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What is right and what is wrong? Who can say what is right and what is wrong? How can we know what it is? Does it really matter, does it make a difference to know what the right thing and what the wrong thing is? I'm talking about stuff like sexism, racism, money, society etc.

Well, things are wrong if we shouldn't do them; they're right if we should. As for which specific things, there are many. Some people think they can boil it down to a simple principle or two (e.g. things are right if they produce the largest balance of good consequences over bad.) Other people think right and wrong are too varied for anything more than rules of thumb. Who can say what's right and what's wrong? If you mean who's qualified to pass judgment, then pretty much all of us are—at least about some things. It's wrong to mock people's infirmities. It's wrong to beat someone up because you're annoyed by something he said. It's wrong to kill someone so that you can collect on her insurance policy. And so on. You're in just as good a position as I am to make those claims. (Of course if you're asking who can make something right or wrong by declaring it right or wrong, there's a pretty good case that no one can. What's right and wrong isn't up to us.) Does it make a difference to know the...

In a primary school in South Korea, a teacher asked the students to think how happy they are when watching a video of children with famine in Africa. The teacher meant that they must be happier compared to poor children. Then one of the students responded "It's wrong that one feels happy to know other's unhappiness." When I read this article, I deeply agreed with the student. I think most of the NGOs for children in need are using that kind of way to move people and to encourge them to donate. That is, the organizations make people compare themselves to the poor and feel happier and sympathy for the poor. Then they would be willing to donate for the poor. I think this method is effective but wrong. I wonder if those organizations take the wrong method or I am wrong. Could you please let me know your opinion on this issue?

Consider the situation in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. When I think about the people on that island, I don't feel happy; I feel distress. Imagining myself in their situation is painful. That distress is an in-the-moment feeling. If I shift my focus to something else, the feeling abates or disappears. If I turn my attention back to Puerto Rico, the distress returns. That said, I'm also glad that I'm not living in the midst of that devastation. I am glad even in those moments when I feel distressed about the plight of people living on the island. This "gladness" isn't so much an in-the-moment feeling as a recognition that I have something to be thankful for. In fact, it seems odd to say that I'm happy not to be struggling in the way that the people of Puerto Rico are, even though we sometimes talk that way. Insofar as I'd put it that way, it would be another way to say that I'm relieved or thankful. To whatever extent there's a feeling that goes with that gratitude, it sits in a...

Is Privacy a form of lying? To keep something private is to regulate truth, it's deciding who should learn the truth and who shouldn't (whether it be on a personal scale or a larger collective scale such as a political organisation). Usually, things are kept private in order to prevent judgment from outside parties, but is it not right that people should be able to make judgments based on the truth? For instance, why do we usually keep our sexual encounters private? Should we not make judgements based on the real truth either of one's character or organisation as opposed to being kept from the reality by the mitigation of information? what if there were no privacy? what if humans were only ever completely honest about their situations? is privacy an arbitrary social construct? would a world without privacy be chaos? P.S is there any interesting reading on this topic you might recommend?

Here's a first-pass response. Lying is saying something that you know is false in an effort to get someone to believe it. If I don't say anything, and I don't try to mislead you about the facts, then I'm not lying. And so if I keep something private, I'm not lying. In fact, that's a bit too simple. Suppose there's something about me that would come as a big surprise to people who know me. Perhaps it's some unpopular opinion I hold, for example. I've never denied having this opinion, but I've never admitted it either. I just artfully avoid the topic whenever it comes up. I'm keeping my opinion private, but I'm doing it in a way that's meant to preserve the impression people have. It's still not right to say that I'm lying, but it's plausible to say that I'm not being honest. I'm deliberately keeping information from people that would make a difference to them if they knew it. However, it doesn't automatically follow that I'm doing something wrong. Yes: ideally people should make judgments based on the...

Can you have morals without acknowledging God? If so, where do they come from?

