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Put simply: does demand justify supply? If I sell an item - for instance, a computer-games machine - for a price that is much higher than either the RRP or the shop advertised price, and am able to do so given the scarcity of the item and the large demand for it, can I justify this by simply claiming that the fact that a person is willing to buy for that price justifies my selling it to them? Can this question be resolved so simply?

You are right to worry that this question cannot be simply resolved. In the case of the computer gaming machine, it seems reasonable to let demand determine the price. Even though people may very much want these new technological toys, nothing bad will happen to them if they cannot get them. But suppose we are talking about a scarce drug that has the potential to cure a life-threatening illness, such as bird flu? Or what about the resources (space in a car, or gas, say) to flee a city about to be overrun by an invading army? Those who hold these scarce and potentially life-saving resources are in a position to exploit the vulnerability of those whose life depends on having access to them. Whether it is morally acceptable for demand to determine price depends on whether the thing is needed or merely wanted; and if it is needed, how acute that need is. This means that, as you suspected, there can be no simple answer to your question.

Do you think that it is correct to teach physical education in separate-sex classes? Isn't this just keeping the sexist divide between girls and boys, where boys say girls cannot play sport?

I went to an all-girls high school. Girls from that school outperformed girls from the nearby coeducational school in both athletics and academics. Same-sex physical education can be good for girls, challenging them against the highest standards of female athleticism. But of course sometimes it isn’t, especially if girls-only athletics is not as well supported as boys-only athletics, or if girls are held to less demanding standards than boys (relative to those achievable by top female and male athletes). The best solution here may be complex: some activities in some age-groupings are best pursued within a single-sex framework (e.g. rugby once in high school); others can be pursued in mixed groups (e.g. swimming, orienteering, and soccer, where players are grouped by skill level). Another important part of overcoming gender-bias in sport is recognizing the genuine athletic achievement in those sports that are predominantly pursued by women and girls. This is starting to happen in New Zealand where netball ...

Can your belief affect the outcome of an event? Such as if you believe that the future will happen a certain way, will the outcome be what you believe?

Yes, though only in those limited circumstances where the believing itself brings about the truth of that which is believed. This mostly happens indirectly and the outcome is typically only partly explained by the belief (so it won't always work!). Consumer confidence, studied by economists, is one example of this: if enough of us lose our confidence in the economy that can, through its effects on our consumption patterns, bring it about that an economic down-turn happens. Positive consumer confidence can have the reverse effect. Single person cases include believing you can do something, which can give you the motivation and confidence to really throw yourself into the task and so make it the case that you can, when you couldn't have if you lacked that belief. Again, though, there is no magical guarantee: the belief has to work by marshalling sources of motivation and competence, which you might or might not have. There is an interesting, though even more limited, set of cases where the believing itself...

Hi, I'm a first year philosophy student at Hull university in the UK, I've been searching for an answer to a question that has arisen as a result of a piece of work we were set on the nature of love. Most people try and quantify love, or in fact, any emotion based on the idea that it is subjective. My problem is this, I have never seen anyone explain to me exactly WHY emotions are subjective. It seems pretty obvious, but no one ever sat me down and said, here is the logically correct reasoning behind emotions being considered subjective. In a world of hypotheticals, isn't it hypothetically possible that emotion is an objective entity, so why is it considered not so? The best explanation I've had for this was that no one can agree on what the necessary and sufficent conditions of emotions are. But then, scientists still don't agree where the other nine tenths of the universe is hiding, does that make the rest of the universe subjective?

People mean many different things when they say that emotions are subjective. Before we can answer why people think emotions are subjective and whether they are right to do so, we first have to step back and ask what someone might mean by the claim. One thing people sometimes mean when they claim emotions are subjective is that they cannot be assessed for rationality. They just are. "That’s how I feel" is supposed to end conversation, and if you ask for reasons why someone feels that way, or suggest that perhaps they shouldn’t, you can be accused of “not respecting their feelings.” If you think of emotions as merely inner sensations, like twinges or pangs, you will be inclined to think that they are subjective in this sense. There is no generally accepted theory of what emotions are, but even theories (such as Damasio's) that claim emotions are perceptions of bodily changes should not think that they are beyond rationality assessment. We have rich practices of interpersonal affective critique and these...

I think we are all a product of our own culture. We see everything through a veil of conditioning, this veil is worn by us from a very early age, and it is worn unwittingly by most of us. All of our learned ideas, consisting of everything we have absorbed from our surroundings, history, parents, taught religion (as we all tend to be more informed about a particular religion, than religion as a whole) media and peers, have been absorbed through this cultural veil, and these new absorbtions, over time, can add to the veil and define the way we see the world through its holes more. It may also be the case that we reject some ideas as we live, thereby retaining the veils shape. But we still wear it. As an example, and it is a mild example... In the UK it is polite to finish your food when dining as a guest in someones house, to have seconds is to show you enjoy the meal. It can often, and commonly is considered rude to leave a substantial amount of food on your plate. In Nepal, in the same scenario, to...

