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All chariot racers are musicians. Some chariot racers are soldiers. Therefore, some musicians are soldiers. Valid or Invalid?

Valid. Your second premise tells you that some chariot racer is a soldier. Let's call him "Alfred". So Alfred is a chariot racer and Alfred is a soldier. So Alfred is a chariot racer. This last fact, combined with the first premise, tells us that Alfred is a musician. But Alfred is also a soldier. So Alfred is both a musician and a soldier. Hence, someone is both a musician and a soldier. Which is your conclusion.

Suppose a friend tells us something that happened with him and asks us to keep it a secret. Suppose it is nothing very important, but our friend thinks it is. Suppose the story could have been known by many people, because it happened in a public place, but in fact no relevant person knows of it, except for our friend and us. Do we have the duty to keep it a secret? It seems that if we have that duty, it is only because our friend asked us to do so. But do people have the power to create duties for other people only by asking them to do something?

Let's consider two scenarios.

1) The friend asks you to promise not to divulge what she's about to tell you. You agree and then she tells you the "secret."

2) The friend tells you her story without any preamble to her tale. Then she asks you to promise not to tell anyone.

In the first case, the obligation is a matter of your making a promise. Promises create obligations. You could have said no. Or you could have said "Only if I can keep it secret in good conscience." If you hadn't said "I promise," there wouldn't be an obligation. Your friend didn't create the obligation; you did.

In case 2), you can still say no, but leaving things at that misses something. Respecting your friend's wishes could still be what you ought to do, because she's your friend, and not respecting her wish would distress her, and you've got no good reason to do that.

In case 2), do we want to say that when your friend asked you not to tell, that created an obligation? Your friend's request isn't like an order from the court. It doesn't create an obligation in that sense. But worrying about that risks worrying about words rather than about the real question. The real question is what you should do all things considered, and one of the considerations is the fact that hurting your friends for no good reason is usually the wrong thing to do.

We tend to use the word "obligation" when what's at stake is a matter of law or widely-accepted convention or explicit or implicit promise or contract. If that's the sort of obligation you have in mind, then the fact that your friend asked you not to tell doesn't create an obligation. But respecting her wishes is probably what you should do anyway.

Hello my question is about the Kalam Cosmological Argument. I personally do agree with the premises and the conclusion, however a person on youtube said that you cannot say that an infinite regress does not make sense but an infinite being does. So my questions are what is the difference between an infinite regress and an infinite being, can you say they are both absurd? Does an infinite being make sense?

A response to Jonathan's point: To deny that the universe had a beginning is not to deny that a Big Bang occurred several billion years ago, nor is it to discount the evidence for such an event. But the available evidence doesn't imply, and it may not even favor, the claim that a Big Bang event occurs only once rather than cyclically, with the cycles going back, in principle, forever. So I stand by "eminently."

While I'm at it: Jonathan wrote that "some infinite series don't make sense (e.g. an infinite series of events leading up to a present event, since one could never take the last step, since there is no last step)." I take it that Jonathan meant to write "there is no first step," since we're talking about a series that is infinite in the earlier direction. But either way -- "first" or "last" -- his reasoning sounds like Zeno's argument that I can never begin to traverse (or finish traversing) any distance because there is never a first (or a last) fraction of the distance that I traverse. That argument is invalid. I can traverse all of the fractions of the distance even though there is no first, last, or nth fraction that I traverse.

I've often heard it said that Americans are uncomfortable with sex, and that this is seen in the fact that it is often forbidden to depict sexuality or nudity in popular media, yet depictions of graphic violence are ubiquitous. Implicit in this observation is that depictions of violence should rightly seem as bad, or worse, than depictions of sex. But what makes any such depiction bad? Is it just a matter of the psychological distress they cause? Is it that they encourage people to do what they depict? Are some things just intrinsically obscene?

I think what you say about American attitudes towards sex may be true, if we stick to the surface of the culture, and these attitudes are Puritanical compared with European ones, for example French and Swedish ones. What makes depictions of violence wrong, surely, is not just the distress they cause. The answer to that is for people to avoid violent movies. Or if movies with sex in them cause distress, they can easily be avoided. And you are obviously correct that there is something wrong with depictions of sex and violence together, even or even especially from a narrow utilitarian point of view. For one thing, they can make people jaded with the real things; they can make sex less appealing and violence routine and routinely acceptable. And you are right again, I think, to ask the question whether some things are intrinsically obscene. Consider the Madonna and Child in so many representations. There is often a quiet tenderness here that cannot be missed. Then consider juxtaposed some viscous and violent and exploitative sexual act without love or shame. The degradation of "the act of love" combined with vulgarity is certainly "ill-omened" (which is the meaning of the Latin obscaenus) - it goes nowhere and no good will come of it - and it can also liable to cause moral revulsion, which is another apparently unrelated meaning of the word. I am reminded of C.S. Lewis' response to a radio interviewer, who started off the interview hoping to trap Lewis, with the question, 'Professor Lewis, as a Christian, what exactly is your objection to pornography?' Lewis' answer was, 'My objection to pornography [pause] is that it is insufficiently erotic.'

Hello, why a thing cannot exist without any properties ? (like being just itself)

I see no reason why properties do not include being identical to the number 7 and being distinct from the number 7. If so, then -- necessarily -- everything that exists has exactly one of those two properties. The number 7 has the former property; everything else has the latter property. If there is no such thing as the number 7, then everything has the latter property. Either way, nothing can exist without having one property or the other.

