012: Ep8 – Selfish Ethics?

Philosophy Bakes Bread radio show and podcast

Photo of Dr. Shane Courtland.This eighth episode of the Philosophy Bakes Bread radio show and podcast features an interview with Dr. Shane Courtland of West Virginia University, on “Selfish Ethics?,” or better “Self-interested Ethics.”

Iconic artwork from Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan, a text that was a great inspiration for this episode's guest, Dr. Shane Courtland.

Dr. Courtland is the leading director of the Center for Free Entreprise at Western Virginia University. His forthcoming book, Hobbesian Applied Ethics and Public Policy, will come out with Routledge Press in 2017. Listen for our “You Tell Me!” questions and for some jokes in one of our concluding segments, called “Philosophunnies.” Reach out to us on Facebook @PhilosophyBakesBread and on Twitter @PhilosophyBB; email us at philosophybakesbread@gmail.com; or call and record a voicemail that we play on the show, at 859.257.1849. Philosophy Bakes Bread is a production of the Society of Philosophers in America (SOPHIA). Check us out online at PhilosophyBakesBread.com and check out SOPHIA at PhilosophersInAmerica.com.



(1 hr 13 mins)

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  1. Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan is one of many classic texts available for free online at the Project Gutenberg.
  2. Co-hosts Dr. Anthony Cashio and Dr. Eric Thomas Weber bear no ill-will toward the great Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, whom we mention in this episode as a particularly strong fellow. You can follow The Rock on Twitter. We’re pretty sure that our guest, Dr. Shane Courtland did not mean any kind of threat to Mr. Johnson, despite his detailed plans for overtaking strong men like him.
  3. Dr. Courtland a few times mentioned an influential essay by Gregory Kavka, titled “Hobbes’s War of All Against All,” which you may have to have a special account to access.
  4. Courtland also refers to the following study by Amy J. Fitzgerald, Linda Kalof, and Thomas Dietz, “Slaughterhouses and Increased Crime Rates: An Empirical Analysis of the Spillover From ‘The Jungle’ Into the Surrounding Community,” Organization & Environment 22, Number 2 (June 2009): 158-184, available online here.


You Tell Me!

For our future “You Tell Me!” segments, Dr. Shane Courtland proposed the following question in this episode, for which we invite your feedback: “Should you ever sacrifice for someone you don’t care about?” Weber added: “And, either way, why or why not?” What do you think?

Let us know!  Twitter, Facebook, Email, or by commenting here below!


Transcript Available

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You can download and read the transcript for the show in an Adobe PDF version of it.

For those interested, here’s how to cite this transcript or episode for academic or professional purposes (for page numbers, refer to the Adobe PDF version of this transcript):

Weber, Eric Thomas, Anthony Cashio, and Shane Courtland, “Selfish Ethics?” Philosophy Bakes Bread, Transcribed by Drake Bolin, WRFL Lexington 88.1 FM, Lexington, KY, March 3, 2017.


[Intro music]

Announcer: This podcast is brought to you by WRFL: Radio Free Lexington. Find us online at wrfl.fm. Catch us on your FM radio while you’re in central Kentucky at 88.1 FM, all the way to the left. Thank you for listening, and please be sure to subscribe.

Dr. Weber: Hello and welcome to Philosophy Bakes Bread, food for thought about life and leadership, a production of the Society of Philosophers in America, A.K.A. SOPHIA. I’m Dr. Eric Thomas Weber.

Dr. Cashio: And I’m Dr. Anthony Cashio. A famous phrase says philosophy bakes no bread, that it’s not practical. But we at SOPHIA and on this show, we aim to correct that misperception.

Dr. Weber: Philosophy Bakes Bread airs on WRFL Lexington, 88.1 FM and is recorded and distributed as a podcast next, so if you can’t catch us live on the air, subscribe and be sure to reach out to us. You can find us online at philosophybakesbread.com. We hope you’ll reach out to us on any of the topics we raise, or on topics you want us to bring up. Plus, we have a segment called “You tell me!”. Listen for it, and let us know what you think.

Dr. Cashio: You can reach us in a number of ways! We are on twitter as @PhilosophyBB, which stands for Philosophy Bakes Bread. We’re also on Facebook (who isn’t?) at Philosophy Bakes Bread, and check out SOPHIA’s Facebook page while you’re there at Philosophers in America.

Dr. Weber: You can of course, also email us at philosophybakesbread@gmail.com, and you can call us and leave a short, recorded message with a question, or a comment that we may be able to play on the show at 859-257-1849. That number again is 859-257-1849.

So, this is Dr. Eric Weber live in the studio. We got some feedback for our “You Tell Me!” segment. I want to mention last week, Thomas A., gave us some really nice feedback, but he said the following in addition to his very kind encouragement. He said, “Maybe a more in-depth discussion of philosophy in high school might be useful as both guests had encountered philosophy during those ages.” He’s talking about the guests who were on the episode when we were talking about the value of and challenges for teaching philosophy to first-generation college students. Let me continue with what he had to say, “How do we get there? You know, getting people exposed to philosophy in high school? How do we enable high school teachers to use curriculum that involve philosophical concepts and thought? I often feel like much of the American education system is ‘glorified trivial pursuit,” he writes. “A better exploration into concepts behind scientific inquiry, literary criticism, etcetera, would be valuable”, he says. He continues, “An honest question is: Are teachers enabled to do such? I am not asking an elementary math teacher to take out Frege,” who is a big philosopher in mathematics, “but some explanation in high school might make sense.”

Here’re a few thoughts I have for him. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to record with Anthony, our responses together, but here are some thoughts for Thomas’s very nice feedback. First of all, thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Thomas. Anthony and I agree with you about the need to think about philosophy in high school and before. In fact, we have plans to have on the show Dr. Jana Mohr Lone, who is the Director of the University of Washington’s Center on Philosophy for Children. She’s also the author of a 2012 book called The Philosophical Child. She has also edited and co-authored two other books on the philosophy of education, the subtitle for one of which is “introducing philosophy to young people.” In short, Dr. Cashio and I agree that this is a topic that’s of growing and presently pressing interest.

To Thomas’s further points, some school teachers will agree with your worry, especially with respect to the incredible regimen, it seems to me, of testing that our kids have to undergo. Standardized testing has grown out of the movement to ensure accountability in public schools, but the movement has been taken to such extremes that teachers have told me that the testing ties their hands, leaving very little room for creative exploration and the cultivation of critical thinking and learning. To your further question of whether teachers are enabled to do the kind of work that may foster philosophical thinking in young people, some have reported to me, this is just empirical, my experience anyway, anecdotal evidence, but former students of mine that have gone into teaching after graduation, have said that the regimen for accountability in terms of standardized testing and so forth leaves very little room for anything else. It is exceptional cases and exceptional instructors that might be able to incorporate such things and have the opportunities to do so.