You are right that we approach all questions, whether of manners, morality or science, with a lot of presuppositions. We cannot help doing this, but more important, it would not be a good thing to shed all our presuppositions -- we wouldn't know how to go about assessing a claim's truth without any presuppositions, nor could we design a science experiment without them. When you use the metaphor of a "veil" to descibe these presuppositions, it suggests that they are distorting, and that they hinder us from seeing things as they really are. That's certainly true for some of them: think of the history of sexist and racist ideas and how these were unquestioned for so long. But it is not true for all of them, nor does it follow that just because we absorb something through a process of cultural conditioning it has to be distorting. (Very early on, we all absorb some ethical views about how bad it is to needlessly hurt others, but I reckon these views are true, rather than distorting.) As a result of thinking...

I work for a voluntary organisation with a great premise that I am wholeheartedly committed to. However, there are some senior staff who, athough they are themselves committed also, are ineffectual and have over the years damaged the organisation albeit inadvertently. In order to save the organisation from ending, these people need to be removed or brought to a realisation that would probably end in them removing themselves. To do this the board of trustees needs 'evidence' or a paper trail of the ineffectualness. Should I contribute to this evidence in order to help save the organisation or should I refuse to contribute because the people concerned are very good people and only inadvertantly damaging the organisation? To me, both courses of action are wrong in some philosophical sense. And in the end both courses of action leave me damaged in my perssonal sense of what is right or wrong. But should my own concerns be put aside for the greater good of an organisation which genuinely seeks to, and works to...

You write asking for advice about a real life moral dilemma that you face. We often ask others for moral advice, but we are rightly suspicious of those who are too quick to offer it! You need a trustworthy adviser, but to be that, for you, in this context, any advisor would have to know a lot about the details of the relationships in question, about you and about your values, so that they could advise from a perspective that your best self could come to see is warranted. Knowing only as much as can be known from this posting, I think you should distrust anyone who is willing to say to you categorically, "do this" or "do that," so I'm not going to do that. Instead, let's back up and consider whether you have got the best framing of the choice you face. Is there some way of defusing the dilemma? Is it a fully-fledged dilemma or a hard choice? An agent faces a fully-fledged moral dilemma when she is required to do A and she is required to do B and she cannot to both. Whatever she does, she will fail to do...

People equate certain qualities with femininity. E.g. soft, irrational, emotional. On the other hand, certain other qualities are equated with masculinity: e.g. hard, rational, analytical. Some feminists have said that this is an example of prejudice towards women: firstly, those qualities are largely viewed as negative, secondly, the 'male' qualities are held in higher esteem than the 'female' qualities. It seems to me that men can be just as emotional or irrational as women - but apart from this, is the connotation with those things an accident or is it purposeful and does it actually lead to prejudice? Some people also complain that words associated with blackness - darkness, black, etc, are used negatively and that is racist. Is that actually true or is it a stretch?

Masculinity and femininity have been associated with different properties at different times and in different cultures. Despite all this variation, however, that which is associated with masculinity is valued, and is often identified with the human, while that which is associated with the feminine is given lesser status and is often identified with the "other than" or "less than" human. These symbolic associations operate in many areas of inquiry, including in philosophy. As you note, these associations often don't reflect reality: men are indeed just as emotional as women and just as irrational! However, feminists think we should be worried about them for two reasons: First, they feed into the social construction of gender identity, so that they have psychological and social consequences for men and women who try to live up to the gender ideals they represent. Second, gender metaphors and associations can shape inquiry, making some questions seem pressing, hiding others from view, and bridging what would...

If I lied and told Bob that I was very pleased to see him when I really am indifferent to his existence and couldn't care less if I never saw him for the next two thousand years. My lie made him very happy. Is that as bad a lie as if I lied in an 'ordinary' way, for example lying to my father about why I got home so late or telling my mother I didn't break her favourite vase? What if it didn't make Bob happy, but it just meant that we didn't have an awkward moment since saying that to Bob is what was socially expected of me?

You might enjoy reading Annette Baier's essay, "Why Honesty is a Hard Virtue" in Owen Flanagan and Amelie Rorty (eds) Identity, Character, and Morality which discusses just the issues you raise. There are very complex contextual rules for determining when something counts as a lie. Do adults lie in telling children about Santa Claus and the tooth fairy? Or are they merely story-telling? Social conventions, such as "pleased to meet you" and responding "I'm fine" to an acquaintance's "how are you?" even when things are going really badly and you are very far from fine, do not violate the other’s trust since they are typically not counting on you for a direct and truthful response. You and they know that you are in the realm of conventional exchange, but it is hard to codify exactly how you know this. Returning to your examples, one key to understanding them is to think about their implications for the trust relations between the parties. Are you misleading Bob because, say, he has reason to believe you...