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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:

If neuroscience were to prove that one particular person has free will, does

If neuroscience were to prove that one particular person has free will, does that imply that everyone else in the world would have to have free will as well? If neuroscience tests show that not everyone has free will, how would philosophers explain that other than redefining free will?

I notice that your question leaves "free will" undefined, so let me propose the definition found at "the ability to choose how to act; the ability to make choices that are not controlled by fate or God."

I presume that no one imagines that neuroscience will prove that some of our choices are controlled literally by fate or God. So if neuroscience is to show that some or all of us lack free will, neuroscience must show that some or all of us lack the ability to choose how to act or the ability to make choices.

I don't think we need neuroscience experiments to show us that some people lack free will in the sense just defined: for example, people who are in the midst of drug-induced mania or a psychotic episode. To show us something we didn't already know, neuroscience would have to show that people in general typically or routinely lack free will.

Some neuroscientists do claim to have shown that, but their arguments are woefully unpersuasive (in my judgment and in the judgment of philosophers more expert on this topic than I am). For one thing, neuroscience would have to show more than that our choices are causally determined by prior factors, because on one analysis of free will -- the analysis accepted by most philosophers, as it happens -- a free choice can (and perhaps must) be causally determined by prior factors.

For more on this topic, see Question 5733.

Since the theory of evolution presents a kind of meaning to existence or at

Since the theory of evolution presents a kind of meaning to existence or at least, a logical structural pattern to it, is Camus' Absurdism necessarily in conflict with it?

I don't think that the theory of evolution (which I accept) provides anything like the kind of meaning that existentialists such as Camus have in mind. What is the meaning of existence according to evolutionary theory? The only remotely plausible answer I can think of is this: "To pass on one's genes to posterity, since that's what counts as success from the perspective of natural selection." But, of course, natural selection has no perspective, point of view, intentions, or goals. It's a mindless process. So that answer depends on a false presupposition.

Even if that weren't true, it's highly implausible anyway that passing on one's genes could really be the meaning (or purpose) of existence. If it were, then anyone would be missing the point of existence who didn't make it his/her top priority to reproduce as often as possible, to clone his/her genome again and again, etc. But, on the contrary, someone who tried to live such a life would be pathetic.

Evolutionary theory explains how species arise and how they vanish. I'm not sure that counts as providing "a logical structural pattern" to existence. But even if it does, I think the existentialists are concerned about the particular problems that arise for reflective, self-conscious beings such as us, problems that would remain even if existence, as such, had a logical pattern.

Is evolution a problem for Platonists? Can there be a form for organisms that by

Is evolution a problem for Platonists? Can there be a form for organisms that by there nature change, even if individual examples of species do not? Another way of saying it is that species are organic processes, and I have difficulty imagining an essential, unchanging process.

The problem you describe is obviously a threat to Aristotle's view of nature and of the species of plants and animals (which may be why Aristotle argues against Darwin in Book 2 of the Physics). As you say, "species are organic processes" -- although you ought to recognize that this conception of biological species is our shared conception of species after Darwin. Darwin has indeed made many elements of the ancient theory of nature hard to imagine, even if the ancients found their view of nature extremely easy to imagine.

Plato differs from Aristotle, however. For one thing, Plato expects to find much less order in the natural world than Aristotle does. If you confront Plato with the spectacle of constant change in nature, he might be inclined to agree. In this particular case, a lot depends on whether or not Plato thought there were Forms for species -- a Form of human being, of dog, of oak. In some of the dialogues that speak of Forms, the description of them does not seem to include biological species; however, an open-ended discussion in the Parmenides suggests otherwise, that Forms would have to include species. The textual evidence is inconclusive. And if there are no Forms for dog or willow, the changes in dogs and willows that we see are no threat to Platonic metaphysics.

