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Is the statement, "the only rule is that there are no rules" the same in meaning as "there are no rules"? Why would a person ever necessarily use the first statement?

It is a rhetorical flourish, designed to show how open minded and liberal one is, but as you suggest, it is really equivalent to saying there are no rules. Of course, if there are no rules about anything then one wonders how the statement could be understood, since presumably it depends on rules of grammar.

Most currencies in the world today are issued by governments. Does this mean that money only has value because governments assign it value? By this definition, are commodities more valuable than money since value is assigned by individuals instead of governments?

Not at all, things have value not because governments or individuals assign them value but because a significant group of people do. Whatever we are prepared to accept as valuable makes something valuable. Governments certainly cannot do it as we can see at times of hyperinflation when governments say they support the currency but people in general do not so it becomes largely worthless. Even the value of commodities varies from time to time and place to place. It is not directly because of anything officials or individuals do, it is a matter of supply and demand, and fashion. Moses Maimonides pointed out that what we need to live is bread and water, and these are very cheap, whereas some useless thing like a jewel is often very highly valued. He is right and what makes it valued is nothing objective about it, just how people whose opinion counts feel about it.

Is it immoral to play poker (a game that inherently involves bluffing) full time to make a living even if it is more profitable for someone than a traditional job? Even if we consider it a sport akin to tennis or golf, it does not create economic value in the sense that's it's usually not being broadcast and there are no spectators or advertising. Players do not contribute to the tax base and social insurance; money is just being passed around from person to person.

If gambling is your job I think you would end up paying taxes on your winnings, and gambling is certainly taxable in the United States, for instance. What is wrong with bluffing? When everyone knows that bluffing may be involved, it makes it part of a systematic attempt of winning a competition which adds interest to it for the participants. The fact that it is often a rather private activity does not make it problematic as such, and surely those who enjoy poker get both enjoyment and mental stimulation from considering the games of others as they are observed or reported to them. There is then perhaps more to say in favor of poker than your question suggests.

For a while now there have been controversies about professional sports teams that use Native American characters or tribes as mascots (the Washington Redskins, for example). One point often made by people that support keeping the mascots is that there are surveys that indicate that Native Americans themselves don't find the mascots offensive. Ironically, they say, it is only white liberals who seem upset about this alleged racism. Suppose it were really true than a strong majority of Native Americans did not find Native American mascots offensive. Would this show that there is indeed nothing objectionable about them? Or might we dare to say, "Well, Native Americans don't think that they are being insulted or harmed by these mascots, but they're just wrong about that."

Just because a group or even a person does not recognize they are being disadvantaged by a particular practice it does not follow that they are not being disadvantaged. Feminists have the notion of false consciousness, and ethnic minorities often internalize society's view of them so that this does not appear to be objectionable. So the feelings of the group referred to by the name is not a decisive aspect of the issue, although I agree it is certainly important. I think we have to think about whether a particular designation is respectful and whether it could contribute to furthering stereotyping and systems of disadvantage.

Immanuel Kant remarked that the Jews lived in a culture that encouraged selfishness and dishonesty in business dealings. More recently it is generally accepted that gypsies produce a culture that centers on cheating gullible non gypsies into spending money on fortune telling while also engaging in other forms of cheating or theft. The latter assertion is generally regarded by both academics and the public as truthful but the claim made by Kant is regarded as anti-semitism. When we attribute anti-semitism to Kant is that because we know a priori that his remarks were in egregious error over facts or is it because the historical record shows that Jews were not a part of a culture of a kind that Kant imagines that culture to be? If he was wrong then could he be simply misinformed? Why should we believe what is said by supposedly reputable sources about gypsies if people have been so wrong about the Jews or conversely why should we be disposed to doubt Kant's claim since he may be simply conveying what was...

Everything you say about gypsies, including that word, is objectionable. Whatever is "generally accepted" about those people who are often called gypsies, is a stereotype that cannot be used as reliable information about the behavior of this group of people. Kant is similarly just wrong on Jews, he was employing a familiar stereotype of his time as you are about gypsies at our time. It reminds us that philosophers are just as likely as anyone else to fall foul of lazy forms of thought.