It seems to me that one of the key goals that we have, and this is from the great philosopher John Dewey, goals we should have, is to foster and cultivate the scientific attitudes and intellectual habits of mind necessary to appreciate wisdom. That’s one way to think about what we should be doing in our public schools, and no, I don’t think we leave a lot of room for that. So, “How do we get there?” Thomas asks, if we were to try. I think one answer is to simply continue championing the movement calling for change, standards in curricula should be few and essential in my view, leaving a lot of room for a lot of growth in different directions. We can have accountability without having the cart drive the horse kind of thing. We want to have the right thing driving the other thing.

In any event, thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Thomas A., and I hope others will reach out to us with your thoughts. This is just a very quick “You Tell Me!” segment, we did get some thoughts from folks telling us what they think, and this is from Thomas, thank you so much. Any of you who have thoughts or questions about any of this or what’s on the show today, you can reach us at 859-257-1849, and we may be able to play a recording of your message on the show. You can email us at Philosophybakesbread@gmail.com. You’ll get that information again, I’m going a little quickly now, I want to jump into the show with Dr. Shane Courtland that I’ve mentioned. Thanks so much for listening, folks, to Philosophy Bakes Bread. Here’s the start of the official pre-recorded show.


Dr. Cashio: On today’s show, we are very fortunate to be joined by Dr. Shane Courtland of West Virginia University. How are you doing today Shane?

Dr. Courtland: Good! Thanks for having me.

Dr. Cashio: Thanks for joining us. Shane, at West Virginia University, leads their Center for Free Enterprise, and he is here to talk to us about selfish ethics, or is it the ethics of selfishness?

Dr. Weber: He’s going to correct us on that, I think. Before you get to that, let me show people a little bit about you. Dr. Shane Courtland earned his Ph.D. at Tulane University and focuses on political philosophy and ethics. He is published in the Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, the Journal of Environmental Philosophy, the Journal of Applied Philosophy, the Journal of Mind and Behavior, and Hobbes Studies, among other prestigious journals. He is currently editing a volume called Hobbesian Applied Ethics and Public Policy, which will come out with Routledge Press in 2017.

Dr. Cashio: Congratulations, Shane. Before moving to West Virginia University, Shane was assistant professor of philosophy and director of the Center for Ethics and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota Duluth, where he organized a vibrant community of philosophical discussion, bringing people out to many events showcasing the value of philosophy for public engagement. Perfect for the thesis of this show! Shane, we call this first segment “Know Thyself!” we always ask our guests and see how well they know thine selves. So tell us about yourself, how you got into philosophy, what philosophy means to you, your driving impetus in philosophy.

Dr. Courtland: I think that my story is common to many philosophers out there. I didn’t initially start wanting to go into philosophy, what ended up happening of course, is that I went to a philosophy class, I got infected by a quite infectious teacher…

Dr. Weber: Infected?

Dr. Courtland: That’s probably the best way to put it.

Dr. Cashio: Philosophy as a disease?

Dr. Courtland: It’s catchy. If it’s done right, it can be quite catchy. After that, I couldn’t get enough. Initially I was a poli-sci guy, I was solely going to pursue a career in, God forbid, politics. After I got that heavy dose of philosophy, I saw how into the class book the teacher was, and how he got the students into it, I was like “This is what I have to do.” It’s not just philosophy, but teaching philosophy as well. Engaging with students just seemed like what I needed to do.

Dr. Cashio: That’s a familiar story, I know exactly how that plays out. Was there any particular text or philosopher that you were studying in that first philosophy class where you were like “This is it, I’m into it”?

Dr. Courtland: It was ethics. It was an intro to ethics class, which is telling given what we are going to talk about today. But it was a survey course so we covered quite a bit. You had to…I didn’t necessarily have any favorites, but the thing that was disarming to me was almost a sort of martial arts-esque quality to give and take with argument. You’d see people posit an argument or posit a claim, whether the teacher was doing it as devil’s advocate, or the other students would do it seriously challenging the teacher. You would see the teacher very skillfully use the argument against them, and eventually the student had to tap-out or submit. There was a sort of give-and-take where you actually got to see the skills of argument, and they were quite powerful. There were many times where I thought “Oh, no there’s no way he’s going to know the answer to this. It’s done”, and, lo and behold, he does answer it, and I end up finding the answer compelling.

Dr. Weber: So, philosophical ju-jitsu. I had a friend from graduate school, actually Anthony and I both have this friend from grad school who would refer to philosophers as the great masters had this one specialty, like there’s the person who was the crane, the other was the tiger. Richard Rorty was this philosopher who always noticed the mirror of nature and the representationalism, we call it. Oh lord, I’m using big words. The old picture of certainty in knowledge, and he would critique that, saying we couldn’t really have that kind of certainty that old-school philosophers used to believe in. That was the Rorty karate chop. This other philosopher has this special kick, and they always use that.

Dr. Courtland: That sort of analogy, if you will, has greatly affected my pedagogy, or the way that I teach, essentially. I often, I’ve also been in various martial arts classes, and I’ve noticed that a lot of times the way it’s taught is that you’ll find the sensei, or shifu, depending on if it’s Chinese or Japanese, they’ll get up and demonstrate a technique, and you’ll try to see the technique. You’ll also try to show ways that the technique is not effectual, and the sensei will correct you, sometimes devastatingly.

Dr. Cashio: Pin you to the mat.

Dr. Courtland: Exactly. This is how you learn. It’s not done so because the sensei is trying to show how much better he or she is than you, it’s done so you can see the weakness in your own technique so you can get better. And then it’s done repetitively over and over again, and eventually you’re able to philosophically fight on your own.

Dr. Weber: I’m hearing two metaphors that I want to ask you about, Shane, and the way in which you’ve talked about your encounter with philosophy as well as how you appear to understand philosophy. The first one is the metaphor of infection, and the second one is the old-school metaphor of war or battle: “This person devastated that argument”, or “Oh man, she really cut his legs out from under him”. Do you think we should think of philosophy really as infection? Is that because it’s actually, there’s something bad about it? Is it like illness? Do you think war is always the best metaphor for thinking about what philosophy does? Are we really contrarian, are we really against each other?

Dr. Courtlan: Good questions. I’ll answer the first one first. As far as infection, good things can be infectious too, like laughter.

Dr. Weber: Ooh, I like that.

Dr. Courtland: To say something is infectious, it can spread, if it’s got the right factor. If you have the right person at the right place at the right time, you will all of a sudden start a fire that will get bigger and bigger and bigger and spread to more people and more things. I think philosophy has that power as a discipline. We talk about interesting stuff a lot. We basically take the most interesting parts of other fields and bring them into our own. In that sense, we steal all of their good stuff, and we make it philosophy. That’s one of the reasons it’s infectious. Coupled with the right teacher, it just makes it even more catchy.

