision-making and a deeper understanding of the world.
  11. Philosophy can provide a fresh perspective on work dynamics, offering new insights and inspiring change. It can help us recognize and challenge systems of oppression and promote a healthier balance of power within organizations.
  12. Providing basic income, healthcare, and workplace governance can give employees the freedom to choose to not work for abusive employers. Limiting at-will employment and promoting workers' basic needs can promote freedom in the American workplace.
  13. Scott Hershovitz urges for a better balance between diverse needs to prioritize morally acceptable relationships. Institutions need to treat individuals as people and acknowledge their dignity and equality in the workplace.
  14. Philosophy is for everyone and educators should strive to make it accessible.
  15. Encouraging philosophy education can provide valuable insights into making the world more just. The Secretary of Philosophy should support it, and the White House needs a dissenting view to ensure clear reasoning in policy decisions.
  16. Incorporating philosophical ways of thinking and discussing philosophical ideas can benefit decision-makers in various fields. Conversations about philosophical concepts can lead to a deeper understanding, as exemplified by Scott Hershovitz's book inspired by exploring philosophical ideas with his children.

📝 Podcast Notes

The Art of Thinking: Why Children are Natural Philosophers

In a discussion with Freakonomics Radio Book Club, Scott Hershovitz, a philosopher of law, talks about his new book Adventures in Philosophy With My Kids and how he believes children are natural philosophers. He urges adults to question their beliefs about the world and consider the art of thinking. Despite having a law degree and doctorate in the philosophy of law, Hershovitz feels his wife, a social worker, is doing more good in the world. He also discusses topics such as revenge, retribution, employment systems, and justice with references to Will Smith and Taylor Swift.

The Importance of Philosophy in Today's World

Philosophy is the art of thinking, tackling questions that come naturally to children using methods that come naturally to lawyers. Philosophy can help us imagine alternative possibilities and make the world a better place. It has lost its standing in society over the years but it is still relevant to everyone, even if they don't see themselves as engaged in philosophy. Philosophy can be applied to any topic, such as assessing whether our relationships with institutions are morally acceptable. By making philosophy accessible to all, we can start having more philosophical conversations in our everyday lives and work towards a better future.

The Intersection of Law and Philosophy: Insights and Perspectives

The use of obscene language can be inconsistent and arbitrary. The philosophy of law can be used to analyze and understand complex legal issues, such as the responsibility for causing injury to others. Legal cases can provide real-life illustrations of ethical questions and philosophical concepts. For example, Alcorn v. Mitchell can demonstrate the legal consequences of malicious behavior and the concept of retaliation by force. The study of law and philosophy can mutually benefit each other, offering unique insights and perspectives.

Legal institutions like tort law and criminal law exist to take the side of the victim, vindicating their social status and preventing the impetus to take revenge. The emotion of resentment is self-protective in protesting mistreatment and asserting self-respect. However, revenge seeking can quickly become messy and dangerous, while legal avenues provide a means of ensuring that perpetrators are held accountable. The Will Smith slapping incident at the Oscars was disappointing, as it conveyed the message that physical assault is acceptable for those with high status. It is important that we live in a world where such behavior is not tolerated.

Institutions' Responsibility in Public Wrongdoing and Moving On from Toxic Relationships

In cases of public wrongdoing, institutions have a responsibility to uphold community norms and stand up for victims. The Academy's decision to bar Will Smith from attending the Oscars for 10 years was an appropriate consequence for his behavior. However, the road to redemption depends on the perpetrator's willingness to apologize and make amends. It is not always necessary to forgive and forget; sometimes moving on is the best option. Toxic relationships do not necessarily merit forgiveness. Instead, individuals can choose to become indifferent and prioritize their own wellbeing.

The Importance of Forgiveness and Sincere Apologies

Forgiveness may be merited if a sincere apology is given and the person disassociates themselves from their disrespectful behavior. However, just because someone apologizes does not necessarily mean they regret their actions fully. Taylor Swift's attitude of taking control of her own life and leaving behind negativity is commendable. It is important for individuals to forgive for their own emotional wellbeing but it is ultimately their decision. Bill Miller's book Faking It discusses the numerous ways people can fake an apology, making it challenging to determine their sincerity.

Insincere apologies can serve a purpose in social interactions, according to philosopher Scott Hershovitz. By accepting a second insincere apology, you can still achieve the goal of the interaction and bring the wrongdoer low. Hershovitz also highlights how legal systems can be used to reset social norms, as demonstrated by Taylor Swift's lawsuit against a man who groped her. Swift's suit asked the court to reject the message sent by the man's groping and establish that her body is not public property. The verdict sent a clear message that hands off anyone's body without their consent. Hershovitz's book title, Nasty, Brutish, and Short, comes from philosopher Thomas Hobbes' description of life without government, but Hershovitz uses the phrase to describe life with little kids who can often be unpleasant.

The importance of respecting human dignity in punishment.

