Recent Responses

I have come to despise the society I live in. I find the people's "values" abhorrent and the things they do vile and misguided, but it seems clear that nothing will change the status quo, judging how those who speak out against these vile things are often met with hatred and anger. I do not want to live in my society anymore, I am so disillusioned with it, nor do I want to lend any skills I might have (by being in the workforce) for it to benefit from. I have sometimes considered moving to another country that might share my values more closely, but if there are any, I don't know if I'd be able to "survive" in it due to factors such as language barriers. After I really started to think about it, I began to realize that putting an end to my own existence may be the ultimate solution to this dismal problem. I am not happy in this life and this society. If I choose to live out my life but force myself to keep my mouth shut about the issues that bother me, it will mean a lifetime of misery as I slowly rot on the inside with anger and despair. But if I do choose to speak out against the issues that bother me, I will likely be ridiculed and ostracized (or worse). In other words, if I live, it will be a lose-lose for me, no matter what I do. However, if I die prematurely, I will be free of this abhorrent culture I live in and any servitude to it. My society will benefit as well, because it will not have an unwelcome "maverick" living on its resources and capital and it can continue doing whatever it wants in peace. A win-win. In today's day and age, suicide tends to be discouraged and is seen as a bad thing. However, in a situation like this, where both the individual and his society hate each other and neither will change, it seems like the perfect solution. There is no one in my life who is dependent on me for survival. And isn't death inevitable anyway? Still, it would be nice to have some nonjudgmental feedback from someone on this kind of situation and my proposed solution. Do you have any thoughts on the matter? Please do not feel obligated to provide an "alternative" solution if it's only out of a feeling of moral duty or fear of accountability. Thanks.

Before asking if something is Allen Stairs 7/2/18 (changed 7/2/18) Permalink Before asking if something is a solution to a problem, it's worth asking whether we've gotten the problem right. There's a sign I found a few years ago; it's on my office door. It reads "Don't believe everything you think." Almost everyone needs that advice from time to time; I cer... Read more

Dear philosophers, Professor Stairs recently addressed a question about the difference between 'immoral' and 'impolite' where, if I understand him correctly, he basically said that there's a fact of the matter about morality, whereas norms of politeness are society-relative. But I think it's worth pointing out that there are a variety of other views about morality: for instance, relativism, error theory, and even some views where moral claims aren't considered truth-apt (as in logical positivism). May I ask Professor Stairs a potentially more interesting question: assuming relativism, or some similar view where there is no universal moral fact of the matter, is there a bright-line difference between the immoral and the impolite?

Perhaps not a bright line. Allen Stairs 6/28/18 (changed 6/28/18) Permalink Perhaps not a bright line. But let's take relativism as our foil, where we understand relativism to mean that standards of evaluation are relative to norms, traditions, etc. of societies or groups. (I'm paraphrasing a definition from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-relativis... Read more

I have a mother with alzheimer dementia in a very advanced stage and she is unconscious about anything is happening around her. I think she is alive phisically but not a conscious being, she acts by instincts, grabbing a piece of bread or crying when she needs something, like a baby or an animal. Cant talk, dont know who she is or anything... I cant stop asking myself wether she is "alive", alive here meaning as a conscious human being. If I was religious I would ask where did her soul go?? Is it still there? Is it only her body what is left? Is all mad people also "alive"under this terms? What about very young children (who hasnt developed self awareness yet)? What about people who lives in auto pilot all their life and never question ther existence? Actually when do we start being "alive" under this concept? "I think therefore I am" Sorry for the long lines, I hope I explained myself. Thank you in advance. Juan C.

It is very sad to hear your Jonathan Westphal 6/28/18 (changed 6/28/18) Permalink It is very sad to hear your story. I can give a guess about the awfulness of what you are going through, but I am more certain that I cannot appreciate the full daily horror for you. Your question is a most reasonable one. Is your mother "alive"? It is interesting that you feel... Read more

Was MLK a philosopher? History doesn't really consider him one, but he did have a lot of views regarding fairness and justice, and his ideas were very influential upon the development of civil rights and equality.

It's an interesting question, Allen Stairs 6/25/18 (changed 6/25/18) Permalink It's an interesting question, but especially at the meta-level. I've been thinking about how it should be answered and here's my tentative theory. One way someone can count as a philosopher is if people who count uncontroversially as philosophers by and large count the person... Read more

I am interested in the slippery slope. Must I accept that the first instance or "slope event" that gives rise to the argument is in itself without much consequence? Or, can I argue slippery slope AND insist that the first instance (developing a parcel of public land, for example, that will result eventually in all the virgin land's demise) is a mistake?

A slippery slope argument in Michael Cholbi 6/16/18 (changed 6/16/18) Permalink A slippery slope argument in ethics typically has the following form: If we were to deviate from the status quo in which X is disallowed and instead allow for X, allowing for X (which need not itself be morally objectionable or worrisome) will lead to Y, which is morally objectio... Read more

Is there a clear-cut distinction between something that is "immoral" and something that is "impolite"? After all, aren't both categories about violating a society's norms?

Quick example: in this Allen Stairs 6/14/18 (changed 6/20/18) Permalink Quick example: in this country, it's impolite to slurp your soup; not so in some other countries. That's just a matter of differing social norms Killing innocent people is immoral; it's immoral regardless of where you are, and not just because we happen to have a social norm against it.... Read more

Is there any reason to think that happiness is of any importance?

There are different things Allen Stairs 6/14/18 (changed 6/16/18) Permalink There are different things you might mean, and the answer will depend on which ones you do mean. Since I'm particularly unsure what you mean by "importance," I'm going to look at a nearby question: is there any reason to think that happiness is a good thing? That raises the question... Read more

Hi there. I've recently become depressed over the fact, said by some philosophers, that everything we do and enjoy is merely a distraction. I really don't want to think this as I love my passions dearly. But my anxiety keeps making me believe what they said. Is it true? Or are what we enjoy in life more than just distractions? Thanks.

Distraction from what? Allen Stairs 6/10/18 (changed 6/10/18) Permalink Distraction from what? Perhaps these people think there's something else we should be paying attention to, to the exclusion of all else. What? Even if what it is is a Very Good Thing, there are lots of good things, and if we ignore all the others, the world will be the poorer for it. Ma... Read more

Can one have delusional knowledge?

Depends on what you mean. Allen Stairs 5/31/18 (changed 5/31/18) Permalink Depends on what you mean. If "delusional knowledge" is supposed to mean that what the person "knows" isn't true, then the usual answer (with which I would agree) is no. We can't know what isn't so. If "delusional knowledge" means beliefs produced by the person's delusion, but that hap... Read more

Why can’t I argue that God exists noncontingently and is an abstract object? Some say it is because abstract objects lack causal power, and thus to argue as such would deny God at least one essential characteristic which any interesting concept of God cannot lack—omnipotence. But why can’t abstract object possess causal power?

Interesting question. Some Charles Taliaferro 5/31/18 (changed 5/31/18) Permalink Interesting question. Some philosophers have attributed to abstract objects divine attributes like being eternal and timeless. Perhaps some abstract objects (like the properties of justice and beauty) might be worthy of worship. I have actually argued that abstract objects do... Read more

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