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My question concerns ethics and moral obligation. One of my professors consistently presents views that are unsupported, and the content of our class is restricted to reading authors who agree with her political position. I find this irritating, and I object to that kind of indoctrination. But I have more or less remained silent. Recently, however, she had a guest speaker present a very anti-medical view to the class, and discouraged them from listening to their doctors concerning the health risks of obesity. I did some independent research on the information the speaker presented, and found that the information she used was false or misleading. I think that allowing the speaker to present this slanted information, while presenting no contrary opinions from doctors or scientists, was irresponsible and dangerous. I'm worried that these girls will take this advice to heart and ignore their doctors, which will ultimately hurt their health. I kept my mouth shut when I was simply irritated, but now I'm...

I would not feel responsible for your colleagues in the class, they are adults and it is up to them how to take the information they receive. I do not see why you think the teacher and the invited speaker are doing anything immoral. They are presenting their views, fairly tendentiously on your account, and surely they are entitled to, and it is up to others to decide how to take those views. It is wrong of the teacher to make you feel bad about presenting contrary views, most teachers are delighted by students who do this, but again if I were you I would get through the class by playing ball and not take any more classes with this teacher. It is a bit like finding oneself at a political rally where the speaker is producing objectionable ideas to the apparent approval of the audience. Should one stand up and denounce the speaker? Probably not a healthy option, nor a reasonable one in those circumstances.

When someone asked: "Do you think jealousy is morally wrong or is it a natural thing to be jealous?" I'm surprised the answerer didn't address the implied false dichotomy in the question: Some things are both natural AND morally wrong. In fact, morality in general serves as a restraint from our doing what comes naturally.

I suppose the point is that it is particularly difficult to avoid doing and feeling what comes naturally. To a degree we might admire someone morally who never felt jealousy but we would find it difficult to understand their character. It is the struggle to control our natural feelings which as you say is so important in morality. On the other hand, a complete control of character would perhaps be equivalent to an absence of character. What makes moral life interesting is the attempt to restrain our persistent impulses and feelings while maintaining sufficient individuality to retain some notion of character.

Given how evil slavery was isn't it inappropriate that we (Americans) have portraits of pro-slavery politicians on our money?

You raise a question which is particularly relevant where I live in Kentucky, since the town of Lexington is full of statues of Confederate soldiers, who were presumably defending slavery. Yet the former slave market has only a small plaque commemorating it. Should any civilized person have always realized that slavery was wrong, even it was legal? And should we as a consequence take a critical attitude to the moral stature of those who did not refuse to have slaves? I am not sure that we should. After all, there are many issues on which apparently good people do not appreciate the full ethical ramifications of what they do. To take an example, I think that one day our society will be amazed that it was prepared to slaughter and consume animals, especially in the mechanized ways in which this miserable process often takes place. Does that mean that all contemporary carnivores are insensitive and immoral brutes? Not at all, some of my best friends are carnivores and apart from their proclivity to eat...

I ended a very loving relationship on the basis that the man I was with was not my intellectual equal. The relationship had everything for me, except for this compatibilty. People say I made a mistake, and half of me is living in regret. However this nagging feeling would not leave me throughout it all that I would be better suited to someone who challenged me intellectually, and would thus command more respect from me (that last part I feel terrible for saying but I know there is a truth in it, indeed I yearned for a challenge). Can a person who values intellectual pursuits really have a long term relationship with somebody who can't fully share in them? Did I make a mistake?

Sure, some people can only be in love with people who are entirely different from them. One of the nice things about romance is that it brings very different people together and we often wonder why they are together, what they see in each other, and whether it will last. Hollywood romances are based on such differences. It would be very boring if we always fell in love with people rather like us, although we often do, and surely there is no right or wrong in cases like this. Did you make a mistake? Certainly not, you gave it a try, it did not work out and so on to the next relationship. It would not be surprising though if you fall in love again, perhaps for a long time, with someone who is again not your intellectual equal, since while you might enjoy the cut and thrust of discussion, it is sometimes pleasant to give the rational rapier a bit of a rest. My Valentine's Day reflections on the topic.

Are spousal hires at tax-payer funded institutions (such as government agencies and public universities) unethical?

Why just tax-payer funded institutions? Such hires presumably discriminate against other applicants or would-be applicants for jobs taken by the spouse and this is true regardless of the nature of the institution. On the other hand, they might increase the staffing in particular departments beyond the levels they would otherwise achieve, and this is not problematic. It hardly matters to an institution if there are one or two more or less faculty in particular departments. For the spouse who accompanies the new hire that the university really wants to be hired acceptably he or she would need to be at least as good as any other applicant for the post to which he or she is appointed. The problem arises when as is often the case it is suspected that this is not really the case.

Do you think that Wittgenstein knew he was a genius before people started telling him what they thought about the Tractatus? I'm sure that Wittgenstein thought he was a genius before that, but too many people (especially teenaagers, I guess) think they are geniuses. :-) What I mean is to ask if Wittgenstein had enough reason to think he was a genius before reasonable people started tell him things that gave him reason to think that he was.

He did not seem initially to have thought that he was a genius at philosophy and required confirmation from colleagues before he was prepared to concentrate on it. On the other hand, he obviously had a pretty firm idea of his own talent at a variety of intellectual activities. He also had an income and a supportive family which made the pursuit of what interested him possible. Your question is about the notion of the genius whom no-one appreciates in his or her lifetime, but who nonetheless has a strong sense of their genius.This must always be possible, since there are cases where an individual is the best judge of the work being created, perhaps it is so ahead of its time or out of sync with the culture out of which it emerged. On the other hand, it is worth the individual being aware of the likelihood of self-deception on this issue. It is all too easy to interpret not being very good at something as being a misunderstood genius. That is perhaps why Wittgenstein sought the advice and opinions of...

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