The punishment of kids can lead to thinking about punishment of adults. While harsh punishment of kids could be instrumentally effective, it is important to respect their humanity. Similarly, treating prisoners disrespectfully is treating our own humanity as something that's easily lost. Despite evidence of the deterrent effect of subhuman prisons, I wouldn't be willing to do it at the price of treating human beings like animals. Instead, it's important to focus on rehabilitation and respect for human dignity even in the face of horrific crimes.

Honoring Emotions and Restraint in Criminal Justice Reform

Scott Hershovitz believes that society should find ways to constrain understandable emotions people have when they face significant injury or their loved ones are injured. He thinks that restraint needs to be honored while suggesting criminal justice reforms, and we need to speak respectfully to those who see the present state of affairs as a proper response, honoring the emotions that make them feel that way. According to Hershovitz, every kid is a philosopher, and we need to find ways to ensure that they continue to be so as they grow up because they are naturally philosophical in their approach to the world.

Recognizing and Encouraging Children's Philosophical Inquiries

Children are capable of sophisticated philosophical thinking, and parents should recognize and encourage their philosophical inquiries. Anecdotal evidence from philosopher Gareth Matthews reveals that children's reasoning is parallel to that of the cosmological argument for the existence of God. However, parents may not always recognize their children's philosophical inquiries as such, and philosophical education may be lacking in mainstream education. While it may be true that life's demands can push individuals towards utilitarianism, it is important to recognize and prioritize philosophical thinking as a valuable and necessary aspect of life.

The Transformative Power of Philosophy in the Workplace

Philosophy can help us see the world differently and imagine different possibilities, even in the workplace. Elizabeth Anderson's book, Private Government, highlights that the oppressive government most of us interact with is not the state but our employers. Doing philosophy can help us recapture the sense of puzzlement we had as children. It can also offer insights into the world and reveal new possibilities. Hershovitz argues that all employees should have some form of protection or tenure, not just professors. This would require a paradigm shift and rethinking of our work relationships. Ultimately, the question of authority is at the heart of these issues, and philosophy can help us navigate them.

The Ethics of the Employment Relationship

The employment relationship between boss and employee is often based on coercion, making it an unethical practice. Most employees don't have a genuine option to exit a job due to their need for basic resources and healthcare. However, providing a basic income and healthcare could give workers a realistic choice to walk away from an abusive employer and make their consent to be in that job count for something. To make the relationship between employer and employee morally acceptable, limiting at-will employment and giving workers a role in workplace governance could also be considered. Providing for people's basic needs promotes freedom and the American workplace should seriously disturb those who care about freedom.

Restructuring Society for Morally Acceptable Relationships

Scott Hershovitz suggests that we need to restructure our society to prioritize morally acceptable relationships and work towards creating a better balance between the needs of firms, employees, customers, and shareholders. He believes that other countries have struck this balance differently and we have room to do the same. However, he worries that economic concerns have dominated our public conversation, and we have lost sight of concerns related to dignity and equality of individuals in the workplace. Institutions need to stop seeing people as assets and contacts and start treating them as individuals to address the frustrations of modern life. It is time to change the way our society is arranged, and it starts with acknowledging everyone as a person.

Scott Hershovitz teaches philosophy in an engaging and fun way

Scott Hershovitz, a philosophy and law professor at the University of Michigan, has written the book 'Nasty, Brutish and Short: Adventures in Philosophy With My Kids' to introduce people to real philosophers, and teach them about their work in an engaging and fun way. Even though the book is not aimed at an academic audience and has been written to appeal to a broad audience, Hershovitz is committed to not dumbing anything down. He believes that speaking to a broad audience is necessary for philosophy to matter in people’s lives, and it's a trade-off he's willing to make even if some of his colleagues think he is less serious. Philosophers are eager to engage with the world today, and need to speak to a broad audience to make a difference.

The Importance of Philosophy Education in Policy Decision Making

Encouraging philosophy education as part of the Department of Education can be a valuable activity for people. Exposure to philosophy may not guarantee better decision making, but it is a rich resource for understanding how to make the world more just. Philosophy should have a seat at the table in policy shops, even in realms such as crime and punishment. The role of the Secretary of Philosophy should be to support philosophy education across the board, similar to the foundational pillars of a successful society like agriculture. Additionally, there should be someone in the White House who can offer a dissenting view or play devil’s advocate.

The Value of Philosophy in Decision-Making

Philosophical ways of thinking and understanding the history of philosophical ideas can be valuable in decision-making processes related to wars, agriculture, or any other fields. Scott Hershovitz, a philosopher, encourages the incorporation of philosophy in various aspects and believes that it can benefit decision-makers. He also emphasizes the importance of having conversations about philosophical ideas to gain a deeper understanding. Furthermore, he shares his experience of exploring philosophical concepts with his children and how it led to the creation of his book, Nasty, Brutish, and Short: Adventures in Philosophy with My Kids.