Articles by: Rachel Haliburton

The Ethicist: Taking Cartesian Dualism Too Far?

The Ethicist: Taking Cartesian Dualism Too Far?

March 14, 2018 at 9:36 am

Last month, I discussed Descartes’ thought experiment and its sharp separation between mind and body. This month, I want to look at a bizarre and ethically troubling proposal that arises as a consequence of this way of understanding ourselves: the head transplant operation that Italian physician Dr. Sergio Canavero claims thatRead...

Ideas You Didn’t Know You Had: Who Are You?

Ideas You Didn’t Know You Had: Who Are You?

February 14, 2018 at 12:06 pm

There is a common type of case study presented in many bioethics textbooks. It concerns a person (usually a woman, for some reason) who is suffering from somewhat advanced dementia. She is often described as having been someone who was highly intelligent, who had a professional career in which sheRead More

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The Ethicist: Why a Feeling Is Not an Argument

January 10, 2018 at 12:46 pm

Last month, I asked readers to consider the case of carnivorous Cleo, and her beloved feline friend, Hector, who ended up as her supper. I concluded by asking why it seems so wrong to eat Hector, especially if we are willing to eat other kinds of meat? This month, IRead More

The Ethicist: Would You Eat Your Cat?

The Ethicist: Would You Eat Your Cat?

December 6, 2017 at 12:04 pm

I recently explored an intriguing thought experiment with my students. As we saw several columns ago, thought experiments are employed by philosophers because they offer us a way of making difficult philosophical concepts both accessible and concrete, changing them, in the process, from abstract ideas into ones that we canRead More

The Ethicist: Our Animal Companions

The Ethicist: Our Animal Companions

November 15, 2017 at 11:34 am

My cat recently died. Although his life was relatively long (for a cat, anyway) and, I would like to believe, very happy, his death was sudden and unexpected and has left me feeling deeply bereft. I keep expecting to hear his meow at the door or see his intelligent faceRead More

Friendship. (Photo by Rufino, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Ethicist: Ally, Role Model, Indifferent or Dementor?

October 11, 2017 at 11:49 am

I recently attended an ethics conference which addressed the question of how healthcare organizations and other social institutions should respond to cultural, religious, and sexual diversity in their patients, students and staff. One of the speakers was particularly interesting for me, because her talk was focused on ways in whichRead More

Nick, learning to ride a bike. (Photo by By Nick Richards from London, UK  [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

The Ethicist: Just Like Riding a Bike?

September 20, 2017 at 12:06 pm

It often feels hard to do the right thing, easy to do the wrong one. But what if there were a way in which we could learn to be ethical in just the same way that we learn other practical skills, like driving and reading? Happily, there may be. InRead More

The Ethicist: Thinking and Feeling

The Ethicist: Thinking and Feeling

August 2, 2017 at 11:45 am

I recently read an article that fascinated me. It was about a conversation between President Donald Trump and the mayor of a small island off the coast of Virginia that is quickly disappearing beneath the water as sea levels rise. The article is accompanied by a short video that demonstratesRead More

The Ethicist: Rawls, Hobbes & the Zombie Apocalypse

The Ethicist: Rawls, Hobbes & the Zombie Apocalypse

July 12, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Have you ever asked yourself why the world is the way it is? When I ask this question, I don’t mean to refer to what we consider to be scientific truths, such as the law of gravity or the existence of neutrinos; I mean questions like: Why are some peopleRead More

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The Ethicist: Would You Kill the Fat Man?

May 31, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Over the last few columns, I have been making the case that ethics is as much a work of the imagination as it is of the intellect — we need to be able to imagine what a better world might look like before we can identify ways that might allowRead More