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What do we mean when we say that someone is "ideological"? How does having an ideology differ from simply having a particular set of moral or political views?

'Ideology' is used in a number of difference senses. However, whether within political philosophy, or philosophical sociology, 'ideology' is distinguished from having views, by the extent to which we recognise the possibility of other views. So, suppose I think abortion is immoral. Now, what do I think of someone whose moral views permit abortion? Either, I could believe them to be mad, deceived or perverse. In any case, they are wrong and that's the end of it. Or, although I doubt it strongly, I could think that they might have a point -- that is, it is not in principle impossible that their view is has some merit. In other words, a convenient definition of 'ideology' is that it is a view that excludes the possibility of rational discussion or debate. Ideology may also tend to be 'unconscious', so much a part of one's world view that it isn't even noticed. Indeed, because it is not available for enquiry, there is no need for me to be aware of ideology.

What's the philosophical response to Nietzsche's contention that all morality is merely a trick that the weak play upon the strong to get the strong to rein in their strength?

Nietzsche's analysis of the 'genealogy' of cultural forms (ofwhich moral ideas is the most obvious) is directed not to the past,but to the future. That is, what is key is what happens to subsequenthuman beings because of that origin. So, the fact that moralityoriginated in a lie, a misunderstanding, a violence, an act ofrevenge, etc. -- this matters for two reasons. First, insofar as anotherphilosophy might have justified morality based upon its historicalorigin (e.g. the law of God) or its foundation (e.g. the possibleautonomy of practical reason). But, as asprofessor Taliaferro points out, this argument only really works if there is an absence of any otherjustification provided for the moral system. Second, and I think more importantly, the origin matters because of whatfuture possibilities of human life get lost as a consequence of that origin.So, if the origin is that a group of the weak find a way to recastthe existing cultural values system so that the strong are relabeledas 'evil', then Nietzsche...

Should we enjoy high quality forms of art that depict an immoral situation? And should we even consider morality when evaluating art? I find myself constantly bringing this issue up whenever I watch a movie for example. Let's say there is a very well done movie that tells how great Suharto is? It's obviously a lie, what effect can this fact have on the value of the movie, as a piece of art.

I just answered a similar question, and much of what I say thereis relevant here too: http://www.askphilosophers.org/question/3749 However, what is new in your question is the idea of art (theother question concerned fiction and, given the context, Iinterpreted that as meaning popular fiction, e.g. thrillers). Theproblem is, can a work's aesthetic value be judged separately fromits moral value (or lack of it)? The usual answer, which follows Kantand others, is 'yes'. In the Critique of Judgement, Kant argues thata judgement of beauty must be disinterested, which is to say wecannot bring other types of judgement in as determining factors.'Other types', he says, includes moral judgements. His example is apalace (such as Versailles; don't forget he was writing in the periodof the French Revolution), which could be judged a beautiful piece ofarchitecture and design, but a political abomination. We can, andmust, separate out the project of coming to judge aesthetically fromthe project of coming to...

Is it immoral to produce a work of fiction where the main antagonist is also the only representative of a disadvantaged minority? For example, a film where the psychopathic killer is also the only gay man, or where the terrorist is the only black man. Does producing such a work contribute to discrimination? What are the responsibilities of the authors/artists?

Thank you for your questions. Onecan imagine a strong 'no' answer to your first question, which isfounded upon the following argument. It stresses the notion offiction. If the novel or film is called fictional, that means itdeviates from, and is known to deviate from, an accuraterepresentation of reality. Fictionseem to function by creating 'worlds' that we as readers or viewerscan occupy in the mode of 'as if'. To get carried along by a story,to be affected by it in any way, is to treat it 'as if' it were real.So, to be sure, in the midst of the experience, the differencebetween fact and fiction is blurred. Now, of course, normally wedon't carry on being affected after the film is over; we're able tosee the story as fiction and thus the world it presented asfictional. So (this argument continues), why should oneelement of its fictionality bother us? Or, expressed differently, whyshould we assume that readers and viewers are perfectly capable oftelling the difference between fiction and reality in...

Do we have a duty to resolve contradictions within our own thoughts and opinions? For example, does a person who thinks killing animals is very wrong, but who has no qualms eating meat, need to revise one opinion or the other? What about someone who doesn't really believe in a god, yet insists on worshipping one and arguing for its existence? Or is it our choice to live with contradictions as we choose?

That's a very interesting question,thanks for asking. There seems to be a difference between your twoexamples that is worth thinking about. The first example clearly anddirectly involves a moral choice. There we have a person who lives acontradiction in that they believe that X is wrong in a specificallymoral sense of 'wrong', and yet are complicit in X. In the secondexample, though, there doesn't appear to be anything moral at stake(there may in fact be, but for the sake of argument here let usassume that there is not). So, we have a person who thinks that X iswrong in the sense of false, but still behaves as if X. If there is a duty to removecontradictions in our beliefs and behaviours, it seems more urgent inthe first case. The contradiction there involves some moral wrong, orsome failure in the consistency of moral character. Consistency is afeature valued in most moral systems. See this question and answer: http://www.askphilosophers.org/question/715 In the second case, there may beself...

My question deals with fair play and the relative value that we ascribe to victories in sports that are either earned through no apparent cheating or that are earned through a clear (though at the time undetected by officials) cheating (for example, the "hand of god" moment by the Argentine soccer player, Maradona). Have philosophers opined on this issue? As an aside, I note that it has been famously said by certain athletes in sports that "if you're not cheating, you're not trying." So perhaps there is a related though tangential question regarding the perceived amount of effort employed by players themselves in a sporting event -- that if you are not trying to bend the rules to some extent then you are not trying hard enough, and consequently you are not placing a sufficient amount of value on the purported end of the game or match, i.e., victory. I am not inclined to favor the "cheating is just really trying" angle, but it is offered as a frequent enough justification.

