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As a parent of young children, I have recently come to know that lots of people find it acceptable to lie ("not telling the absolute truth") to children about all kinds of subjects. It is not only that they don't tell them there is no Santa Claus, they actually tell them that Santa Claus exists when children believe it's only a story, and they tell them that it is Santa Claus who gives them presents in Christmas. People tell 5 year old children that "if Mom and Dad really want it, a baby will appear inside Mom's belly". I once heard a Kindergarten "teacher" (can't find the right English word) telling a 3 year old that the broken tail of a plastic cow would grow again. I wonder if all this lying is acceptable? Perhaps there are some empirical, non philosophical issues here (how do children react to coming to know the truth about these things, and to coming to know that adults lied to them?; will this predispose children to lie when they grow?), but even if there are no bad distant consequences to this kind...

This is a great question, and it's one I think that parents -- and philosophers -- should think more about. I personally have grappled with it many times as a parent. It hit home for me when I was trying to figure out how to deal with my son's nightmares. The standard advice that turned up on web searches was to buy some kind of air freshening spray and tell your child that it was 'Bad Dream Spray' -- that we could spray it each night before bed and it would keep the nightmares away. In other words, the standard advice involved outright lying to kids. And this bugged me. And then I started thinking about all the other ways that we standardly lie to kids -- some of which you detail in your question. In general we think that lying is wrong. So why do we treat lying to kids differently, especially as we're simultaneously trying to teach them the value of honesty? One account for why we might think it's OK to lie to children comes from philosopher Sissela Bok, who notes that the special needs of...

Why knowledge has intrinsic value? Why dow value knowledge for its own sake?

Not everyone thinks that knowledge has intrinsic value -- after all, many people purport to subscribe to the claim that ignorance is bliss. This was the position taken by Cypher in the movie The Matrix -- he thought he would have been better left in The Matrix, thinking that he was tasting a delicious steak, even though it was all just a fiction. Cypher's seems to be that knowledge lacks any intrinsic value. But we can perform some thought experiments to check our own intuitions on the matter. Suppose some aliens kidnapped you, took you to their planet, performed some experiments on you, and then returned you to your bed. But before they did any of this they gave you some powerful drugs to keep from you any knowledge of the whole experience. In thinking about such a case, many people think they are worse off for not knowing what happened to them. This lack of knowledge seems bad, over and above the harm of the experiments themselves. Or, if you've seen the movie The Truman Show , think...

As an atheist, I am often asked the question, "What is the meaning of life for an atheist?" I am myself sometime confused whether as an atheist do have a purpose in life or I am just living and waiting for an end to my life? Mirza A.

Good question -- something that a lot of people worry about. Tolstoy famously fell into a deep depression about this very question. He ultimately decided that the only way to find meaning in life was through faith, and he embraced God. But many philosophers have disagreed that this is the only route to meaning, and they have argued that meaning in life in possible even if God does not exist. In part this depends on what we take "meaning" to be. You put it in terms of "purpose", but tht might not be the only way to think about it. Philosophers like Richard Taylor have argued that we can find meaning by seeking inner fulfillment -- living a fulfilled life is to live a meaningful life. Alternatively, other philosophers like Peter Singer have argued that we can find meaning in life by adopting objectively worthwhile projects, ethical projects. By doing good -- be it working to end world hunger, or curing diseases, or fighting injustice -- we can infuse our lives with meaning. And yet other...

I am writing a book dealing with Alzheimer’s disease for young people. The protagonist, a boy in the 8th grade, is grappling with his grandmother’s progressing AD. I would be interested on your thoughts about identity/mind and Alzheimer’s disease. Is a person with progressive AD the same person that they were without the disease? Any resource suggestions would be appreciated. The boy is in a philosophy class at his Catholic school and much of his questioning will come through class discussions

This is a really interesting question. John Locke, in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, famously defined a person as "a thinking intelligent being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself as itself, the same thinking thing, in different times and places; which it does only by that consciousness which is inseparable from thinking, and as it seems to me, essential to it." He then goes on to talk about our personal identity over time: "For, since consicousness always accompanies thinking, and it is that that makes everyone to be what he calls self, and thereby distinguishes himself from all other thinking things, in this alone consists personal identity, i.e., the sameness of rational being; and as far back as this consciousness can be extended backwards to any past action or though, so far reaches the identity of that person." The notion of consciousness extending backward is often taken to signify memory, and so a Lockean theory of personal identity suggests...

i have a lot questions about the possibility of immortality , and i want a list of the most important essays and books on this subject .would you please send me a list that survey this problem in rational way ? thank you . ali a. , iran ,shiraz .

