One important trait of moral principles is that they should be impartial. They should not favor one person over the other simply because they are two different individuals. But in my country, we have laws giving special considerations to senior citizens and persons with disabilities and pregnant women. These groups of people are given special lanes at fastfood restaurants, cinemas and bank lanes. I sometimes feel unjustly treated when I spent an hour waiting in line while a senior citizen come in, make his transactions and leave the place in just a minute. I am fully aware that the reason they are treated in such a special way is because of their special conditions but it seems that the treatment is still unfair. After all, whatever they may suffer for waiting long in line are possibilities that I myself can experience. My questions then are: Are these special treatments unjust for the majority of us who are not in the same conditions? Do these violate the condition that moral principles should by nature...

'Impartiality' is in no way a simple moral concept. Yet one thing most moral philosophers would agree upon is that impartiality cannot be plausibly equated with treating everyone the same . Rather, impartiality seems to have both an exclusionary and and an inclusionary aspect. Here's what I have in mind. Being impartial means not allowing a certain fact or consideration about people to influence a choice or a policy. A judge who routinely convicts defendants with mustaches while routinely acquitting the clean shaven makes her decisions on the basis of a fact or consideration — the state of a person's facial hair — that ought not influence her decisions. Here she fails to be impartial because she does not exclude from her decision making a factor she ought to exclude. Conversely, suppose a judge issues her rulings without regard to whether the evidence provided indicates a defendant's guilt. Here she fails to be impartial because she does not include a factor she ought to include in order to be...

If humans can imagine life before birth, why is life after death so difficult to imagine?

I'm not entirely sure I accept the assumption of your question: Is it really any more difficult to imagine life after death than life before death? Many philosophers have argued that it is difficult to imagine being dead because the act of imagination requires that one be alive. In other words, any attempt to imagine being dead is thereby a failure, some have argued. In imagining oneself dead, one must presuppose that there is a consciousness (a living one, presumably), so one cannot coherently imagine being dead — at least if that means imagining oneself being dead. Now if that's correct, then one similarly could not imagine the past before one existed. After all, in attempting to imagine the past, that would require you to be conscious and to be alive, etc. Of course, one might take this reasoning to show that it's not any harder to imagine life after death: Since we can imagine what existed before our birth, we can equally well imagine life after death. So I'm not entirely convinced of the...

Is it a valid argument that it is okay for someone to be homosexual because they were "born that way?" This argument seems to lack merit to me, and I believe the reasoning should be that there is nothing morally wrong with it aside from having certain religious conflicts. Pedophiles could be born the way they are, but nobody condones their actions, because there is something arguably wrong with what they want to do. I just seek another point of view on these issues, and possibly a few examples of things that may in fact be morally justified simply because one was born a certain way.

I'd be surprised if there were sound arguments for the immortality of homosexuality, but I agree with your suggestion that whether or not LGBT persons are 'born that way' or not cannot provide a sound basis for the immortality of homosexuality -- nor can it provide a sound basis for its moral permissibility of homosexuality either! Your remarks about pedophilia suggest why such arguments are unsound: That a person is born in some way does not imply that actions they perform because they were born that way are not wrong. If (as seems likely) pedophilia is harmful to children, that it is wrong even if pedophiles can't refrain from having sexual desires directed at children. 'He/she was born with property P; he/she does X because he/she has property P; therefore, X is not morally wrong' is not a valid inference. But perhaps this misunderstands the force of the 'born that way' claim. Perhaps the force resides not in the idea that being 'born that way' makes a person's actions morally permissible but that...

It is common to characterize emotions as unhelpful in moral discernment. When faced with a situation that requires careful moral deliberation, emotion is often set aside, while reason and evidence are taken to be very important. Isn't always this the case? Do emotions really have no value in moral discernment, or they have to some extent but some philosophers have just neglected their part?

You're certainly correct that there is a tendency in suppose that reason and emotion are antagonists, and that with respect to morality in particular, we should be guided by reason rather than emotion. And there may be major figures in the history of philosophy (Plato comes to mind) who really did see reason and emotion as in stark and irreconcilable tension. On this view, reason and emotion are essential partners in moral thought and deliberation instead of implacable antagonists. However, there's a pretty significant segment of philosophers, both historical and contemporary, who don't think that reason and emotion are such enemies when it comes to moral reasoning and decision. A popular view (one that I myself find attractive) distinguishes between moral truth and moral knowledge: Emotions, on this view, are not a source of moral truth, but do enable you to know moral truths. Suppose that, as you end a day of busy holiday shopping, you see a fellow shopper carrying a large bundle of shopping bags. She...

Moral disagreements seem to suggest that there may be an objective moral truth out there but it seems next to impossible to discern about it. Is there a way out of intractably difficult moral disagreements so that both opposing sides will be able to discern the truth of the matter being discussed, or the situation is just hopeless?