Dr. Weber: But not necessarily in a bad way that’s debilitating. OK.

Dr. Courtland: Not at all. Just like laughter isn’t necessarily bad. As far as the combat aspect, some people think that it’s a little bit too aggressive. I could tone it down a little bit and have the same sort of idea. It’s like a sports competition. It’s not that you want to hurt or harm the other person, you generally hope the other team rises to the best. The actual competition makes you both better off as parties.

Dr. Cashio: And it’s more fun.

Dr. Courtland: Exactly. If you want to think of it as a philosophical contest, almost like a sports game, where it’s not about necessarily dominating you opponent, but the competition makes you both kick it up a notch. It lifts both parties, it’s the rising tide that lifts all boats, if you have a good philosophical conversation. In order to do that, each party sometimes it’s helpful if they come in motivation to view it in a competitive way. Sometimes that’s helpful, I don’t want to say all of the times. As I’m sure everyone here knows, it can get into a pissing contest, if you will, where people are trying to be…

Dr. Weber: I’ve never been in one of those myself, I don’t know.


Dr. Courtland: That can be counter-productive, and I don’t want to deny that. But I think a healthy level of competition within the discussion can actually raise the philosophical discourse, as long as it’s done in a civil way.

Dr. Cashio: There’s something to be said for this empowerment that comes with being able to stand on your own two feet, intellectually, being able to present you r argument and then better, to defend your argument. I think there’s something quite powerful about that. And liberating!

Dr. Courtland: I agree. I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t feel good if I offer a good argument. I do. If I’m able to use an objection that people didn’t think I could. I feel good, I do get some positive feeling from that. Though it’s not my only goal.

Dr. Weber: I had a student get into a conference recently from a paper he wrote last semester, and he was very excited, he came to talk to me because he was a little nervous. I mean it genuinely when I say to him and I’m repeating this to you that when you go to these events and give a paper and present your thoughts on something, if you see it in the right light, criticism is something you can really appreciate and take well.

When someone shows you something about your argument that you’ve been thinking a lot about that you hadn’t considered, you can think “Wow, thanks. Man, that’s awesome, I hadn’t considered this.” Of course we often feel kicked in the stomach first. (laughter) But with a lot of practice and training, we see it in the right light, and actually you mentioned sports, and one of the related, if we can go into a further metaphor, the Olympics. Why do we engage in the Olympics? Why do countries put some money into Olympics? When you look at the mission according to the Olympics, and I’ve looked into this a little bit, they say it’s to promote international friendship.

Dr. Courtland: Yeah, that’s definitely a better way than actual war.

Dr. Cashio: So, we’ve got philosophy as sport, philosophy as infection, which by the way, I talk to students that way: “I’ve given you philosophy, I’m sorry you caught this.” (laughter) But what is it though? How do you, when you’re teaching it? To teach yourself to have a good argument, but that’s not the only reason. So what is the other reason, besides the joy of doing it, which is an argument in of itself?

Dr. Courtland: I heavily push philosophy as a methodology. What I mean by that is that it’s a sort of critical thinking applied to just about any and every topic that you can think of. But it’s a high level of critical thinking. Usually the topics that philosophy focuses on tend to be abstract at times, just because they are complicated problems, not necessarily because we like abstractions. The goal here is to try to clear up thinking and to eventually, if we are lucky, to find the truth. Although honestly, the odds of finding the truth, because the world is such a complicated place, is vastly slow or less than likely. Usually my focus is on, and I convey this to students, is on the method. We can get good things by applying the method. This opens the door to putting up forth very unpopular ideas at any point. I try as best I can to try to entertain and engage those as well.

Dr. Weber: Shane, one more question before we take a quick break. You mentioned that you had teachers who did a great job and that the topic or subject matter or method was infectious. What hooked you?

Dr. Courtland: What hooked me about the teachers?

Dr. Weber: About philosophy in that early experience. What really brought you in and you have to keep going?

Dr. Courtland: The power of the method. It’s very similar, honestly, to Thomas Hobbes. Thomas Hobbes, when he’s later in adulthood found geometry, and totally thought that this was “bump”, and he thought this conclusion was really bad and then he saw a geometric proof, and he was forced to believe it because of the power of the proof. Then he was, just, everything was geometry for him then on out. something similar happened to me with philosophy when I came in just like anyone does in a philosophy class with sacred cows, presupposed views, things that I had grown up with and had taken for granted.

When a professor or professors would bring something up and I would be like “I got this, I can get this guy or this woman.” It turns out that their ability to argue convinced me. There’s so many times where I come out the class going “I don’t know what I believe anymore.” It’s so powerful. Learning how to do that technique and eventually being able to do it with some of my friends showed that I could do this as well. It was just, the power of the method to me was intoxicating.

Dr. Weber: There you have it, folks. We’re going to come back and talk more with Dr. Shane Courtland about ethics and something about selfishness that we don’t want to say the wrong way. We’ll be right back.


Dr. Cashio: Welcome back to Philosophy Bakes Bread! This is Dr. Anthony Cashio and Dr. Eric Weber and today we’re here talking with Dr. Shane Courtland about selfish ethics, or is it ethical selfishness, or maybe selfishness is just the wrong word! What do you think Shane? Are we naming the topic wrong? Selfishness or is self-interest is the better word?

Dr. Courtland: Self-interest is a little bit better, there’s something deceptive about saying ‘selfish’. The way that I usually characterize it, and I want to be clear that I didn’t create this, Gregory Kavka came up with a view like this, and it worked in the ’80’s. It’s called tautological egoism. Let me just break it down really quick. All it really means is that I always have reason to pursue something that I value. The thing that I value doesn’t have to be only self-regarding, meaning about me. It could be other-regarding as well. I have children, for example, I have three of them. I value their welfare. I have no problem pursuing that and helping them. Likewise, there are friends that I have and I value their welfare too, and I have no problem pursuing that. But if there is a stranger that comes up to me, I may be indifferent to that person.

So, the question is: Do I have reason to pursue that person’s welfare? That’s an interesting question. I would say that it’s not intuitively obvious that you do, or it’s not immediately obvious that you do. Further arguments have to be given. This gets us onto the project that I’m interested in. I clearly understand that I should pursue things that I desire and that I value. But I’m not so sure why I should limit my pursuit of those things on something that’s not my own desire. A lot of other ethical systems do this. Utilitarianism, for example, says “Yes Shane, I know you want to be happy, but you have to consider other people’s happiness as equal as your own.”

Dr. Weber: Utilitarianism, for our listeners, is the theory that when you need to decide between options and make a moral choice, you should pick the option that is going to maximize happiness for the greatest number of people. That doesn’t necessarily mean your happiness, is part of what Shane is saying.