Vincent Barry's Philosophical Thinking About Death and Dying is a good first source for an accessible discussion of some of the relevant issues. It will also give you some suggestions for further reading. These two anthologies have some relevant essays: Life, Death, and Meaning edited by David Benatar. Philosophy and Death edited by Robert Stainton and Samantha Brennan. And one recent book on the subject is Mark Johnston's Surviving Death . I'm sure that others will chime in with more suggestions for you, but I hope that these can get you started.

if two people share a thought triggered by there shared experience of a similar situation/stimuli and/or genetic wiring (i.e. there is a causl relationship between there responses), would this be considered telepatahy? for example if two people looked at a work of art and at the same time thought to themselves the word "amazing" this would surely not be considered telepathic, as it is a very common response. But why shouldn't it be considered telepathy if they share the same thought and there is a causal relationship? I'm not saying that people can read each others thoughts outright, but that similar thought patterns are brought on by similar situations and/or genetic makeup (I won't get into nature vs nurture).

After reading this question, I first tried to transmit my answer to you telepathically, but it wasn't working, so I thought I'd try this more traditional method. In any case, it strikes me that in order for something to count as telepathy, one would have to have some sort of direct and unmediated access to the thoughts of another. Suppose Jane and Clone Jane both go see a movie and, because they have identical genetic makeups and (let's suppose) similar past experiences, they each think something like "The ending would have been more emotionally satisfactory had the hero not gotten killed." Each of them is having the thought for the same reason, but they are each having it independently. That is, Jane's thought has no causal connection to Clone Jane's thought, and Jane does not have any direct access to Clone Jane's thought. And vice versa/ Their thoughts have similar (parallel) explanations, but no direct linkage to one another. So I don't see why this should count as a form of telepathy. ...

I recently had a colonoscopy under an anesthetic that caused complete amnesia. An observer could see I was in extreme pain during the procedure yet I have no recollection. How does a philosopher think about the pain I experienced but do not recall?

In my view, experienced pain still counts as pain, even if it is not later remembered. The key here is that the pain was actually at one time experienced . Some kinds of anesthetics block pain experience altogether -- for example, when pregnant women have c-sections, they typically do not experience the pain while the procedure is going on and the anesthetic is in effect. (After the anesthetic wears off, well, that's another story altogether...) In contrast, you describe a different kind of anesthetic, one that does not stop the pain from being experienced, but just stops it from being later remembered. And I would say that unremembered pain is still clearly pain. Here's one way to think about it. Suppose that right now, while fully conscious, you were offered a deal: If you agree right now to be tortured, you will get $10,000. You will be in extreme agony for an hour, but afterward, the torturer will give you a drug to make you forget the torture entirely (and you will get your $10K). ...

Why are certain endeavors typically considered to be more meaningful than others? Volunteers like to say that their work adds meaning and a certain form of fulfillment to their lives. Why is volunteerism, in particular, seen to be "meaningful"? Why don't we hear the same claim as frequently from say, lawyers or tax accountants?

In thinking about your question, it may help to think about cases where we intuitively think lives lack meaning. Many philosophers have used Sisyphus -- who was doomed to push a stone up a hill, only to have it roll back down again, for all of eternity -- as a paradigm case of a meaningless life. To varying extents, our own lives often seem Sisyphean. My suspicion is that's probably more the case for lawyers and tax accountants than for volunteers. In fact, I have to confess, there are days when grading student papers seems awfully like rolling a stone up the hill! But now let's ask: What makes Sisyphus's life meaningless? Some have attributed the meaningless of his life to the misery he must be in. So we might try to consider a slightly different case, one given to us by philosopher Richard Taylor. Taylor suggests that we imagine Sisyphus having been injected with a drug that provides him a passion for stone-rolling. He still spends eternity involved in stone-rolling, but now this...

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