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Why are Picasso paintings so important? How can I appreciate the importance of Picasso paintings? Honestly, when I look at them I think that they are interesting but I never get the impression that they are produced by a genius. If understanding Picasso's paintings (and art in general) needs training (knowing Picasso's life, knowing the context in which the paintings are created, knowing Picasso's intentions, knowing the traditions in painting, etc.) why are they exhibiting art works to the public? Quine's "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" is one of the best and most influential articles in the history of analytic philosophy but nobody expects non-philosophers to appreciate its importance. There are no Quine exhibitions. Thanks.

I'm no expert on art, just someone who enjoys it, but I certainly would agree with you that Picasso can be hard to understand. Most of his painting (and sculpture) isn't what one would describe as "beautiful", though there are paintings of his that are beautiful: For example, "Child with a Dove" (see it here). But what's beautiful about paintings like this one, to my mind, is what they convey emotionally and less anything to do with sheer physical beauty. And one finds a similar sort of emotional intensity in many of Picasso's other works. His portrait of Gertrude Stein (here) is just brilliant.

Now, to be sure, Picasso's later works can be more challenging. It can be very hard even to see what's happening in paintings like "The Guitar Player" (here) or "Afficionado" (here). And, in this case, I think it can help a great deal, as one tries to learn how to see these paintings, to learn something about the aesthetic that lies behind them. Picasso did not decide to paint in the ways he did simply out of perversity. He was looking for a way to express things he could not otherwise express. (Schoenberg makes similar remarks about the reasons for his invention of the twelve-tone method of composition.) How much success Picasso had is presumably for the viewer to judge. But once one opens one's mind, and better one's heart, to what Picasso is trying to do, one can come to see a painting like "Portrait of Maya with a Doll" (here) as, indeed, quite beautiful.

For me, though, the proof of Picasso's genius is the single painting "Guernica" (here). No more powerful comment on the horrors of war has ever been produced, and I can't even begin to see how Picasso could have produced such a powerful piece of work except by marshalling everything he had done beforehand. If you are ever in Madrid, you really must see it. It's exhibited along with many of the studies Picasso did as preparation, and it is fascinating to see the vision finally emerge.

A couple of years ago I read an article about an experiment where the genes of a jellyfish were spliced into a rabbit - the result: a rabbit that glowed in the dark. My question is, science aside, is this a rabbit?

Good question.

I'm not sure that there's any answer "science aside", since the notion of being a member of a given biological species (in this case, some sort of rabbit) is a scientific concept. It is up to science to tell us what species are, whether there are any such things, why they arise and go extinct, and so forth.

One popular conception of a biological species is that a species is a group of actually or potentially interbreeding natural populations which are reproductively isolated from other such groups. In other words, members of the same species form a united gene pool, so that a beneficial adaptation appearing in that pool could spread throughout it, whereas barriers prevent its spreading outside of the species.

On this view, which is obviously motivated by evolutionary considerations, the mere fact that the creature you have mentioned differs from all (other) rabbits in possessing certain genes that allow it to glow in the dark does not rule out the possibility that it is a rabbit. After all, rabbits differ from each other in a great many respects. This variation is the raw material for natural selection. Perhaps the experiment merely introduced a new sort of variation into rabbits.

On the other hand, it could be that this gene would prevent the creature from being able to interbreed with rabbits. Perhaps a rabbit would be too frightened by the glow to mate with it. Or perhaps the gene for glowing also makes the creature sterile. If so, then the creature you have mentioned would not qualify as a rabbit by the above conception of what a biological species is.

Another point: You haven't said whether the creature was returned to the wild after it was experimented upon. If not, then it belongs to no "natural population" (though it once did) and so is not a rabbit (or a member of any other biological species), by the above conception of what a biological species is. That's a tough break for zoos, don't you think?

Of course, the above definition is not the only conception of what a biological species is. However, if the creature was born from rabbits, and if its offspring would be rabbits, then it would be difficult to deny that it is a rabbit.

I often find myself thinking what really distinguishes Humans apart from other animals. If it is intelligence (high or low is irrelevant, it is still an inelegance) then this statement isn't true since we know that there are numbers of highly intelligent species including birds (non-mammal). So I came to conclusion that the only thing that does separate us is art, or perhaps understanding the value of art. But to contradict myself I keep flashing back on various images and video clips of cats or other animals "painting" on the canvas. Do you think in your philosophical opinion do these animals go through similar (high or low is irrelevant) process of appreciating art.