The issue, it seems to me, is that there are more than one set of criteria for what is a good game of football, or even what is fair. So, from the player, fan, coach and owner's point of view, whatever it takes to win might be considered both good and fair and 'part of the game' (thus the 'cheating is really trying' claim). The referee, on the other hand, is interested only that the game runs strictly according to the rules. The commentator or neutral fan is interested in the game as an exhibition of skill, dedication and drama, and blatant cheating (especially if the camera sees it but the referee does not) is likely to be seen as ruining the game. The broadcaster wants something that will raise viewing figures, and controversial or even violent acts might be just the ticket – everything of that type is 'fair' to them. One might be tempted to say that the referee's view is the most valid because it is the most regulated by the rules that define the game, and is free from extraneous factors such...

As far as I know, it's not illegal in football (soccer) to kick the ball really hard at someone's face if they are in the way of goal. Throwing dummies and gamesmanship are also treated as acceptable. So how exactly does agreeing on rules of a game remove normal moral constraints? I know people wouldn't be happy if I started blasting a football at their faces, but would it be morally ok?

Boxing is an even more obvious example of a rule-governed sport that involves what would otherwise be immoral actions. The answer usually given lies in the notion of consent. By agreeing to be a part of the game, one consents to be subjected to such actions; and, equally, is given the right to commit them. There are some actions in sport that are not part of the rules. Players have been subject to criminal prosecution for particularly violent tackles during a professional game. The notion of consent, however, is not universally accepted. For example, suppose it is the case that forms of violence in sport feeds a culture of the acceptance of violence outside the sport (among viewers or participants). This is a question for empirical sociology or psychology, but the implications of the answer are ethical. In that case, consent within the sport may mean that one is consenting to more than one has the right to consent to; one is consenting on another's behalf, or even that consent takes away...

We often admire people who are true to their convictions, even when we believe that those convictions are actually wrong. Is there anything morally valuable or praiseworthy in simply acting in accordance with what you think is right (regardless of whether it is, in fact, right), or does the moral significance of a particular action have to do only with whether it accords with objective moral standards?

Kant's ethics gives us a convenient way of thinking aboutthis question. He distinguishes between the moral law (categorical imperative)and a 'maxim'. By the latter he means the rule we actually follow in ourdecisions. It is, he argues, a uniquely human characteristic that we canformulate maxims for ourselves and then follow them. But whether the maximOUGHT to be followed can be decided only by testing it with the moral law. So,someone true to his or her convictions (maxim) is displaying the essentiallyhuman quality that is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition of morality.

I believe that speciesism is correct. However I am confused about how I should feel about campaigns to kill pests like possums, rats, stoats etc which destroy native and often endangered birds, animals and plants. I understand that speciesism doesn't say that you can never kill an animal, you merely have to give it equal consideration. In this sense killing the pest could be justified if doing so produced a better outcome. But then I arrive at the problem of humans, which (I assume) would in many situations be a greater threat to our native birds, animals and plants. I can't help but feel that the answer may lie in the fact that we can do something about humans which destroy the environment by convincing them we shouldn't, it's not as easy to reason with the average possum. However this seems inadequate given the fact that these people are very, very unlikely to ever be convinced. How can we justify killing pests in moral terms in light of speciesism?

Let usassume for the purposes of discussion the 'equal consideration'account of animal ethics. We could perhaps define a 'pest' as anycreature or group of creatures that is threatening the sustainablebalance of an ecosystem. So, a pest is not just something nibbling mylettuces, which I don't want nibbled, or biting my arm which I ratherprefer unbitten. Rather, a pest occurs only within a seriously out ofkilter environment (thus the original mean of the term: plague). Insuch a case, I imagine, action against the pest is morally warrantedbut only insofar as to restore a more sustainable situation. So, if aplague of beetles is depleting forests in the Rockies, then pesticideseems justified; if a lack of natural predators means that the deerpopulation is ballooning in an area, then perhaps culling (or betterreintroducing predators) is justified. Your question comes down to:are we prepared to define human beings as 'pests'? Manyare, of course, and there is and has been for some time...

I suffer from an inheritable condition which might shorten my life span if left untreated. My doctor has prescribed me a drug which, as it happens, might have adverse effects on my mental capacity; for instance, it might bring about amnesia and mild cognitive impairment. The minutiae of my particuar situation are not significant; what is interesting is the ethical question the general situation raises: Are we obligated to do what we can to stay alive for as long as possible, or may we—if the prior option necessitates potentially adverse effects on an aspect of life we hold dear—choose not to? And if the latter is true, does this translate to all other situations of this kind? As an example, consider the case of a smoker who refuses to give up smoking, regardless of the risk involved, because of the pleasure the act of smoking confers upon her. Her family and friends naturally wish for her to stay alive and remain healthy for as long as is possible—do their concern outweigh the pleasure she takes in the...

There are several fine questions here,it seems to me. I want to focus in to start with on just oneinteresting distinction that you make implicitly. One the one hand,there is the quality of life threatened by your disease; on the otherhand there is the pleasure afforded to the smoker. These are by nomeans the same kind of thing, first because the pleasure of smokingis replaceable (I can quitsmoking and yet can get similar pleasure in other, healthy ways) andsecond because it is merely pleasure, and thus often considered a lower grade of good thanothers. So, I think the example of smoking is not a good analogy forthe purposes of exploring your dilemma. I cansee no good moral reason why either of your alternatives must be wrong. If it seems valuable to you to sacrifice certain thingsfor longevity, then that is not necessarily a bad decision; likewise,if you wanted to sacrifice longevity for quality of life, then againthat is not automatically ruled out. On...

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