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Perhaps someone can help me in framing either my logic or my language here, please? Proposition A: It seems to me that a corporation has no tangible, physical existence: it only exists as an abstract entity because of common agreement. You can point to assets owned by a corporation, or people employed by a corporation, but you cannot point to anything in the world of things and say "that is a corporation." it is totally intangible. Proposition B: a tax ultimately is a claim on something tangible. Originally, men with spears came and took your grain or your goats. Later, men with guns and badges come and take your possessions. Conclusion: it is impossible for a corporation to "pay" a tax: the corporation merely serves as a tax collector, while other people (suppliers, customers, employees, shareholders) actually pay the tax (in the sense of having fewer tangible things in their possession than otherwise). The sales tax is an example: the customer pays part of the tax at the cash register,...

I suggest to you that corporations (as well as nations, colleges, etc) do exists, though they do so in the realm of law and markets in which they can be objects of praise and blame. They do not have "tangible physical existence" in the sense that they are like rocks and rivers, but then lots of things may be said to exist that lack such a status (languages, ideas, feelings). I do share the intuition that may fuel your skepticism, however, and that is that corporations derive their existence from individual human beings, our agreements and practices of recognition, restraint, and respect. One reason for thinking they exist as objects that there are truths about corporations that are not true of the individuals that make them up. My college (St. Olaf College), for example, was established in the 1870s and is in multiple places in the world at the same time (we have students studying around the globe) but no one of us was established in the 1870s or can be entirely in more than one place at once. ...

This is possibly a dumb question, but anyway... If I trade shares for a living, is that an immoral job, given that the activity is essentially gambling, and doesn't create anything or achieve anything useful?

I think your question is not only not dumb, it raises issues that would take a genius (someone far, almost infinitely more intelligent than myself!) to adequately address in terms of an overall account (and evaluation) of market economies, their values and the different roles they sustain and require. Moreover your question may require some account of what is involved (in the relevant sense) in creation, achievement, investments, and risk-taking (or what you refer to as gambling). Given the complexity of such background concerns, it seems virtually impossible to avoid replying to your question with something like: 'Maybe. Maybe not. It all depends....' I will attempt something that is a tiny bit more informative but without getting into the essential background concerns that really are essential for thinking more deeply on your excellent concern. Let me try, then, two responses, the first being quite general, the second more personal. THE GENERAL RESPONSE : Assuming we are in the context of a...

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 it ever immoral to develop or promote technology that causes people to lose jobs by making human workers obsolete?

This is a very tough question! I think that it can be and you are raising a concern that is highly important today. In the USA technology (along with subsidies) has permitted farmers to produce far more goods and cheaper prices than some farmers in under developed nations. Persons in Africa are not able to produce as much corn or cotton as an American farmer and they therefore cannot compete as well in international markets. In some cases, the hardship that this causes African farmers can be quite severe. You asked about morality, not legality. It may (or may not) violate any international law for American farmers to out-compete African farmers, but cases are easily imagined in which American self-restraint or assistance in terms of exporting efficient technology to African farmers may be a more respectful course of action. Historically, there are a significant number of cases within a society when new technology has made many workers redundant. Some advocates of a free market system...

Many of those who favor online piracy (or who oppose restrictive laws meant to combat piracy, at least), argue that piracy does not actually hurt movie and music producers. They claim that most pirates would be unlikely to buy the products in question even if they were unable to download them for free. In restricting piracy, we aren't actually restoring revenue to the producers or anything of the sort. Those producers would be just as successful or unsuccessful whether piracy were allowed or not. Is this sensible? Let's say that I download a movie. If it is really true that I would not buy the movie in any case, does that make downloading it okay?

We would add just a tad to the earlier respondent: Downloading without consent or payment would still involve disrespect of the filmmaker, artist, and so on. Also, the question itself suggests you really do want the object you have downloaded --otherwise downloading wouldn't come up as a question. You also say would "not buy the movie in any case," but if there was no other way of viewing the movie, would you still come to the same conclusion that you have. CT and his friend and consultant TJ Hagen

Some businesses use incentive schemes to draw in customers; I want to know about whether or not such schemes abuse human psychology or are otherwise immoral. Let me give an example. Imagine a sandwich shop that sells sandwiches for 2$ each; they decide to change the scheme, so that now, every time one buys four sandwiches, the fifth sandwich comes free of charge. To compensate, they raise the price of the sandwiches to 2,50$, meaning that either way, the customers end up paying 10$ for every five sandwiches. Yet people, especially newcomers to the shop unfamiliar with the old prices, buy more sandwiches than before because, hey, there's a free sandwich in there! The shop begins to earn more than its competitors, and garners more long-term customers who pay more of their money for the sandwiches, by exploiting a loophole in human psychology. The sandwiches are in all relevant respects identical, yet people are paying more because of a freebie scheme. Is this an ethically legitimate practice? Or...

Great case! It is difficult to say (or say clearly) that the practice is unethical for, after all, the competition could offer a similar scheme. Any number of practices seem ethically permissible that would give the shop an edge, e.g. the opportunistic shop owner might offer customers who buy four sandwiches a flower or give $2.50 to charity, and so on. But there is some kind of exploitation insofar as the shop is taking advantage of costumers not knowing the past practice (and so not realizing that they are not getting an advantage over other competitors), plus the shop might have to spend more money to expand the size of the shop insofar as their customers start getting larger and larger from eating all those bloody sandwiches! Apart from perhaps placing customers at some health risk from consuming massive numbers of sandwiches, it does not appear (to me) to involve immoral or unethical action.