A fascinating question. I suspect that art appreciation might well be important, although perhaps only as a symptom of an underlying difference.

Let's look at the question more generally. It is important for us to know what are the essential differences between humans and other animals for two reasons. First, because it is an important part of understanding who we are. Second, because we eat animals, wear their skins, keep them in zoos, experiment on them and so forth -- all things that we tend to feel are morally wrong with respect to human beings.

Philosophers, then, tend to be divided into three very general camps. 1. Those who believe that there are morally significant differences between human beings and animals. 2. Those who believe that there are not such differences, and thus tend to argue for animal rights. 3. Those who feel this is the wrong question to be asking. Here, we'll ignore the third group, for simplicity.

The most common distinctions given by philosophers in the first group are: reasoning, especially abstract reasoning; language use; moral reasoning and action. The 18th Century philosophy Kant argued that the third of these was the most important, because only this difference could itself be a morally relevant difference. We have obligations to humans, partly because humans are capable of having obligations. The fact that a cow (say) cannot speak would have to be supplemented by an argument that this lack is morally significant, and I am permitted to eat it.

Art appreciation, as a capacity, is much less commonly proposed. It is also very difficult to determine whether a cat, for example, appreciates or even makes art. The capacity for abstract thought seems much easier to decide.

One final point: you say that the difference between low and high intelligence is irrelevant. However, significant differences in intelligence may not be simply a question of quantity, but rather of type. Let us say, for argument’s sake, that a human brain is structured pretty much the same as a cat’s, but has 20 times the number of neurons. Now, does this mean the human is 20 times as intelligent, or rather that the increase in neurons yields a different kind of intelligence, which is not on the same scale? The smartest cat ever could not take an IQ test; not because it is not smart enough quantitatively, but because its intelligence is of a different qualitative type. This different type of intelligence might also be what is manifesting itself in the capacity to make and appreciate art. However, even if we accept this, again another argument would be required to show that it was morally significant.

In international law, we have a right to leave our own countries (and come back) but not to enter other countries. Say I leave my home country A and try to enter B. There are some circumstances when, intuitively, it would seem unjust for B to refuse me entry, for example, if in turning me away, my life would be cut short, or if in entering B my life will be enriched and no harm will be done to the citizens of B. However, what principles should apply apply across borders to this type of issue?

I think you are asking whether international law ought to be revised so as to avoid the two intuitive injustices you assert.

With regard to your first intuitive injustice, international law already recognizes a right to asylum and a duty of non-refoulement. But many states implement this right in arbitrary and quite ungenerous ways, with the result that many desperate people are either returned to a situation where their life or health are at risk or else confined for long periods in inhumane detention centers. Here a modification of international law -- involving a consistent and efficient international process for determining refugee status as well as a fair allocation of recognized refugees among suitable asylum countries -- would indeed be a great improvement.

As for your second intuitive injustice, it may not be an injustice at all. Imagine a million Europeans eager to move to the Solomon Islands. Their presence would not really harm the locals -- in fact, it might greatly boost their per capita income. Still, with two-thirds of the citizens now Europeans, there would be a dramatic change in the local culture, a change the natives might regret. And one can then ask: Should it not be their prerogative to decide whether to invite (even harmless) Europeans into their community, and in what numbers? If so, then international law seems fine as it is, in this regard: A national population is free to decide about non-emergency admissions of foreigners into their country.

There may be a third intuitive injustice inherent in the status quo, which has to do with economic inequality. Here my concern is not with people who want to immigrate because they face life-threatening poverty back home. Such people -- currently routinely rejected as "economic refugees" unworthy of asylum -- ought to be protected under the revised asylum procedures suggested two paragraphs back. Rather, I am now thinking of poor people who want to build a better life in a more affluent country. In an economically just world, countries should perhaps be entitled to turn such people away (as I suggested in the preceeding paragraph). But in the present context of international economic injustice, one may doubt whether the more affluent countries may keep such people out (and formulate international law so that it entitles them to do so) . Among the relevant international economic injustices, I would mention the fact that some national populations appropriate hugely disproportional shares of the world's resources, such as land as well as air and water used for the discharging of pollutants. One could also mention unfair trading rules that allow wealthier countries to protect their producers through quotas, tariffs, anti-dumping duties, export credits, and huge subsidies, all of which greatly impede poor-country producers in those sectors (agriculture, textiles, footwear) where they would otherwise be globally most competitive. But in this case a reform that would compensate people impoverished by protectionist trade barriers by allowing them to immigrate into countries imposing such barriers would seem to make less sense than an alternative reform that would instead abolish rich-country protectionism.

