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Hi! I'm someone who strongly dislikes Trump, but I also feel that I ought be loyal to whomever is President. What I wanted to ask is -- should loyalty be considered a virtue, or is it inherently a silly, irrational thing, and closer to being a vice? Could it, for instance, be responsible for partisanship and disunity? I've read that 90% of people who identified as Republican and voted, voted for Trump: is unthinking loyalty to a political party (if indeed that was one of the factors here) an evil?

Tough question(s). There is a recent book with Cambridge University Press by Simon Keller, The Limits of Loyalty (2007), that is highly critical of loyalty. While I am not as critical of loyalty as Keller, he highlights enough cases (real and imaginary) in which loyalty goes wrong that I suggest loyalty should be seen as having secondary value. That is, if some person or good or cause is good, then being loyal to that person or good or cause is itself good, but if some person or ill or cause is wicked, then loyalty would be bad (or a vice). On this view, unthinking loyalty to a political party is (minimally) at least risky (if, it happens that the party is good, great, but it could be awful, if the party is terrible). As for being loyal to (soon to be) President Trump, you might think that you are not so much loyal to the person, as you are loyal to the United States of America or to the democratic process or to the ideals of the Constitution or to the office of the Presidency.

If science, robotics, and society progressed to the point where all human basic needs were provided for (food, clothing, shelter, health care, daily chores) at no cost and therefore nobody was required to labor, what would be of value?

Interesting! I may be misunderstanding the question, but you seem to suggest (or want to explore whether) labor is an essential measure or determinant of value, for the way you put matters is that if food, clothing, shelter, health care, daily chores, were not the result of labor, their value would be in question. I suggest, initially, that food, clothing, shelter, health care, daily chores, etc, are valuable whether or not they are the outcome of labor. It may be that we ourselves (psychologically) may not appreciate such values without them being tied into labor, but I propose that our lack of appreciation would then be the result of simply taking this satisfaction of basic needs for granted. As you did not specify the security or reliability of such non-labor satisfaction of basic goods, it might be added that our appreciation for their value may be quite vivid when we realize our vulnerability to theft, warfare, malicious destruction. Another matter to consider: What kind of environment are...

"Everything in moderation" is a common view. But then moderation should be in moderation. If so, isn't moderation not fully moderate, and thus is partly immoderate?

Wonderful question. In Ancient Greco-Roman philosophy there was debate and disagreement about such a matter: some philosophers thought moderation in terms of appetites should be strict and without exception, whereas others thought the occasional immoderate indulgence was reasonable (for some, a person might on occasion over consume wine while still having living a life dedicated to the love of wisdom). One way to address the paradox you raise is to distinguish levels of moderation, thus restricting the "everything" in the injunction "Everything in moderation." So, if one alters the original claim to (for example) 'a person who loves wisdom should exercise moderation in satisfying their appetites and first-order desires (e.g. avoiding gluttony),' one avoids the idea that one should only be moderate in following this dictum. The kind of paradox you raise comes up in other areas. For example, if we consider a dictum that 'persons should be tolerant,' does this dictum require persons to be tolerant...

It is often stated that science is not 'value-free'. However, there are certain established facts about the physical world, for example, that a water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms, which irrespecitve of the values of observer or the social context in which this is observed, is just that, ie. an observable, indisptuable fact. How then can political or social environments alter or intrude upon such scientific facts whether they be about this planet, biology or whatever scientific enterprise one is studying. Surely, science in this regard is 'value-free'?

Great question; thank you for raising your point. I believe that the when the claim is made that science is not value-free various things may be involved. There might be at least four points to consider. First, there is the thesis that the very practice of philosophy itself involves values --minimally, given a realist view of truth (which I hold and I think you do too, e.g. water is H20 if true if and only if water is H20)-- a commitment to discovering the truth about various phenomena, being reliable or trust-worthy in recording observations and constructing hypotheses, theories, reporting anomalies given such and such a theory, and so on. Perhaps this is not radical news, for it seems that virtually any social interaction in which we trust each others' reports / testimony, all sorts of values and commitments are relevant. But what might be added are three other points. Second, the practice of science itself is guided in light of what scientists (or those who support the practice of science)...

What's there to gain from romantic relationships, aside from sexual gratification? For it seems as though there is more pain and loss from attempting to find our ideal significant other, than there is actual gain from finding someone adequate enough to fulfill such an unobtainable goal. It seems more worthwhile to culminate our own happiness within ourselves, than to put our happiness at risk, especially given that females (and people in general) who are interested in philosophy seem to be on the decline; and interest in philosophy is a must for any viable partner!

Wonderful to learn that a viable partner for you would have to have an interest in philosophy. If you are super attractive (etc) you might give a lot of people an important motive to develop philosophical interests! Picking up on another point, though, I am not sure you are right about declining interests in philosophy among females or people in general. At least where I teach (St Olaf College in the USA) philosophical interests among young women and men (straight, gay, as well as among transgender folk) seems on the rise. But more to your point, I wonder if your worry about romantic relationships would work against any serious, non-romantic friendship. You write about having reservations about putting your happiness at risk, but that risk seems to arise in every case when you or I truly love another person with or without eros. I have great (Platonic) love for a couple of friends, Patrick and Jodi, and I realize there is no way for me to do so without risking my enduring great pain and...

