Why is it considered morally wrong for a man or a woman to have a romantic or sexual relationship with someone significantly younger than themselves?

If the case does concern minors, as it might, then the question is still an interesting one. Why do we arbitrarily cut people off from certain sorts of behaviour at a certain age? We know that many of them might be more mature in character than those of legal age, and that many of legal age are incapable of entering into a relationship in an appropriate way. I suppose the answer is that any cut off age is going to be arbitrary and that the state has to legislate in such a way as to put most people into plausible categories. Most minors would be thought to be unable to know when they are being exploited or to have too little experience to know what the character of a particular relationship really is. This holds even for those who are not minors but still rather young.

Why is it ok to kill for your country no matter what the reason, but not ok to kill someone just because you don't like them? What is the difference?

It isn't OK to kill for your country no matter what the reason, and some think it isn't OK to kill for any reason whatsoever. Even in less dramatic circumstances few would argue that we are entitled to act without knowing why, and approving of the reason, although there might be circumstances in which one would have to trust leaders that they know why something ought to be done. As we know, leaders can sometimes be rather untrustworthy in this respect. I believe that many armies give their military personnel instructions that they are not to follow an illegal order, and so they are obliged to think about what they are doing, why they are doing it and how they could justify it if called upon to do so. That surely is the right approach.

I recently considered getting a nose job. Whenever I told people this, they were horrified and started ranting and raving at me about superficiality, shallowness and vanity. The most frequent comment was, 'It's better to have a beautiful mind than a beautiful face.' What confuses me is that this seems just as shallow as only caring about physical appearances. So much of the world is based on physicality and aesthetics - why is finding a beautiful face more significant than a beautiful idea more shallow? In fact physical beauty can sometimes be a great inspiration for thoughts and ideas. Recently I have begun to think that judging people on physical appearances is no less shallow than judging them only on the contents of their minds. Is this valid at all? Should I go back to the 'better clever than ugly' camp? Thanks for your time.

I suppose a lot of people would think that it is a waste of resources to have an operation for purely cosmetic reasons, which differentiates the procedure from say brushing your hair for cosmetic reasons. On the other if one felt with some justification that one's nose being the way it is interferes with jobs or romantic prospects, then there would be more justification for it. Surely the mind vs. body implications of your question cannot be right. We have bodies as well as minds and there is no reason why we should not value both, or why others should not either. On the other hand, it is certainly true that we often treat people more seriously if they are not glamorous. But this is just as much a matter of fashion as the sort of nose you go for, and just as morally irrelevant. So I would say, if it will make you feel better than you feel now, go for it!

You seem to have to know the cultural context of a piece of art to appreciate it. For example a painting may not be particularly outstanding on its own but it may have been the first in a new style or movement in art. However this means that a piece of art has different asethetic value depending on the past works or future developments. It seems counter-intuitive for the same object to be of differing value due to different outside circumstances.

It is for that reason that many think that the context within which a work of art is produced is of no relevance to its aesthetic value or analysis. Certainly we might for historical or cultural reasons be very interested in the context - what the artist had for breakfast on the day she painted it, how much it was sold for, what impact it made on the local environment, and so on - but many would say that this is irrelevant to its aesthetic value. After all, we can often appreciate objects that we know absolutely nothing about.

The best, general definition of love I've come up with is: one's willingness to do what one truly considers best for another without regard for personal desires. There are 2 things I should point out: 1) by "willingness to do" I mean that which will be done unless impossible or prevented by something external -- if I am willing to do X and X is possible then I will do X unless something or someone prevents me from doing it. 2) I say "truly considers best" to draw a distinction between the lazy "this is what I was told is best" or "I don't really know but I think this is best" and the more difficult "best" that is determined by effort, honesty, study, research, etc. Likewise, I disallow a "best" determined according to what the lover desires, or wants. Is this a good (accurate, useful) definition?

I don't know, I suppose in any case it depends on whether you think definitions are useful or not. I am not convinced they are very helpful. But take this scenario well known to us from romantic novels and soap operas: one person loves another but thinks that it is not in the interest of either party for the relationship to continue. According to your definition the obvious conclusion would be to break off the relationship, since it is not in the interests of the person loved, or even the lover. But if this was the conclusion actually drawn, then many of our personal relationships would come to an end in what many would describe as a premature way. Love seems to me to have a much wider scope than your definition, but then, that is a problem with definitions as a whole.

Dear Philosopher, If I and many others believe in true democracy, where everybody votes, why do we still have war, civil and with other countries? Tate Putnins, 13 yrs, Box Hill (Melbourne), Victoria, Australia

It is often said that democracies do not go to war, but this is untrue. Why should a majority of the population not on occasion wish to go to war, or indeed slaughter part of its own population (presumably the minority)? We are used to the fact that some people can be evil, and it is not difficult to imagine that the majority of the people could also be evil, or stupid, or ill-advised and so on. So there is nothing incompatible between democracy and war.

Animals (humans) took other animals that look different and speek differently and made them slaves, so is it right to take an animal, say a dog, into your house when it is just another animal that looks different and speeks a different language?

I don't know that a pet is a slave. It could be, but it could also be a friend, companion, and so on. We no longer allow people to own people, but we do allow them to own animals, and this is presumably evidence of what we think is a basic difference between people and animals. That is presumably why cannibalism is thought to be wrong while eating animals is not.

Is an unflinching commitment to always be a pacifist morally desirable?

Is an unflinching commitment to always be anything morally desirable? This suggests that nothing at all could move one to take a different view, and that sort of absolutism might well be felt undesirable. We normally think that it is preferable to take each situation as it comes and then assess how one ought to act. If someone were to say that there were absolutely no circumstances in which violence would be acceptable, it would be difficult to know how to talk to him or her, since there are circumstances in which violence just does seem appropriate.

There has been a gread deal of debate in the news, of late, as to the application of torture under a so-called 'ticking time bomb' scenario. Is physical or mental torture ever justified in such an extreme event in a moral society?

Some moral philosophers think that absolutely nothing can justify torture, and for them torture is unacceptable whatever the consequences. To argue with them it would be no good pointing out the consequences of not torturing, for the consequences are irrelevant. One would have to show them that consequences do matter in moral reasoning. For other philosophers a calculation of alternatives would be relevant, the costs and benefits would have to be considered and the right course of action derived from the result. For them it is a technical issue to be decided on the merits of each individual case, while for many absolutists torture can be absolutely ruled out.