Constantine is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hertfordshire, Director of Lex Academic and a Fellow of the RSA. He describes his philosophical interests as “unfashionably broad, but I work primarily in the philosophy of action, moral psychology, and interpersonal understanding. I also have an interest in the psychology of philosophy, as advanced by Hume, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein.” He spent most of his twenties as a theatre director and playwright. Constantine writes a quarterly opinion column for The Philosophers’ Magazine, contributes to Times Higher Education and The Times Literary Supplement, and frequently appears as a guest on radio programmes such as The Moral Maze, Analysis, and Free Thinking.
In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”
01:15 Constantine’s Intro
- “I’m looking forward to finding out if I’m a Sentientist or not”
- Teaching & researching philosophy
- Phil of action, Wittgenstein & Hume, virtue ethics, anti-vegan rhetoric
- Rejecting the separation betweeen human & non-human animals “Who are ‘we’ anyway?”
- The value of improving human worldviews (epistemology & ethics)
- Beliefs & values & reasons driving action
08:07 What’s Real?
- Greek Orthodox Christian upbringing but “science was taken very seriously”
- Born in India, living in Zimbabwe
- Being placed in “Protestant” vs. “Catholic” or “Ethics” class
- Agnostic as a teenager
- Degree at Oxford in phil & theology “By the end of that degree I was atheist”
- “The more you read about it [the bible] as a human text…”
- Studying Christian moral reasoning & Nietzsche
- Wittgenstein & Kierkegaard
- “I’m not one of those Dawkins style atheists”
- “I just don’t have this faith”
- “Everyday life was very naturalistic”
- Culturally Christian
- Those who stay religious but update the ethics
- “I think there are things we can’t explain”
- Doubt as central to science & naturalism
- “I know the precise second I switched from agnostic to atheist” in a phil of religion lecture: “Just because it’s possible something exists & you can’t disprove it’s existence doesn’t mean you’re agnostic about it… a 3 headed dragon in some other galaxy.” Atheism & Adragonism 🙂
- Norms re: religious rituals/marriage
- Why do religious organisations get a pass re: basic ethics? (sexism, homophobia, abuse)?
- Atheist societies often suffer from similar problems
- The good that can come from religion
- Allen Ginsberg re: homophobia in Cuba
- Post-truth, QAnon, homeopathy, Flat Earth… epistemology fails
- Refusing medical treatment on religious grounds
- Vountary euthanasia
- Wearing the hijab
- Personal autonomy, but don’t harm others
35:18 What Matters & Who Matters?
- “Half Humean, half Wittgensteinian”
- Contrasting reason & care
- Annette Baier
- Hume: Reason as the “slave of the passions”… Without “care”, ethics would be very different
- Hume did talk about non-human animals
- Justice, equality, suffering
- Mark Schroeder’s “Slaves of the Passions”: “If there was no such thing as desire ethics could not take hold”
- Caring has to come before reason
- Wittgenstein: “It can’t be reasons all the way down… there’s something very animal & primitive at the basis”
- Many philosophers try to separate humans from other animals using “reason”. Hume & Wittgenstein both say “no… we share behaviours & desires”
- “Humanism is just way too focused on one animal… it’s kind of like religion for people who don’t want to believe in god”
- “What’s important is not harming other beings… first do no harm”. Why can that view garner so much hatred?
- “What is so radical about not wanting to harm beings that feel pain”
- Theophrastus https://sentientism.info/sentientist-pledge/theophrastus
- A meat-eating family
- Meeting veg*ns at unversity
- Teaching ethics
- Rosalind Hursthouse “Humans & other animals” virtue ethics “but she was eating veal!”
- Went vegetarian (vegan was considered radical). Vegan for 5 yrs
- A “Slower, old school journey”
- “Consequences matter a lot”
- Does consequentialism risk majoritarianism?
- Biocentrism & ecocentrism “I don’t really see how you can harm a rock”
- Species vs. individuals
- Cultivated meat
01:12:09 How Can We Make a Better World?
- Semi optimistic & pessimistic
- Climate catastrophe
- “People thought veganism was a fad & it isn’t”
- #JustTransition for communities
- “You can end world hunger if you re-distribute the food the animals are eating”
- The agri/env clash
- Cat diets
- Progress? “The penny can drop”
- The distinction between “the doing & the thing done”
Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at Sentientism.info.
Everyone, Sentientist or not, is welcome in our groups. The biggest so far is here on Facebook.
Thanks Graham for the post-production.