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What insight can babies in scientific experiments provide philosophy? If we

What insight can babies in scientific experiments provide philosophy? If we really are born with blank slates, how does that explain why many babies will choose to look and gesture at the side by side photo of the model instead of the photo of the grandma? I really think philosophy will answer this alone instead of neuroscience.

I don't have a clear fix on the question, but insofar as I do, I don't see how philosophy alone could answer it. You seem to be saying that there's a real-world, repeatable phenomenon: babies in certain situations behave this way rather than that. That may be true—is true, far as I know. But if it's true, there's nothing a priori about it; the opposite behavior is perfectly conceivable and might have been true for all we could have said in advance. I don't see how philosophical analysis could tell us why things turned out one way rather than another. At least as I and many of my colleagues understand philosophy, it doesn't have any special access to contingent facts. A philosopher might come up with a hypothesis, but insofar as the hypothesis is about an empirical matter, it will call for the usual sort of empirical investigation that empirical claims call for.

As for blank slates, philosophy can't tell us by itself whether we're born with blank slates as minds, but as a matter of fact, there seems to be reason to think we aren't. The mind seems to come pre-wired in certain ways. Understanding what that amounts to calls for doing some science, whether it be cognitive science or neuroscience or whatever. Philosophers may have contributions to make to clarifying relevant notions and questions, sorting out methodological issues and the like, but what they can't do is sit in their studies and settle the answers by themselves.

I don't have a clear fix on the question, but insofar as I do, I don't see how philosophy alone could answer it. You seem to be saying that there's a real-world, repeatable phenomenon: babies in certain situations behave this way rather than that . That may be true—is true, far as I know. But if it's true, there's nothing a priori about it; the opposite behavior is perfectly conceivable and might have been true for all we could have said in advance. I don't see how philosophical analysis could tell us why things turned out one way rather than another. At least as I and many of my colleagues understand philosophy, it doesn't have any special access to contingent facts. A philosopher might come up with a hypothesis, but insofar as the hypothesis is about an empirical matter, it will call for the usual sort of empirical investigation that empirical claims call for. As for blank slates, philosophy can't tell us by itself whether we're born with blank slates as minds, but as a matter of fact, there...

If it is not immoral to love one's own children more and put them above all

If it is not immoral to love one's own children more and put them above all other children, then why can't that concept be extended to one's own race? Biological polygenesis and philosophy of history makes it clear that colonialism and destruction of indigenous cultures and peoples is not always immoral and human perceptions of skin color will never go away.

Let's start with your second sentence: "Biological polygenesis and philosophy of history make it clear that colonialism and destruction of indigenous cultures is not always immoral." A few obvious points.

First, biological polygenesis (distinct origins for different races) is not widely accepted among scientists. In fact, far as I know, the evidence points in the opposite direction.

Second, even if polygenesis happens to be true, that wouldn't show that colonialism and destruction of indigenous cultures and peoples was okay. Compare: suppose that sometime in the future, humans travel outside the solar system and find intelligent creatures on other planets. Those beings certainly have different origins than we have. But from that it doesn't follow that we would be justified in colonizing them, let alone destroying their culture or killing them. After all, if intelligent aliens make it to earth, that wouldn't make it right for them to colonize us or kill us.

And finally, "philosophy of history" doesn't show what you claim without a very specific, detailed argument about particular cases. No doubt such arguments have been offered. Whether they are any good is another question.

But let's go back to the question you begin with. Let's agree that it's not immoral to love your own children more than other children. That doesn't allow you to ignore the welfare of other children. It doesn't justify you in doing things that actually harm other children. And it certainly doesn't give the law any reason to favor your children, or mine, over anyone else's.

Our emotional attachments are a complicated business. It's true: most (though not all) of my friends are white, like me. But that's a very different thing from my having some sort of general preference for the Caucasian "race" as such. If I subscribed to all sorts of peculiar beliefs about people of other races, I might end up with that attitude. But there's no reason to think the beliefs would stand up to scrutiny. In any case, it would be one thing if, as a matter of psychological fact, we tended to prefer people of our own race to people of other races. But if I think it would be wrong for me to treat my white neighbor in certain ways, then I ought to think it would be equally wrong if my neighbor wasn't white.

