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In a recent question / answer, it was asked "how can a person know that an action is immoral, yet do it anyway?" and the response was "a person can 'know' things on different levels and so can engage in self-deception." I have a question about the response, which then leads to a deeper more qeneral question. Suppose a person knows that an action is immoral, yet does it anyway. Might that not indicate that the person [at least in this instance] does not care whether s/he behaves in a moral manner? and where does the concept of 'evil' stand in philosophy, and how might the concept of 'evil' explain this apparent disparity?

I agree that a person can, without self-deception, do what she knows to be immoral. This happens quite frequently. People lie to their parents and spouses about matters that legitimately concern them; people lie to colleagues and supervisors in order to get out of unwanted chores; people ignore the urgent needs of others, such as the famine currently endangering the people in the Horn of Africa. Many people doing such things know that they are acting wrongly and they do it anyway. Does this show that they don't care about morality? Not necessarily. It may show that they don't care a lot. They care more about avoiding an unpleasant conversation, an unloved chore, or an undesired charitable donation. Such conduct may also indicate moral sloppiness: some people don't pay enough attention to clearly make the judgment they they are acting immorally. This is analogous to ordinary sloppiness, where someone knows where the speed camera is and nonetheless fails to slow down on the relevant stretch of road....

Hi, I would like to ask a question about Logic. There is a formal logical fallacy called "Circular Reasoning", are not all argument tho circular? The conclusion is always found in the premises. and then drawn from them into a conclusion.

Drawing conclusions from premises is not circular. You are going in one direction, from the premises to the conclusion. Circularity appears when you also defend your premises by appeal to the conclusion. To illustrate with a somewhat informal but real-world typical example: P1: The government of country A is hell-bent on territorial expansion P2: The government of country A is expanding its military capabilities C: The government of country A is threatening its weaker neighbors. There's nothing circular here, the argument displays a relationship between two premises and one conclusion: the premises, if true, together support the conclusion. To explore whether they are true, and thus actually support the conclusion, we need to examine what evidence can be adduced in their support. Suppose P2 is uncontroversially true so that attention turns to P1. We ask the presenter of the argument how she can support P1. Is A's government really hell-bent on territorial expansion? Suppose she...

People often complain that, generally, philosophical writings are too difficult to read. Taking this seriously, do you think one could say that it is in some respects immoral for a philosopher to -perhaps unthinkingly!- cast her thoughts in such a way as to make them difficult to apprehend? (Excluding very specialized philosophy, that is- where apparent abstruseness is simply a consequence of complexity. ie. surely all philosophy is not simply beyond the ordinary citizen.) I ask this because I enjoy reading philosophy but sometimes find that if the writer where more patient and deliberate with his/her presentation and structuring I wouldn't take so wretchedly long to understand the ideas. So...do you learned men and woman think that you have a duty to write concisely, laying out your thoughts as accessibly, systematically and neatly as possible? (In a gentle voice:It is after all tax payers money you're spending, and as readers we have finite time and much to do!) Kindly.

Do we have a duty to write concisely and as accessibly, systematically and neatly as possible? It would take a very long time to bring a philosophical essay to the highest feasible level of accessibility -- perhaps a lifetime. Had I subjected myself to this standard in earlier years, I would be long out of the profession by now. And were I to subject myself to this standard henceforth, most of my contributions would arrive years after interest in some issue has faded. Obviously, we have to make a trade-off here. We want to get things published in real time -- presumably also a goal that the taxpayers funding a system of higher education want to see achieved. But we certainly should be willing to accept some reduction in our publication rate for the sake of making these publications more accessible. How these two desiderata are to be traded off depends a bit on the case. Some philosophical work is read pretty much only by philosophers -- but in some cases this is, you might rightly point out, a ...

Do people have a right to be racist? I argue that people don't. They have a legal ability to be racist but not a right because a right implies that you are in some fundamental way their is justification to be racist and that's just not true when it comes to racism. Am I right? Am I almost right?

Your position is that it is -- and probably also that it should be -- legally permissible to be racist but that this is not morally permissible. I think most people in contemporary democracies (myself included) would agree with this. But they would typically understand the phrase "people have a right to be racist" in the sense of legal permissibility and would then disagree with your denial of it. Once its clear what they mean by affirming the phrase -- namely that it is and should be legally permissible to be racist -- then you would have no objection.

My maternal grandfather was a teenager in the Second World War, and he stole a pocket knife and a relatively valuable watch from a dead German. This kind of looting, I gather, was widespread at the time, yet the few times I was told the story, whoever was telling (either my grandfather or my mother) always seemed slightly embarrassed, and appeared to be trying to make excuses for taking stuff from a dead body. If we look beyond the Second World War, looting bodies (as in, taking items from the corpse when one did not cause the death oneself) is often considered quite despicable. But assuming one is not in such a position as to know whether the person made a will and who the items should be returned to, why should we disapprove of it so strongly?

