Advanced Search

One important trait of moral principles is that they should be impartial. They

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 impartial.

Taken together, these two factors indicate that impartiality is linked to equality, not in the sense that impartiality requires everyone be treated exactly alike, but instead requires that everyone be treated equally on the basis of all and only the considerations that are morally relevant to a decision or policy.

The issues thus raised for your examples of special accommodations, etc., for senior citizens, the disabled, and pregnant women is whether the characteristics that distinguish these individuals from others are morally relevant to how we should distribute goods such as places in lines, etc. In other words, such accommodations would violate impartiality if the characteristics on the basis of which the accommodations are being made are not morally relevant to how the accommodations ought to be distributed.

Unfortunately, a full treatment of these issues would take more space than we have here. But I hope you can imagine how those defending such accommodations would try to defend them against the charge that they fail to be impartial. With regard to the disabled, senior citizens, and pregnant women, they might argue that impartiality requires that certain goods be distributed in ways that do not disproportionately burden anyone — and perhaps having to stand in long lines is simply harder for those groups than for others. They would, then, accept your claim that our actions or policies "should not favor one person over the other simply because they are two different individuals." Yet they would also claim that such accommodations don't rest merely on the fact that the individuals who benefit from there are different from others in some way. They instead rest on the fact that these individuals have some morally relevant characteristic that justifies treating them differently.

I don't offer this proposal with the expectation that this settles the issue for good. Rather, the point here is that impartiality does not mean treating everyone the same -- it means treating everyone the same with regard to certain facts about them but differently with regard to other facts about them -- and it is possible to offer arguments to the effect that treating people with different characteristics differently need not violate the demand that our choices and policies be impartial.

'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

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 assumption. But supposing the assumption is correct, why might it be harder to imagine life after death than whatever existed before our births? I can think of two reasons.

The first is that the past is determinate, whereas the future is either indeterminate (what the future will be like has not been settled) or we don't what the future will be like. It's generally much easier to imagine what is determinate than what is indeterminate. It's easier for a parent to 'imagine' the child she already has than it is to easy to imagine the child he will have. Similarly, it's easier to conceptualize the past since we have a much better idea of what it's like: Imagining 1916, say, seems easier than imagining 2116.

Second, imagining life after death may be harder because it's harder to imagine the world after I'm able to exert causal power over it than it is to imagine the world prior to my being able to exert causal power. I have no ability to change the world prior to my existence. While alive, I have the ability to change the world. Once dead, I no longer have that ability. Perhaps there's something difficult about imagining a future state of the world that I cannot affect. After all, throughout my life, I have been able to affect the future. Once dead, despite that being the future, I can't effect it. And perhaps it's tough to imagine a future state of the world without also imagining that one can causally engage it.

(Incidentally, you may the Lucretian asymmetry problem of interest: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/death/#3)

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

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 being born some way excuses a person's actions. So the thought would be that if homosexuality is inborn, then engaging in homosexual acts is morally excusable. But notice that (1) the reasoning above indicates why this doesn't seem obviously right -- being 'born that way' doesn't always make the actions one performs morally permissible, and (2) this strategy seems to assume that homosexuality is wrong but should be excused because it is inborn. Notice that for this strategy to work then, we would need an independent argument for the immorality of homosexuality. After all, you can only morally excuse what needs excusing, namely, actions that are morally objectionable.

In general, popular moral discourse greatly overinflates the importance of whether a trait is chosen or inborn to whether or not actions motivated by that trait are immoral or not. In the case of homosexuality, its moral standing must turn on familiar moral considerations (harm, rights, etc.) -- not on whether LGBT persons choose that way of life or are bequeathed it by nature or nurture.

(John Corvino, the best known philosophical defender of gay rights, discusses the 'born that way' problem here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-corvino/born-this-way_b_3111186.html)

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

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 slips and falls on a patch of ice, evidently injuring herself. Feeling dismay, alarm, and sympathy -- what we might call morally salient emotions -- you offer help to the fallen shopper. Let us suppose that it is true that

It is morally right for you to help the fallen shopper.

In this case, your emotions helped you discern this truth. Without the ability to feel dismay, alarm, or sympathy, you would not have known that this is what it was morally right for you to do. However, it is not the case that it is morally right to you to help the fallen shopper because you felt dismay, alarm, or sympathy. It is morally right to help her because she needs aid, is in pain, it would be generous, and so forth. So on this view, your emotions help you to discern moral truths, but are not the source of that truth. Emotions are aids to moral reasoning, but are not what moral reasoning is about.

This position is attractive because it seems to reconcile two plausible claims. On the one hand, a person who lacks the right kind of emotional sensitivity is unlikely to appreciate what her moral obligations are and unlike to act reliably in morally praiseworthy ways. A person who (for instance) lacks all sympathy, respect, care, and so on, ends up morally deaf, cognitively cordoned off from moral realities. (At its worst, such a person exhibits psychopathy.) At the same time, emotions are imperfect signals of moral truth. Sometimes a person is sympathetic with, or cares for, someone who doesn't morally deserve sympathy or care. In other words, from a moral perspective, our emotional reactions need to be shaped or cultivated in the right way -- and the 'right way' is in accordance with reason.

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

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 about all the relevant moral claims but disagree about some crucial question of fact (for example, whether capital punishment deters crime). In other words, their moral disagreement doesn't stem from any disagreement about moral values, obligations, etc., but about non-moral matters. They agree about which non-moral questions matter to the morality of capital punishment, but disagree about how those questions are to be answered. Here we can hope that resolving their disagreement about the non-moral question will in turn resolve their disagreement about the moral question.

