Are you an immoral accomplice? Music Edition

When are we morally innocent bystanders and when are we immoral accomplices?  THE QUESTION is going to raise several scenarios to provoke your moral intuitions.  In this edition, we will focus on our behavior as mere listeners and consumers of music with degrading, violent, and hateful lyrics.  Many of us listen to such music, purchase such music, and even sing along.  Are we part of the problem or are we innocent bystanders?  Share your thoughts in this blog or on our Facebook page.

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Should College Be Free?

College is an expensive investment for many people. A democracy works best when its citizens are well educated. Should a college education be provided to all Americans, free of charge?  Who would/should pay for it? Is the current system broken?  What do you think? Please share your ideas in the comments section.  To add a comment, please click read full article, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and type in the designated area.

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Am I my brother's keeper?

We all want to live in a world in which we take good care of ourselves and others.  What gets in the way of that happening?  What stops us from asking for, giving, and receiving help?  What gets in the way of knowing what is the right thing to do?  Please scroll down and share some ideas in the blog. 

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What's the problem with so-called "Indian" mascots?

This academic year, THE QUESTION returns with interesting questions designed to spark respectful and enlightening discussion.  Even when our questions pose challenging and uncomfortable topics, as will happen with this issue and others, we hope you will enjoy the process of patiently thinking about some big ideas.  

We begin in collaboration with WVU's Native American Studies Program, offering some perspectives on the view that the use of caricatures and stereotypes of Native American people is unacceptable and needs to stop. Among other places, we see examples of these in sports mascots and logos. Honestly facing the history of genocidal acts carried out against Native Americans, including attempts at forced assimilation, is a helpful place to begin to understand the thinking behind opposition to so-called “Indian” mascots. Broadly speaking, Native languages, spiritual and cultural practices, and traditional stories were nearly wiped out in the process of European colonization and settlement of this country. Most Americans lack a serious understanding of Native history and culture.  All of us, especially those who are members of a university community, have an obligation to understand and preserve history, thus contributing to a contemporary society where people can interact with empathy and civility. When a group has been made to feel invisible, and then told they are being  "honored" with ridiculous, inaccurate, humiliating, or disrespectful representations, it is a violation of the basic duty to treat people with dignity and respect. Those who pretend to be Indians for entertainment and fun, revving up team spirit by playing around with objects, practices, dress, and traditions that have sacred meaning, offend and belittle (whether or not they intend to do so). This issue of THE QUESTION is devoted to opening up a discussion that helps to illuminate why so many people are in favor of ending the use of so-called "Indian" mascots, and to explaining why this debate is really not just a question about mascots.

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Who and what should we forgive?

THE QUESTION will wrap up the 2015-16 academic year focusing on the topic of forgiveness. WVU philosophers Matthew Talbert, Jessica Wolfendale and Sharon Ryan, along with Glen Pettigrove from the University of Auckland, share some insights to stimulate further thought and discussion.

What is forgiveness?  Must we always forgive?  Should forgiveness be conditional upon a sincere apology and genuine remorse?  Is it ever morally acceptable to not forgive?  Are some actions, or the people who perform them, fundamentally unforgivable?  What is the role of apology in forgiveness?  Is forgiveness a power we have over others?  If so, how does it work?  Are the guiding principles of self-forgiveness the same as the guiding principles of forgiving others?  What are the emotional costs and benefits of forgiving, failing to forgive, or mindfully choosing to not forgive?

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What does recovery mean to you?

WVU's newly formed Collegiate Recovery Program provides students with a supportive community to help them map out a more gratifying, healthy, and successful college experience. Through THE QUESTION, WVU's Collegiate Recovery Program is reaching out to students, community members, mental health professionals, faculty, and staff to begin a discussion about what recovery means to you.   What is recovery?  How could a recovery program help you or someone you care about?   What are some of the challenges of college life that make the road to recovery particularly difficult for students? Do you have any helpful words of wisdom and encouragement for students committed to this courageous, life changing journey? Have you found any activities, places, people, or ideas helpful in recovery? Many students, for a wide variety of reasons, seek out healthy and enjoyable alternatives to the college party scene.  How are students having sober and healthy fun at WVU? 

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How is the world different in another language?

Continuing WVU's celebration of the arts and humanities, this issue of THE QUESTION features WVU's Department of World Languages, Literatures & Linguistics.  Daniel Ferreras Savoye, Lisa DiBartolomeo, and Pablo Loaeza Garcia, who are faculty members in the department, begin a discussion of a question long pondered by linguists, philosophers, cognitive scientists, psychologists, anthropologists, and everyday people trying to communicate: How is the world different in another language?  Other interesting questions immediately arise.  How does language shape our understanding of the world?  Is the world really different in another language, or is the world exactly the same no matter the language and different languages just provide alternative ways of usefully organizing and understanding reality? How does our language influence how we experience the world? How does a language reflect beliefs and cultural practices? What can we understand about other people by understanding their language?  If a language lacks a precise way to express an idea or concept, does that mean that users of that language are prevented from adequately understanding that idea or concept? What kind of trouble can we get into by using, but failing to adequately understand, another language?

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What are our ethical responsibilities as producers and consumers of images?

“A photo is worth a thousand words.”  We all make use of photos and other images to communicate and understand our history, our world, and ourselves.  We also use images for entertainment and for artistic expression.  Photos and other images can be insightful, revealing, and beautiful, but they can also be hurtful, misleading, and inappropriate.  Are there any guiding principles that we can rely upon to help us make wise decisions about when to take a photo; how to take a photo; when to share a photo; where to share a photo; how to view a photo; and what conclusions we should draw upon viewing a photo?

Using photos to tell a story raises a host of thorny ethical issues.  Although these issues are most obvious when the photographer is a journalist, with a professional responsibility for getting accurate and news worthy stories to us in a timely manner, these issues pertain to all of us, whether we are producers or consumers of images.

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What would academe look like without the university press?

THE QUESTION (2015-2016) is devoted to a celebration of the arts and humanities.  In this issue, we focus on the West Virginia University Press.   Several staff members at the WVU Press share with us their thoughts about the essential role a university press plays in the intellectual and cultural life of a university and society.  A university press specializes in the publication of carefully researched, dutifully edited, peer-reviewed work that provides us with reliable sources that help us understand our world.  What would academe be like without the university press?  What would we know without a university press?  As always, the blog (scroll way down to the very bottom) is open for you to share your own ideas.  THE QUESTION promotes a vibrant intellectual culture at WVU that encourages learning, exploration, and inquiry.  

Please check out the links below for some exciting opportunities at the WVU Press.  You can weigh in on a book cover contest for West Virginia poet laureate, Marc Harshman's newest book. Just follow the link, choose your favorite, and cast your vote.  And, if you are a graduate student interested in learning about how to get your work published, on February 18, from 9am-11am, the WVU Press is hosting a panel of experts to help you.  Click the link below for details.

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