It's possible to go a bit further than this, though not to the evolution that we know after Darwin. Plato's Timaeus proposes one kind of evolution that ancient author sometimes found acceptable, namely a "devolution" to a worse kind. This is a version of the idea that humans couldn't come from apes, but that thoughtless, brutal human beings could degenerate into apes. (Mind you, the distinction makes no sense in modern biology, because the theory of evolution does not consider us higher than gorillas, or even higher than plankton. I am trying to speak as the ancients would have spoken.) And in the Timaeus, we find something like a cross between degenerative evolution and reincarnation. Male human beings who do not comport themselves virtuously enough are turned into women, and humans are turned into animals. You can't make yourself a better creature on your own, but through vicious thought and action you might be made into a worse species.

For a dozen or so reasons we are likely to find this proposal unacceptable -- morally, scientifically, metaphysically. But it does sound something like evolution. And it is Platonic. So maybe it's the best evidence for the conclusion (in response to your opening question) that evolution as such is not a problem for Platonists.

Are 'dangerous' and 'aesthetically ugly' one and the same thing?

Are 'dangerous' and 'aesthetically ugly' one and the same thing? I read somewhere once, that arachnophobia evolved as a defence mechanism against dangerous spiders. Even though most spider species are harmless, this evolved response is still there, as it is better to avoid all spiders, even the harmless ones to avoid being bitten by the really deadly ones. Seeing as this aesthetic disgust and fear arose for the purpose of keeping one safe, and very few spiders are actually dangerous, would it be incorrect to view the harmless ones as ugly? Similarly, there are some dangerous animals I consider quite beautiful: tigers, for example. Would it be incorrect to view them as beautiful because they are dangerous? Basically, what I'm trying to ask is, because perception of ugliness evolved to keep us from danger, is danger synonymous with ugliness and is any visual beauty we ascribe to a dangerous animal simply an illusion? Conversely, are non-dangerous animals that we find ugly actually visually beautiful even...

I think the answer is pretty clear and is implicit in things you've said. Yes: something dangerous can be beautiful. Tigers would be a widely-accepted example. "Dangerous Beauty" isn't just the name of a movie that got a 70% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It's an idea that's something of a cultural touchstone.

Maybe the perception of ugliness evolved to keep us from danger, or maybe the story is more complicated than that. (I'd strongly suspect the latter.) But however things evolved, the concepts have long since come apart. If someone commented on the beauty of a tiger, and someone else tried to correct her on the grounds that tigers are dangerous, a blank stare would be an appropriate response. We find the appearance of tigers beautiful. They'd look the same way if, somehow, they magically became the protectors of humans. We also find their movements graceful; same comment.

The second question you ask is whether non-dangerous animals that we find ugly might actually be beautiful. The first point is that the mere fact that they aren't dangerous wouldn't be enough. However implausible it is that "dangerous" implies "ugly," it's even more implausible that "not dangerous" implies "beautiful." The reason is simple: that's not how we use the words. But perhaps more importantly, beauty seems to be a response-dependent property. The idea that something might genuinely be beautiful and yet no one—not even careful, disinterested observers who've taken the time to look—find it beautiful strikes me as very close to unintelligible.

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.

Hello, My name is Ana

Hello, My name is Ana I have recently read several articles on the subjects of evolution and religion. Many have been to support either theory about which is true but, not one has been to support both equally. My questions is it possible to support both evolution and be religious at the same point in time, and if so how?

Hi, Ana. Yes. For example, one could believe that God created a world in which evolution operates.

In a review for Thomas Nagel's Mind and Cosmos, John Dupré, takes issue with

In a review for Thomas Nagel's Mind and Cosmos, John Dupré, takes issue with Nagel's assertion that reductive materialism is regarded as the only serious philosophical possibility within mainstream philosophy. According to Dupré, reductionism has been almost entirely rejected by philosophers engaged in the biological sciences. I've been a regular reader of the website and from what I've learned here, physicalism is the widely accepted position. Even the Stanford encyclopedia says that physicalism is the "default" attitude among philosophers. Is there something I am missing, or is John Dupré correct?

Others can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the solution to the puzzle is straightforward: physicalism isn't the same as reductive materialism. Indeed, that's part of Dupré's complaint against Nagel: Nagel's view of materialism is narrow and outmoded. You might have a look at this section of the article on physicalism in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which distinguishes reductive and non-reductive varieties of physicalism.

