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If somebody behaves unethically, and knows they are doing so, have they made some sort of error of reasoning? Is it coherent to consciously choose to do something one knows is wrong? Or does it merely demonstrate that the person is emotionally indifferent to unethical behavior?

Such behavior would seem to manifest an error of reasoning only if the person also has a commitment never to act unethically and somehow believes that she is acting in accordance with this commitment. Most people have no such commitment. They are ready to act unethically in certain situations and, when they do, there is nothing wrong with their reasoning. I don't think that people thus acting unethically are always emotionally indifferent to unethical behavior. They may emotionally enjoy the thrill of doing something unethical. Or they may be disturbed by their conduct, albeit not disturbed enough to avoid it. For example, someone finds her neighbor's wallet with $4000 in it. She is emotionally upset by the idea of stealing the money, and she would refrain if the amount were much smaller. But with such a large amount she decides to accept some emotional distress for the sake pocketing the cash. No emotional indifference here, and also no error of reasoning.

Philosophers debate persistence conditions for personal identity because everything about us seems to change, including our cells, our memories, and our bodies. But DNA doesn't change and it codes for specfic traits in every cell of the human body. It's true that we experience changes in the way phenotypes are expressed in particular experiences or memories, but why not conclude that DNA is the ultimate source of personal identity? Philosophers don't seem to give this biological candidate serious consideration. Can you tell me why?

DNA cannot very well serve as a sufficient condition for personal identity over time, otherwise identical twins would each be identical with both their past and future selves. Can DNA serve as a necessary condition for personal identity over time? Imagine a futuristic machine that introduces a minute and meaningless change to your DNA (difficult, I realize!) at 4pm today -- a change that would not result in any noticeable changes in your feelings, memories, conduct, appearance, etc. Would it be credible to say that the person after 4pm is a different person from you? These are, I think, among the reasons philosophers would give for not taking DNA to be a good answer. But then good answers are not easy to come by for this question.

It is said that average IQ in prisons is well below the average among the whole population. The most selfish people I know are either very young children or mentally impaired adults. Do you think it probable that there is a positive correlation between intelligence and morally correct behavior?

It's credible that morally correct behavior is less common among very young children and the mentally impaired than among the rest. But your point about prisons does not seem to me to lend sufficient support to the larger positive correlation you suggest for at least three reasons. First, a great deal of selfish, immoral and highly damaging behavior -- e.g. in politics or in the business world -- is actually not criminal; and more intelligent people are probably substantially overrepresented among those engaging in such behaviors. Second, many people commit crimes but nonetheless manage to avoid prison -- either by not getting caught or by creating enough reasonable doubt to sway a prosecutor or a jury; and in this group, too, the more intelligent are likely to be overrepresented. Third, a surprisingly high percentage of prison inmates (esp. in the US) are actually innocent of the crime they have been convicted for, and they languish in jail even though they have not acted immorally or have...

This is not a factual question of whether conscious being can be aware of it´s own existence in the world. Rather how the chain of reasoning can be non-contradictory if one is to assume the world exists, and that this world is not a part of oneself. Consider the following: Do I or do I not exist? I exist and there exists also something which I am not. Does the "something which I am not" exist if I do not exist?(a question as to whether the world is not me) Well if it is not a part of me, then it would surely be possible for it to exist if I do not. But if I do not exist, the world does not exist, for if the necessary perspective of observation is the perspective of the observer then the facts existing are only those which the observer can yield true or false. Therefore there can be nothing that exists when I do not exist and, stretching it further, there exists nothing which I am not. I do not believe that www.askphilosophers.org and this computer are a product of my imagination, so please, explain how...

I understand your long complex sentence to make this argument: (1) the necessary perspective of observation is the perspective of the observer. Therefore (2) the facts existing are only those which the observer can yield true or false. Therefore (3) if I do not exist, the world does not exist. If I understand correctly what you mean with these sentences, then I think there are two problems with your reasoning. The premise (1) states that observation requires an observer. Fair enough. From this you want to conclude that (2) things can exist or facts can obtain only if there is an observer who judges them to exist/obtain. But this conclusion does not really follow. Without an observer, the Rocky Mountains would not be observed or known, and the fact that there are these huge mountains would not be known to obtain. But not being known is not the same as not existing. It does not follow from the fact that mountains are not perceived by anyone that these...

It seems generally accepted that the human race has a social responsibility to eradicate poverty; however, doesn't every economic system benefit in some way from the most impoverished element of society, or the people that are most exploited? What is the value of money if everyone has (approximately) the same amount? Is there any viable system where the economic playing field is more level? What might that system look like?

