I have a question about food and objectivity. My friend insists that all opinions about the value of certain instances of a type of food being better than others are merely subjective. I disagree with this and when I say that, for example, "my mom's chocolate chip cookies are better than store bought cookies" I believe that there is actually some objective basis to this. I would cite as evidence the fact that my mom uses higher quality ingredients, puts more care and attention into baking, and that generally others agree that her cookies are quite good and preferable to store bought cookies. Is there any truth to this idea about food more generally? Can there actually be some objective basis for judging which food is better?

Great question! Two great sources for this is David Hume's famous essay, "A Standard of Taste" and Mackie's "The Subjectivity of Values" -- a quick response to you, here, is to suggest that perhaps you are BOTH right (a happy verdict!): when we can specify in advance precisely which qualities are valuable, then we can "objectively" evaluate cookies (or food more generallY) to the degree to which the item in question reflects or contains those qualities. (Mackie uses the example of juding the 'best dog' in a competition, I think -- we articulate in advance what the 'good dog qualities' are, and then objectively judge the individual dogs to the degree ot which they have those qualities). But then once THAT is done, we can always ask: yes, but what makes that specified quality a truly 'valuable' or 'good' quality? (We may say 'a dog that is strong is a good dog', so a given strong dog will objectively be 'good'; but now we're asking, 'what makes the strongness itself good'?) And here a very...

It is said that even a broken clock is right twice a day. But can we actually say that a broken clock correctly tells the time twice a day? Wouldn't that require the clock, in some way, accomplishing some process that attempts to tell the time, and being successful twice? It seems to me that a broken clock can't be said to be correct at all, since it isn't even trying. For sake of analogy, if I ask someone a trivia yes-no question, and they decide their answer by flipping a coin, are they correct if the coin happens to give them the right answer?

good question! perhaps distingish between our being justified in using the device for its purpose from its actually succeeding in fulfilling its purpose. in your coin case you would not be justified in believing the answer the coin gives -- but the answer might (luckily) actually be correct. similarly for the clock case -- its being broken means you are not justified in using it to learn the time, but sometimes unjustifiable processes do yield the correct result (even though you're not justified in believing it) -- so on this view the clock IS right twice a day .... hope that helps ap

A philosopher pointed out the the big questions of philosophy are also the ones asked by all children. I'm thinking Quine, or Bertrand Russell But I can't remember. Anyone know?

I've made the same point in my book "The 60-Second Philosopher," though I think it has to made with some finesse to count as being particularly accurate. Young children seem quick to recognize questions about basic principles -- that there is a causal order -- that there may be a supreme being of some sort -- basic moral principles -- but that's still pretty far from saying they ask the same questions as the big questions from philosophy. (Tom Wartenburg has a recent book out on doing Philosophy with Children and on focus groups he's done, which might offer support for your question ....) hope that helps-- ap

is there really such a thing as unconditional love? you love a person simply because of who he/she is, not because of what he/she can do or give to you. a love without expectations from the others person. ?

why wouldn't that be conditional: you love the person on hte condition that s/he who she is ... does that imply that if she changes in any way she may not be loveable? true unconditional love would be stronger than that: you love a being because it is a being (not even a kind of being) .... maybe that very strict version is implausible (one can't speak of others but it seems doubtable that any one human being has the capacity for this kind of love) -- is it what (say) committed christians at least strive for (don't now)? -- but weaker versions (eg you love your child no matter how awful he ends up behaving), again i can't speak for others but i know that kind of love can be approximated, as it's clear to me that i love my children even when i'm furious with them over things they do -- such love doesn't mean always feeling lovlingly towards them, of course, just loving them -- but where the limits are, i don't know (if God forbid my kid becomes a murderer, rapist, sociopath....?) hope that's useful ...

Is it logical to infer a higher power given how extraordinary human life is?

If by 'logical' you mean 'a decent argument can be constructed of this form' then i would say the answer is yes -- but if you mean 'an absolutely convincing argument ...' then, well, you don't find too many of those anywhere in philosophy -- my favorite version of the kind of argument that Allen Stairs mentions is some version of the fine-tuning argument -- which observes how perfectly fine-tuned features of the universe seem to be, such that they could easily have been otherwise, and yet had they been otherwise then human life (conscious, rational, moral life) would not have been possible -- and goes from there to argue that it is reasonable to think this didn't occur by chance -- a good source on this topic would be any of Paul Davies' recent books ... best, ap

Is it possible to rise above jealousy, what are the questions i need to ask myself to rise above it?

if you're asking 'can some people rise above jealousy?', surely the answer is yes -- i can't help but think, though, that this question is more in the domain of psychology than philosophy .... (unless you believe that a proper theory of the world could help here -- eg Buddhism, which teaches you to free yourself from all attachments -- I suppose THAT would help with jealousy! --) ... For something you might enjoy reading on the subject, have a look at Proust's Remembrance of Things Past -- it's the second or third book, which is the story of Swann's jealousy over a woman named Odette .... best, ap

Is the concept of property a metaphysical concept?

Hm, it's not quite clear where this question is coming from -- if by 'property' you mean something like 'attribute' or 'feature', the kind of thing that can be possessed by objects or substances, and if you mean by 'metaphysical concept' the kind of thing studied by people who say they are doing metaphysics, then yes! But that seems to simple an answer, as if you have some underlying issue that's motivating the question -- but I can't quite figure out what it is? What turns on answering this question yes or no? ap

Do you think that the caveman had philosophers?

Why would you think he wouldn't? By "caveman" do you mean a creature before language? (Then maybe; perhaps philosophy requires language.) Of course, you'd need to be more specific about what constitutes philosophy. If a philosopher is one who thinks reflectively, carefully, asks certain kinds of questions -- then I wouldn't doubt that even very primitive humans, if they have language, might well count as philosophers. (Haven't the earliest humans wondered why we're here? What controls the world? Aren't those philosophical questions?) hope that's useful-- best, ap

Is knowledge produced just to be sold? If not, then why are there ubiquitous tuition centres that are situated even within the tutors' houses, assessment books that encompass the many subjects students study for and take up the most space in most book stores (a generalisation),and sky-rocketing tuition and scholastic fees? Why do people perceive that the more knowledge you have, the higher the chances of you being successful and happy? And why do schools give difficult examinations? Is knowledge produced just to be sold, to be keep in secret, and will be only disclosed to the people who could afford to pay?

There's a lot of interest here, and a lot that's problematic in your questions! ... There are empirical studies in the U.S. at least that show things such as that college degrees increase average earning power over the course of your life -- now whether that means 'the more knowledge you have' leads to 'more success and happiness' I don't know, but it's the kind of statistic that might be relevant to your concerns .... I am not inclined to think that (all) knowledge is 'produced just to be sold' -- it's produced for many reasons, including the inrinsic interest of producing it -- but if it turns out that (much) knowledge is in fact useful, and valuable, then why would it be surprising that it would also be sold, even if it isn't produced for that purpose? Now if you're concerned about more political/sociological issues -- like what sorts of societies choose to have their education be so expensive, etc., that I can't say -- I too would prefer that education be far less expensive, be seen as a public...