Maybe humans will always pay attention to skin color. What they make of it is another matter. My daughter and her friends are much more "color-blind" than people were when I was her age. This strikes me as a very good thing, which brings us to the point we'll end on. In spite of what you seem to suggest, it's hard to make the case that racial preference has done the world any good and easy to make the case that it's done a lot of harm. Extending concepts like love of one's children or love of one's friends to love of one's racial group is skating on micro-thin moral ice.

Let's start with your second sentence: "Biological polygenesis and philosophy of history make it clear that colonialism and destruction of indigenous cultures is not always immoral." A few obvious points. First, biological polygenesis (distinct origins for different races) is not widely accepted among scientists. In fact, far as I know, the evidence points in the opposite direction. Second, even if polygenesis happens to be true, that wouldn't show that colonialism and destruction of indigenous cultures and peoples was okay. Compare: suppose that sometime in the future, humans travel outside the solar system and find intelligent creatures on other planets. Those beings certainly have different origins than we have. But from that it doesn't follow that we would be justified in colonizing them, let alone destroying their culture or killing them. After all, if intelligent aliens make it to earth, that wouldn't make it right for them to colonize us or kill us. And finally, "philosophy of history"...

Is it fair to label childhood religious indoctrination as abuse ? at the moment

Is it fair to label childhood religious indoctrination as abuse ? at the moment in any given society it's seen as the norm , I often wonder will future generations look back in astonishment at this practice .

I agree with my co-panelist that it's hard to peg this as abuse. But I'd like to focus on a somewhat different issue: the word "indoctrination" is being used to mean an illegitimate way of inculcating beliefs. That's fine, and isn't my issue. But the notion of "religious indoctrination" is left unexamined. And so I want to know what counts.

In particular, suppose someone brings their children up in a religious tradition: introduces them to the texts and doctrines, participates in the rituals, makes clear that s/he is an adherent, and so on. If indoctrination counts as something bad, is this automatically a case of indoctrination? Surely it depends on the details. Suppose that the religious tradition has admirable moral precepts. Suppose it encourages thoughtful reflection. Suppose it doesn't threaten non-adherents with hellfire and brimstone. There really are such traditions; I know many people who belong to them. The tradition may well include metaphysical claims that you think are just wrong. But is that the criterion for indoctrination? If so, it's hard for me to see how it warrants the label "child abuse."

And for that matter, why pick on religion? How about ethical views? When my children were young, I certainly hoped that they would come to share at least the more dearly-held of my ethical views. Near as I can tell, they largely did. Was that indoctrination? Was it child abuse? If it might be, where do the lines lie?

We influence our children in lots of ways. It's not unlikely that if my children had been brought up in a different sort of household, they'd think differently than I do about some things I care about. Some of these things are eminently debatable; some reasonable people would say that the views my children learned from me are wrong. But without a lot more analysis, the word "indoctrination" doesn't get us very far, and without a great deal more analysis, the accusation of "abuse" is even less helpful.

There's another problem with invoking the notion of abuse here. If we label a child-rearing practice abusive, this suggests that we ought to do something about it$mdash;perhaps that the State itself should step in. I don't know about you, but I'm not confident that the State would draw the lines wisely.

So to sum up: maybe some cases of bringing a child up in a tradition count as indoctrination, but it's not plausible that all do. And maybe some of those cases count as abuse. But we'd need to think hard about what we mean when we invoke that word. And even if we decide there's a sense in which some cases of religious upbringing count as abuse, we need to think really hard if we want to take that as a license for any sort of intervention.

I agree with my co-panelist that it's hard to peg this as abuse. But I'd like to focus on a somewhat different issue: the word "indoctrination" is being used to mean an illegitimate way of inculcating beliefs. That's fine, and isn't my issue. But the notion of "religious indoctrination" is left unexamined. And so I want to know what counts. In particular, suppose someone brings their children up in a religious tradition: introduces them to the texts and doctrines, participates in the rituals, makes clear that s/he is an adherent, and so on. If indoctrination counts as something bad, is this automatically a case of indoctrination? Surely it depends on the details. Suppose that the religious tradition has admirable moral precepts. Suppose it encourages thoughtful reflection. Suppose it doesn't threaten non-adherents with hellfire and brimstone. There really are such traditions; I know many people who belong to them. The tradition may well include metaphysical claims that you think are just wrong. But is...

