A very thoughtful article against the right to take one's own life is David Velleman's "A Right of Self-Termination?", in Ethics 109 (1999), pp. 606-628. I disagree with his conclusion, but his position is the one that has given me most pause about my own.
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?
I would like to add a couple of further considerations to Douglas Burnham's response. I there is too much inconsistency between what a person professes to believe and what that person does, we have reason to doubt that she really believes what she says she does. If a friend claims to believe that killing animals is seriously wrong, yet continues to eat meat with no qualms whatsoever, I will doubt the sincerity of her belief; I will suspect that her professed 'belief' is merely a popular thing to say in certain contexts, or that it is merely an expression of the repulsion that she feels when she imagines certain scenes. Likewise, if a person professes to be an atheist but regularly and earnestly worships god, I will doubt his claim to be an atheist. If there is too much inconsistency between your beliefs one day and your beliefs the next, or your beliefs in one context and your beliefs in another, people will have a hard time relating to you as a single person and you will have a hard time...
I believe it would be wrong, in normal circumstances, to break a promise made to someone who died meanwhile, even if no one will benefit from the keeping of the promise. I also believe that, if keeping the promise would cause great damage to someone (to the promisor or to somebody else), it would be right not to keep it (it could even be wrong to keep it). Now, where should we draw the line between the two kinds of circumstances? If the promisee were alive, we could compare his damage to the damage of somebody else, but, since he/she is dead, to what should we compare the damage caused by keeping the promise?
In deciding whether or not to keep a promise made to someone who has died, I would ask the following question: Would that person have wanted you to keep the promise even after he or she died? Some promises are specifically about what one is to do after a death ("Promise me that you will send money to my daughter") while others are clearly irrelevant after a death ("Promise me that you will come to the beach this weekend"). With other promises ("Promise that you won't loan her any money"), the answer to this question is not so clear cut, but IF the promisee would have wanted you to keep the promise, that should count as a reason to keep the promise. As you say, there are cases where the costs of keeping a promise outweigh one's obligation to keep that promise. These could be thought of as cases of competing duties (to uphold a promise versus to save a life, for example) or they could be thought of as qualifications implicit to the promise itself (as understood by both the promiser and the...
I am HIV positive. Is it wrong for me to sleep with an HIV negative person if he knows the risk and wants to take it anyway?
One question to consider is whether the willing lover is making a sufficiently thoughtful and informed decision -- enough for it to count as mature, informed consent. We do not usually think of a teenager, or a drug addict, or someone in a rage as capable of mature, informed consent. Have you and your potential lover discussed the risks in detail, more than once, and at times of emotional calm? From what you have said, I can't tell whether you are considering 'safe' sex or 'unsafe' sex. The risks of safe sex are so much lower than the risks of unsafe sex, it is hard to imagine that it could ever be rational to engage in unsafe sex with someone who is HIV positive. Finally, and most importantly perhaps, you have some responsibility for the outcome of your actions -- even if your partner has offered mature, informed consent. It is not just he, but also you, who would be risking his life for the sake of sex. How would you feel if he contracted HIV as a result of your actions?
If I am my body, then my body can't be my property because then there will be no distinction between owner and owned. But even if I am a different sort of thing than my body yet can't exist apart from my body, then some usual notions of property as that which I have a right to sell or exchange cannot apply in this case. I can exist without certain parts of my body, however, and it recognizing a right to sell or exchange such parts is not incoherent. Still, the commercialization of bodily parts is a dangerous trend, and there are good reasons to prohibit the sale of bodily parts in order to protect those who are economically vulnerable. There are good reasons to insist that one has important rights over one's body -- rights to make decisions about how it is used, rights to decide how it is altered, rights to decide how it is shared -- but none of these rights depend on viewing one's body as one's property.
