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Hi, Is there a discipline within philosophy which deals with how to acquire and hold strong opinions and yet be emotionally detached from those options. This would make it easier to represent an opinion that is being attacked while keeping a calm open mind. Please forgive my philosophical ignorance. Thank you, Michael

Not really, although people in any discipline are used to the idea that the academic ideas one has are likely to be attacked by others who disagree with them. In philosophy as elsewhere many find it difficult to distinguish between attacks on their ideas and attacks on the producers of the ideas, and sometimes these are the same attacks, of course. Promotion, employment and salary may depend on the reception of one's work and so it is not that easy to be detached from how it is regarded by others. Should we seek to achieve a calm open mind, as you suggest? Perhaps we should encourage more passion in academic life to avoid that sense of placid complacency that often seems to prevail, especially in philosophy.

Hello, my question is connected to Buddhist philosophy. What interests me ir the Buddhist view on sexuality and reproduction. As attachment is considered a cause of suffering and a negative aspect which keeps us away from selfless love and compassion, does this make motherhood or fatherhood a cause for low awereness? I mean, I don't think attachement can be eliminated in the case of having children or marriage, any kind of a deep personal relationship. Wouldn't that make Buddhism a very negative doctrine towards life in general? Doesn't this suggest that non-existence and avoidance is the goal?

Not really, and first of all one has to say that there is no one Buddhist view but rather a variety of views. Many Buddhists would take the line that any action leading to an attachment should only be undertaken if it could be seen as playing a part in eventually lessening attachment. Having children might fit into such a policy since perhaps one has them in order to increase the number of potentially compassionate people on the earth. There are two ways of making progress for many Buddhists, one being a restrictive form of behavior that increases as little as possible our links with others, and the other doing the reverse. Ultimately since attachment is the cause of suffering it should be handled with caution, and yet it is also the cause of the alleviation of suffering, so should be countenanced. In traditional images of the Buddha he is depicted with large ears, the idea being that he is open to all the sufferings of the world. Being so available surely increases attachment. He is prepared to...

Do philosophers shy away from discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or Jewish culture in general for fear of upsetting American Jews in academia?

Despite what you suggest, those topics are much discussed, and a wide range of views is presented. You imply that American Jews have a common line on these issues, but of course they do not and can be found on all sides.

There was a question recently about whether "language" was necessary for "thought" and no one mentioned music! if I "hear" a tune running through my head, is that "language" and is that "thought"?

I suppose to hear the sound of music all you need is hearing, so anything with functioning ears can hear the noise. But to hear the music you need some basic grasp of what music is, in just the same way that to understand words you need to have an idea of a language.

Environmentalists suggest we have a duty of care for the planet. If we had an invention which would reverse climate change but would make life impossible on earth in 200 years most people would suggest this would be to high a price to pay. But if the negative consequences were delayed 500 or 2000 years... do we have a duty to them? 700,000 years? Does orlimit of forward duty bear any rational scrutiny?

I don't see why not, we should bear in mind the consequences of what we do however far in the future those consequences stretch. What makes this difficult to think around though is that we are entitled to have some confidence that solutions will be found to problems that may arise in the future. This has been our experience in the past, disasters are constantly predicted when we extrapolate from the present to the future. Yet those very predictions so far have generally led to research that has obviated the putative dire consequences. There is of course no guarantee that this will always be the case. It doers however make it difficult to take the thought experiment you set up very seriously.

Why do so many scholars and intellectuals think that language is necessary for thought?

Because it is! It is difficult to see how thought could be possible without any medium such as language. We do see creatures without language doing complicated tasks, but for them to think about what they are doing involves wondering what the consequences of their actions are, considering a range of actions, reflecting on past experience and so on. These all involve language.

Dear Philosophers I recently posted the following on a forum for a course in Global Health that I took: “India going to Mars while 48.9% of its population can’t go to a flush-toilet! Is it just me, or is there a moral disconnect here? The international press is reporting that India intends to launch a space vehicle which is slated to orbit Mars. India's space program is reported to cost the country US$ 1.1 billion (yes! that is "_illion" with a B) annually from 2011-2013. I am kind of wondering how extensive a sanitation infrastructure India could have had for the combined budgets of their space and nuclear weapon's programs? I am also wondering at what point practitioners from the global health community start to call into question the ethical and moral responsibility of a government toward its citizens? For myself, I think I have reached that point - the next time I get solicited (a.k.a. fleeced) for some health project in India I may just tell them to go to h... Mars, because to me, this stinks worse...

Well, India is a democracy and so one has to suspect that a substantial part of the population is in favor of such expenditure. Perhaps even those who have no flush toilets. Then there is the prospect that out of the Mars project there will be a result which may be of general benefit to even the poorest part of the population. I have no idea what the situation is here but presumably the Indian government is going to argue that the expenditure is worthwhile for the general population. It seems obvious that when there is spending on something that looks superfluous while there are unmet basic needs in society, that a reallocation of resources needs to take place. But why? If I choose to spend my last few dollars on champagne and not my rent, which results in my becoming homeless, it is my choice. If I ask you to cover the rent money, you may well decline. But then it is up to you. I think the Indians are fed up with being regarded as basket cases when much that goes on in the country is the reverse of...

are we programed to respond favorably to those subjects that we consider beautiful, rather than considering them unappealing. I imagine if we did not have positive responses to things we consider beautiful, it would make our lives extremely unsatisfying and we would not strive to attain that which gives us emotional pleasure...Is this nature's way of having us adapt and assimilate to our natural surroundings....a joke played on us....making us turn away from the ugliness that truly exists all around us.......rn.

I don't think so. We often do not find the beautiful attractive. The ugly may attract us, there is something fascinating about a very ugly person or situation. I think you are right in thinking that aesthetic features make life more interesting, but it is too simple to think that beauty attracts and the reverse repels. There is a wonderful phrase in French describing a certain sort of woman, une jolie laide, both pretty and ugly, which brings out the complexity of these terms. Models with a slight imperfection are often advised to keep it, since it makes their faces more interesting. On the other hand, there is obviously a limit to the number of imperfections we can accept before we are likely to be repelled. Right now I have blisters all over my left arm from poison ivy, and it looks quite grotesque. They are also of course very painful. On the other hand, they are very interesting to look at, with a strange smooth surface and an uncanny yellow color since they are full of disgusting pus. They are...

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