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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?

This is a beautiful question--unanswerable, of course, in any substantive/concrete/objective way. One of the many reasons why it is unanswerable is that even if you are implicitly using some rubric (such as utilitarianism--what will maximize happiness, goodness, etc.), you have no solid way of quantifying the terms. How to weigh donating $100K (say) toward cancer research v. toward your medical education? What if the $100K of research fails to produce anything useful? What if (God forbid) you die on the day you received your MD, thus can't put the education to use? How much good, exactly, is done, by building some infrastructure in rural places? But I think hinted at in your question is perhaps some concern that in spending the money on your education you are somehow wrongly being "selfish." To that I would offer just a couple of thoughts. (1) Being concerned about your own interests and welfare is not automatically a moral wrong. (2) Given how you describe the scenario, it's clear that your own...

Is taxation theft?

obviously a highly oversimplified, underspecified question ... to which I might return some similar questions: is using a road you didn't pay for theft? is going to a school you didn't pay for theft? is being treated by an ambulance you didn't pay for theft? .... there are many important concepts that need elucidation before one could answer such questions with any substance, but at bare minimum (seems to me) we need to take into account that the vast majority of us (at least in the US and Europe, say) live in communal structures, and that we cannot avoid recognizing that the bare minima for comfortable lives involve people working together whether they want to or not, and at least within that framework the idea of taxation, to support communal necessities (say), would not prima facie count as a form of theft .... but clearly much more to be said here -- hope that's a useful beginning ... ap

If you're a pilot who drops a nuclear bomb on a city, do you have any moral responsibility for the action?

Why wouldn't you? If having moral responsibility requires (say) being free, you surely are free about whether to do this act -- whether to join the air force, whether to participate in this mission. Perhaps there are degrees of compulsion in play: you were drafted (faced jail if you resisted), you were assigned the mission (faced punishment if you refused). But still: you are free (we assume) to choose the punishment over the action. Perhaps the punishment is so severe that we decide you have no reasonable choice--and we require having reasonable alternatives for an action to be free--ok then: perhaps in that circumstance you might argue the pilot has no moral responsibility here. But even then, the action itself is so extreme (presumably producing the deaths of thousands or millions), we might hold the standard very high: hold the individual responsible even for accepting an extreme punishment before doing such a heinous action. (I'm assuming of course the pilot does not want to do the mission; and we...

Many people think of corporations as essentially amoral. By its very nature, they say, a corporation only seeks to deliver value to its shareholders. It's a category mistake to criticize corporations for acting immorally, since this misunderstands their purpose. To the extent that we are concerned to ensure that corporations act morally, that is the purview of lawmakers and regulators, not the corporations themselves. As long as corporations act legally, they are beyond reproach. I was wondering if the panel had any remarks about this. It strikes me as a perverse conflation of what corporations tend to do, or what they have incentive to do, and what they ought to do. I see no reason not to view corporations as moral actors in more or less the same way as ordinary people.

A great question/topic. I'll offer no particular insight except to add to it an additional question: what reasons are there, if any, to distinguish the moral responsibility of corporations from that of individuals in the first place? As candidate Mitt Romney put it a few years back, corporations ARE people, they're made up of people, their decisions are decisions that people take, ontologically they are presumably reducible to people (don't think Romney would put it that way!)--so why even introduce the idea of a 'corporation' as any sort of morally relevant entity distinguishable from the individuals who (say) make the decisions for the corporation? .... This in turn raises the very interesting question of whether groups of individuals might have decision-making processes that are different in nature from (say) individuals acting alone, and whether those differences are morally relevant ... We may (eg) recognize morally relevant influences on individuals who are acting within or as part of a group v...

I the Koran subject to interpretation or to be taken literally?

I'm curious why you raise this question only with respect to the Koran--and not with respect to other sacred literatures (or perhaps you have them all in mind). I'm no expert on the Koran but I am pretty sure that, first, your question has a false dichotomy: "interpretation" is a matter of determining the meaning of a text (or of a speaker), and sometimes the meaning you settle on is what might be called a literal one, so interpretation CAN itself be literal in nature. Presumably what you have in mind then is a different contrast--between metaphorical or symbolical interpretation v literal interpretation. But even there I would imagine (said without claim of expertise) that the Koran is filled with much symbolic/metaphorical language, not least because ordinary (non-sacred) speech is itself filled with such; it's rather hard to imagine a text in which every single sentence is possessed (or meant to possess) only literal meaning. THAT said, perhaps your question is actually a little different, something on...

Does one have to be aware that one is exercising one's free will, in order to have free will?