Hello, I would like to ask a question about ethics involved when nudity is permitted in public places. I live in Sydney, Australia. At one of the most popular beaches here (which hosts tens of thousands of people per day and is freely available to anyone who wishes to go there), a man was arrested and fined $500. This was punishment because he had been on the beach with a camera, surreptitiously photographing women who were lying on the sand, with no tops on. He was discreet such that almost none knew at the time that he had photographed them - after they apprehended him, police went around with his camera, identifying people and approaching them with the images in hand. Many people using this beach choose to sunbathe disrobed, of their own free will. The man admitted that his actions were intended to further his own sexual gratification. Although I think the man's behaviour was in poor taste, using others as mere means to his own selfish ends, on consideration I cannot see why it should be held illegal or punishable. Firstly, anything that is visible from any public place is obviously visible to anyone who happens to be in that public space, and that includes busses, houses, trees and people who choose to disrobe. I have never heard of a law that prohibits anyone seeing whatever it is they see from a public place. Secondly, if it is permissible for passers-by to see a person on Bondi Beach who has chosen to disrobe, then ought any emotional or hormonal response stimulated in the viewer be prohibited, as long as the person so exited does not act in a way that harms others? If it were so, then surely every person who has ever been sexually exited by the sight of a stranger's disrobed body, and then silently lusted about it, has acted in a prohibited way. Thirdly, how using a camera to 'fix' an image of what one can see, and preserving this image, significantly different to seeing it? Even if we assumed the man intended to use the photographs for commercial gain, then how is this different to him taking a photo of Sydney Harbour, including in it the thousands of buildings lining it, and using this photograph for commercial gain? What about images of all manner of things available on Google Earth? Fourthly, shouldn't the onus for privacy lie with the people who have chosen to disrobe? If they do not wish people to photograph their bodies, should they not keep them robed while they are in a public space?

As a matter of prudence, I am inclined to agree with the arguments of the questioner--if one does not want others to photograph one's exposed breasts (or other body parts), one should keep them covered in public.

On the other hand, I don't think that the issue is quite as simple as this. The man who was arrested admitted that he used the photos for his own sexual gratification. But what if he was posting them on a website--perhaps for profit? I think there are somewhat thorny issues here, and do think that the most important ones have to do with legal protections of personal privacy, and where the lines get drawn on this issue. Does appearing in public mean that anyone can photograph me for any purpose whatsoever? That does seem a bit much to me! Here is another example--what do you think of the idea of a pedophile photographing children swimming or running around on a beach in the nude (as one can see in lots of places in the world)? No problem here? I guess I would caution the questioner that the obviously prudent reply that he or she provides tends to mask some important issues about whether our privacy should still be protected from various forms of intrusion even when we are in public--and I guess my own intuitions on this are somewhat mixed. Although I agree they should not be as aggressively protected as when we are in private, I don't think it becomes "open season" when we are in public, either, no matter what we are or are not wearing.

Has anyone come up with an adequate or nearly adequate reply to the Euthyphro Dilemma or has it so far proved the nail in the coffin to the Divine Command Theory? Thanks.

Although I agree with Peter Lipton (having actually recently made such arguments in a commentary I did with Thomas Brickhouse on the Euthyphro itself, in the Routledge Guidebook to Plato and the Trial of Socrates, I think it is also fair to mention that some theistic philosophers have recently attempted to defend the Divine Command Theory (DCT), by arguing that it makes sense to think that something might become morally required as a result of God commanding it. Have a look at Philip Quinn's Divine Commands and Moral Requirements (Oxford, 1978), 30-52.

I personally do not think this avoids the problem (because we can still ask why God would command it in the first place, in which case, the only available options seem to be "because it is good," which seems to defeat the DCT, "for no reason," which seem to make divine commands completely arbitrary, or "for some reason other than that it is good," which would seem to there being some non-good reason for God's commands, or perhaps that something other than the command itself makes things good). However, as far as I can tell, Quinn's is probably the most sophisticated defense of the DCT I know of, and so if you are interested in this question, it is good to attend to both sides of the debate.

How do you convince a person that arguments should be logical and should not have logical fallacies when that person does not believe in being logical nor accept the need for arguments to be fallacy free?