You can and many people do. As for where we can get moral beliefs if we don't believe in God, two unoriginal thoughts. The first is that in our actual day-to-day moral reasoning, most of us—even most religious people— don't base their moral responses on their religious beliefs. There are plenty of reasons to be honest or fair or kind or courageous without scurrying off to scripture. Some of the reasons might also show up in scripture: "Treat others as you'd wish to be treated" for example. But do we really think that someone who has internalized the point of that maxim would chuck it aside if they lost their religion? The second thought is a hard one for some people to grasp; I tend to think of it as a test of philosophical aptitude. The fact that some powerful supernatural being commands something isn't by itself a reason to think it's good. The point is very old; it goes back at least to Plato's dialogue Euthyphro . It goes with a pair of questions for the believer: are things right because God...

I was once asked in an interview 'What would you change in the world if you had the power to do so?' I replied that 'if there was no life after death, I would destroy the human race including myself and my family, thus preventing the suffering every human would have undergone if they were alive'. Aside from life after death, at first glance you might think of me as a satanic human being, but I am exactly the contrary, I am a medical student. It would cause temporary suffering but it would also banish endless suffering as well as happy things. My question is that is it ethical and moral to do so?

This strikes me as a particularly easy question. The answer is no. Among other things, you seem to be making two assumptions. The first is that the suffering prevented by destroying everyone outweighs all the the happiness and satisfaction that would also be prevented. That's already pretty unobvious. But in fact, as you've stated your view, you'd even be justified in wiping out people who would get more satisfaction than suffering out of their lives, since I assume that "everyone" means "everyone." I don't see a scintilla of justification for that. The more serious problem is in assuming that because this is how you see things, it would justify wiping everyone out, no matter what their view of the matter might be. That's a pretty extraordinary thing to assume. I'm not about to accuse you of being satanic. But the view you're offering might deserve that label.

Suppose some man is absolutely shy in romantic matters. Still, he loves to talk to beautiful women about all kinds of non-romantic, non-sexual subjects, and people like to talk to him. The main reason why he likes to talk to beautiful women is that it secretly arouses him sexually. Moreover, when talking to women he gets to see them at a close distance, to hear their voices clearly and to smell them. Perhaps on some occasions women will even touch him in a friendly manner. When he is alone at home, this man will remember those conversations and masturbate while thinking about those women and their physical closeness. My question is whether this is wrong (assuming that masturbation is not generally wrong). I think it is not wrong, but I have some doubts. My first problem is that this man is using those women without their full consent. They don’t know his real reason for talking with them nor what he will do “with” their conversation. I think Kant said something like we should not use other people as means...

You've asked an interesting question. I'm not going to say much directly about whether this person is doing wrong. I'm going to say some things more in line with a remark of John Austin's in a very different context: "If only we could forget for a while about the beautiful and get down instead to the dainty and the dumpy." (From Austin's "A Plea For Excuses.") What seems interesting here is more at the level of moral psychology than broad moral judgments. The counterpart for daintiness or dumpiness that came to mind was creepiness. I suspect I'm not the only panelist who found your first few sentences creepy. I'd stress that this isn't a way of saying that you are creepy, but let's try to bring the creepiness reaction into clearer focus. I don't know of any philosophical literature on creepiness, but this piece from a website called Family Share gets the basics right: https://familyshare.com/21482/7-signs-youre-a-creep (Thanks to Taimur Khan for that link.) What you describe triggers the...

Many people build their moral beliefs out of deep-seated gut feelings that themselves have no rational grounding. What I wanted to ask is: is this a good way to construct a belief system? If so, could any feeling at all serve as a foundational principle? For instance, would a moral system that takes a deep-seated racism as a building block be any less justified than one that relies on deep-seated empathy?

