I believe having an evil thought such as killing your neighbor for no reason is morally wrong, but not legally wrong unless you act on it. Why aren't all immoral things also illegal?

Let's stick with criminal law here. One obvious reason why "immoral" doesn't entail "illegal" is that what's legal, what's not, and what the punishments are needs to be clear. In a functioning legal system, it's generally possible to determine in advance whether something is a crime, and in cases where it's not clear, there's a system for settling the matter, with various safeguards and forms of appeal built in. But there are plenty of moral loose ends — matters on which people disagree, sometimes vehemently, about whether something is immoral. We might try restricting things by saying that actions which are clearly immoral should be illegal. Unfortunately, however, that doesn't move the ball as far as it would need to go. When people disagree vehemently about moral matters, one side typically thinks something is clearly immoral and the other side that it clearly isn't. Few of us would want to live in a state where we might be subject to imprisonment because some judge judges that something we...

Can autistic people epistemically love or know of love? Let's say we are to accept this portion of SEP: To distinguish loving from liking via the intuition that the “depth” of love is to be explained in terms of a notion of identification: to love someone is somehow to identify yourself with him, whereas no such notion of identification is involved in liking. As Nussbaum puts it, “The choice between one potential love and another can feel, and be, like a choice of a way of life, a decision to dedicate oneself to these values rather than these” (1990, p. 328); liking clearly does not have this sort of “depth.” But empathy is hard for an autist. It is difficult for them to put themselves in someone’s shoes and imagining their experience(s). Autists cannot feel the perspective of hurt or sad when someone else is in pain. So, how can they love if they can’t identify?

There are, indeed, philosophical issues that go with your question. But I think it's important to address the factual background. The premise of your question is that if someone has autism, she can't, as we say, feel other people's pain, or joy, or... And both from knowing people on the autism spectrum and having read around on the topic, I would say that you're mistaken about that. This link https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/women-autism-spectrum-disorder/202006/can-i-have-empathy-if-i-am-autistic isn't to a scholarly piece, but my sense is that it gets things broadly right. The author is a therapist, and also is on the autism spectrum. Her point is that we need to distinguish between feeling other people's emotions and processing/making sense of cognitively of the incoming information that triggers the feelings. The author puts it in terms of a "time lag": for a person with autism, interpreting cues and making sense of other people's behavior may take longer. But that doesn't mean that people...

If my only two choices are to rob a bank or let my children starve, does robbing the bank makes it a right decision or just the better one of two wrong decisions? My wife says that robbing a bank is the correct/right decision given the alternative. I say that both decisions would be incorrect/wrong because they both have negative consequences. Please help us settle this!!! Thanks Victor and Nannette

Interesting. To make the case clear, let's assume that no matter which of your only two options you pick, there will be seriously bad consequences. And let's agree that this makes both choices bad choices. There's nothing odd to the ear about the phrase "My only options are bad ones." But now let's add another assumption: the consequences of robbing the bank, though genuinely bad, would not be nearly as bad as the consequences of letting your children starve. Though I can imagine certain sorts of objections about long-term consequences, set those aside. Surely it's possible for one thing to be less bad than another, even if both things are bad. Killing someone may be bad; killing them in their sleep is less bad (to put it mildly) than torturing them to death over a period of several days. I'd suggest that we can add another premise—a moral premise: if you have no alternative to doing either X or Y, and if X is clearly worse than Y, you should do Y. As we've set things up, it seems to follow that you...

This question has confused me for some time. No offense to any Christian. What makes QAnon (or any other cult you name) a cult but Christianity a religion? Much bloodier wars used to be started in Christianity’s name. In its history, pagans and witches have been persecuted. Christianity is also closely intertwined with colonialism. Its core beliefs are not scientifically corroborated either - you believe them because you believe them. Why should Christianity have a much better standing in popular opinion?

We could say a lot or a little about this; a little is best, I think. The word "cult" has a pretty fuzzy meaning, but my read is that it tends to be used for relatively fringe-y religious groups with highly uniform beliefs well outside the mainstream, and with high accompanying demands for group-think. QAnon isn't really a religious group, though its adherents do have a sort of religious zeal. Their beliefs are shockingly more popular than they deserve to be, though they're still (I hope!) not mainstream. And there certainly appears to be near-monolithic agreement about many of these beliefs. Christianity is a lot more complicated. Some parts of it are cultish in the worst possible senses. But the differences between some fundamentalist Christian sects and, say, liberal Episcopalians is a chasm so vast that members of the two groups are likely to find each other more or less incomprehensible. Put it another way: there seems to be a great deal in the way of generalizations that one can make about...

I've come across what appears intersecting and incompatible logic systems within academia (and society). System one is what I call analytic logic: the merit of your argument or opinion is completely independent of your immutable characteristics. (Like MJ says, it doesn't matter if you're black or white). If you dismiss the merit of an argument by attacking the person who made it, you've committed a logical fallacy. The peer review process in academia avoids this potential by hiding the author's identity from reviewers. The argument or study is judged on its own merit. I call system two Identitarianism (some call it Neo-Marxism or Intersectionalism). With these rules, your ethnicity(ies), gender, and sexual orientation (etc.) are in play. Some people have more (and others less) merit because of their immutable characteristics. System two seems backwards but the rationale goes as follows: "Oppressed" groups (POC, women, trans people, gay/lesbian, poor people, etc) have access to ... (1) the norms,...