Even if they are not so inclined, people should avoid fallacies, roughly because it makes them less likely to acquire new beliefs that are false. But you are not asking what people ought to do, but rather what will in fact lead them to want to avoid fallacies. Maybe we just need to know more about these people to answer this question. Thus perhaps they are inclined to accept pretty much any claim if it is presented in the form of a song, to the tune of 'Happy Days are Here Again'. In that case, I suggest you sing them 'Avoid fallacies, if you can' to that tune.

The trouble is that if we try to imagine people who are completely unresponsive to logical force, then who knows what will move them? But actually it's not clear that such a supposition is coherent, because any creature that would count as thinking at all must at least be somewhat responsive to logical force, if their thoughts are to have content. (Of course they may still be prone to various fallacies, and not much bothered by them.) So if our people are in fact reasonably sensitive to logical force, for example if they are inclined to go on to accept B if they already accepts (A or B) and (not-A), then there may be some hope that you can use cogent arguments to convince them to start worrying more about fallacies, arguments that show that they will be more likely to believe truths and to get what they want in life if they takes a rather less cavalier attitude towards logic and argument.

What are the true reasons behind the prohibition of teachers/lecturers to develop romantic relationships with students [or vice-versa]?

There are all sorts of regulations about this in different jurisdictions, but I assume you are interested in the moral prohibition and the reasons for it.

I don't think it's wrong in general for teachers and students to become romantically involved with each other. It is wrong only when they also have a student-teacher relationship, or a potential student-teacher relationship. I believe that, in such cases, becoming romantically involved is always wrong.

This belief is plausible only if the word "potential" is understood in a robust sense. Otherwise any romantic relationship involving a teacher would be wrong (because it is always possible for the other party to become this teacher's student). So I mean it in a robust sense: You are potentially my teacher only if I am a registered student in a unit of a university in which you teach -- a graduate student in your department, say, or an undergraduate in your college -- even if I have not taken a class with you.

Such student-teacher romantic relationships are wrong, because they subvert the educational environment. When such relationships are regarded as acceptable, then many teachers will try to convert their authority and power over their student's educational success into romantic and sexual affairs, and many students will try to convert their sexual attractiveness into special attention and better grades from their teachers.

Much thought has been given to how such conversion attempts (esp. on the part of teachers) can be blocked without proscribing all romantic involvements by teachers with their students. But such intermediate solutions are bound to fail. To see this, suppose there are widely accepted constraints on how teachers may approach students they hope to become romantically involved with. With these constraints known, teachers will seek creative ways of signaling their interest in a constraint-abiding way. The offensive conversions will not be blocked, but will merely play out a bit differently. And such constraints have a further draw-back: Students, knowing that teachers trying to pick them up must find a creative approach, will often suspect romantic intentions where there are none. And teachers who do not want to be suspected of romantic intentions must then avoid any interactions with their students that the latter might conceivably interpret as a creative but constraint-abiding romantic approach. This is a great loss to the student-teacher relation which, at its best, goes well beyond the classroom by involving mentoring, conversations, even friendship. In an environment in which romantic relations between teachers and their students are simply out of the question, you can take your student for an intensive intellectual discussion on a walk through the park. You can watch a play together, or a movie. In an environment in which such romantic relations are viewed as acceptable so long as they came about "in the right way," the discussion will take place in your office with the door wide open and with some effort at mutual reassurance of the strictly professional character of the proceedings. You'll have a hard time discussing Freud or the Symposium.

I have suggested that romantic relationships between teachers and their students are wrong because of the great damage they can do to the student. Such damage can be enormous. Just imagine the situation of a third-year graduate student under romantic pressure from her or his thesis adviser who, typically, is the only person in the department, or by far the best, for supervising this thesis. If the student falls in love with this teacher and their romantic relationship lasts happily till the thesis defense, then there is little harm to the student. But what if not? Unbelievable numbers of esp. women graduate students have been very severely harmed by such pressures and failed romantic relationships, often finding themselves compelled to quit halfway through graduate school.

I have made the further point that such relationships -- when widely viewed as an acceptable practice within colleges and universities -- also harm other students and teachers. Under this heading of third-party harms one should also mention the discomfort of students who know or suspect that their teacher is having an affair with one of their peers. Such students must assume that everything their teacher knows about them will be passed on to their fellow student, and they will also often suspect that their teacher's lover will be unfairly favored (also by this teacher's colleagues) not just in terms of face time and advice, but also in terms of grades, teaching assignments, funding opportunities, letters of recommendation, and much else.