Does allowing one's child to become obese constitute child abuse?

Does allowing one's child to become obese constitute child abuse?

On the other hand, there certainly have been cases where social services have removed children from parents where children have become obese, and the parents have been taken to be at fault.It seems to me to be an issue that needs to be considered on a case by case manner. There may be something in the parents' behavior that encourages obesity in the children, in just the same way that a parent may be in trouble with the authorities for letting their child play by a road.

We tend to think that although many parents are not ideal, it is generally better for children to be brought up by them than by removing them and trying out alternative carers for them. There are clearly cases though where parents do not take account sufficiently of the dangerous situations in which they place their children and intervention by the state is then justifiable. Obesity could well be such a situation, especially given the wide range of ailments to which it leads.

Phrases like "child abuse" are most useful if they pack some punch. When we think of child abuse, what comes to mind are such things as deliberate acts of cruelty, gross neglect, causing serious bodily harm, and sexual molestation. All of those are clear cases of child abuse. Whether a child ends up obese, however, is a complicated matter. Two children might eat the same diet, and yet one might end up obese and the other not. Parents may have some control over their children's weight, but the decision that one's child will not become obese might not be easy to act on, and acting on it might have its own unfortunate side effects. This isn't to suggest that childhood obesity is trivial. But obesity is complicated. If it could be easily prevented, and if the way to prevent it was widely understood, then we might say that clear cases of "allowing" one's child to become obese count as a kind of child abuse. As it is, things aren't nearly so straightforward.

Hello philosophers, I'm finding it very difficult to understand the way modern

Hello philosophers, I'm finding it very difficult to understand the way modern society uses the word abuse . Recently I read about a case where a child was malnourished through being half starved , it was rightly described as child abuse , why then are the countless cases of childhood obesity never described this way ? If it can be shown that a child's obesity is caused by overeating is it not surely as bad as half starving a child , and therefore should be termed child abuse ?

Is teaching young children religion child abuse? Should a child's mind be

Is teaching young children religion child abuse? Should a child's mind be programmed from birth based upon a parents blind faith in something? Shouldn't a child be allowed to eventually grow into their own religion as opposed to being automatically grouped into one based on the geographical location of the hospital they were born in.

The term "child abuse" is loaded enough that I'm going to set it aside. And I'm going to restrict myself mainly to one point.

You seem to assume that religion is always a matter of "blind faith" and that if parents bring their children up in a religious tradition, this is inevitably a matter of "programming." But why think that? Isn'tit possible that perhaps you've been a bit indoctrinated (not to say brainwashed) on that point yourself?

Some beliefs are blind. That applies to some cases of religious belief and to a good many other kinds of belief as well. But not all beliefs about matters that go beyond the facts need be blind, and this is as true for religion as it is for anything else. The great religious traditions include traditions of argument, reflection, weighing of considerations, and discernment. Not all believers cling to their beliefs for dear life; not all believers believe that they're bound for hell if they have questions or doubts. In fact, for some serious religious people, detailed beliefs about difficult matters of metaphysics aren't what matters for them.

Are some forms of religious belief regrettable or worse? No doubt. The same goes, of course, for some political, ideological and moral beliefs. Do some people hold their religious views mainly out of habit? Indeed. Are some afraid to question what they've been told? Unfortunately true. Bringing up a child so that her beliefs are of that sort is a bad thing, whether the beliefs are specifically religious or not. But an unprejudiced look at the religious landscape will make clear that religion needn't be that way and frequently isn't.

The term "child abuse" is loaded enough that I'm going to set it aside. And I'm going to restrict myself mainly to one point. You seem to assume that religion is always a matter of "blind faith" and that if parents bring their children up in a religious tradition, this is inevitably a matter of "programming." But why think that? Isn'tit possible that perhaps you've been a bit indoctrinated (not to say brainwashed) on that point yourself? Some beliefs are blind. That applies to some cases of religious belief and to a good many other kinds of belief as well. But not all beliefs about matters that go beyond the facts need be blind, and this is as true for religion as it is for anything else. The great religious traditions include traditions of argument, reflection, weighing of considerations, and discernment. Not all believers cling to their beliefs for dear life; not all believers believe that they're bound for hell if they have questions or doubts. In fact, for some serious religious people,...

