No ‘Slut’s Allowed

I’m standing in front of a camera, professor, and 30 frat boys and sorority girls, trying to explain slut-shaming. I’ve been at it for twenty minutes, and the audience who originally giggled when I said the word “slut” now sinks into their seats because I’ve put the blame on them.

The assignment was simple: form a group of four, pick a topic, talk about it for twenty minutes, and try not to use contrasting colors on your PowerPoint slides. In a Professional Communications Skills class the intensity of the topics didn’t matter as much as their presentation. We could have picked snowmobiling accidents, porn regulation, or lip-synching. But since I tend to make everything more difficult for myself, I suggested slut-shaming. Two in my group had absolutely no idea what slut-shaming is. But their lack of knowledge only proved to me how much education there needed to be.


The Case Against Fairness: Why Favoritism, Not Fairness, Should be The Ethical Standard for The 21st Century

Imagine that a father said to you, “I would strangle everyone in this room if it somehow prolonged my son’s life.” You might be immediately repulsed and understandably doubt his capacity as a father. But bear with me. After a minute of reflection, you might think, “well, perhaps he’s just ignorant. Or perhaps very selfish. Maybe I could understand where he’s coming from, even if I think he’s wrong.” After some time to reconsider, the father only intensifies his earlier claim: “I realized that I meant it—I would choke them all.” Now imagine that that father is a philosopher who justifies that action using ideas from some of the greatest minds in the Western canon and got his argument published in a prestigious peer-reviewed university press.

In his recent book Against Fairness, Columbia College Chicago professor of philosophy Stephen T. Asma is just that philosopher-father and makes just this case for favoritism. He contends that all of the wishy-washy, kumbaya lessons we learned in kindergarten about the Golden Rule and only bringing treats if there’s enough for everyone are antithetical to the way human life was meant to be lived. According to Asma, we as a species have been making a category error for most of our existence by looking for the answers of how to live in abstract principles from ethical philosophy and religion when we should have been listening to our instincts for favoritism.


What Election Predictions Really Mean

If you asked statistician, sabermetrician, psephologist, and writer Nate Silver who the next president of United States would be, he’d tell you with confidence that right now Barack Obama has an 88 percent chance of winning. His number has nothing to do with personal bias and everything to do with simple math, statistics, and predictive modeling. And it would behoove you to trust Silver, in 2008, the 34-year-old statistician predicted the voting outcome of 49 of 50 states in the presidential race and correctly called all 35 senate races.

Silver has come under fire for his statistical projections he publishes at his blog, FiveThirtyEight, under the New York Times name. His predictions favor President Obama, which conservatives don’t like to see. But most of the anger and confusion about the percentages Silver publishes stem from the general lack of understanding for what statistics actually are.


“The Closing of the American Mind” Reconsidered After 25 Years

In 1987, philosopher Allan Bloom authored his presumptuously titled book, “The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students.” After 25 years in press, this influential work deserves reconsideration.

Initially written as a reflection on Bloom’s own academic career in the University of Chicago’s prestigious Committee on Social Thought, the book was not expected to be a game changer. But, after being reviewed by several important critics, it was widely read in and outside of academia, selling close to half a million copies in hardback and remaining at number one on the New York Times Non-fiction Best Seller list for four months. On account of its popularity and highly influential message, one critic has called Closing “the first shot in the culture wars” that still rage on between liberal and conservative critics and academics.


Dapper Disputes: What the %$#! Happened to Comics?

Dapper Disputes is a feature where editors at The Airspace debate the merits and purpose of relevant issues in culture, technology, and scholarship.

From May 18-20, 2012, all eyes were on Chicago, and not just watching NATO protestors. The conference Comics: Philosophy & Practice brought together seventeen of the world’s most famous cartoonists for three days of lectures and panel discussions on the future of the genre. The event, which took place at the University of Chicago’s new Logan Center for the Arts, was called “historic” by the Chicago Tribune and drew an international audience [1]. By hosting cross-disciplinary dialogue between figures like the “grandfather of comics,” Art Spiegelman, and up-and-coming underground comic artists, this conference was to comics what Woodstock ’69 was to rock. Editors Blake J. Graham and Jon Catlin watched the conference via webcast and share their thoughts on the conference below.


