World peace is mentioned in popular culture many times and appears to be an ideal state for the world to be in. However, is world peace really capable of being achieved; or is it rather an illusion in all of our minds? It seems to me that there will never be world peace due to disagreements and conflicts that happen between people. Please fill me in on your views pertaining to this topic.

We might wonder whether world peace would be so desirable. Isn't some conflict rather stimulating and exciting, and would it not be boring if everyone was in perfect harmony with everyone else? Of course, peace would be preferable to immense murder and destruction, however lacklustre it might turn out to be. On the other hand, an ideal state of affairs might be thought to include at least some conflict and aggression, and so the ideal of world peace may not be realized because few people actually want it to be realized.

Given the claim by some on the pro-life side of the abortion debate that 'life is sacred', how might we go about assessing the value of different lives in a situation in which one is likely to be negatively affected (perhaps fatally) by the birth of another?

Exactly the difficult with the "life is sacred" slogan. If a choice has to be made between lives, how does one carry it out unless there is some way of balancing lives against each other? On the other hand, one can see the logic of leaving it to God, if one believes in him, since how can we play one life against another? As the Talmud puts it when considering whether one person should be sacrificed for someone else, how do we know whose blood is redder? I think that means it is not possible to say that one person's life is more significant than someone else's. For a consequentialist, though, this just looks like a decision not to enter into a calculation at all when there are instances where this should be done. Triage is based on the idea of the efficient use of limited resources, and it seems right to treat a patient who looks as though she might recover as compared perhaps with someone who looks as though they will not. It might still be argued that life is sacred, but interpreted in such a way...

Why don't humans think of all lives as equal, and instead that other creatures' lives hold more importance than others? For example a human kills an animal such as cows or pigs and no one (except animal rights activists and the like) has a problem with that, but if that same person killed another human they would be charged and sent to prison. In both cases a life is taken but (one human) and that person's life for some reason holds more importance than the animal's.

I think the questioner is hinting at the ethical nature of killing things that can feel pain, given his examples, and he does raise the sort of issue that vegetarians and others have often found compelling. If a pig, for example, is perfectly happy nosing around in a yard are we morally permitted to kill it and eat it? Are not many animals capable of enjoying their lives, and why should we be allowed to interfere with them by killing them? This seems to me to be the challenge in the question, and it is a powerful one.

How can a person love another without knowing him/her personally?

On the other hand, when it comes to romantic love there is a sense in which too much knowledge might be thought to be a distraction. For example, we often compartmentalize our relationships with people, keeping separate different aspects of their personality in our minds because we suspect that were we to confront them fully we might have to change our relationship with them. The interesting question perhaps is how much we should know about a person before we can say that we really love him or her, as compared to feel lust or friendship. And this raises another interesting question, which is how much should we know about ourselves before we can properly classify a relationship as based on love as compared with some other emotion.

Is it fair to say that when Western philosophers who are religious (such as a few who answer our questions here) profess 'faith' as a justification, they are effectively going against all the tenets of the logic and philosophical analysis they are quite happy to apply elsewhere to epistemology, ontology, &c? Is it an effective shrug of the shoulders and a 'There ya go! let's move on!' cop out? This seems particularly important to me in the light of Christians masquerading as Intelligent Designer advocates. I find it hard to believe any scientist or philosopher who was not religious to start with would find the mechanism of the eye or whatever 'irreducibly complex'and use it to deny Darwin's theory. They are simply trying to bolster beliefs already held, as no philosopher would dispute. And the 'faiths' some philosophers cling to are surely the dominant ones in their societies and/or the ones they were brought up to believe in. Are we now in the realms of anthropology and psychology in the above beliefs...

Let me address your first point which reappears towards the end also. I think there are thinkers nowadays who have faith and hold that this justifies their religious beliefs, but not in the sense of establishing them logically. They would often claim that faith is a perfectly acceptable way of believing things, and provides a reason for belief, but not the sort of reason that would have to be universally accepted by anyone professing to be rational. I don't think it is just a matter of having the faith one is brought up in, people do after all convert to different religions or from no religion to a specific religion. Of course, some philosophers think that religious beliefs may be shown to rest securely on both facts and valid arguments, and for them faith is merely a different kind of justified belief. Others though think that faith is a very different kettle of fish and one that should not be dismissed just because it is different from philosophy. Philosophy does not help us work out how to play...

Is fishing unethical? Always unethical? What do the panelists feel and why? BW

If fish feel pain, then I cannot see how it could be easily justified. Even if they don't feel pain, fishing might mean interrupting their lives unjustifiably, if we were to keep them out of the water, although if we were to throw them back this would not be such a problem. Of course, it might be that we would need to fish to stay alive, and then a new set of considerations come in. But unless some good argument can be produced to show that fish as a life form are not deserving of consideration, I cannot see how fishing is morally acceptable.

I am an agnostic but, at 61-years old, I can easily understand the concern about immortality. I think that the desire of some live after physical death is more motivating to religious belief than the need for understanding creation or the origins. What can be the sense of "immortality" for an agnostic? For me, it is just the memory we leave. This imposes a strong ethical view on life. I understand that this is not a question, but anyway I would like to know your comment.

I suppose for an agnostic immortality just has no connection with a deity. If immortality is just the memory we leave, or the impact we have on others, then there is no need for any religious context for these ideas to make sense. I wonder though whether immortality does have any connection with the motive to be religious since so many religions seem not to have a belief in immortality, or a very indefinite belief in it.