Why do vegetarians, vegans, etc. propose a different set of rules for animals? After all, humans are animals too. Why can a lion kill and eat an antelope wheras a human cannot? Why does it matter that we do not 'need too'?

It matters that we don't need to because that means that the harm that we cause by eating animals (perhaps, depriving them of their lives, subjecting them to torturous conditions) is avoidable. We are responsible for the avoidable harm that we cause. And what about the animals? Are they excused their eating of other animals because they can't help it? I think that's a weird thing to say. Animals can't be held morally accountable; they simply aren't the kinds of creatures that can be morally blamed for what they do. (Which doesn't mean that we can't be held accountable for what we do to them.) So, it's weird to talk about their being exculpated by the fact that, say, they are carnivores. For animals aren't in need of exculpation: they aren't the kind of creatures that could be blamed or praised in the first place.

Can something be infinite if there is a definitive number of it? Here's an example: I take a number, the largest I can think of, and never stop adding one to it. The number becomes infinite. Now if you take the number of human beings, and never stop adding to it, is the number of human beings infinite? In contrast, dinosaurs cannot be added to therefore they would not be infinite. Does this make sense?

If there are exactly 5 chairs in my apartment, then the number of chairs in my apartment is not infinite. But what if, in terms of those chairs, I could generate a sixth, and in terms of those a seventh, and so on, without end? (Of course, that is false. I'm assuming that's why you chose humans as your example, because you're imagining that given any collection of human beings we could "generate" another -- I don't think that's true as a matter of fact either, but let's not get hung up on the example.) Some mathematicians (they are sometimes called "intuitionists") would say that under those circumstances there would be an infinite number of chairs. It would be true to say that, while at any given time there are actually only a finite number of chairs, still the collection of chairs is infinite. Its infinitude doesn't consist in the fact that there are actually an infinite number of chairs (for there never is actually more than a finite number of chairs), but rather in the fact that we can...

Are animals capable of perceiving beauty (or, for that matter, ugliness)? Not just in other animals but in their surroundings as well. Bill Ray

Non-human animals certainly react to features of their environment, features that we might judge to be beautiful or not. So if that counts as "perceiving beauty" then I would answer your question affirmatively. But if you're asking whether non-human animals are themselves capable of judging that some feature of their environment is beautiful, then I would say no. Not because I think that judgments about beauty are especially difficult or beyond the capacities of non-human animals, but because I think that the general practice of judging claims to be true is not one that I am comfortable viewing non-human animals as engaging in. (Of course, there are many people who disagree with this kind of view of non-human animals.)

I have a little dilemma that I need serious advice on. I started studying philosophy for 2 years at a small college in California. However, I chose to put my education on hold after I got married and had a child. Now I am seriously debating on going back to school and finishing up my BA degree in philosophy and then applying for graduate school. Do you know of any school where one could finish a degree up as a working adult? That is, is there an accredited school out there where one could attend a long distance program for a BA degree in Philosophy? Furthermore, after one enters into a graduate program at a University, can one get paid for teaching graduate courses to undergrads? How do graduate student who are pursuing a PhD make money during the 4-7 years that they spend at a University? Your answer will be much appreciated.

I don't know the answer to your first question about where to get aB.A. while working. There are continuing education programs througoutthe country designed to make that possible. My recommendation would beto go to a good nearby library and ask a reference librarian for help:s/he should be able to tell you how to get this information. As foryour question about support during graduate school, well, that varies.Most graduate schools will try to do what they can to support theirstudents, either through outright grants, or by hiring them to beteaching assistants, or via low-interest loans. What kind of support isavailable will vary from school to school, from year to year, and possibly also from student to student.

Why is murder considered a crime when the person who was murdered was going to die whether or not that person killed him or her?

Just because something will inevitably happen to you doesn't meansomeone else has a right to decide when and how it's going to happen.Murder is a crime not because it brings about a state of affairs, someone'sdeath, he or she would otherwise have avoided but because the murderer has noauthority to bring about that state of affairs.

I seem compelled to subscribe to the somewhat Panglossian idea that as everything is as it is, and could not have been any other way (cos it isn't), then it is the best it can be. Therefore, we should just be happy with it and make the best of it. Am I being naive or stupid or is there a reasonable defence to this way of thinking?

Everything certainly is as it is. (I think Dr. Pangloss' idea was that nothing could be better than it is.) I don't see why it follows that things couldn't have turned out differently. It's true that I didn't have pizza this evening. But I could have ordered it. And if I had, things would have been different. And even if you could somehow show that nothing could be different from the way it actually is, why must I then be happy about how things are? Can't one lament some bad situation one sees no way of avoiding?

What books are most important for a neophyte philosopher to read?

Some of our panelists have written fine introductions to philosophy. For a more classical one, you could seek out Bertrand Russell's The Problems of Philosophy or his History of Western Philosophy . Then let your reading be guided by the books or philosophers whom you find most intriguing.

Hello, I have long wondered of some of the questions I have seen on this website and I am glad to see them answered after discovering this website. But I too have a question, more personal though. This message was not written with intent to be posted but I just wanted to ask everyone this. I have been following this site for a couple of weeks now. I am a sophomore in high school. My Algebra teacher often tells me things that make me "freak out". He once got so deep in this conversation about reality and the universe he just said "It gets to the point where you have to ask yourself, Is any of this any real?". My mind have been permanently scarred by thoughts of reality and I find myself shaking at night, scared, thinking of all these things especially while reading questions on the website. I have recently been showing my friend this site and he has had the same experiences as me. Now to get to the question. Have any of you almost "Lost your mind"? I mean like has your life been changed forever after...

Well, it is true that there are certain texts in philosophy that can induce a very weird, dizzying kind of feeling. (To name two texts that have had that effect on me: Descartes' First Meditation and the second chapter of Kripke's book on Wittgenstein.) And thinking about certain problems can give one a mental cramp and set off an anxious search for a way out of some awful corner one's painted oneself into. And it is also true, as Wittgenstein said, that listening to philosophers in conversation is sometimes like walking into a discussion in a mental asylum. But all that said, I don't think philosophy alone can induce mental illness. The healthy mind will bounce back from the brink when the time comes to prepare dinner, visit a relative, shop for food. And the unhealthy mind will fasten onto whatever complements the contours of its particular nature, be it philosophy, chess, politics, space travel, etc.

Say we could speed up matter and go further into time. I went and I saw my future self, no interaction, and I noticed that I had a finger missing or some dramatic change in my body since my present self. Could I dedicate my life to keeping my finger safe, or will it happen anyway?

On one picture of time travel, you could dedicate your life to that task, but you will fail. If it's true now that you will lose a finger next year, then you will lose a finger next year and zipping into the future isn't going to change that. Just as, if it's true now that you did lose a finger last year, then you just did lose that finger last year , and no backwards time travel will reverse that loss. (See also Question 528 and further references there.)