If I want to construct a sound system of beliefs, then there's not much to be said for merely relying on gut instinct. That's not because gut instincts are necessarily wrong or unreliable. It's because if I'm trying to construct a system as opposed to simply enumerating my commitments, critique, evaluation and adjustment are part of the process. But most people don't have a system of beliefs, and even to the extent that they do, it's bound to be a limited system. My beliefs about some things are much more systematic and reflective than about other things. Given that none of us have endless resources to commit to working out our beliefs, that's inevitable. But you say that "many people build their moral beliefs out of deep-seated gut feelings that themselves have no rational grounding." I'm worried about that way of putting things. If by "rational grounding" you mean something like "argument from explicit reasons," then I'd disagree that this is what's always needed. It's not just that giving...

I recently wondered what the airport does with all the stuff they steal at the security checkpoint. The person that I asked was annoyed because he claimed it was not stealing because I had an option to not go through the line and board my plane. After thinking about this awhile, I still think it is theft. Rule 1: It is not theft because I have an option to pick A and keep my stuff. Scenario 2: Give me your car or I kill your family member. According to Rule 1, Scenario 2 is neither theft, nor murder, because you have a choice. I think the airline is stealing property. What do you think?

You clearly know that there are things you're not allowed to take on a commercial airliner. Presumably you also know that there are reasons why you're not allowed to take those things on the plane, even if the reasons aren't all equally good. Also: you don't have an unqualified right to travel on an airplane. Commercial air travel is regulated, and not by a gang of goons. It's a matter of laws enacted by a government that ultimately owes its ability to regulate to the consent of the citizenry (though not, of course, consent of every single citizen.) Maybe you think all government is illegitimate and that there shouldn't be laws at all. That's way too big a topic to take up here. But even if air travel weren't regulated by the government, it's a safe bet that airline companies would have some restrictions on what they allow you to take on board. And while someone might argue that rather than making you forfeit your can of gasoline, they should hold onto it until you show up later to reclaim it, it's...

I am an undergraduate student who is interested in attending medical school. My primary reason for wanting to work in the medical field is to improve access to medical care in underserved further along my career path. However, attending medical school costs quite a bit. While I am fortunate enough to likely be able to pay for med school without crippling debt, I can't help but think that the money going towards my education could go towards better causes, such as improving infrastructure in rural, underserved communities and improving vaccination rates. Would the most moral option here be to donate money going towards my education to these causes or to go to medical school and use my education to improve access to healthcare in underserved populations?

Some people hold the view that if we're doing what we really ought to, we'll give up to the point where giving more would decrease the overall good that our giving produces. The most obvious arguments for that sort of view come from utilitarianism, according to which the right thing to do is the action that maximizes overall utility (good). If I could give more and overall utility would rise on that account, giving more is what I should do. Other views are less demanding. A Kantian would say that our most important duty is avoid acting in ways that treat others as mere means to our own ends. Kantians also think we have a duty to do some positive good, but how much and in what way is left open. I'm not aware of any Kantians who think we're obliged to give up to the point where it would begin to hurt. Who's right? I do think there's real wisdom in the idea that a system of morality won't work well if it's so demanding that few people will be able to follow it, and so I'm not persuaded by the point of...

Is it morally acceptable to hate a crime but not the criminal?

I'm having a bit of trouble understanding why it wouldn't be. Among possible reasons why it would be just fine, here are a few. 1) People, and more generally sentient beings, occupy a very different place in the moral universe than mere things (including events and abstract ideas). Moral notions don't even get a grip unless they refer back one way or another to beings as opposed to things. There's simply no reason to think that our attitudes toward people should be in lock-step with out attitudes toward non-sentient things. 2) Moreover, you might think that hating people is almost always not a good thing. It makes it harder to see their humanity, it makes you more likely to treat them less fairly, it fills you up with emotional bile. Hating a crime might not be emotionally healthy either, but given the distinction you're interested in, it's not personal; it's strong moral disapproval of a certain kind of action, and that might be both appropriate and productive. 3) Suppose someone you care...

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