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Thought Experiments

Janet Radcliffe Richards
This week's Analysis presenter Professor Janet Radcliffe Richards

BBC Radio 4's Analysis: Thought Experiments is broadcast on Sunday 28 June at 21.30 BST.

How do we make society morally better?

Some moral philosophers argue that we need to approach this old question in a completely different way - with experiments.

These involve, among other things, baking bread, leaving coins in telephone kiosks, and asking whether it's acceptable to eat the pet dog.

Anthony Appiah
I think, it's terrifically important to shape the world in a way that gives people the context in which they'll behave well
Professor Anthony Appiah

These new breed of so-called 'experimental philosophers' are abandoning their armchairs - and they're describing themselves as a movement.

Part of their aim is to discover what kinds of moral creatures we humans are - how we act in practice.

The results are fascinating. But is it one thing to make discoveries about how we do behave but quite another to work out how we should behave?

In this addition of Analysis, Professor Janet Radcliffe Richards, of Oxford University's Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, asks whether insights into our moral character can tell us anything about how we should shape society.

Analysis: Thought Experiments will repeat on Monday 29th June at 20.30 BST


Interviewees:

Professor Anthony Appiah, Princeton University

Joshua Greene, Harvard University

Professor Jonathan Haidt, University of Virginia

Joshua Knobe, University of North California

Dr Helena Cronin, London School of Economics

Dr Nick Shea, University of Oxford


Coming up

The 'Underground Economist' Tim Harford examines the different ways to inspire the creators and inventors who will lead the fight against climate change.




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