I don't know what it means for an economic system to benefit. But it seems plausible that some people benefit at the expense of those who are most exploited. I don't see how this benefit is supposed to defeat the proposition that the human race has a responsibility to eradicate poverty -- typically the cost of the exploitation to the exploited is much greater than the benefit of the exploitation to the exploiters and typically, moreover, the assignment of roles is deeply unfair (e.g., tarnished by historical wrongs that led to some being born privileged and others disadvantaged). Currently, the poorest quarter of humanity has about 0.78 percent of global household income. This means that these 1.8 billion people, on average, have about 1/32 of the global average income. More than half of them are chronically undernourished, and most suffer one or another severe deprivation. Had the poorest quarter maintained its 1988 share of global household income, its share would now be greater by about half --...

Do ethical truths change in response to social or technological developments? Or is what was true two thousand years ago still true today?

There is surely some such change. For example, it was not wrong 2000 years ago to have as many children as you could comfortably raise with your spouse or partner; but today -- when global warming and resource scarcity are real threats and when it is quite possible for affluent people to adopt children who would otherwise grow up under very oppressive conditions -- it would be wrong to have a dozen children. But the change here may well be explainable in terms of some unchanged ethical principle that persists. For example, Kant's principle that tells us to permit ourselves only such conduct as we could permit to all others as well. In 12 AD, it would have been fine if everyone had felt free to have as many children as s/he could afford to raise. Today such conduct would impose great harms of future generations as well as on various impoverished contemporaries. Some dramatic changes in the prevailing morality do not have such an explanation. Suppose, for example, that social and technological...

Back in 2010, somebody asked a question about group rights, and mentioned the right to transmit one's language. Thomas Pogge replied by saying: "You have a right to speak to your children in the language of your choice; but do you also have a right that they be taught this language in school? Not, presumably, if you're the only speaker of this language far and wide. But if thirty percent of the adults in your town speak Spanish as their native language, then that could be a very compelling reason for requiring that Spanish be taught in the local schools." My question is: Isn't this what democracy is for? If a sufficiently large proportion of a community has an interest in one thing or another, deliberative democracy ought to provide them with a way to satisfy that interest (opening their own schools; mandatory Spanish classes in all schools; extra funding for schools with Spanish classes; etc.). Is that all group rights are, then? People negotiating situations favorable to their interests within a...

It would be nice if democracy delivered this outcome. But in some cases the thirty percent may not have enough bargaining power to achieve it. In this case, Spanish-language classes may not actually happen. If so, I would think, the minority's group right would be violated by the majority. Like in many other cases, the right outcome here is not whatever results from a democratic process. Rather, the right outcome is the one that accommodates any large minority's expressed desire in the preservation of their language; and that's what members of the majority ought to support and vote for, even if there's nothing valuable they can extract from the minority in exchange. This is not meant to reject democracy -- which may well be the best feasible procedure for reaching the right outcome. It's meant to reject a certain conception of democracy according to which any decision is right merely because it has resulted from a certain democratic process. What has been successfully negotiated in a democratic...

Is Kant's Categorical imperative overly dependent on empirical considerations? I think it is since judging the morality of an action by asking what would happen if everybody did the same thing means that the morality of an action is dependent on the contingent features of the world that produce that effect. If everyone did a certain thing then there would be chaos so that is not good Kant seems to say. Well that chaos of course depends less on the nature of the action and it underlying intentions than on the world that action took place in. If everyone stole then society would fall apart but that seems to have more to do with principles of sociology than something that pertains to ethics.

You suggest that Kant's criterion of wrong conduct turns on this question: "If everyone acted the way I am proposing to act, would this have undesirable consequences?" I think Kant's actual question differs in two respects. Kant is not asking whether the agent would like some fictional world (find it desirable), but whether the agent can will it and her own proposed conduct in it. And the world Kant envisioned is not one in which all act the way the agent is proposing to act, but one in which all are permitted (and take themselves to be permitted) so to act. So Kant's question is: "Can I will the action I am considering along with its universal permission?" The basic idea here is that I should not permit myself an action that I cannot permit all others at the same time. Let's see how this plays out in Kant's promising example. The agent considers extricating himself from financial difficulty by making a false (lying) promise. He then asks himself whether, in a world in which all took themselves to...

Have philosophers before the 20th century had anything good to say about women? Schopenhauer and Nietzsche obviously did not have very nice things to say and Kant said they were better for matters of beauty and Hegel compared them with plants but I don't know if that is a bad thing since he compared men with animals but I don't know if any philosopher ever said anything good. (I just remembered Mill said good things but I don't who else.)

Plato calls in his Republic for women to participate as equals in the activities of citizenship, saying that surely many women are more excellent than some men and that less excellent women should be disqualified from various roles (along with less excellent males) on account of their lesser excellence rather than on account of their gender.

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