Transpose the case to one where you come across a body by the side of a rural road in your own country. You stop your car, find that the person is dead, then take her valuables and drive off. You are in no position to know whether the person has made a will or who the items should be returned to. Is your conduct then alright? I would think not. Though you don't know who this person's friends and relatives are, its quite likely that she had friends and relatives, and it's quite possible that some of them would appreciate something to remember her by. Likewise, though you don't know whether or not she has made a will, she may well have done so and, in any case, will have legal heirs under the law. (One reason she may not have made a will is that she was content for her property to go to those the laws says it should go to if she dies intestate.) It's not your job to find the heirs, friends, relatives. But this does not mean you can just walk off with her stuff. This reaction to the domestic case...

Can we really blame drunk drivers? Doesn't the very state which makes them dangerous on the road (i.e. inebriation) also absolve them of responsibility for having decided to drive?

The more drunk a person is, the more his responsibility for what he decides to do diminishes -- and when the person is really extremely drunk, he may not be capable of decisions and not at all responsible for the movements of his body). Even if this is conceded, it does not follow that a drunk driver is not to blame. The reason is that this persons can take reasonable steps while he is sober to prevent himself from driving drunk. He can refrain from getting drunk, he can leave his car at home, he can give his car key to a dedicated driver (whom he can trust to keep her commitment not to drink), he can rent a hotel room near the place where he'll drink, and so on. By doing none of these things, the person is culpably (in a state where he is fully responsible for his decisions) causing a substantial risk to others: the risk that he will end up driving drunk in a state of diminished responsibility.

There was a debate recently about organ donation, and one group of people adamantly opposed the notion of making organ donation mandatory or even opt-out, because, and I quote, "They're my organs and nobody else gets to decide what to do with them." Considering organ donation only ever occurs when a person is deceased and no longer has any use for the organs, how is ownership of organs even relevant to the discussion? Why shouldn't it be acceptable to make organ donation opt-out, or even mandatory?

The claim that a deceased person has no use for her organs, that the integrity of her body after her death is of no importance to her, is a claim that many dispute, typically in the context of some religious beliefs or others. It seems best for the state to avoid policies that some citizens find offensive on the basis of religious beliefs which the state is in no position to refute. Fortunately, we can avoid such policies in this case: by making organ donations opt-out, as you suggest, we'd have all the organs we might need. The reason against this which you cite ("They're my organs and nobody else gets to decide what to do with them") is not a good reason against the opt-out solution. Yes, they are her organs and she alone gets to decide what to do with them -- but we still need to have a fall-back default for those cases in which a person dies without leaving clear instructions. Here any default society might settle upon is in the same boat, e.g. subject to the objection that it may not be...

Is having your own biological kids instead of adopting morally wrong? It appears that it is to me because it seems that the world reveals that there are many hungry children out there that need to be adopted, ergo, there is less harm if you adopt. What are counters to my argument, and what is the stance of the academic community on this issue if there is one?

Funny you should ask -- there's a doctoral dissertation now being written on exactly this question (I am marginally involved in its supervision). The student essentially argues for the conclusion you suggest, claiming that, in the world as it is, those who decide to have children at all ought to adopt rather than conceive. Adoption confers a huge benefit on a child who would otherwise grow up under conditions of institutionalization and deprivation (for example, in an ophanage in Cambodia or Niger). And adoption does not take away a benefit from anyone: the person one would have conceived will simply never exist. There's no stance of the academic community on this issue, yet. Time will tell whether the student's view will be widely accepted or rejected. It's bound to stimulate discussion if only because most affluent people believe that they have every right -- not just legally, but also morally -- to conceive if they wish. The student's thesis might be opposed on behalf of the people who, if...

Is a person only as valuable as the good he/she produces for others?

Making the lives of others better certainly does add value to your own. But I believe it would be a bit extreme to say that making your own life better adds nothing to the value of your life. How might one argue for this belief? Here is one way. There are wonderful writers and artists who create novels, paintings, movies, sculptures and performances that can greatly enrich our lives. The fact that these people enrich the lives of others makes them and their lives more valuable, as we said. But this enrichment will happen only if we go and expose ourselves to their creations. By doing so, we -- alongside them -- make a necessary contribution to the enrichment. It would be odd to celebrate their necessary contribution to the enrichment (by saying that it makes them more valuable) while ignoring our necessary contribution. Surely, just as they have a reason to produce their creations for us, so we have a reason to expose ourselves to these creations. The richness of human lives matters, and an...

Is it unethical to not tell your partner you have herpes if they don't ask? Is it excusable in any way not to do so?

If one is innocently unaware that one has a communicable medical condition, then this would be a plausible excuse (here by "innocently" I mean to exclude cases where one has recklessly ignored obvious symptoms). Another excuse might be that the communicable condition is very minor (which I believe herpes is not) -- a slight itch that disappears naturally and permanently after a few hours, for example. The fact that the other person hasn't asked might be an excuse in a social environment in which only very few are uninfected and in which everyone takes for granted that those they interact with already have the disease ("how could I possibly have known that you are one of the 0.1% of uninfected people; you should have told me this, at least if you wanted to remain uninfected!"). This is obviously not the environment we're in. Being romantically involved goes along with an expectation of love or at least care and concern for one's partner. Given this cultural context -- which may not exist...

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