Some of the states of consciousness or physiological reactions that movies seem calculated to produce are arguably pleasurable in themselves (for instance, consider comedies and porn films), but there are some emotions that aren't as obviously pleasurable (for instance, fear, disgust, pity) but which still have a market, and there are some emotions that don't seem to have a market at all (for instance, anger). Have philosophers said much in the way of explaining the attraction of non-pleasurable emotions?

There's a large literature on this problem, going back at least four decades. The most oft-cited paper is Kendall Walton's "Fearing Fictions," Journal of Philosophy 75 (1):5-27 (1978). Walton's thesis, developed at length in his later book, is that when we are "frightened" by a horror movie, for example, our mental state isn't accurately described as fear/fright. Instead, says Walton, what's going on is a complex form of make-believe. We derive pleasure and, arguably, other psychological benefits from this way of making-believe, or so the theory goes.

Walton's view isn't the only one, of course. If you want to explore further, there's a recent collection of essays, Suffering Art Gladly: The Paradox of Negative Emotion in Art, edited by my colleague Jerrold Levinson.

Although I've never been convinced by the make-believe account, it does seem right that I'm not literally frightened of the monster when I watch the horror movie. After all: I don't believe there's any monster to be frightened of. But fear needs an object to count as fear. So Walton seems to be on to something: the emotions, if that's the apt word, elicited by a film or a novel aren't simply the same ones as their real-life counterparts. Something else is going on. The problem is to find the best way to describe it.

Of course it's complicated. Take your example of anger. I think we do watch some movies or read some books partly for the anger-like reaction they provoke. It's hard to read Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath without finding yourself feeling something that feels a lot like anger. And while you may not be angry at any character in the book (since, after all, they're not real people), you might feel genuine anger about situations like the ones in the story that we know exist in real life. The fact that the novel brings you in touch with that anger is actually a pretty good reason to read it. The feeling of anger isn't pleasant, but feeling it may be a good thing. The same goes for other negative emotions in the right context, tied to the right beliefs. And the same may sometimes be true even for the simulacra of emotions ("fear," or "sadness"...) that fiction provokes.

Say that you join a "youth social and adventure group", where, while rock-climbing or bowling or hiking, its core members will begin, subtly, to sound out your religious beliefs and talk to you about God, is that at all morally problematic? Or in general, if any group has the main raison d'etre of recruiting for a church/political party/pyramid scheme, but initially conceals this motivation (for instance, through initially avoiding any mention of the parent organisation), is there anything wrong with that?

There is something plainly wrong with a group that conceals its real purpose, surely, and lures you in with a false front. But there is nothing wrong with members of a group that is visibly religious in orientation inviting someone to come along and join. 'Why not come and join our Catholic knitting group?' is fine. As to your first question, being sounded out seems OK, because if it get too intense or probing you can always leave. I do think there is something a bit off about a religious group targeting people who are a little lonely or isolated, but on the other hand if there's no expected quid pro quo where's the harm? The devil is in the details of how things are done, I think. Concealed pyramid schemes are another thing altogether, because here the element is deception is at the centre of what's going on.

How strong of an argument for theism is the fine-tuning argument, and what is the current opinion of it?

Great question!
"How strong" is a difficult question to answer precisely, and I'm sure different philosophers will have very different takes on this. The answer will probably have to be comparative (that is, compare how good this argument is to others), and philosophers disagree about how good the other arguments are. For example, some philosophers still think that the old ontological argument is great! Others think it is decisively refuted. In addition, there is disagreement about the merits of the fine tuning argument itself. So, I don't think there's consensus about either side of the comparison that determines how strong the argument is.
That said, I think most of us can agree that it is among the most promising versions of an a posteriori (or empirical) argument for the existence of god, since it has some advantages over the more traditional argument from design. The argument for design appeals to the apparent complexity in nature and posits an intelligent designer on that basis. A major objection to that argument is that evolution by natural selection explains that complexity, so there's no need to posit an intelligent designer after all. That's a pretty good objection (assuming all the details work out, which they seem to). But the fine-tuning argument cannot be refuted by appeal to evolution by natural selection. So that's a huge advantage. So we can say this: the fine-tuning argument is relatively strong in the sense that it resists a major objection to the more traditional empirical argument for the existence of god, namely the design argument.

What is right and what is wrong? Who can say what is right and what is wrong? How can we know what it is? Does it really matter, does it make a difference to know what the right thing and what the wrong thing is? I'm talking about stuff like sexism, racism, money, society etc.

Well, things are wrong if we shouldn't do them; they're right if we should. As for which specific things, there are many. Some people think they can boil it down to a simple principle or two (e.g. things are right if they produce the largest balance of good consequences over bad.) Other people think right and wrong are too varied for anything more than rules of thumb.

Who can say what's right and what's wrong? If you mean who's qualified to pass judgment, then pretty much all of us are—at least about some things. It's wrong to mock people's infirmities. It's wrong to beat someone up because you're annoyed by something he said. It's wrong to kill someone so that you can collect on her insurance policy. And so on. You're in just as good a position as I am to make those claims.

(Of course if you're asking who can make something right or wrong by declaring it right or wrong, there's a pretty good case that no one can. What's right and wrong isn't up to us.)

Does it make a difference to know the difference between right and wrong? It does for the people on the receiving end. If I realize it would be wrong to take the cell phone you left on the table while you were buying your coffee, that might keep me from doing it. And you'll be a lot happier if I don't. It's easy to see how the same sort of point applies to racism, sexism, etc.

Does it make a difference to you? Depends on what sort of difference you have in mind. There are side benefits from acting rightly; people will trust you more, respect you more, think better of you. But the best reason for doing the right thing is that it's the right thing to do. Caring about that makes you a better person, though to understand this, you already have to care—at least a little—about doing what's right.

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