I'm hard pressed to answer this question (and I suspect I'm not the only one, seeing as it's been so long unanswered) without knowing more precisely what you mean by "tell the truth." A work of literature can be said to have various meanings, some of them mutually exclusive, and few (if any) constraints on viable interpretations. So in that sense, it would tell the truth, because the range of what it "tells" is so very broad. But it would be the same with the visual arts, wouldn't it? If "telling the truth" is understood to be some kind of correspondence with an external state of affairs, then it seems other areas of knowledge (mathematics, for instance) would "tell the truth" better. Aesthetics isn't my area, and so far I'm only dabbling in Phil of Literature; I'm afraid I can't do better than this for an answer. But it is an intriguing start to a conversation. I hope you pursue it.
Actually, the Catholic Church has always held that abortion -- understood as deliberately ending the life of an ensouled human being in the womb -- is gravely immoral. The changed view to which Andrew refers is the result of changed understanding of when ensoulment occurs. Remember that relative to the history of Christianity, biology has only recently revealed what happens in conception and gestation; Thomas Aquinas, for example, thought that life began at "quickening," or the mother's awareness of fetal movement -- typically after (what we now know is) 15-20 weeks of life and growth! As for your question, I'd refer again to Aquinas: everyone has a moral right to refuse to act against his or her conscience. To deliberately do what your conscience forbids would be morally wrong, always. (The converse doesn't hold, by the way: it is not always morally right to do what your conscience permits. Your conscience could be in error. But on the negative side, even if it is in error, if you do what it...
I am interested in the philosophical implications of the two competing views of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
It is often contended that an "individualist" view of what equal protection requires can't explain why only classifications based on race or sex require "heightened scrutiny," instead of the ordinary rational basis test. In some sense, this objection seems dead on. If what equal protection prohibits is the use of morally invidious classifications by state actors then certainly race and sex can't be the only two that we ought to be concerned about.
On the other hand, it seems like the "hierarchical" view is fraught with similarly serious problems. Who counts, nowadays, as a "discrete, insular minority" that equal protection ought to help? Does the fact that women are a majority mean that they should not benefit from heightened scrutiny, but men should? Or, if "discrete, insular minority" is just short-hand for politically handi-capped, how do we know how politically handi...
While it doesn't address the Equal Protection clause specifically, Tom Nagel's "A Defense of Affirmative Action" comes to mind here. It isn't so much the "minority" as the "insular" that calls for heightened scrutiny or preferential treatment. Nagel argues that a pervasive, deeply-rooted perception of the minority as an inferior social caste is the relevant factor. Thus when Nagel wrote in the 70s, African-Americans would be entitled to preference, but not women or, say, Asians. But in the 1930s, women would have been. Now, it might be Hispanics in the "lower caste" position. While a general perception of caste is about as vague as political handicap for use as a standard for interpreting a Constitutional clause, it seems to me that an important feature of both is the tendency to self-perpetuate in the absence of preference or at least heightened scrutiny.
Does the "ethics of care" have a special relationship with Feminism? It seems that Feminism can be justified under lots of ethical theories. A Utilitarian could argue that since women experience pain and pleasure, their welfare should be factored into our felicific calculus. A Deontologist could argue that women have rights, and it is wrong to violate those rights. So what makes the ethics of care a more Feminist theory than other moral theories, like Utilitarianism and Deontology?
To expand a little on Charles' answer, some theorists draw careful distinctions between "ethics of care," "feminine ethics" and "feminist ethics." An ethics of care is one in which the locus of moral goodness is in relationship; as such its emphasis is on particular, embodied individuals in concrete, historically-situated patterns of interaction. As Charles points out, it is generally taken to arise from Carol Gilligan's work in moral psychology (as opposed to ethical theory, and this is an important distinction also; moral psychology is descriptive -- saying how things are -- while ethical theory is normative -- saying how things ought to be). Gilligan observed that women are more likely to assign moral value to relationship, and so care ethics is often described as "feminine ethics," although it is certainly not the case that all or only females think this way. "Feminist ethics," as those who draw the distinction understand it, takes care ethics a step further, and focuses on lived relational...
I agree with Peter, that the right to have children -- or, as I prefer to frame it, the right to procreate -- is not a positive claim right. No one has the correlative duty to supply you with children, or even (I'd argue) with the means to have children. But it's a fascinating question. My own thinking is that there is a tendency to think of the right to procreate as a right of property or acquisition, when in fact it is a right of expression. Procreation is an activity (and as Peter points out, it is an activity that does not guarantee a product), and it is this activity the chance for which is ordinarily considered to be so fundamental to living a good human life that it is protected by a right.
Do you think _Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance_ is categorically a philosophy book, or because it's a novel, it cannot be in that classification?