Vote, Motherfuckers

With less than sixty days until the presidential election of 2012, everyone and everything has reached a fever pitch around politics. Whether you love or hate politics (and are espousing such position in your conversations) the political animal in each of us has been roused from its slumber and is slouching around the den. I might be the first to say it doesn’t matter what your political leanings are, but it is important to have political thoughts. Crucially, it is essential you take your political whims and put them into action—regard this action as compulsory. To ameliorate any haze the headline1 might have created, it’s time you vote.


Yuck! Disgust and the Case for Same-sex Marriage

A friend of ours recently told us a story that raised important questions about an everyday emotion: disgust. He was walking through Chicago’s Lincoln Park holding hands with his boyfriend when a boy around age eight passed the couple on his bike. “Eeewww!” the little boy burst out, making an unmistakable expression of disgust. The men were wearing ordinary clothing and, besides holding hands, seemed generally inoffensive. There were also several heterosexual couples holding hands in the park, but the boy did not react to them. Why, we wondered, did the boy exhibit such a strong emotional reaction to this harmless display? What cognitive processes inspired the boy to act this way, and are they unique to him or common to everyone?

In this article, Jon Catlin and Melissa McSweeney examine disgust from psychological and philosophical perspectives and ultimately call out its inaptness as a basis for important social and political decisions, particularly denying same-sex couples the right to marry.


Gender Equality in the Media: The New Social Movement

“The media is the message and the messenger, and increasingly a powerful one,” says Patricia Mitchell, the former president and CEO of PBS. By the age of 10, a young girl will watch an average of 31 hours of television a week and join other women around the country in comprising 52% of the movie-going population. Unfortunately, the media’s influence on young women has yielded many negative consequences. The media has been associated with causing young girls to have poor body images, exposing them to limited career options, and accepting inferior status to men. Organizations such as The Geena Davis Institute of Gender in Media seek to terminate these negative consequences of the media’s influence on young women through public education.


Dapper Disputes: The Declaration of Internet Freedom

Dapper Disputes is a feature where editors at The Airspace debate the merits and purpose of relevant issues in culture, technology, and scholarship.

On January 18th, 2012, Internet powerhouses like Wikipedia, Reddit, and Google halted their normal operations in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP acts that were sitting in Congress–pieces of legislation threatening the equality and neutrality of the Internet. The blackout was a pivotal moment for the online community. It proved that web pervades life to such a severe degree that those who built and control the Internet can effectively sway policy. Even though SOPA and PIPA were killed in Congress, countless new acts keep popping up, each with different levels of severity, but all directed at regulating the Internet.

The strongest defenders of Internet freedom haven’t stopped working since the January blackout. Academics, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and online denizens first met at SXSW 2012 to casually talk about Internet policy. Since then, the group has worked to coalesce a community of like-minded people supporting Internet freedom. Led by Josh Levy, of Free Press, and Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, the “Declaration of Internet Freedom” is the result of the groups cumulative effort to issue a standard protecting the web. At 105 words, the “Declaration of Internet Freedom” outlines five tenets for a free internet: Expression, Access, Openness, Innovation and Privacy.


The Examined Life and the Task of Public Philosophy

“The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being” (Apology 38a)

This phrase is over 2400 years old, dating back to 399 BC when Socrates first uttered the words at his infamous defense trial, and retold by his pupil Plato around 387 BC in the Platonic dialogue the Apology of Socrates. Beyond modeling the examined life himself, Socrates pressed ordinary Athenian citizens to question their notions of justice, virtue, piety, and love, and never held set definitions himself. Since Socrates, the aphorism of the “examined life” has given rise to analogous sayings such as “life of the mind,” vita contemplativa, and “learning for learning’s sake,” and is the subject of countless books. One could even consider the project of philosophy, which itself began with Socrates, one of calling this phrase into question.

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