Dr. Courtland: At that point, it’s not that I won’t help other people, but there needs to be more argument required, it’s not intuitively obvious. We get something within our view, the Hobbsian view, at least the way that I take it, it’s called a social contract, essentially. We realize that we are in a certain situation with other people. Let me just briefly characterize this situation. Again, I take this from a very famous Hobbesian, Gregory Kavka, who wrote in, I think it was 1984, in ethics, [Hobbes’] The War of All Upon All. He stipulates what the characteristics of human nature are in Hobbes. The first one is that we are naturally equal. What I mean by that is that nobody is powerful enough to dominate others with impunity.

Dr. Weber: You mean by nature?

Dr. Courtland: Yes. By nature.

Dr. Cashio: Someone is either stronger than you or you’re smarter than them. You can always find some way to equalize the game.

Dr. Weber: The Rock is really big, though.

Dr. Courtland: Yeah, but the Rock sleeps. Everybody sleeps at some point and there’s a moment of weakness. Now the next thing is that there’s conflicting desires. We find that we desire different things than other people. We both can’t have them at the same time. I may desire a good that you have, Eric. Say I like your watch. But you want your watch.

Dr. Weber: Yeah! Hands off.

Dr. Courtland: This happens a lot. We are also forward-lookers. We like the future, we care about it. If I were to tell you that tomorrow food runs out, you would not be indifferent to that fact. You would be greatly concerned because you worry about what happens tomorrow. So when we say things like “Carpe Diem”, we say so, but it’s always with a rider.

Dr. Weber: “Seize the day.”

Dr. Courtland: You kind of want to prepare for the future. Hence this is why people go to college.

Dr. Cashio: I was just thinking, the milk and bread. The snow is coming and the milk and bread and beer just sells out.

Dr. Courtland: There’s also the advantage of anticipation. What I mean by that is, as you brought up with The Rock, I couldn’t take The Rock in a straight-up first fight, even on my best day.

Dr. Weber: I bet you’re pretty good, but yeah, The Rock is a big guy.

Dr. Courtland: He’s a big dude. But the Rock sleeps, and if I were going to get rid of The Rock, I would befriend The Rock, and kill him while he sleeps.


Dr. Weber: Good grief!

Dr. Courtland: This is the point though. Ultimately, I know that other people can do this to me as well. The last thing, and this is probably the most important thing, this is what gets us to this ‘selfish ethics’ in scare quotes, because it’s not really selfish ethics, is that altruism is limited in this world. What I mean by this is that although people tend to act nicely to other people, it’s usually to a limited group, family and friends. And it’s usually for things that are not really grave. Great sacrifice to strangers is rare. The point where if you’re going to predict how someone is going to behave, you rarely predict “saintly”. Given the things I just gave you, I then say “What should we do if we are going to live together peacefully?” Ultimately, I don’t want to be worrying about my safety. I want to be able to live knowing that you’re not going to kill me in my sleep, like I’m going to do to The Rock, and vice-versa.

We also know that if we live together, we can get goods that we couldn’t normally get. Take for example, mass-production of food, pretty much everything that we have, whether it becomes buildings, clothes, books, sciences, requires a massive amount of cooperation. What I can say then is that living together peacefully is mutually advantageous. It’s in all of our interests in that regard. Ultimately, even though we start off with this self-interest, in the sense of us being limited altruists, given these other features of nature and our situation, we can end up living together in peace because we recognize how beneficial peace can be. That’s the sort of generic Hobbeseian take on it. Then again, it’s all basically “What am I going to get for doing this?” And here, the thing that I get is ultimately living in a mutually advantageous peace.

Dr. Weber: Interesting. While you were talking, I was reminded some of my favorite passages in Plato’s Republic, where Socrates asks, or is asked, I can’t remember, the question of “How does a city come to be? Why do people come together in a city?” and one of the key answers is because we need each other. That stuck with me. One of the famous things about Plato’s Republic is that there’s this startling moment where he seems to advocate infanticide, in other words, where there are kids who have any kind of abnormality, new babies, he suggests that you go leave them out in the elements, which presumably means to die. This notion that we need each other, people can be brutal in how we talk about “Well we don’t need persons with disabilities”. That struck me when we read Plato, I was like “good Lord.” It may be that if I were severely disabled I would need others help, but if I don’t have certain kinds of employment, why do people need me? I may just be left at the street corner or left out in the elements, as Plato had said. Is that Hobbes’ outlook as well?

Dr. Courtland: I would argue no, and I have argued no in the past. I had written a piece on Hobbesian animal rights, and I took a line–the big question you want to ask here is that, a sort of pre-supposition, or a thing that we assume to be the case for Hobbes’ project to work is that we’re naturally equals. You of course by bringing up someone with disabilities, perhaps extreme disabilities, you all of a sudden go “Wait a minute, we can clearly dominate this person, why should we bother including this person?”

Dr. Weber: As a person, as someone deserving respect.

Dr. Courtland: Right. Exactly. I can give you some reasons, and I’ll start with the simple ones first. Right now I can easily dominate my children, and I can dominate the children of others. the question is: Would it be a good policy for us to have a society that would allow for such domination? Immediately with children, it’s pretty straightforward and I think I’d say no, and the reason being that children are literally the future of the society. So if I’m abusing children, I’m basically creating a future in which the people running the society hate me. I’m also creating a future in which I’m not going to have very, how would you say, rightly-formed adults, so the odds of the society being a stable and well-functioning society, even if they didn’t hate me, are probably low.

Dr. Weber: So when you’re old, and you want people to treat you right…

Dr. Courtland: Yes. This doesn’t cover for people with severe disabilities yet.

Dr. Cashio: That’s what my question was.

Dr. Courtland: You could always say “well, they probably aren’t going to run society.” Of course, it depends on the nature of the disability. I think we would have lost a lot if we would have exposed Stephen Hawking.

Dr. Weber: I have a family member, who had severe, she’s passed away, had severe disabilities, who was a big-deal code breaker for the National Security Agency.

Dr. Courtland: Part of the nature is that we often, especially with the handicapped, we underestimate their ability to help. We do. We tend to think that their handicap is so severe that they have no utility. That’s almost always wrong, almost always. But that’s not even the point. Imagine we do have somebody though. We can take the severest, hardest mental illness out there. I still have an avenue for including them. It’s an avenue I also use to include animals as well.

Dr. Weber: Explain what you mean by include.

Dr. Courtland: What I mean by include, I mean give them rights in society.

Dr. Weber: Moral consideration and respect.

Dr. Courtland: exactly. The way to do so is by noticing what our ill treatment of them could indicate to others about how we are. Let me use animals right now, and what I want to say is that with suitable changes I can do it as well with the mentally ill. So imagine I had a guy, in fact you don’t have to imagine this, it actually did happen. This guy likes to play with cats. And what he does with cats is that he buries the cats up to their necks in the dirt, and then he runs over their heads with lawn mowers.

