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I am a physician taking care of a woman with bad asthma who requires admission to the hospital. She happens to be six months pregnant, which is clinically relevant because low oxygen levels in the blood will affect the fetus. I inform her that if she refuses treatment, her unborn child will suffer oxygen deprivation, and will likely be mentally retarded. She says that "God will take care of us, I'm going home."

The situation that you describes raises all sorts of interestingphilosophical questions,y, I’m not surewhich to address. I'll assume for the sake of this discussion that you’re not wondering whether yourpatient could possibly be right about God’s intentions. So, let’sassume that she’s wrong: God won’t take care of her and her fetus, andshe’s placing her future child at significant risk of harm that would permanently and seriously restrict his (let’s give him a gender for thesake of this discussion) future life opportunities. There are then twoquestions that you might have in mind. One: “Is she doing somethingthat is morally wrong?” Two: “What are my own moral obligations in thissituation?” The answer to neither question is straightforward. First question: The answer to the first question is complicated by two facts– (a) theindividual who would be harmed by your patient’s lack of treatment iscurrently a fetus, and (b) your patient is apparently ignorant of thefact that she really is putting her...

I have a daughter that is 14 years young. As a mother I understand that teenagers in her age grow up and they want to have fun, most of them with the guys. But still I can't let her go out. I think it's wrong. But my question is, Is that really wrong? Because I remember myself in her age... I also see the friends around her, they don't go out... well she's the only one. But she suffers because of me not letting her to have a boy-friend. Do you think I should let her? Because I'm really confused...

I agree completely with all of Nicholas Smith’s suggestions about parenting. I especially like his remarks about the importance of an "exit strategy." Our job as parents, after all, is to raise our children to be independent and responsible adults, but they can hardly acquire these skills if they are never able to make their own decisions and learn from their own, hopefully minor, mistakes. We do want our teenagers to feel comfortable coming to us for advice and insight, not worried that they will get harsh judgment or even punishment, because as Prof. Smith suggests, if they fear this response, they simply will not come to us at all. At the same time, though, the high rates of teenage pregnancy and of women and children living in poverty remind us of the decisions that many fourteen year old girls will make when given the opportunity. This fact might suggest to us that many fourteen year old girls are not yet ready to make wise decisions for themselves. In such circumstances, it is our...

If you were molested and raped by several of your family members, how would you go about telling someone so you or no one else gets hurt. I don't wanna get anyone else involved but I just want it to stop.

The problem that you face (how to keep yourself (and perhaps others) safe) is very serious and calls for a kind of knowledge (i.e., of the resources available to you in your community) that philosophers don't have by training. But certain constraints that you put on a solution to this problem (that no one get hurt, that no one else get involved) might rest on certain philosophical assumptions that I would like to challenge. If we were assaulted and raped by a stranger, most of us would feel no moral confusion about what we are entitled to do. In such a situation, what the stranger did is very wrong and we have a right to protect ourselves (and others) against this harm, even if the consequences of this protection (e.g., getting the police involved) would be harm to the rapist (in the form of a jail sentence). But in cases in which we are victims of abuse at the hands of members of our own family, it can seem very difficult to figure out what is the right thing to do. We feel that we have...

I married from back home because of certain cultural pressures. He seemed like an all around nice guy but when he got here he changed. He admitted that he had put on a show in order to convince me to bring him here and now he is trying to control me. He also always fights with me over money matters. At the moment we are separated but not divorced and I am contemplating whether or not I should divorce him. He does not leave me alone but constantly hurts me and thinks I am cheating on him. I also caught him trying to start affairs with women both abroad and local and I feel I cannot trust him. When he came here I liked him but now I feel little to nothing towards him and I think he wants to use me for some end (hence why he wants to get back). Also he frequently hints that it's good to use women for money and etc., and then dump them for other women... Although this may not be the right place to ask such a question but what do you philosophers think of the situation? I think it would be interesting...

Leave him. He's a creep. Let me explain. From your description of him, your husband seems to regard and treat you as a mere object for his own satisfaction, and his satisfaction consists largely in giving you pain. If this is accurate, then it seems to me that you are under no obligation to continue to tolerate his company.

What are some points to keep in mind when writing for a philosophy class? I just finished a course where every thing I wrote seemed to be wrong.