I recently read Louis Menand's article in "The New Yorker" entitled "Head Case." In it, he asks this question: "[W]hat if there were a pill that relieved you of the physical pain of bereavement--sleeplessness, weeping, loss of appetite--without diluting your love for or memory of the dead? Assuming that bereavement 'naturally' remits after six months, would you take a pill today that will allow you to feel the way you will be feeling six months from now anyway?" Is this a philosophical question? If so, how would you respond to it?
Menand asks whether we would/should choose to be relieved of the physical feelings of bereavement if we could do so without diluting our love for or memory of the dead. Greenberg claims that (a) thoughts, not feelings, are what is essential to emotions (the feelings being merely contingent accompaniments to those thoughts in humans), and (b) thoughts, not feelings, are what matters to us about emotions; thus, he would take such a pill on the assumption that it would not affect the thought component of bereavement. Even if we were to agree with Greenberg's first claim, about what is essential to emotion, we could still disagree with his second claim, about what matters about emotion. We could value the painful feelings that happen to accompany our thoughts because they serve to remind us of our humanness, because they force us to spend more time with thoughts that are important, or because they increase our capacity for handling other types of pain, for example. I disagree with...
I have been working on a theory of aesthetics and wished to have the input of someone more well versed in the philosophical literature. I have mostly centered upon music, as in: what makes one form of music, e.g. Classical, superior than another, e.g. Pop? Using Nietzsche's idea of genealogy, I determined that Rock and Roll could never be truly great art because of its development from slavery, much as Nietzsche attacked the Christian religion due to its association as a slave religion.
The main quality that defines great art, I argue, is nobility. And this is a quality which servitude, or a spirit of art arising from servitude, cannot comprehend.
Also, would it be possible to recommend reading that might aid me? Currently I am reading Hegel's Introductory Lectures in Aesthetics, and Kant's Critique of Judgment.
You should look at Theodor Adorno's essay "Popular Music", for a controversial criticism of popular music by an important music critic and philosopher. Also, you should look at John Fischer's "High Art verus Low Art" for a careful analysis and criticism of this very distinction.
What is the difference between music and an aesthetically interesting grouping of sounds? I ask because I was listening to the opening of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds and I while I found the sounds which were made to resemble a flock of birds to be very interesting and even quasi-musical sounding at times it didn't sound like music. It really is brilliant so why or why wouldn't it qualify as music? Listen to it yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0DeA6PPbMI/
For a very extended, and musically informed discussion of your question, I would strongly recommend Roger Scruton's book The Aesthetics of Music . He develops a sophisticated account of the way that we use our imaginations to experience the notes as moving in dance-like ways.
Why is it that, in music, major chords, by themselves, isolated and without any musical context, sound bright and happy, while minor chords are dark and sad? How can arbitrary collections of frequencies elicit distinct emotions from people?
Even if the chords are not presented in the context of a music piece, they are heard in the (more backgrounded) context of music one has heard. Our associations with those pieces of music prime us to hear major versus minor chords in particular ways. There is also a physical reason for finding major chords to be more settled or stable than minor chords: the wavelengths of a major third match the overtones of the root of a chord more closely than do the wavelengths of a minor third . When we hear a C, for example, it is already producing secondary wavelengths that are those of an E (at a higher octave); the addition of a nearby E thus seems to fit in without added strain.
I do not think it is possible to both love and hate someone at the same time . Love requires a kind of psychological 'embrace' and 'protectivenes' while hate requires a kind of psychological 'rejection' or 'attack'. I would reject the possibility of loving one aspect of a person while hating another aspect of that person, since I think we must love whole people and not just select parts of people (otherwise, it is not love but selective liking). It is certainly possible, though, sometimes to hate a person that one usually loves -- to have a strong and stable disposition to love someone while occasionally slipping into hate instead. Indeed, since hate is usually a defensive response to a felt threat, and since the loss of love is usually experienced as a very great threat, it is no surprise that we can find ourselves hating (however fleetingly) the very people we have loved.