Recently I read an article by someone who claimed that the biggest problem we face in the US today in trying to help people in need is that parents care more about their own children than they do about other people's children. She elaborated on that point more but basically her conclusion was that until we could get people to spend as much money on the welfare of other people's children as they do on their own children we will never make enough progress. These assertions seemed to be completely serious as well. There was no indication that it was meant as satire. Are their any philosophical underpinnings to support such claims? it seems to me only right and natural that parents would be more invested in the welfare of their own children than the welfare of people they don't know and have never met.

I agree. The point is that if we try to spread our concern for welfare too broadly, we may end up with an inferior conclusion. We know or at least think we know what is in the interests of our children. It is likely to maximize welfare if we act in what we take to be their interests, directly, and of course we should devote some of our resources to other children also. These are not unconnected, since the welfare of our children is linked with that of everyone's else's children, presumably. A policy of extreme selfishness is liable to place the individual's children at some stage at the mercy of those less fortunate seeking revenge.

Sometimes I read feminists who say that their mission has nothing to do with emasculating men and that they think masculinity is wonderful. I am perplexed since I don't know what this masculinity thing is or why it should matter. What is masculinity and why should it matter to anyone whether it stays or goes?

I don't know which feminists you have in mind, but they do not occur to me as a group who are likely to take a very positive view of masculinity. On the contrary, they tend to argue that our notions of what it is to be a man and a woman are linked, that they are based far more on culture than on nature, and that in any progressive social development both notions need to be questioned and eventually replaced by something better.

The further up the corporate ladder one climbs the more Machiavellian ones colleagues appear to be. Apportioning blame, taking undue credit and generally deceiving others can all be hugely advantageous when promotions come around. Should we accept that certain careers are merely games and if we want to play we must be prepared to do things that would not be considered outside the workplace?

If I say no will this be taken as my trying to impress readers with my strong commitment to ethics? If I say yes then perhaps I am only trying to persuade you of my firm realism. On the other hand, we do need to accept that political life does involve making the right sort of impression on others, and this is just as true within the organization as in party politics. But there is a difference between putting the brightest feasible perspective on one's own achievements and running down others, especially if this involves deceit. One may try to excuse the latter by saying that it is better for a good person to succeed through dubious methods than for a dubious person to employ such methods, or worse, and succeed. It probably is, but once one has stirred the pot of intrigue it is very difficult for one's character to survive unblemished. It becomes ever easier the next time to seek to deceive, and we may not notice that our aims then are less worthy than they were initially. Once attention moves from the...

Are we responsible for forgetting things? It certainly doesn't seem like it, since we don't seem to have control over what we forget, but we are often held to the standard of always remembering all pertinent facts.

I think we often are, since it is remarkable how often people forget things they think relatively unimportant. Forgetting is not entirely outside our control, and if we think we have a tendency to forget things we then surely have a duty to take steps to ensure that we jog our memories. Hence the existence of diaries. How far we are morally obliged to know ourselves is an interesting issue, but there is some duty to understand how far we are likely to fall below a reasonable standard of behavior. For example, if when I drink alcohol I have a tendency to become bellicose and attack people, I cannot shrug my shoulders after emerging from a fight and say that there was nothing I could do about it. Not once it becomes a familiar experience. Similarly if I keep on forgetting things this is an indication that I need to take control over this part of my life, in so far as I can, rather than smile and wonder what I can do about it.

I'm against Designer Babies. Is there any rule in ethics that makes it wrong? We can think of many problems with it, like kids who have better genes will bully others, and the parents get to choose talents that might not be enjoyable to the kid later in life. Any other problems that you can think of? Thank You for your time! Sincerely, Bailey

I don't see what is wrong with designer babies, anymore than with the ways that parents try to shape their children as they grow up. Why should someone with better genes, whatever they are, bully someone else? If it were possible for example to exclude certain illnesses, or make them less likely, by using technology what is wrong with it? Or if you want a boy, or a girl, to balance the rest of the family, as parents sometimes say, it is not obviously wrong to take measures to make it more likely, if it can be done. Designing babies could be identified more with preventative healthcare, while the ordinary way of producing babies with taking medical efforts to change what nature has provided us with, perhaps. We are often told that prevention is better than cure, and it is difficult to see why this principle should not be applied to the production of children.

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