Dr. Weber: You have a guy who does this?

Dr. Courtland: Yeah, there’s a guy. He’s criminally insane. Another thing that he would do is that he would glue the cats to the road, their feet. And he would watch, some cars would miss it, some would hit the cat. Here’s the interesting question. This guy needs a place to stay, and you don’t have any cats, it’s just you. Would you let him stay down a couple rooms from you inside your house?

Dr. Weber: Hell no!

Dr. Courtland: Why? Are you uneasy?

Dr. Weber: Because there is something terrifically wrong with this person.

Dr. Courtland: This is what I’m trying to get at. Very good. What’s interesting, this is an intuition that has been held for quite some time, in fact Kant had a view like this. But Kant’s view, the problematic nature of Kant’s view, is that one, it just seemed like an intuition, it didn’t seem like he had any empirical confirmation of it. At least, if it was, it was weak. I think he gave an example of butchers not serving on juries, was one of his examples. The other problem with Kant is that it was a two-tier system. What that meant was that even though he said that this would show something bad about the person’s character, it had nothing to do with immorality per se, because he said that you can use animals however you want to use them.

Dr. Cashio: Right, it’s not the animal that has any worth, it’s how you treat the animal.

Dr. Weber: According to Kant. Let’s just be clear for people listening.

Dr. Courtland: Right. So with my view, first there is empirical confirmation now, a fairly large amount of it, that this is rather bad. We can connect for example, violence towards animals with violence towards humans. It’s enough to how would you say, we are combining databases. There is a high likelihood that if you commit violence to animals in this way, that it will bleed over to violent crime towards humans. There was an interesting study actually done by, I think the last names are Fitzgerald, Kalof and Dietz in 2009, and what they found is that slaughterhouse employees were higher prone to commit violent crimes to people. This is controlling for the nature of the work that they do, this is controlling for the people that did the work. This is a study I think they had over 580 different slaughterhouses in rural areas they actually checked. The only thing that really changed was the nature of the work in which you were extinguishing life in this way, and violently so.

Here’s the general sort of view, and how you could include people. You want people around you who are naturally empathetic. The thing that made you uncomfortable about the cat killer is that he had no problem to something that appeared sentient, and suffered. You didn’t like sleeping around this person for this reason. I don’t know if you guys have watched, what was it, The Man in the High Castle, where there’s a point where one of the Nazis might have to euthanize his own child for a disease. You can see him fighting with this. His child had a disease that was eventually going to render him so he was an invalid. So the doctrine was that you euthanize him, because as soon as you have this weakness, you’re taken out. Similarly, if we had a society that had no problem doing this to the weak, it would be a society that you don’t want to live in for your own good. Think about this. You are one fall away from being disabled. One fall. That’s it.

Dr. Weber: 80% of people become disabled in their elderly years.

Dr. Courtland: Think of it as an insurance policy in a couple of different fonts. It’s an insurance policy in one that you would rather have empathetic individuals around you, so that they are not a threat to you, or plotting your death in some weird way. I know it’s dark. And two, on the case that you fall down and become yourself so disabled that you are not being snuffed out.

Dr. Cashio: I have a quick question before we wrap this up. It seems like you are giving a self-interested argument for why we should be empathetic. Why not just argue that empathy is also part of human nature, along with self-interest, and a good thing? It seems like that is kind of what you are arguing, but I’m not sure if we’re getting around it in a circular way to that same point.

Dr. Courtland: It’s an empirical fact. I would say that people tend to be empathetic to a degree. Limited altruism was the thing that I stressed. When it comes down to it, if it’s my survival or yours, sorry, I’m going for me.

Dr. Cashio: If it’s your child, or my children, it’s going to be my children.

Dr. Courtland: In this sense, there is a degree of partiality that is normal for people. Instead of just trying to say “Well you should get over that,” like utilitarianism might, the goal is to have extreme fellow feeling to the point where my happiness is just as important as your happiness and I see that, I say let’s just deal with the empirical fact, the psychology that we have, and see what I can get from that. That’s ultimately the goal, and I also don’t see an ethical reason for me to develop, I may have a reason to develop empathy if it allows me to better fit within a society. I take often these sort of desires that people have as something that is, how would you say, beyond complaint or dispute. What I mean by that is that I can’t blame you for what you like or desire. In some sense, it’s very involuntary. I try to make my argument appeal to you regardless of what that is. I could give this sort of weird, without getting too meta, I could give you an argument for you to attempt to create new desires, but that ultimately would have to be based in the desire that you already have. That’s ultimately what I would have to say.

Dr. Weber: Alright, well we have to take a break here. I’m sorry guys. But we’re going to come back and we have got plenty of time to keep grilling Dr. Shane Courtland. Thank you so much for talking with us and folks, we’ll be right back.
Dr. Weber: One thing to say before we jump back into Philosophy Bakes Bread, our third segment of the show, is that neither I nor Dr. Anthony Cashio bear any ill will toward Dwayne Johnson, A.K.A, The Rock. Dr. Shane Courtland, I don’t know. If The Rock is out to get somebody, please go after Shane Courtland and not Anthony Cashio or I, although I don’t think he bears any ill will towards you, Mr. Johnson. That said, here’s segment three of our episode eight of Philosophy Bakes Bread.


Dr. Cashio: Welcome back everybody! You’re listening to Philosophy Bakes Bread. This is Dr. Anthony Cashio and Dr. Eric Weber and today we have been talking to Dr. Shane Courtland, and we’ve been discussing ethical not selfishness, but self-interest, as we learned in the last segment. Shane has been doing some scholarly work on this, approaching it through the work of Thomas Hobbes and his version of the social contract theory. Shane, I know there are other versions of the social contract theory without getting too theoretical. Thomas Hobbes takes a self-interest approach, we could maybe take John Locke or John Rawls, other approaches to social contract, understanding why we live together, the way we live together. What is it about Thomas Hobbes’ work that you found compelling? Why approach it in this particular way?

Dr. Courtland: What I found with a lot of the other social contract theories, like the ones that you mentioned, is that they started off presupposing too much. Without going too far into detail I’ll just mention it quick. Locke would presuppose that there are these rights from on-high, often written on the hearts of men by God, that you needed to obey. Rawls would presuppose, for example, that instead of being self-interested, you should be reasonable in certain sorts of ways. What I like about Hobbes is that there’s less presuppositions, meaning he assumes less. From this really simple beginning, basically the list that I just gave you: natural equality, conflicting desires, forward-looking, advantage of anticipation and limited altruism. If you can get on board from that, the whole theory follows. The goal is to do a lot with a very little. That’s one of the reasons I was so interested in Hobbes over the other social contract guys.