Who owns children? One of your philosophers wrote that Locke said a father has

Who owns children? One of your philosophers wrote that Locke said a father has too much control over his children. I feel that the federal government has too much control over what a father can or cannot do to his children.

Perhaps we could start with a related question: who owns you? The answer, I'd think, is "No one." You aren't property. You may have obligations and responsibilities to others, but part of the way we think about persons is that they aren't property and shouldn't be treated as such. That suggests that children aren't property either. They have more limited rights and responsibilities than adults do, but they don't belong to anyone in the way that, say, a painting might belong to me.

Suppose I own a valuable painting by some important artist -- Cezanne, for the sake of an example. Then though it would be a wasteful and bizarre thing for me to do, I am entitled to do most anything with that Cezanne -- including burning it or using it as a tablecloth. That goes with it's being property. But suppose I have a child. The word "have" here doesn't mean "own." For present purposes, it might best be thought of as meaning "am responsible for," and not just biologically. The child is entitled to be cared for, and to have its interests looked out for. The fact that I am the biological parent doesn't entitle me, for example, to turn the child into my slave. And the fact that the child isn't yet old enough to take care of itself doesn't change that. But since I am not entitled to make the child my slave, and since it would be so clearly harmful to the child to do that, it's hard to see the objection to the government intervening if I try. To repeat the basic point, the child is not my property; I don't own the child.

So we can sum up what we've said so far this way: perhaps (though it's a whole different topic) the government interferes too much when it comes to what people do with what they own -- with their property. But even if that's true, it doesn't get us far on the matter of governments interfering with what parents do to their children.

That said, this doesn't end the matter. Most of us think parents should have a lot of liberty in deciding how to raise their children. This isn't because parents own the children, but because many decisions about how to raise children go back to differences in values that we think a democracy ought to respect. If I want my children to attend a religious school, for example, then (so long as the school isn't abusive) most of us think the government should allow that.

There's room to argue about what the limits should be. Most of us probably think that unless the parent is doing clear harm to the child, the government should keep its distance. But however we sort through the cases, being clear on the idea that no one owns children is a good place to start.

Perhaps we could start with a related question: who owns you? The answer, I'd think, is "No one." You aren't property. You may have obligations and responsibilities to others, but part of the way we think about persons is that they aren't property and shouldn't be treated as such. That suggests that children aren't property either. They have more limited rights and responsibilities than adults do, but they don't belong to anyone in the way that, say, a painting might belong to me. Suppose I own a valuable painting by some important artist -- Cezanne, for the sake of an example. Then though it would be a wasteful and bizarre thing for me to do, I am entitled to do most anything with that Cezanne -- including burning it or using it as a tablecloth. That goes with it's being property. But suppose I have a child. The word "have" here doesn't mean "own." For present purposes, it might best be thought of as meaning "am responsible for," and not just biologically. The child is entitled to be...

Religious indoctrination involves very profound moral, emotional, and political

Religious indoctrination involves very profound moral, emotional, and political implications which are beyond the grasp of young children. Isn't it wrong to indoctrinate a child into a religious belief before they can knowledgeably consent to the implications of that belief system?

This is a profound and difficult philosophical question. I have toyed with the idea that it is wrong to teach children anything normative in the areas of politics and religion - at least they won't know enough to spoil dinner table conversation when they grow up. Seriously, I am not sure what the answer is, but I think that I would want to take my stand on a distinction between teaching by indoctrination and teaching by example. It is difficult to see that there could be an objection to people raising their children in a context in which the faith of the parents is evident. (But what happens when the child is to copy the parent in the recitation of the Nicene Creed? - "We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible . . ."?) And when it comes to explicit religious instruction, things can get sticky. As long as the transmission of the faith is restricted to example and reason, though, I think it is acceptable. When the method of transmission is authority and indoctrination, it is not, as I see it. Something destructive enters the picture.