Hard to see why, in my opinion. If (say) a free action is one that you undertake such that, at the moment of acting, it was at least logically, and perhaps even physically, possible that you either perform that action or not perform that action, those facts themselves at least seem to be independent of what your awareness is. What would be interesting is an argument that shows that only IF one is aware of the facts just described could those facts obtain ... but at the moment I don't see how to generate such an argument. Perhaps in the mix here is the thought in the other direction, a kind of old-fashioned argument for free will, that states that if one believes one is acting freely then one IS acting freely--or using our conscious experience of (or as of) acting in a way in which it seems to us that multiple options are logically and perhaps physically available as a sufficient condition for acting freely. (Your question concerned whether such awareness was a necessary condition, but here it is offered...

Humans can apparently commit to beliefs that are ultimately contradictory or incompatible. For instance, the one person, unless they're shown a reason to think otherwise, could believe that both quantum mechanics and relativity correspond to reality. What I wanted to ask is -- the ability to hold contradictory beliefs might sometimes be an advantage; for instance, both lines of inquiry could be pursued simultaneously. Is this an advantage that only organic brains have? Is there any good reason a computer couldn't be designed to hold, and act on, contradictory beliefs?

Fantastic question. Just a brief reply (and only one mode of several possible replies). Suppose you take away the word "belief" from your question. That we can "hold" or "consider" contradictory thoughts or ideas is no big deal -- after all, whenever you decide which of multiple mutually exclusive beliefs to adopt, you continuously weigh all of them as you work your way to your decision. Having that capacity is all you really need to obtain (say) the specific benefit you mention (pursuing multiple lines of inquiry simultaneously). When does a "thought" become a "belief"? Well that's a super complicated question, particularly when you add in complicating factors such as the ability to believe "subconsciously" or implicitly. On top of that let's throw in some intellectual humility, which might take the form (say) of (always? regularly? occasionally?) being willing to revisit your beliefs, reconsider them, consider new opposing arguments and objections. Plus the fact that we may easily change our minds as...

1. Stella is a woman and she is mortal. 2. Joan is a woman and she is mortal. 3. Liz is a woman and she is mortal...etc How many instances of women being mortal do I need before I can come to the general conclusion that all women are mortal?

the short answer: you need as many instances as there are (or have been, or will be) women. a longer answer: if what you're asking is how many instances do you need before it might be reasonable to infer that all women are mortal -- well there's no absolute answer to such a question (I would say). Partly it's about all such similar forms of reasoning -- in general, how many instances do you need in any inductive argument before it's reasonable to draw the general conclusion. Partly it's about the specific case -- what are the specific biological facts about womanhood (assuming that's a biological category) and mortality, which might govern how many instances are required before the general conclusion is reasonable. Partly it's a matter of social norms -- in the community you inhabit, how many instances will people require of you before they decide you are reasonable etc ..... the short answer has the benefit not merely of being correct but also being clear! hope that helps --- Andrew

Does a stereotype need to be largely false to be objectionable? Many people seem to think so, as when they respond to criticism of stereotypes by replying, "Some stereotypes exist for a reason."

"Largely false" is an interesting phrase -- and there are several different things one might mean by a stereotype, and it's being "true" or "somewhat/largely" true ... plus there are different sorts of "offenses" one may commit when using stereotypes -- but to be brief: Let's assume some stereotype is largely true, i.e. true of many/most of the members of the relevant category. One might still proceed objectionably when using that stereotype simply for assuming that what's true of many/most is in fact true of all. Indeed, we sometimes say that fail to treat an individual with appropriate respect when you simply classify that individual as a member of some category and are disinterested in the particular details that might characterize that individual. So even if the stereotype is true of that individual, it may still be wrong to ASSUME it is true of that individual; and all the more so if it turns out the stereotype is not true of that individual. So a short answer to your excellent question is no: even ...

Are there any philosophers who argue that novel experiences in themselves are good things, or do philosophers generally class some experiences as good and others as bad?

This is a great question that invites a long, thorough answer, but alas I'll be brief. It's easy to recognize that things, events, experiences, have many different properties, and rather than try to evaluate the whole package and say that "x is a good thing," we can evaluate x along its many different aspects, properties, etc. So we could say that, in general, novelty (of experiences) is a good thing (for whatever reasons), while recognizing that not all novel experiences are "good things" overall -- after all, being tortured may be novel but few except masochists would say their new experience of being tortured is a good thing. Perhaps insofar as it is novel, it is good (b/c it's good to learn new things, have new experiences, etc); but insofar as it is terribly painful, it is bad; and in this example, since the badness of the painfulness outweighs the goodness of the novelty, the experience overall is bad -- even if novelty is, in general, a good thing ... hope that's useful! Andrew

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