Dr. Weber: Shane, one of the ways people think about self-interest suggests that the way we raise children may be a little mamby-pamby. We teach kids to share, and during the holidays, some people think we should show certain stories and movies. There are other people who have a different point of view who say the criticism of Scrooge is a culture of trying to be anti-business.

This is political. It’s good to be greedy, it’s good to be selfish and so forth.

Dr. Cashio: Are you telling me there’s a pro-Scrooge…

Dr. Weber: Yeah! Indeed, there are people who think that the holiday stories we tell and the demonization of Scrooge is sort of this culture of communism, it’s anti-self-interest, and it’s our undoing, people think. I guess my question is: Does the person interested in rational self-interest teach his child to share and to be kind?

Dr. Courtland: Yes. Let me explain why. Humans, as in us, have a tendency to self-deceive a lot. We have a tendency to make intellectual errors, to think that we are better than what we are, and make mistakes. One of the ways that we think we are better than what we are, we think we’re smarter than everybody else. We have a tendency to do this. We’ll think that “Well I can cheat and get away with this,” or “If I do this thing, it won’t harm anybody and nobody will really care”, when odds are that we are probably deceiving ourselves and doing something that many people would consider to be a moral wrong., One of the ways that we get past this self-deception is we put rules onto ourselves and we try to change these rules into dispositions. We automatically follow it and maybe even like it. I think really, how would you say, egoist would say “Well no, you teach your children to like other people because that way they will get better at life”. What I mean, here’s another way of doing it, I’ll call it, and I’ve heard other people call it too, although I think they are just professors of mine, I don’t know if anybody published it: the paradox of egoism.

Dr. Weber: Shane, to our listeners that have no idea, what is egoism?

Dr. Courtland: Egoism is very similar to what I have been saying, the pursuit of enlightened self-interest. So the paradox of egoism here, and why it’s paradoxical, sometimes the best way for you to pursue your own self-interest is to act altruistically. The reason you do so is because being together in peaceful relationships is so mutually advantageous, so beneficial. So what I want to teach my children in to develop pro-social attitudes. I know by have them having those attitudes, they will do better in society.

Dr. Weber: But technically, don’t they just need to appear to be kind?

Dr. Courtland: It’s tough to do because of self-deception. With Hobbes, if you wanted to go back to the literature, there’s a famous exchange within Leviathan, which is Hobbes famous work, where he talks to somebody he refers to as the fool. The fool makes this exact move, he goes, “Oh, I will appear to be just!”

Dr. Weber: Did you just call me a fool? (laughter) No that was Hobbes, not you.

Dr. Cashio: Eric was just appearing to be funny.

Dr. Courtland: Well played. He appears to be somebody who obeys the rules, does the right thing, but in actuality is always looking for the right opportunity to stab you in the back. Hobbes’ big criticism of this is that this person often views themself in a way that he refers to as vainglorious. Let me cash that out. Vainglorious means that you have a highly, high, high, high view of yourself, excessive self-esteem where you think you’re smarter than everyone else. You essentially are very risky in your behavior, and odds are that you will get caught. So the best strategy, he would say, is to actually obey these rules. I teach my children this. It is actually good for them to live a healthy and happy life in society, all things being equal.

Dr. Cashio: Do you teach your children to say ‘vainglorious’? It’s one of my favorite words. It’s a good word.

Dr. Courtland: He does use it a lot.

Dr. Weber: Shane, I want to shift gears a little bit because in our first segment about all this topic, I think we’ve dealt enough a lot so far with the theoretical elements of what we’re talking about, but just recently there have been some changes to environmental policy, or some decisions that may lead to that in Washington. One of the things that I can make sense of in terms of what you’re talking about is that there’s pollution that will get into the groundwater. Some people don’t want rules about that from the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, because that limits business: “We want freedom for business, we want industry, we want jobs”, all that. Sure. But then your kids can die from poisoning the water supply. From the self-interest point of view, I see how you could make an argument say, maybe you don’t, but perhaps one could make an argument for environmental protection because folks can get hurt from certain forms of pollution. What about the folks that want to cut the top off mountains? Does the environment have value beyond my simple appreciation of it?

Dr. Courtland: In and of itself? No it doesn’t have value in and of itself. But if it makes you feel better, and I don’t think it’s going to, neither do strangers.

Dr. Weber: In and of themselves, people don’t have value?

Dr. Courtland: With being consistent, the only thing that has value in and of itself, according to this view, is me.

Dr. Cashio: All of us, you’re the intrinsic value…

Dr. Weber: Anyone whom Shane asks to put you up in a room for the night, watch out!

Dr. Courtland: Here’s the good news though. The good news is that humans have a tendency to really like and value things. It’s to the point where it is so important to them that they like certain things, including other people, that they use it to form their very identity. Imagine if I could, I I had a special kind of laser gun. What this laser gun would do, is that if I zapped you with it, it would invert all of your preferences. What I mean by that is that everything that you like today, after I hit you with the gun, you would dislike tomorrow. Here’s the other catch. If I shoot you with that gun, and say I can guarantee that after I shoot you with that gun, everything that you like tomorrow, which is totally different from what you like today, would come true and be fulfilled. I can ensure then, that you’ll be happier and more preferences fulfilled tomorrow. Would you willingly be shot by that gun?

Dr. Cashio: There’s a fun thought experiment.

Dr. Weber: To be perfectly honest with you, I had a hard time following that, and I imagine some of my listeners… Can I ask you to go a little more slowly? I like to think I’m not dumb, but even I every now and then have a gear slip.

Dr. Courtland: Not a problem. So I have a special gun that if I shoot you with it, you will change everything that you like into things that you dislike. If you are a Packers fan you now become a Vikings fan. If you were a Republican, you will now become a Democrat.

Dr. Weber: So I won’t like chocolate ice cream but I will like sardines.

Dr. Courtland: Exactly. Now let me say that also after I shoot you with the gun, I guarantee 100% satisfaction in all of your new likes.

Dr. Cashio: So all of the sardines that you could possibly want. And you want those sardines.

Dr. Weber: And I will want those sardines.

Dr. Courtland: Exactly. So my question is, if I’m telling you this now, would you willingly be shot by this gun?

Dr. Weber: I wouldn’t!


Dr. Courtland: Most people would agree with you. This is why I think that is. What you value is constitutive of your identity.

Dr. Weber: Would you choose to be shot Anthony?

Dr. Cashio: That’s a hard one. Probably not, for the reasons that Shane is just saying. What you value is who you are, so it would be the same as not choosing to be who you are.

Dr. Courtland: It’s like committing suicide with values. You’re committing suicide with values if you say yes to that.

Dr. Weber: Explain to me what this has to do with the value of a mountain.

