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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...

Do moral philosophers work like this: 1. I have a Wish to see a certain form of society. 2. I must now think of a Reason why everybody should work to create this form of society. 3. Got it! 4. In order to make my Reason compelling, I will now claim that the Reason pre-dates my Wish. 5. My Wish is now the product of the pre-existing Reason. 6. All persons of Reason will share my Wish and work to create the form of society designed by my Wish.

This is indeed the accusation thatNietzsche levels at moral philosophers: that they have culturally baseddesires (to acquire a form of power or influence over some othergroup) and that the reasoning comes afterwards. However, evenNietzsche doesn't accuse philosophers of doing this deliberately orconsciously (not surprisingly, since he doesn't hold much stock bywhat we in fact decide or become conscious of). On the other hand, a lot depends uponwhat the Reason is in your step 3. If the reason is philosophically compelling then itdoesn't matter at all whether it pre-dates the wish or not .Consider an analogy: scientist A hates scientist B. Scientist Bpublishes a paper putting forward hypothesis X. Scientist A devoutlywishes to demolish this hypothesis utterly , for no other reason thanto rub B's nose in it in front of their peers. A devises a proper experiment to test X,carries it out rigorously, finds that indeed X is false, andpublishes accordingly. Is that bad science? Well, A should...

If people who think irrationally are happy and don't have the trouble of thinking about abstruse matters, and thinking rationally brings distress to you, is it irrational, in this case, to be rational?

How 'irrational' are we talking, here? It's Friday, I've justfinished giving a six-hour long lecture on Kant, which was nearly asdistressing to me as it was to the poor freshmen who had to sitthrough it. Now I'm thirsty. I go to the pub with friends, and drink,and talk about football, holidays, movies – nothing 'abstruse' andcertainly no philosophy. Is this rational or irrational behavior? Your question is a good one, and it leads us to questions aboutwhether there is any positive or negative relation between studyingphilosophy and happiness. This question has been raised many times inthe history of philosophy, and on this site. As you phrase it,however, I think your question involves an equivocation between'abstruse thinking' and 'rationality'. Plenty of concrete activitiescan be 'rational' (in the broad sense of happening according to law,order, a consideration of means and ends, moral principles orwhatever) without being 'abstruse' (again, in a broad sense ofdifficult to understand because...

Is it wise to purchase insurance? For example, if I buy auto insurance, then I'm betting that I will be in an accident, and that the insurance payout will be worthwhile, notwithstanding the amount I will have paid in premiums. The insurance company is betting that the amount I pay in premiums will outweigh what they pay me in the event of a claim. Given that they have a lot of actuaries and other smart folks working on this, shouldn't I assume that they are right? I.e., does the fact that someone very smart is willing to sell me insurance count as a reason not to buy the insurance?

One buys insurance for any number of reasons, but the one to which you refer is to protect against a set of relatively improbable events, but events that should they happen would have a devastating effect upon you (or your next of kin!). We can define 'devastating' as meaning: having an effect that is of a different order to the effect of paying the premium. Because the insurance company deals in probabilities across millions of cases, the rationality of selling the policy is simply a mathematical calculation. But for an individual, the rationality involved it is not merely mathematics, but an appraisal of what is too valuable to risk. Thus, the insurance salesperson and I can both be 'smart'. Suppose I pay a premium of $100 for accident insurance. I have an accident, and the hospital bills are $500,000. The odds against having such an accident are 10000 to 1. So, a good deal for the insurance company who, averaged across many thousands of policies, will make a profit. But also a good deal for me,...