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I'm having trouble appreciating Kant's moral philosophy. According to him an action is bad if we can't universalize it as a maxim of human behavior. Under that way of thinking being gay is bad because if everyone was gay nobody would have any babies and that means you are willing the non-existence of the human race which would be a contradiction if you want to exist. So I guess bisexuality is okay but being a monk isn't. The reasoning seems absolutely bonkers if you are gay whether from choice or from nature there is no reason to surmise that you think everyone has to be gay. If Kants moral philosophy is so lame I must admit that it prejudices me against his whole philosophical system. Is there any reason why I should give Kant's ethics more credit?

I don't think everyone being gay would be a problem for the Kantian approach. Children can be born to gay parents, it happens all the time, and children do not have to be produced in the ordinary way through heterosexual relationships. In any case, willing the eventual non-existence of the human race would not be willing that the willer did not himself or herself exist, merely that in the future there would be no more people. The nice thing about the Kantian approach is that it does not allow for exceptions in just my case. I cannot say that something is wrong but it is OK for just me to do it, in just these circumstances. In fact, as we know many gay people in the past have been critical of gay lifestyles and oppressive to fellow gays, distinguishing between their own behavior and that which is publicly acceptable at a certain time, perhaps. Kantianism would be critical of such a strategy and surely rightly so.

It seems I am chronically unable to get my questions posted here. Being stubborn as I am, I´ll try with another one: An Oxford professor of law let a question hanging at the end of a lecture some months ago: Whether or not it is possible to clearly distinguish when the interpretation of a statement is based on what is actually implied, and when it is not. One thing is obviously analyzing the literal meaning of a statement in isolation, but few rules are without exception even when no literal exception is provided. The example given was somewhat similar to this: 1. An army officer gives a soldier a command to bomb a vehicle. 2. The soldier later observes that the vehicle transports school children, and not enemy combatants, as the soldier assumed it would. Both the soldier and the officer are familiar to international law, prohibiting indiscriminate or deliberate attacks on civilians. The directive however is in its literal form without exception. Can one really say that regard to the law is implied in...

No instruction is without exception, and modern armies do try to educate their soldiers in the rules of war, especially when it comes to harming noncombatants. Whether they do enough in this area I could not say, but the example is not accurate in its description of how armies actually operate. It is not on the whole armies that deliberately attack civilians but other sorts of combatants, although armies are often too lax in their precautions against harming civilians, no doubt.

I've been thinking about the concept of revenge lately, and I was wondering what purpose it served. For example, if someone were to hurt or kill one of my loved ones, I would feel the need to seek revenge, despite the fact that revenge itself does not accomplish anything (if I were to hurt the person who killed my loved one, they wouldn't be brought back). Is this a psychological coping mechanism, or some other sort of phenomenon?

Some philosophers would say that the need for retribution goes deeper than just being revenge, in that a balance is achieved when someone suffers for the suffering caused to others. Clearly this is not just revenge since some perpetrators of crime might feel that the state was justified in punishing them, since they had deserved the penalty, and they could hardly be said to feel better because of their feelings of revenge. On this view punishment is designed to restore the status quo ante the crime and any feelings that accompany it are irrelevant. In that case revenge is not connected to punishment and the latter should not be identified with it.

Is terrorism worse than conventional warfare? My initial response is "yes," but on reflection I'm not sure. A soldier's life is surely worth no less than a civilian's, so why should it be preferable that the former die instead of the latter?

I think there is a difference morally between soldiers and civilians. Of course there can be terrorist attacks on soldiers also, and often are, but soldiers are to a degree prepared to deal with violence and are appropriately equipped in material terms also. Civilians are in principle only indirectly involved in the conflict and so should not be harmed. This is even the case where the civilians are full of hatred for the cause espoused by the terrorists while soldiers are not. It is even true when attacking civilians is very effective in ending the conflict sooner. Unless we restrict who shall be harmed in a conflict then potentially anyone could be harmed and this is immoral.

What is the definition of Eastern Philosophy?

It is a very misleading term, especially today when the world has become so intertwined. The idea of an Eastern philosophy was often used to contrast with the ways things are done in "the West", wherever that is, and has a sense also of being mystical, religious and more spiritual in many ways as compared with the "Western" philosophical approaches. However, there is plenty of mysticism, religion and spirituality in philosophy in any part of the world, and much of what is called Eastern is just as analytical and logical as anything found anywhere else. Having said this, it is a sad fact about most philosophical training in "the West" is that it largely ignores anything coming from China, India, the Islamic world and so on, as though only the philosophical thought originating in Europe and North America is worth studying. Here "Eastern philosophy" represents "the Other" and it is about time that we questioned this attitude.

Everyone agrees that slavery is evil. Everyone knows that slavery existed. Is there any understanding of why it existed? Is it just because people were too ignorant/greedy to see the problem with it? I have heard that Karl Marx has a theory that slavery was necessary (and evil in the same time) because every society needs some sort of forced labor. Nowadays, technology is our source of forced labor, but when technology was very primitive, slavery played the role of the required forced labor. Does such a theory (or anything somehow similar to this) exist? If yes, what is the reasoning behind it.

I don't think you are right, many people in the past thought that slavery was unproblematic, and based on the natural differences that exist between people. In just the same way that today we think it is OK for animals to work for us and be eaten by us, and for plants to be used by us, so some argued that slaves and the group they came from were so different from their owners that different treatment was appropriate. I have been to countries where slavery still exists, informally if not entirely legally, and the same justification is used today as was used in the past.

About a year and a half ago I read Henri Bergson's work Matter and Memory for one of my philosophy classes. I have begun to reread the his work and can not help but wonder: what is M. Bergson's place in the history of philosophy? I find many of his arguments to be convincing, but where do he, and his arguments, stand after the philosophical works that the analytic tradition produced? I have tried to learn more about M. Bergson as a person and thinker, but I have been unsuccessful in finding anything relevant after the advent of the analytic tradition. I do know that he won the Nobel Prize for literature for his work, Creative Evolution, but then it would seem as though his work became unimportant. So, I guess my general question is: does M. Bergson have any importance to philosophy today, and where does he stand in relation to present-day philosophy and the analytic tradition? Would a philosopher of the analytic tradition today think that M. Bergson's work is not useful to philosophy?

It is interesting how philosophers go completely out of fashion, and sometimes come back in, but this is quite rare. There is no reason why someone should not read Bergson and find some excellent arguments and ideas in it, but to continue arguing in the ways in which he did would be to invite being ignored. He is just not at the right set of problems for today nor does he use the appropriate conceptual vocabulary. This is not to criticize him, but for him the owl of Minerva has flown right away and is not likely to return, even at dusk!

What is it about certain situations that makes anger, hate or rage morally justified (beyond merely being excusable)?

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with being angry at horrible crimes and indeed it is wrong not to be angry on such occasions. Any philosophy that calls on its adherents to put aside ordinary and appropriate emotions has something very wrong about it.

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