Dr. Courtland: The point of the matter is that people attach values to things that are central to their identity, and they do so naturally. There are people who tie their identity to the value of mountains, and we have to take that into account when we want to make peace with them. If I come about raping and pillaging the land and I find somebody who is a legitimate, for lack of a better term, tree-hugger, I have to take their preferences into account. They are strong preferences to the point to if they have to go back on them, they are going to feel like they are creating a form of suicide for themselves. It’s not like these values don’t matter anymore. I have a story that I can tell that will show you that they are incredibly important nonetheless. It’s usually because values seem to get so entrenched into our identities.

Dr. Weber: Doesn’t this mean then, that mountains and animals as well as even other people, none of that is thought to have intrinsic value, but rather only value insofar as “Well other people like this stuff so I guess I’ll treat them with minimal respect”?

Dr. Courtland: Yeah, but the problem with most other ethical theories is that they give out this independent value as though it were candy.

Dr. Weber: They pretend as though everybody can see them.

Dr. Courtland: It’s almost like the excessive use of rights talk, in a certain sense. It’s a quick and too easy of a solution. I don’t really find it satisfying as a philosopher.

Dr. Cashio: So what do we do we get when two values competing? We were talking about the mountaintop removal, but someone values jobs and the security, energy, the general argument for why mining is a good thing, for me this is a pretty local issue. Then you got someone else’s “Let’s not cut the tops off of mountains, or if you do, at least don’t dump it into the stream where the drinking water is.” So you have two competing interests? How do we ethically navigate those competing interests?

Dr. Courtland: Good, there’s two things about this. One first thing I should note is that the approach I take is highly empirical. So it’s going to be contingent about what we know about the world. As we know of public policy, that’s incredibly important. Different policies will have unintended consequences and be nasty. Just put that aside for a second. The other thing about it is what I give primacy for is living together in a mutually advantageous peace. It may turn out that some people we have to sacrifice their values or what they value precisely because if we don’t we can no longer live together in a mutually advantageous peace. We may have people for example, who want to destroy the environment in order to profit, and it’s clearly in their interest. We have other people saying look if we do this, this is going to put it so that our very preservation is at risk. Then I would have to say that if we have to side with somebody on that, we want to side with the people who want to maintain a peaceful, mutually advantageous society.

Dr. Cashio: What if I were to say that one of the good ways of getting a mutually peaceful advantageous society is to get rid of all of the people who disagree with me?

Dr. Courtland: What you’re going to find then, is that everybody is going to disagree with you at some point. On top of it, it’s going to be hard to find other people that will want to be in a society with you if you have that view. Imagine as your precondition to be in a mutually advantageous peace is to obey me or die.

Dr. Weber: We’re out of time, actually guys. We have got one more final segment to get. These are some pretty heavy thoughts. We’re going to allow a couple more questions as we close out on the last segment. Thanks so much Dr. Shane Courtland. We’ll be right back with Philosophy Bakes Bread: food for thought about life and leadership.

Dr. Cashio: Welcome back to Philosophy Bakes Bread! We’ve been talking to Dr. Shane Courtland this afternoon, and now we have some final big-picture questions in this segment, and hopefully some lighthearted thoughts. Shane, in the last section we were hitting upon this idea of: What do you do when we have competing interests? Why not have someone just take over and get rid of anyone we disagree with? I live in coal-mining country, so this topic of mountaintop removal is very much on everyone’s mind right now. Why not just silence in whatever way the people who disagree with us and keep us from making profits in this case?

Dr. Courtland: There’s always going to be disagreement about how to move forward. In some sense, that seems to be a starting point of politics and a starting point of human life. Another way it’s phrased is pluralism. There will be many different views on what the right thing to do is. If your policy is to silence those with different views, it’s hard to see how you’re going to live in a mutually advantageous peace. In part, because often having different views is beneficial. I’m thinking of John Stewart Mill here, when you disagree with people, sometimes they may have better ideas than you and you not know it. You learn through the disagreement. Also, sometimes they don’t have better ideas, but you learn more about your own ideas by having a disagreement for you.

In a certain sense, you want to respect this disagreement and have it in society, not just silence people, because of the positive benefits that you get from it. On top of that, to address your question in another more Hobbesian way, you’re right, at certain points, we will just have to act. There will be a point where the time for action is now and we can’t just keep talking about it. Of course the Hobbesian solution to that, which is ridiculously unpopular, although I have been trying to defend it for a number of years, is that you embrace what an absolute sovereign would say. What an absolute sovereign is is just that we would have this authority, a judge if you will, that is absolute. Whatever the judge says you take it as an authoritative reason, meaning that you don’t have to agree with it, but you’re obligated to obey in that sort of regard.

Dr. Weber: In a sense, at any given point in time, we have an ultimate court.

Dr. Courtland: I have argued, and I don’t mean to interrupt you, Eric, but I have argued elsewhere, and it’s currently under review now, that the United States government is an example of what Hobbes would consider an absolute sovereign. But my version of the United States government sovereign is not to refer to any of the branches, whether it be judiciary, congress and the legislative branch and the president, thank God, or executive. What I refer to as the sovereign is the people, generally speaking. The reason that they are the sovereign is literally the people, as in say Article V of the Constitution, is the people can literally do anything they want and it’s immediately binding legally.

Dr. Weber: How is that?

Dr. Courtland: Say they decide, for example, to enact a bizarro first amendment. What I mean by a bizarro first amendment, the first amendment that they do is to reverse everything the initial first amendment did. So now we have an establishment clause that actually says, “Yes, we’re establishing a particular religion,” and it denies freedom of speech. If it went through Article V, done. They have a legal authority to do that. That’s the sovereign within our country, as far as I can gather.

Dr. Weber: What I’m hearing though, in other words, is that the Supreme Court, when it makes an ultimate decision, it in a sense isn’t ultimate insofar that you and I can vote to change the Constitution. Is that what you’re getting at?

Dr. Courtland: That’s exactly right. We are the ones ultimately–and I think a big criticism of my interpretation, and I think it’s a good criticism, although I don’t think it’s fatal, is that what the people is constituted by seems kind of nebulous when we think about it in the United States, as a sovereign. I admit that. But my version of sovereignty is all about a procedure. We have a procedure in place that gives definitive answers.

Dr. Weber: It often does, but sometimes things can be left in limbo because the court chooses not to hear it.

Dr. Courtland: Yeah, but then again, it’s almost like a sovereign then, decides to not clear up the ambiguity. Nonetheless, if it ‘wants’ to, I put want in scare quotes, because it’s a multi-person entity, it can act! When it acts, it is decisive in an authoritative sense.

Dr. Weber: Well Shane, I want to make sure we have time for the last couple of things that we need to talk about today. One of them is to ask you the big picture question that we ask everybody. There are people who incline towards the old saying that philosophy bakes no bread. What do you say to such people? Do you agree or do you reject that idea and how?