There's way too much to be said here for one short post, but a handful of points. First, As a straight, white male I'm pretty confident that there's a lot that I don't understand about what it's like to live in the country I live in (the US) as a woman, or as a Black person, or as a gay man, or transgender person, or as a lesbian or... This seems both unremarkable and important. It's unremarkable because we all are familiar with the fact that one's circumstances can sometimes make it easier to see or understand certain things. Lived experience does make a difference, and the difference it makes can be important. For example: I suspect that a great many of the people who put in place the "separate but equal" regime that finally began to crumble with Brown v. Board of Education were pretty clueless about what "separate but equal" was like for Black Americans and therefore, about whether "separate but equal" was even a serious possibility. That's hardly a shocking thing to say. ...

This is a follow up to a question answered by Dr. Maitzen on December 31 2020. The statement really was “Only if A, then B”. It came up on a test question that asked the following: “If A, then B” and “Only if A, then B” are logically equivalent. True or false? The answer is ‘false’, apparently. I reasoned that “Only if A, then B” is maybe like saying “Necessarily: if A, then B”, and this is clearly different from saying simply “If A, then B”. But I’m not sure. Any chance you might be able to help me see why “If A, then B” and “Only if A, then B” aren’t equivalent? Clearly they say different things, but I’m just not sure how to put my finger on the difference. I really appreciate the help. Thank you again.

I agree with my colleague that "Only if A, then B" is not idiomatic English, and so it's hard to know what your teacher meant. In teaching logic over the years, I've seen many examples that take this form: "Only if A, B" — leaving the word "then" out. An English example might be the somewhat stilted but acceptable "Only if you're at least 18 are you eligible to vote." That's the same as saying "You are eligible to vote only if you're at least 18." And that's different from saying "If you're at least 18, you're eligible to vote." Saying "If you're at least 18, you're eligible to vote" means that there are no other qualifications needed; being 18 or older is enough. Saying "You're eligible to vote only if you're at least 18" allows that there may be other requirements as well, such as being a citizen. So if what your teacher meant was "Only if A, B," then perhaps my example shows that this isn't the same as "If A then B."

I am personally a determinist but one thing that has confused me is how can determinism and morality co-exist? If determinism is true, then how can we possibly judge the morality of a choice that someone was destined to make?

When you say you are a determinist, that could mean various things. It might mean that the world is governed by deterministic laws, but by itself that doesn't answer the question of whether we are free or morally responsible. Incompatibilists say that determinism in this sense rules out freedom; compatibilists disagree. There are interesting arguments on both sides. I suspect that what you're actually saying is that you think determinism is true and you are an incompatibilist. You think that if determinism is true, we aren't free, and you worry that if we aren't free, we can't be responsible for what we do. But there's a lot packed in here. Though I'm not interested in making a fuss about it, I'm intrigued that you are "personally a determinist." There's a difficult and interesting debate about whether quantum mechanics is deterministic or indeterministic. Once again, there are interesting arguments on both sides. My own view is agnostic. If I had to pick, I'm inclined to the side that sees the quantum...

Hey, I've come to the conclusion that every person has their own truth. At the same time, the fact that 2+2=4 is quite obviously a truth. But if someone was to say that 2+2=3, and they believed it to be true, it is their own truth. Does that mean, that whatever we might think is true, no matter our conviction, we can never be sure of it's validity. Or maybe that everything is true, which in turn would make nothing true. Or might it be something else entirely?

I've come to the conclusion that you may be confusing "has their own opinion" with "has their own truth." 2 plus two is 4, whether someone believes it's 5 or not. If they believe that it's 5, this is their (very confused) belief , but what in the world do we gain by saying that it's their truth ? If you talk that way, you blur the useful distinction between being right and being wrong. It gets worse. If I take you seriously, then I could respond by saying "well it may be your truth that everybody has their own truth, but it's my truth that they don't. And so if you want me to take you seriously, you've given me a perfect reason not to take you seriously. Of course people have different beliefs. We usually take that to be a matter of people disagreeing. But if you and I genuinely disagree, and aren't just play-acting or using words for fun, we can't both be right. And if either or both of us is wrong, then at least one of us doesn't have the truth of the matter; we have a mistaken ...

Hi, I'm a college freshman taking my first philosophy class. My professor takes points off my essay for grammatical mistakes I made. I disagree with this approach. Isn't the idea the most important, more so for philosophy?

Funny you should ask. It's grading season and I've spent a chunk of my day reading essays by freshmen. Some are pretty well-written; others not so much. I'm with your prof. If I sent a paper full of bad grammar to a philosophy journal, it would either be rejected or, if it was otherwise worth considering, would be sent back for revision. You can think of either of these as the professional equivalent of getting points knocked off. But aside from what happens in the profession, I don't see my role as narrowly as you think I should. Part of the point of my essay assignments is to improve their strictly philosophical skills. But I take it to be part of my job to help students learn to write better essays in general. I don't think that this falls only to the writing teachers in the English department; I don't have that sort of siloed view of a university education. I'd add: experience suggests that ungrammatical prose often goes with careless or even muddled thinking. And it makes it more likely that the...

Are there many philosophers who seriously try to argue that there are no objective moral truths? If so, how would they refute the proposition that "it is always wrong to torture people purely for pleasure." ? Thank you for your consideration!

According to a recent survey of philosophers, a majority —but not a large majority—would tend to agree that there are objective moral truths. But the minority who don't is not small. So yes: there are "many" philosophers who don't believe in objective moral truths. Now these philosophers would say it's not true that it's always wrong to torture people purely for pleasure. Of course, this doesn't mean that they think it's okay to torture. They think that moral claims aren't the sorts of things that can be true. But why? The easiest way to get a feel for this is by appeal to the old chestnut that "is" doesn't imply "ought." No statement of non-moral facts ever entails a moral claim. We might be revolted by what torture amounts to, but "torturing people for pleasure revolts me" doesn't add up to "torturing people for pleasure is wrong"; there's a logical gap between "X revolts me" and "X is wrong." This isn't enough by itself. After all, there's a gap between biological truths and...

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