In no way a simple question! First, you ask whether the "opposing sides" in a moral disagreement can "discern the truth" of the moral issue at hand. That raises some terrifically complex questions in moral epistemology, namely, just how do we know moral truths at all? From experience? From the testimony of others? By reasoning? By means of some sort of intuition or perception? Some combination of these? I propose we set those questions aside and focus on some narrower questions about moral disagreement itself: Why do people morally disagree, and is there a suitable way to resolve these disagreements? Much depends on precisely where the source of the disagreement resides. Let's distinguish four sources of moral disagreement. Many moral disagreements turn not on moral claims but on disputed questions of fact. For instance, suppose that two people disagree about the morality of capital punishment, one believing it morally justified, the other believing it morally unjustified. However, they may well agree...

Is it irrational or illogical to say that dead people can have their possessions "stolen"?

I gather that the worry behind your question is whether the dead really have "possessions" to be stolen: How can a dead person "possess" something? After all, they can't hold it, see it, use it, etc. But it's worth keeping in mind that stealing amounts to taking something that properly belongs to another — something in which that person has a property right . And having a property right and all that entails — having the right to preclude others from using an object, most importantly — does not seem to turn on our physical relation to an object. Whatever moral claim I have on my house, for example, doesn't turn on my actually being present in the house: My property right in the house is, as Kant put it, a matter of "intelligible possession". Others don't have the moral permission to occupy or use my property even when I am not using it or am not in physical possession of it. So I don't see that the fact that the dead are, well, dead and so can't possess their property in a literal sense is any...

Do philosophers raise their children differently? Is talking back to a teacher always a good thing so long as the child has good arguments?

Second question first: Of course not! If 'talking back' means picking arguments with a teacher, that's not very productive -- or very philosophically minded. That said, I think many philosophers would agree that too much of formal education emphasizes the memorization or assimilation of 'established' knowledge as the expense of the sort of curiosity and questioning found in philosophy. There's a worldwide movement to promote philosophy education for children. Here are some good resources on that front: http://depts.washington.edu/nwcenter/ http://p4c.com/ As to your first question: I don't have any empirical data to support this -- to my knowledge, how philosophers raise their children has never been studied. All the same , I would not at all be surprised to learn that many of the traits that one needs to be successful in philosophy -- a sense of puzzlement, attention to reasoning, comfort with uncertainty, respect for those with whom one disagrees -- are passed on by philosophers to their children. I...

what can philosophy do for the world peace?

First, philosophy can contribute to world peace by helping us think through the ethical importance of peace -- and of war. Philosophy has a long tradition of inquiry into the conditions for morally justifiable violence. A few philosophers have glorified war. Others have argued that war is justified when war advances a state's interests' ('realists') or when certain conditions are met (just war theory). Other philosophers have advocated for pacifism. Good overviews of these positions are available here: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/war/ http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pacifism/ Second, philosophy can contribute to world peace by undermining the conditions under which war tends to thrive and by pointing to alternative ways to resolve conflicts that might otherwise lead to violence. Starry-eyed though this might sound, philosophical inquiry tends to induce, on the one hand, modesty or humility about one's own beliefs, as well, on the other hand, as a greater appreciation for the merits of others'...

Is glory a worthy goal for a person? In an Astérix book, Abraracourcix, the chieftain, tells his wealthy brother in law that all of the latter's money is not a match for glory. The brother in law replies that Abraracourcix's glory could not pay the "oxen hooves pie" they were having at the time. This seems to be false in the times of "reality television": glory can be readily turned into money. Actually I suspect glory has always given people some access to material goods. But my question is rather whether glory is valuable for other reasons, specifically whether glory is valuable from an ethical point of view.

A nice place to start in thinking about this question is book I of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.1.i.html There Aristotle addresses the nature of happiness and consider the pros and cons of three sorts of lives: the life devoted to pleasure, the life devoted to money, and the 'political' life (or the life devoted to honor). You don't say in your question what you have in mind by 'glory,' but it seems similar to what Aristotle had in mind by honor, namely, others bestowing on us recognition or other goods as a mark of our merit or virtue. Aristotle argues that the best life is not devoted to honor. Here is the main passage where Aristotle argue for this: A consideration of the prominent types of life shows that people of superior refinement and of active disposition identify happiness with honour; for this is, roughly speaking, the end of the political life. But it seems too superficial to be what we are looking for, since it is thought to depend on...

How often do philosophers admit their own defeat in their own published academic articles?

Philosophy is a highly discursive discipline founded on argumentative give and take. Often when a philosopher's position is subject to criticism she believes she cannot answer, she modifies her position while trying to retain those elements of those position she believes are most central to it. In other words, the result of receiving criticism is rarely a philosopher 'admitting defeat.' Rather, her position evolves as she strives to absorb the criticisms as much as her extant positions allow. That said, there are some prominent examples of philosophers who clearly changed their minds over their lifetimes. Perhaps the clearest is Wittgenstein: The 'early Wittgenstein' inspired logical positivism, the 'later' ordinary language Wittgenstein was a critic of positivism. Russell seemed to change his mind a fair bit too. A recent example is John Rawls, who gives a very different foundation for his political liberalism in his early work than in his later work. Kant certainly changed his mind regarding whether...

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