Recent Responses

I have a problem with Hegel's theory which said: the difference between men and women are like the difference between animals and plants, men are like animals and women are like plants because women are more sensitive than men and they are dependent on their feelings so they cannot make a good decision as a government member. I know this theory is for Hegel's period but why a famous philosopher like him said some thing nonsense, why did not he worth for women? Why most of the philosophers are man??

Richard Heck May 30, 2006 (changed May 30, 2006) Permalink If you think that's bad, you should try reading Hume, particularly, "On Modesty". Hume there explains why it's morally required for women but not men to have but one sexual partner! Hegel, Hume, and the rest were human beings, and their opinions are just as likely to be infected by prejudice, ignora... Read more

On the subject of race. Why is there a tacit assumption that all persons are white unless identified as some different race? Example: Maybe a guy is lost from his group at a big convention or something and he tells someone that he is looking for "these three guys... one of them is black, and one of them has a big nose ring?" Like black-ness is an unusual trait to be used to pick somebody out of a crowd or a police line up, like a scar or a tattoo. I hope this made at least some sense.

David Papineau June 2, 2006 (changed June 2, 2006) Permalink I agree with Richard. But there is also another sense in which racism leads people to underestimate the number of 'whites'. I am thinking here of the practice of counting somebody as unequivocally 'black' if their ancestry is half European and half African, or even 80% European and 20% African.... Read more

Is there really such a thing as being selfless? Every scenario I can think of proves otherwise. Such as someone holding a door open for someone else going into a building. They either expect a thank you or want other people to think they are a good person. Does this make the word selfish essentially meaningless?

Thomas Pogge May 29, 2006 (changed May 29, 2006) Permalink "Every scenario I can think of proves otherwise," you write, but where is the proof? The mere fact that, for every piece of conduct I point to, you can think up a selfish motive does not prove your point because the motive you thought up may not be the agent's real motive. What you have in mind, as... Read more

What is the role of Philosophy in our society? What is the duty of Philosophy in life? Does it make it better? Are we a better society because of philosophy?

Thomas Pogge May 29, 2006 (changed May 29, 2006) Permalink I have written something about what philosophy ought to be in my response to question 1075. Insofar as philosophers have lived up to this mission they have contributed greatly to society. They have given us clearer, richer, fuller ideas of justice, virtue, friendship, exploitation, democracy, human... Read more

I read Aristotle and Kant in the original languages with enjoyment and profit. But I am finding Hegel extremely difficult to follow. Is there any easy way in?

Thomas Pogge May 28, 2006 (changed May 28, 2006) Permalink Indeed, there's no easy way in. But you would do a great deal better beginning with the Philosophy of Right (or the Phenomenology) than with, say, the Logic. Hegel's Philosophy of Right is hard, but no harder, in my view, than Kant's Metaphysics of Morals or Aristotle's Metaphysics. And the effort t... Read more

Since society is composed of individuals composed into organisations, should all organisations have the essential features of democracy (such as elections, plebiscite on major issues, reverse appraisal)?

Thomas Pogge May 28, 2006 (changed May 28, 2006) Permalink The reason for this is weaker in the case of organizations than in the case of societies -- mainly because the former are much easier to leave or to avoid altogether. If you don't like the undemocratic structure of General Motors or the Catholic Church, you can decline to join these organizations or... Read more

I am about to start tutoring someone who is soon to be taking their A-level exams in philosophy (UK schooling system), specifically in the field of political philosophy. Can you recommend any good texts that cover this field for this level of study (I don't want to bombard them with undergrad/grad level ideas!)? I need something broad, with enough material to give them confidence and get them thinking about the topic. Thanks.

Thomas Pogge May 28, 2006 (changed May 28, 2006) Permalink I think Will Kymlicka's Contemporary Political Philosophy is a very good text for beginners. It may be a little harder than what you're looking for, but it's a standard work now, one likely to have influenced the exam and those who mark it. It's broad and covers well the main schools of thought. The... Read more

My 4-year old son is asking incredibly good questions about God. As for myself, I do not partake in the idea of religion. My wife does. Together we decided to let the children make their own decisions. To that end, on Sundays they go to Sunday School with their Mom and I sat home to “do chores.” My son is questioning nearly everything they are telling him. “Why did God make man first then a woman if they are equals?” “If God made man, where was God before we were there to talk about him on Sundays?” “How did God make God before was us?” (real quotes). I’m amazed, proud, and confused. How do I answer these questions without dashing his chances at the illusion of “it’ll be alright” that Christians harbor in their lives? Do I have an moral obligation to tell him I don’t believe in that “stuff”? Or am I better off to string him along? I hate to discourage this sort of dialogue; I love wondering at the world. The Church people tell him to stop asking questions. Is that healthy?

Richard Heck May 28, 2006 (changed May 28, 2006) Permalink It's really too bad that there is this common image of religious peopleas simply swallowing what someone else has told them. I don't know manysuch folks myself, though I am sure they do exist. And if the people at your son's church are telling him to stop asking questions, that's even worse: Questio... Read more

How many cells does a 6-week-old human fetus have? And how many cells does a fully developed human adult have? Comparatively, how many cells does a 6-week-old chimpanzee fetus have? And how many cells does a fully developed chimpanzee have? I am interested because I want to see if the abortion debate could be drawn along the lines of personhood relative to number of cells. Do you think this is a plausible way to think about the debate? Also, where could I find more information about this topic? Thank you, Alexander

Richard Heck May 28, 2006 (changed May 28, 2006) Permalink These are obviously questions about biology, not philosophy. I'd try a good biology text. That said, it isn't plausible that personhood has to do with number of cells. Number of cells is roughly proportional to size. One would therefore expect that the number of cells in a large tree would dwarf the... Read more

Is there really such a thing as being selfless? Every scenario I can think of proves otherwise. Such as someone holding a door open for someone else going into a building. They either expect a thank you or want other people to think they are a good person. Does this make the word selfish essentially meaningless?

Thomas Pogge May 29, 2006 (changed May 29, 2006) Permalink "Every scenario I can think of proves otherwise," you write, but where is the proof? The mere fact that, for every piece of conduct I point to, you can think up a selfish motive does not prove your point because the motive you thought up may not be the agent's real motive. What you have in mind, as... Read more

Pages