My amateurish reading of popular science books tells me that it is generally

My amateurish reading of popular science books tells me that it is generally thought that all life descended from one original single-celled creature. Perhaps if the conditions of the world were better ‘tuned’ for life, then I suppose life might have originated from 27 different ancestors, or from 97,583 different ancestors, or from 94,523,987 different ancestors. Perhaps if the conditions were less well ‘tuned’ for life, then life would not have arisen at all. The number one seems a rather unique number. Does the fact that all the life which exists in all the known universe seems to have arisen from one ancestor indicate the involvement of a designer (God), because of the uniqueness of the number one? Presumably if all life originated from exactly 1,000,000 ancestors, then we would smell something fishy, because of the uniqueness of this number. Similarly does the uniqueness of the number one point towards a non-naturalistic account of the origin of life? Thanks.

Although it is, as you say, "generally thought that all life descended from one original single-celled [organism]," the issue doesn't seem settled among the experts, as reported here.

But regardless of the resolution of that issue, I'd answer no to your question. Each of the numbers you mentioned is unique. Any card in an ordinary deck is as unlikely to be drawn as any other; it's just that we arbitrarily assign special significance to particular cards, such as the ace of spades. Similarly, we may assign special significance to the number 1 or (simply because we use a base-10 system) the number 1 million, despite the fact that every number is unique. Furthermore, it's not clearly true that "all the life which exists in all the known universe seems to have arisen from one ancestor." More accurately, it's "all the life we know of seems to have arisen from one ancestor." The life we know of may constitute a small sample of all the life that exists, as yet unknown to us, in the known universe: almost all of the known universe isn't well known by us!

If an environment, or just a very secluded 'biome' was artificially produced

If an environment, or just a very secluded 'biome' was artificially produced would it still be considered 'beautiful'? Even considering that this particular secluded artificial environment had a perfectly in sync ecosystem, was self-sustaining, and never tired of resources for human use, would it still be beautiful and fantastical even though it was subject to human manipulation of Earth natural way of nature?

This feels like a question informed by Kant’s understanding of beauty. Whether it is or not, it’s certainly a question in tune with Kant; because, for Kant, natural beauty dominates his examples of beautiful objects and sets the tone for his analysis of beauty in general. There seems to be a constant suspicion in Kant that art we find beautiful is somehow a contrivance, something put together in a way that the artist knows will appear beautiful to human beings, or at least pleasant in appearance. And because the artist aims at pleasing the human senses, so-called beautiful art threatens to collapse into a species of the merely pleasant.

A beautiful flower, on the other hand, has not been contrived. Kant seems to understand nature mechanistically – or rather, he thinks it is always open to a mechanistic interpretation. And given that it is, the spontaneous appearance of something in nature like a beautiful flower or a magnificent sunset gives one the sense of having discovered beauty, not just been prodded into finding beauty where it had been put.

Mind you, these views do not necessarily have to follow from the basic Kantian principles of beauty and taste. Many readers have drawn quite different conclusions from the Critique of Judgment about what to say about art. But this is Kant’s own application of his basic principles.

The Critique of Judgment entertains the possibility (in section 42) that someone might fake a natural environment, as your example proposes. He grants what the example assumes, that if you didn’t know it had been artificially manipulated you would enjoy the scene exactly as you would enjoy a natural scene. (As I say, the example assumes this much. It wouldn’t be a duplicate landscape unless it looked exactly the same.) But then Kant asks what would happen once the deception was revealed. The nature-lover’s admiration for what had seemed to be the beauty of natural life would disappear, although it might be replaced (Kant adds) with an admiration that follows from the person’s vanity, e.g. the wish to decorate one’s home with these artificial flowers and bushes. (In this connection also see the “General Remark on the First Section of the Analytic.”)

All this is by-the-book Kant. If you are not a Kantian, however, I would think the problems don’t arise. If art can be beautiful, then why shouldn’t artificial nature also be beautiful?