There is no reason that a novel cannot be a work of philosophy; in fact, I would argue that many novels are exactly that. Philosophy broadly construed is "the love (study/seeking/etc.) of wisdom," which can certainly be pursued through fiction. A little more narrowly, a work in philosophy would employ a certain style of inquiry, methodical or systematic or logical. Even more narrowly, it would contain references to, or even excerpts from, the standard philosophical repertoire; Jostein Gaarder's Sophie's World comes to mind here. While I have never read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance myself, from what I have heard about it, I would consider it a work in philosophy broadly speaking -- that is, it gives you the impetus to ask the kinds of questions traditionally associated with philosophy.
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.
None that I know (well, except MAYBE Nietzsche). Why would the moral philosopher have the Wish? If s/he's a philosopher at all, it will be for Reasons. It looks to me more like how a Straw Man works.
Mother Theresa accepted donations for her work from all sources - regardless of the background of the donors. She said that once the money was in her possession, she would put it to good use - its origin was irrelevant. The same argument has also been put forward by academic institutions who accept large sums of money for capital works from, e.g., donors with a known history of arms dealing. Was Mother Theresa wrong to accept this money? Should universities not accept such donations?
The only reasons I can imagine for it being wrong are consequentialist ones (i.e., the wrongness resides in the consequences such acceptances produce), and they strike me as weak reasons at that. First. the acceptance might encourage illegal or immoral activity, by creating a demand or outlet for such activity. Second, the acceptance could be interpreted by some as an endorsement of the activity -- drug or arms dealing, gambling, prostitution, etc. But you'd have to show (1) that the acceptance really is being interpreted as endorsement, and (2) that the perceived endorsement is causing something bad to happen. Now, in Mother Teresa's case, I'd have to say these reasons don't hold. Both of them constitute what Mother Teresa would have considered the serious sin of scandal, and I doubt that she would have willingly committed it. Most university administrations don't share those sensibilities, so whether (1) or (2) is a danger is something to consider. Perhaps, though, I'm overlooking some...
I cheated on my girlfriend with another girl for about a year. She doesn't know about it, and is very happy with me. Besides that I am a very good boyfriend, and when we are together we are happy. Now, my close friends have told me that I should tell her what I've done, because it was wrong, and she has the right to know. I agree that it was wrong, and that she indeed has the right to know; however, I also feel that at this point, it is over with. She has never known, and is all the happier. Meanwhile, I am eaten up inside every day with guilt. I knew I shouldn't be doing what I was doing, but I did it anyway; I have no excuse, and what I did was wrong. If I told her what had happened, I would no longer feel guilty, but it would crush her. I would rather live my entire life feeling like the worst person in the world, if maybe she would never have to find out and go through that. I would never do what I did again, because I learned that under no circumstances is it worth it to cheat. Am I right...
This sounds like a classic "Consequentialist vs. Deontologist" dilemma. A consequentialist defines morally right action as whatever produces the best consequences. In this case, you predict that the best consequences will be produced by keeping your infidelity to yourself and resolving never to do it again. But a deontologist defines morally right action as whatever is required by duty, and if someone has a right, then there is a correlative duty binding someone somewhere. In this case, you acknowledge that your girlfriend has a right to know, which would entail your duty to tell her. So the consequentialist "right thing" and the deontological "right thing" are at odds. Or are they? Perhaps your predicted consequences are incorrect. Your girlfriend may find out without you telling her, especially if several friends think she should know (things like this do happen, and not just in the movies). Then in addition to being crushed by your infidelity, she will be further hurt and alienated by your...
When dealing with people and the way they are, I always try to put myself in their shoes, and try to see things in their perspective. seeing things in this way, I always find a way to justify anyone's actions that would otherwise be considered wrong, hateful, dumb, etc. If someone does something insulting towards me, I'll find a way to not dislike that person, again, by thinking deep into what kind of reasoning goes on in the mind of the person who caused me harm.
It seems like there's always a reason behind someone being the way they are... Whether it's their culture, their geographical location, their friends, music they listen to, clique, past experiences, political stance, something wrong with the wiring in their head.
Being this way can both be a good thing and a bad thing. Good in a sense where I feel like there's always a good person behind their questionable actions, but bad in a way because... well... anything that anyone does can be justified (in my mind), and that just can't work, for...
On balance, I think the habit of trying to find the most charitable explanation for another person's action is an admirable one. And empathy can be a valuable tool for understanding people, heading off prejudice, rash judgment, undeserved condemnation. It also can be a vigorous intellectual exercise; some actions are so questionable that you have to tell an outlandish narrative to justify them. You have to realize that although you can think up an ethically sound justification (and the more you practice, the better at making them up you're likely to become), that justification may not express the person's actual motivation or rationale. To the extent you forget this, and really believe the excuses you're imagining, then yes, I'd say you're being naive. Is it fair to be this way? On the face of things, it's heroically fair. But look deeper, and perhaps it is not. Your imagined justifications may preclude blame, but only at the cost of the person's responsibility. It may be more unfair to...