A. Read James Pryor’s and Peter Horban's very helpful advice on writing philosophy papers at http://www.jimpryor.net/teaching/guidelines/writing.html and at http://www.sfu.ca/philosophy/writing.htm . B. Follow the general writing advice of the Harvard Writing Center at http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~wricntr/documents/Overvu.html and the Dartmouth Writing Center at http://www.dartmouth.edu/~writing/materials/student/toc.shtml . C. Understand that different professors will have different expectations. Here is the advice that I offer my own students in a handout entitled, "Writing a Philosophy Paper": 1. What to do . Your paper must include: (a) A clear statement of the problem you are trying to solve . Getting a clear statement of the problem is more than half the battle. You may not be able to decide on one solution; if not, say why not. (b) A clear statement of the solution you propose, if you believe that...

If a woman does not want to support a child, she can choose to have an abortion. Of course, the would-be father ultimately has no say in this decision (he cannot force or prevent an abortion). Presumably, the asymmetry here relates to the fact that pregnancy and childbirth burden the mother to an infinitely greater extent than the father. What I don't understand, though, is why fathers may be forced to support (monetarily) children which they didn't want. If a woman decides to have a child in spite of her partner's disagreement, shouldn't she also assume full responsibility for that child? It seems as though the man has no say at all here. If the man wants the child, the woman may nevertheless abort; if he doesn't want the child (but she does), he nevertheless must support it.

When a human child is brought into existence, whose moral responsibility is it to see that this child’s very significant needs are met? In most human societies, this responsibility has been given to its parents. It was due to the parents’ actions that this child came into existence in the first place; and, further, parents tend to have stronger instincts than others to meet the very significant needs of their progeny. For these reasons, the allocation of primary responsibility to meet the needs of immature humans to their parents generally makes good moral sense. To what extent and under what conditions this responsibility should also be shared with others and to what extent and under what circumstances this responsibility may be relinquished to others are further complicated moral questions. You wonder whether it is fair that fathers who have had no say in whether a fetus is brought to term should be held morally responsible for meeting the needs of their progeny. This, it seems to me, is a...

If there is an all-knowing God who knows the future, then he knows I'm going to sneeze in 10 seconds. But if I do something to control my sneeze, then I have just changed the future. Does this mean there is not an all-knowing God who knows the future, because we have control over our future. This would suggest multiple futures and abolish the theory of God. Or is there some way for there to be multiple futures and an all-knowing God?

If there is an all-knowing God, and if you are able to control your sneeze, then the all-knowing God does not know that you are going to sneeze and does know that you are able to control your impulse to sneeze. Why doesn't God know that you are going to sneeze? Because it's not true that you are going to sneeze-- to the contrary, it's true that you are going to control your sneeze. Since it's impossible to know what is false, it's impossible for an all-knowing God to know that you are going to sneeze.

Concerning our moral obligations to other people, what is the distinction between killing and letting die? For example, if I'm at the beach and there's a child playing in the water, I think I can safely say that everyone would agree that it would be wrong for me to go in to the water and drown the child. But say I see the child drowning, and there's no one else around, and I could easily jump in and save him without risking my own life, would it be wrong for me to stand there and do nothing as he drowns? I'm not so sure what one's moral obligation is in this case. Personally, I would feel awful about letting the child drown and would certainly try to save him, but maybe not everyone would, and I'm hesitant so say they've done something wrong by doing nothing. In other words I don't know if I would support a law punishing such behavior.

I would like to distinguish two questions: (1) In any given case, is the mere difference between killing and letting die morally significant? and (2) From the point of view of public policy, should we draw a distinction between killing and letting die? I am convinced by the arguments that James Rachels provides in "Active and Passive Euthanasia," New England Journal of Medicine 292 (1975) against the moral significance of the distinction between killing and letting die per se. Through an examination of different cases, Rachels argues persuasively that when you hold all other factors equal (consequences, motive of the agent, consent of the person whose life is at stake), the mere difference between killing and letting die is morally insignificant. We tend to believe that there is a significant difference between this act (killing) and omission (letting die), because in most cases, these other factors are not equal. Usually people who kill have malicious intent and create significant harm;...

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