Letter to the Editor: "As*hole Lecture"
The Skidnews ran an article on September 29, entitled “’Assholes Lecture Fails to Provoke,”, lambasting the lecture’s host, Abude Alasaad, and lecturer Sheldon Solomon, for their disorganization and failure to address their central questions.
The author(s) of this post clearly missed the tongue - in - cheek nature of Professor Solomon's opening remarks on his lack of preparation, which was made immediately evident by his well-organized and relatable argument about the challenges of altruism in (especially modern) society, and especially in modern society.
But that can surely be excused, given that it served as preamble to Alasaad's provocative challenge to consider the moral obligation to effective altruism.
It seems the author(s) were distracted by the superficial and introductory questions about "assholery,", which, with careful attention, were revealed as a frame for viewing moral obligations.
In fact, if the introductory questions awere interpreted as an examination of why we so often ignore or deny our moral obligations to the global community, the talk becomes a cohesive argument. Solomon defined the obstacles to fulfilling these obligations (divisive ingrouping, decreasing collectivist ideology, cultural trends toward individualism), and Alasaad presented the possibility of overcoming these challenges through empathy and marginal increases in our dedication to altruism.
While there was certainly a clear polarity to the presentation, the author(s)' assertions that it failed to answer its fundamental questions seem to be based on a superficial interpretation of what those questions really were.
The lecture may well have been more challenging to the moral confidence of its audience than the tagline suggested, – but that is exactly in line with Alasaad’s and Solomon’s stated goal of provoking serious thought about difficult issues.
Silas Phipps-Costin ‘16,