If you’ve sat up at night pondering over the differences between consequentialism amd deontology, you’re probably in the minority, but you’re not alone.

Brian Merlos
Illustrations by John Oquist

There’s a whole crowd of aspiring philosophers on campus that meets every Tuesday night to deal in just those types of questions. This group is, of course, the Undergraduate Philosophy Club.

Last week, about 20 budding philosophers trickled into an Angell Hall classroom at 8 p.m. to discuss this week’s topic: Is medicine good or bad?

The atmosphere was relaxed and there was light banter around the tables as people waited for things to get going. One girl sat at the front of the room to mediate the debate. She started things off by asking the members to go around the room, state their name, and say whether they approved or disapproved of medicine.

The tally was 13 for good, four for bad, two on the fence.

Once discussion opened, about 80 percent of people’s hands in the room shot up to get their turn to speak.

LSA senior John Wang, the club’s president, said the clubs meetings are intended to be more of a social thing. The discussions, though academic, can get colorful, he said.

“Once we talked about capitalism and that just exploded,” Wang said.

Last week, the mediator played devil’s advocate to the majority, arguing against the merits of medical technology. The basis for her argument was that it’s too ideological to think we can make people live so long – we’re expending resources and running out of living space by raising people’s life expectancies.

The discussion jumped to evolution and how medicine contributes to a weaker gene pool. The general idea was that if someone is sick and survives thanks to medicine, instead of dying off, they’re sapping the strength of genes to fight illnesses for generations to come.

But that argument didn’t enjoy much success – none of the philosophers seemed too extreme. Only one student in attendance fit neatly into most peoples’ go-to image of a deep philosopher. He was wearing black clothes from head to toe, had long curly hair and sported black-rimmed glasses.

As the topic wasn’t very controversial, it became obvious that people were stretching to make points – it’s hard to argue that medicine isn’t kind of useful.

At the very end, the mediator admitted defeat. “I’m actually done defending this because I think medicine’s great and I want to be a doctor,” she said. “But did I at least make any good points at all, or was that just all bullshit?”

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