Lately, I have been feeling as if nothing in life is really worth desiring. As I was a little alarmed by these nihilistic thoughts, I tried to avoid them. But, in some mystic traditions, this state of "desirelessness" seems to be actively pursued by practitioners. My question is: can my nihilism perhaps have some value, i.e. what is good about the state of not feeling desire?

There are traditions philosophical and religious- that see value in states of living in which we are not ruled by desires but by reason or wisdom or the Dao, and so on. These traditions are rarely 'nihilistic' however when it comes to values, good and bad or evil, seeking enlightenment, and so on. In Christian mystical tradition, for example - e.g. John of the Cross....- there is a fascinating treatment of "the dark night of the soul" in which a person may feel a complete evacuation of desire and meaning, but this is a period or passage from ordinary life to a state of fulfillment "on the other side." The situation you describe prompts me to think you might find some consolation --or recognize something of yourself in ancient Greek cynicism. You might check out the classic Lives of Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius. While I am far from any alignment with Greek or modern cynicism, Diogenes is a fascinating figure whose indifference to the desires of his contemporaries was in my view ...

I would like to know if duty implies value. If I have the duty to take care of my daughter, does that imply that it is better that I take care of her than that I don't? If two people promise each other to meet that evening, is it then better (at least, according to their promises) that they meet? If I have the duty to join my country's army, is it better that I do than that I don't? Thank you.

Great questions. Many philosophers recognize that we have multiple duties which sometimes conflict. And they also recognize different degrees of complexity that come with duties. So, in a parent-daughter relationship, it is widely acknowledged that a parent does have a duty to take care of her and thus, it is recognized that, other things being equal, it is better to care for her than not but some of the following circumstances can come into play: imagine that there are great social and political forces that would make it fatal if the parent comes forward to acknowledge that he or she is the parent. Or imagine that the parent was abusive and for example a daughter is utterly estranged from a father she never wishes to see again. And sometimes duties such as those you mention can present us with cases when one duty might be served by following another duty. So, your duty to care for your daughter might be satisfied by your joining an army: imagine that your city is under aggressive military attack and...

If philosophers were paid to answer questions on sites like this one, I think we'd agree that there would be more responses. But do you think the quality of responses would decrease? Is something that one is willing to do for free intrinsically more virtuous than if it is done with a promised reward?

Fascinating question! Perhaps you are right that if we were paid for our responses, there would probably be more responses, but this might not mean that the responses would be better in quality. I have not seen a response yet keeping in mind I have not read all the responses that seemed to me to be done in a cursory manner, or in a way that would be less in quality if the question - response format was conducted professionally. I suggest that there may be no greater value as a rule for the superiority of value when persons act voluntarily or for free or for a promised reward money. Someone might volunteer to help the poor and do so because they have inherited great wealth, whereas another person who does not have such wealth and wants to help the poor may need to be paid if she is going to afford to do the work. Both persons might be equally compassionate and courageous Still, there are cases when it seems that a voluntary act may have greater merit: if someone refuses to be nice unless...

Is judging a person by their intelligence analogous to racism? A person can't help the genetics that determines their intellectual capacity and the belief in the superiority of intelligent people seems to arguably be a basis for social inequalities.

Great question! Some preliminary thoughts: Racism seems to involve treating a group of persons who share an ethnic identity with derision, disrespect, and partial disadvantage. Accounts of racism today are controversial, but I propose that a comprehensive account of racism should involve both action as well as attitudes. What you write suggests that one reason why racism is inappropriate / unjust / wrong, is that persons cannot help being a certain ethnicity. I suggest, however, that racism would be wrong whether or not one could voluntarily adopt or abandon a race or ethnicity. If I converted to Judaism and, in the eyes of the world I became Jewish, anti-semitism would still be wrong even though I could have remained a Christian. In a related way, I suggest it would still be wrong to discriminate against homosexuals whether or not a person can choose whether to be homosexual or not. It should be added as a side point that the very category of "race" is vexing. Some think of race as a...

I would like to have some non-theistic response from you about the value of life. (I don't know if people asking about the "meaning of life" are asking what I want to ask, but I'll try to be specific.) One thing is the value of other people's lives. I am not concerned about this: I'm pretty sure that homicide is a terrible crime even in the cases I will mention next. A different thing is the value of one's own life (the value of life for the person living it). Of course, many people have good, rewarding, happy lives. Such lives are very valuable. But many other people have no such lives. I would like you to consider two cases. The first case is that of very ill and depressed people, continuously and permanently suffering with their illnesses, or that of incarcerated people, tortured from time to time, without any hope of getting out of their suffering: I mean people who will commit suicide if they have the courage and the chance to. I think that those lives have no value and that, for instance, if we...

From an entirely secular point of view, plus some simple ethical assumptions that seem quite convincing (suffering illness, incarceration...are bad), plus a strong principle of respecting persons' choices (imagine the persons suffering would take their own lives if they could or they are actually asking others to assist them in committing suicide) it seems one can recognize cases when life has ceased to be of value to those suffering and one may well be sympathetic with providing (for example) a way that the prisoner could, if he chose, take his own life (imagine being able to get the prisoner a pill that would bring about an instantaneous, painless death, hence putting an end to the torture). BUT, even in such cases it may be that simply BEING ALIVE is a good, whether or not this is welcomed or valued by the person who is alive. It is hard to think of a compelling argument that life itself is and should be valued, quite apart from suffering and so on. Speaking personally, whether or not I am...

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