Sometimes disagreement results when people agree on basic moral claims but disagree about the application or meaning of particular moral concepts. Again, consider the morality of capital punishment. Two individuals might agree that capital punishment is morally justified if it does not treat a criminally cruelly -- but they might in turn disagree about what makes treatment cruel. (You can imagine what this disagreement might revolve around: Is it cruel to deny someone further life? Does it matter how painfully the person dies? Is killing a person any more cruel than having them spend their lives in jail? Etc.) Resolving this sort of disagreement is a bit tougher, but I think we still have reason for optimism. Often times our moral convictions are infused with concepts we use without fully understanding them ('cruel' in this case), and perhaps through some dialogue with others, we can clarify these concepts and thereby resolve our disagreement.

Things get tougher still when the disagreement stems from disagreement about the weight or significance to attach to different values or considerations. Suppose again a disagreement about capital punishment: One believes that capital punishment is wrong because it is cruel, while acknowledging that it is also deserved. The other believes that capital punishment is not wrong because it can be deserved, while acknowledging that it is also cruel. They disagree, then, not about what values or considerations are relevant to the question at hand, but about what weight or significance to assign to them. Here resolving their disagreement seems a bit more difficult, but at the very least, the disputants are working within the same moral frameworks (while disagreeing about what those frameworks entail).

Finally, disagreement is likely to be nearly intractable when the disputants simply do not bring the same set of moral concepts or the same broad moral framework to the disagreement. If the alleged cruelty of capital punishment (or alternatively, its allegedly being deserved) simply does not register with one of the disputants, then it seems hard to envision how they might resolve their disagreement. It's almost as if one or the other of the disputants is simply blind to what, in the eyes of their opponent, is a morally relevant consideration. It's tough to know how the disputants can rationally engage one another in a meaningful way given the source of their disagreement.

So in short, no, moral disagreement is not inherently hopeless. It can often be rationally resolved -- but there is no guarantee of such resolution, and when resolution emerges, it often emerges only very slowly. As with many things, when it comes to moral disagreement, patience is a virtue.

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

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 barrier to their having property rights, and so it seems reasonable to think that the dead could have their property rights violated, by (for instance) others stealing their property.

Notice that certain of our social practices seem to depend on the notion that the dead have property rights: The clearest are wills, which provide legal direction regarding how to allocate a dead person's property, and organ donation, which can be understood as providing legal direction regarding what to do with a certain kind of property: one's own organs.

So I don't see any deep conceptual barrier to the dead having property that could be stolen from them. Perhaps the more intriguing question in this area is why the dead retain the property rights they had while alive -- but that's a question for another occasion perhaps.

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

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 can say in my own case that my family's dinner table conversation is very much enlivened by philosophical inquiry in which my children are active participants.

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?

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' beliefs. Thus, philosophy can serve to defuse, or at least dampen, conflicts arising from clashing worldviews about ethics, religions, etc. Going along with this, philosophy offers us a non-violent model for resolving our disputes: through reasoned argument. Far better in most every case for us to reach a reasoned consensus that avoids war than to march toward an armed conflict.

Of course, philosophy is no magic pill, world peace-wise. But I'm pretty confident that a healthy dose of philosophy could do a lot to diminish the sad human tendency toward intercommunity violence.

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

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 those who bestow honour rather than on him who receives it, but the good we divine to be something proper to a man and not easily taken from him. Further, men seem to pursue honour in order that they may be assured of their goodness; at least it is by men of practical wisdom that they seek to be honoured, and among those who know them, and on the ground of their virtue; clearly, then, according to them, at any rate, virtue is better.

I see Aristotle as making several points against pursuing honor or glory. The first is that whether we are honored or glorified depends upon others' opinions of us, which can be fickle. (Think of all those reality TV stars that have been so quickly forgotten!) Honor and glory are therefore not very reliable or stable goods. Moreover, honor and glory are not, Aristotle says, "proper" to us. That we are honored or glorified by others tells us what others are like — what they believe is good or virtuous — but only indirectly what we are like. And it seems likely that others can accord us honor and glory for the wrong reasons. In the end, Aristotle argues, what we want is not to be honored and glorified for our virtue but really to be virtuous.

I'm inclined to think Aristotle is right: Honor and glory are not inherently or unconditionally good. They are good only to the extent that we are honored and glorified for attributes or accomplishments that are genuinely good or worthwhile. That said, it's important not to exaggerate Aristotle's conclusions though. We shouldn't conclude that glory and honor are bad or worthless altogether. As social creatures, we need the recognition or esteem of others. Presumably the best life is one where we are honored or glorified by others because of our genuinely valuable attributes or accomplishments. Glory, we might say, is the icing on the cake only if the cake is actually a good cake.

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

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 human freedom can be demonstrated. And Plato is an interesting case here too: It's tough to know if Plato ever believed the doctrines espoused by Socrates in the early Platonic dialogues, but the views defended in the later dialogues are clearly different.

In short, I suspect most philosophers try to strike a balance between a dogmatic embrace of the views they find plausible and the criticisms of those views, trying to identify the best overall synthesis of these. And in my view, that's as it should be. Philosophy is held back by dogmatism, but it also progresses in part because adherents of particular positions defend them to the utmost.

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...

Pages