Dr. Courtland: I reject the question. Let me explain. In some sense, I immediately agree that there are practical applications of philosophy that are beneficial. I think this is something that you hear over and over again. Enhancing critical thinking, getting you to interact with complicated subjects, the method is important, blah blah blah. And I agree, I’m not being dismissive there. Here’s why I want to point out that the question is in some sense deceptive. Take for example philosophy majors. A lot of people give a hard time about philosophy majors not getting money and so forth. As we know, and I’m sure you could tell the listeners here this too: we’re not the lowest paid major.

Dr. Weber: Nowhere near it.

Dr. Courtland: Nowhere near, no you’re exactly right. The lowest paid major that I could find were middle school teachers at $36,000 a year.

Dr. Cashio: Which is another whole problem.

Dr. Weber: You’re talking about starting salaries.

Dr. Courtland: Exactly. Here’s what I want to point out, and here’s why I think the question is sometimes misguided the way it’s used. I’m not saying you’re using it this way, but the way that other people use it. That puts us, when it come to the world income of each individual, we’re in the top one percent if you were a middle school teacher here in the United States.

Dr. Weber: You mean in the world?

Dr. Courtland: Of the world, right. At this point, then, and philosophers are even higher than the middle percent. So think how we are characterizing this question about people who want to study philosophy. You’re not high enough in the one percent. The question that I always think is weird, is what point would you be satisfied then? Getting a college degree, any college degree, you are automatically in the one percent. I think the one percent to qualify is $34,000 a year for the world. Now at this point, then, us arguing about what part of the one percent we want to be in, in some sense, it would almost be like asking people “Well I’ve got three jets”, while the other person is like “Well I’ve got ten jets. We should really do something to get you more jets.” At that point, people who lack any jets at all would be going “What the hell? I don’t want to have jets, I want to eat.”

I’ve heard people before saying “What do you tell the poor?” and I’m like “The poor who are going to college? You’re already in the one percent.” That’s what I tell them. In many ways you’ve made it. In many ways. I think that at a certain point, and why I think the question is deceptive, you have to find value from the things that you do in life. And that value is not necessarily money or income or anything in that realm, it’s just what you engage in as a practice. Since we’re already in the one percent just by going to college, at that point I think you should have some liberty to do what you find appealing. you’ve made it, it’s not about survival for you anymore.

Dr. Weber: That’s interesting. At the same time, as far as one loose sense of baking bread in other words, philosophy mattering and making a difference, it sounds like you do agree on that. The big picture, on the other hand why not think about just having fun, that’s what I’m hearing. Assuming you’re in a group where none of your family is going to starve if you have that kind of income.

Dr. Courtland: Here’s another thing I want to do really quick. What would I tell somebody who wanted to for example, after getting their degree not think about philosophy ever again? Then just say play video games, I’m not insulting video game players, I am a video game player too. But they want to do something not very complicated because they extract joy from it. I would give them what Jeremy Bentham gives them is that you’re right, you can be happy in a certain degree by playing less complicated games, like playing video games. But philosophy is a game that is constantly rewarding and fun. Because of its complexity, you will be entertained by a longer period of time than you will with anything else you pick up. If your goal is to be happy, philosophy will do a good job in this regard because it is complicated and it will keep your attention.

Dr. Cashio: Self-interested argument. We’re doing philosophy. I like it. Nothing but consistent. Speaking of entertaining, one of the things we like to do on the show is something we like to call philosophunnies.

Dr. Weber: Say ‘philosophunnies’

Sam: Philosophunnies!


Dr. Weber: Say ‘philosophunnies’

Sam: Philosophunnies!

(child’s laughter)

Dr. Cashio: We are philosophers telling jokes, which may be in and of itself a joke. Do you have any jokes? We brought some jokes.

Dr. Weber: Philosophy jokes, or about self-interest or anything.

Dr. Courtland: I’ve got a joke about self-interest. So here we go. Two men went into a restaurant and ordered food. The waiter brought a platter on which the two pieces of fish, one of the pieces of fish is much larger than the other. Very big, the other one smaller. One of the men asks the other “Please, help yourself.” The other said OK, and took the larger piece. An angry silence follows after this. The other finally says, “You know, if you had told me to choose, I would have taken the smaller piece of fish.” Upon which the other said “Well, you have the smaller piece, don’t you? Why are you complaining?”


Dr. Weber: Anthony, have you got a joke, anything about self-interest here?

Dr. Cashio: I like this one, I think it comes from Jimmy Kimmel actually, I’m going to steal, or borrow a joke here. We all hate paying taxes, but the truth of the matter is that without our tax money, many politicians would not be able to afford prostitutes!


Dr. Weber: You know, teamwork means never having to take all of the blame yourself.


Dr. Cashio: He who hogs the blankets is usually very wrapped up in himself.


Dr. Weber: Selfish jerk, taking all of the blankets. OK here’s the last one. Always go the extra mile, especially if what you want is a mile away. We need a rimshot!

(laughter, rimshot)

Dr. Cashio: Last but not least, we want to take advantage of the fact that today we have powerful social media that allow two-way communications even for programs like radio shows. WE want to invite our listeners to send us their thoughts about big questions that we raise on the show.

Dr. Weber: Indeed. Shane, We would love to hear your thoughts about what question we should ask our listeners for our segment called “You Tell Me!” Have you got a question for us that you propose we ask our listeners?

Dr. Courtland: Should you ever sacrifice for someone that you don’t care about?

Dr. Weber: There you go. Should you ever sacrifice for someone that you don’t care about? Well, yeah!

Dr. Cashio: Wouldn’t that be the height of ethics?

Dr. Weber: You heard the question folks, we want to hear from you.

Dr. Cashio: I think that’s going to be some fun discussion on that one. Well thanks, everyone for listening to this episode of Philosophy Bakes Bread. Your hosts, Dr. Anthony Cashio and Dr. Eric Weber, are very grateful to be joined today by Dr. Shane Courtland. We hope you listeners would join us again. Consider sending us your thought about anything that you’ve heard today that you’d like to hear about in the future, or the specific questions that we’ve raised for you.

Dr. Weber: Indeed. Once again, you can reach us in a number of ways. We’re on twitter @Philosophybb, which stands for Philosophy Bakes Bread. We’re also on Facebook at Philosophy Bakes Bread, and check out SOPHIA’s Facebook page while you’re there, Philosophers in America.

Dr. Cashio: Thanks again for joining us, Shane. Hopefully we can do this again. You can of course, email us at philosophybakesbread@gmail.com, and you can call us and leave a short, recorded message, I like that one.  with a question or a comment that we may be able to play on the show at 850-257-1849. Let me repeat that. It’s 859-257-1849. Join us next time on Philosophy Bakes Bread, food for thought about life and leadership.

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