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God, Moral Realism, Utilitarianism, and Other Light Topics


Matthew Adelstein is a sophomore studying philosophy at the University of Michigan. You might know him from the Bentham’s Bulldog Substack. I originally invited him on to talk about my recent article taking a maximalist pro-choice position, and his response, along with my responses to his response. We meant this to be a discussion mostly about abortion, but instead we went in all kinds of other directions.

Matthew begins by pretty much convincing me to become a moral realist. We also discuss the “fine tuning” argument for the existence of God. He informs me of a critique that his friend, an official “Hanania hater,” makes of me, which I found interesting. The idea is that I reject, or at least don’t care that much about, the low hanging fruit of utilitarianism, like giving money to effective charities. At the same time, I’m very eager to bite the bullet on utilitarian arguments that make people more uncomfortable, like with my staunch defense of euthanasia. Listen for my response.

This leads to a conversation about how we decide which topics to focus on, how we divide our time in life, and how rational or utilitarian we choose to be. I reiterate my theory about how each individual thinks that everyone more utilitarian than him is an autistic weirdo, and everyone less utilitarian is an overly emotional moron driven by primitive instincts. And like everyone else in the world, I happen to like exactly where I’m standing right now. I particularly enjoyed the part where we talked about how I can’t get as excited about Émile Torres versus Peter Singer debates as I do about regular politics. I find this kind of introspection fun, which is a trait I share more with liberals and EAs than conservatives, who I’ve noticed have a particular aversion to it.

We also cover animal rights, why you should eat beef instead of chicken, what philosophy majors at the University of Michigan are like, and whether Matthew can hope to find a job in academia given the internet profile he already has.

One administrative note: since I’ve started posting the videos here along with the podcasts, it seems people are confused over whether these discussions are still available in podcast form. They indeed are. You should see the option to listen near the top on the desktop viewer, and on your phone you just need to click on “More options.” I don’t see this on the app, so make sure to copy and paste the link into a browser on your phone

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