I think you've raised a good question, but I do think the issue is a lot more general than religion. In raising children, we convey a great deal to them about our beliefs and values on many things -- including many controversial things. This includes political values, larger ethical values, what sources of information are to be trusted and a good deal more. It's hard to see how we could avoiding doing that, and hard to see why we would want not to. That said, the word "indoctrination" is perhaps the key here. We can raise our children to be more or less thoughtful, more or less open-minded, more or less willing to reason. If we tend to stress thoughtfulness, inquisitiveness, willingness to consider objections to one's own views, then the word "indoctrination" seems less appropriate. Of course, open-mindedness and cognitive flexibility are values that not everyone shares. But what distinguishes them from indoctrination is precisely that they aren't matters of accepting specific doctrines. We...

Is the lack of consent the only argument against pedophilia? I ask because it

Is the lack of consent the only argument against pedophilia? I ask because it doesn't seem like a very good argument against pedophilia. On this logic, feeding a child would be a criminal act unless the child understood the reason they were eating.

Lack of consent isn't the only argument, but I doubt that anyone ever thought it was. Roughly, we think we need consent when we think the person might reasonably object if they only knew about or understood what was being done to them. In the case of pedophilia, there's plenty of reason to think that the child would object if s/he understood. As it happens, I know someone very well who was the victim of a pedophile. When it happened (and it happened more than once), she didn't understand; she was four years old. But if you asked her about it now, she would say that what this man did to her was very wrong and caused her a great deal of torment as she came to terms with it.

Though it's hardly the whole story, the phrase "taking advantage of" is entirely apt here.. This man didn't have that young girl's good in mind. He was using her for his own disagreeable reasons. It's a straightforward case of what Kant would call using someone as a mere means. Offhand, I can't think of any cases where that's okay.

Lack of consent isn't the only argument, but I doubt that anyone ever thought it was. Roughly, we think we need consent when we think the person might reasonably object if they only knew about or understood what was being done to them. In the case of pedophilia, there's plenty of reason to think that the child would object if s/he understood. As it happens, I know someone very well who was the victim of a pedophile. When it happened (and it happened more than once), she didn't understand; she was four years old. But if you asked her about it now, she would say that what this man did to her was very wrong and caused her a great deal of torment as she came to terms with it. Though it's hardly the whole story, the phrase "taking advantage of" is entirely apt here.. This man didn't have that young girl's good in mind. He was using her for his own disagreeable reasons. It's a straightforward case of what Kant would call using someone as a mere means. Offhand, I can't think of any cases where...

Is a child's life more valuable than that of an adults? Let's say you are about

Is a child's life more valuable than that of an adults? Let's say you are about to be in a terrible accident (completely figurative) and you only have two options of ways to go. First, you could run into a construction area where there are five construction workers who are oblivious to the situation. Unfortunately, if you go this way all five will die. OR you could turn the wheel, but there is one single child playing which will be in the way and unfortunately die. Do you value the one child's life more than all five workers? Is it morally right to save the child because of its potential life?

Although I can imagine cases where comparing the value of lives might be the way to go, it's not obvious that this is one of them. Heading down a path where we value lives by discounting on the basis of the likely number of remaining years (which is all I see at work here) seems a very dubious idea, fraught with all sorts of moral peril. Although there is something particularly poignant about the death of a child, this doesn't simply translate into a case for saying that the best solution to the dilemma you pose is to give the child's life a weight greater than that of the five adults who would otherwise die.

All this said, there are some hard issues in the general neighborhood. Deciding how to use resources in end-of-life situations, for example, is a serious problem where some sort of discounting doesn't simply seem out of place. But the issues here are tricky, and it's hard to see how any simple rule will work.

Although I can imagine cases where comparing the value of lives might be the way to go, it's not obvious that this is one of them. Heading down a path where we value lives by discounting on the basis of the likely number of remaining years (which is all I see at work here) seems a very dubious idea, fraught with all sorts of moral peril. Although there is something particularly poignant about the death of a child, this doesn't simply translate into a case for saying that the best solution to the dilemma you pose is to give the child's life a weight greater than that of the five adults who would otherwise die. All this said, there are some hard issues in the general neighborhood. Deciding how to use resources in end-of-life situations, for example, is a serious problem where some sort of discounting doesn't simply seem out of place. But the issues here are tricky, and it's hard to see how any simple rule will work.

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