I am not denying that a teacher and his/her student may fall in love with each other in the most perfect way, nor that something magnificent would then be lost if they could not become romantically involved. But I think that, rather than realize their wonderful gain at others' expense, they should then bear the cost themselves: by waiting until the student graduates, or by one of them moving to another school.

A seemingly common criticism of the media is that its coverage isn't balanced. This begs the question - what would truly balanced coverage look like? Discussing the positive aspects of an issue 50% of the time and the negative aspects of an issue the other 50% isn't necessarily balanced, after all. Car crashes are a good example of this. When they're discussed in the news, 50% of the alloted talk time isn't dedicated to how the world has benefited from them. So what would truly balanced coverage of (as an example) the Iraq war look like? If it isn't 50/50, what would it be? And, of course, how would we even recognize it when we saw it? Just because something "feels" balanced, doesn't necessarily mean that it is.

My colleague Carrie Figdor, who turned to philosophy after a successful career for many years as a journalist, has this to say in response:

"It’s probably too simple to think of balance in terms of a ratio; it doesn’t require us, for example, to give voice at all, let alone equal time, to Holocaust deniers in a report on World War II genocide. To paraphrase Paul Krugman: given what we know, would that even have been ethical? (See his May 2002 response to critics, On Being Partisan, here). Being balanced is just one aspect of a complex professional norm of being objective, which also includes, at least, using neutral language, presenting views fairly, being non-partisan and just presenting facts, without inserting commentary. (For example, what do you call the structure going up roughly between Israel and the West Bank? The Israelis like the friendly “fence”, the Palestinians like the sinister “wall”; many media have settled on “barrier”. It’s still an open question as to what exactly should we call the situation in Iraq: is it “civil war”, “sectarian violence”, “Sunni insurgency” or something else?) So a particular report, or a particular media outlet, may violate the objectivity norm not because it’s unbalanced, but because it does not satisfy some other aspect(s) of the norm (e.g. an article in The Nation may be balanced but partisan; a Fox News story may be balanced, but The O’Reilly Factor is not.)

The norm of being balanced (as a first approximation) requires giving expression to the relevant views on an issue and including the relevant facts. Holocaust deniers are irrelevant because of the facts; the same goes for global warming (political pressure notwithstanding). There is no algorithm to determine what is relevant; hence the difficulty of giving a philosophical robust, strict definition. It’s also important to keep in mind that the news is highly revisable; so balance is relative to what’s known and who’s accessible at a time (i.e. by deadline), and it is not necessarily individualistic (e.g. balance may be satisfied by several stories, not one).

As a heuristic device, though, if someone’s ox is being gored, then the ox will bellow. Reporters and editors do pay attention to public criticism and revise their coverage in consequence. For example, an editor friend at the Los Angeles Times said the paper responded to complaints that the Times didn’t print enough good news from Iraq by seeking out such stories. He added, however, that it is hard to continue to make room for such stories, because from a news point of view the story in Iraq just is that the country is unstable; building a school does not make a difference to the story, while bombing a mosque does. If stability does increase, that would be a change in the story.

The fundamental difficulty may lie with determining what counts as news to begin with, since figuring out which views or facts should be included in a balanced report will be a function of which events count as newsworthy and which of their aspects are deemed most important. If the story, in the largest sense, is that Iraq is highly unstable, then that determines which views and facts are relevant. That’s why a balanced report on Iraq won’t be good/bad in a 50-50 ratio."

Has anyone come up with an adequate or nearly adequate reply to the Euthyphro Dilemma or has it so far proved the nail in the coffin to the Divine Command Theory? Thanks.

Although I agree with Peter Lipton (having actually recently made such arguments in a commentary I did with Thomas Brickhouse on the Euthyphro itself, in the Routledge Guidebook to Plato and the Trial of Socrates, I think it is also fair to mention that some theistic philosophers have recently attempted to defend the Divine Command Theory (DCT), by arguing that it makes sense to think that something might become morally required as a result of God commanding it. Have a look at Philip Quinn's Divine Commands and Moral Requirements (Oxford, 1978), 30-52.

I personally do not think this avoids the problem (because we can still ask why God would command it in the first place, in which case, the only available options seem to be "because it is good," which seems to defeat the DCT, "for no reason," which seem to make divine commands completely arbitrary, or "for some reason other than that it is good," which would seem to there being some non-good reason for God's commands, or perhaps that something other than the command itself makes things good). However, as far as I can tell, Quinn's is probably the most sophisticated defense of the DCT I know of, and so if you are interested in this question, it is good to attend to both sides of the debate.

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