Is understanding a person (what a person does) necessarily interrelated to approving of it, and is approving of it necessarily interrelated to sympathizing with it, and is sympathizing with it necessarily interrelated to identifying oneself with this person? Thanks, Susanne

Dear Susanne, I think that you have an interesting slippery slope here. In my opinion, we should not start down it at all. We need to try to understand people and the conditions that make them the kind of people that they are. But that need not (and should not) lead to approving much less to identifying with them. We would be much better off if we tried to understand suicide bombers and pedophilic priests and the social and psychological factors that shaped them. Sympathy of a sort may be in order as well. But, approval? Not at all. Indeed, in the cases that I mentioned, part of the motivation for understanding is to try to prevent the behavior. Lynne Baker

If I am made up of countless organisms, who is experiencing the independent thoughts?

*You* are. You, the person, are the subject of your thoughts; you are the one whose thoughts they are. The countless organisms you mention make up one big organism--the human organism that constitutes you. It seems to me a mistake to think that your brain is the subject of thought. Your brain is the organ by means of which you think, just as your legs are the limbs by means of which you walk. There is a divide in philosophy (even today) among those who think that a subject of thought is immaterial (e.g., Plato, Descartes and his intellectual descendants) and those who think that subjects of thought can be fit into the material world (e.g., many who work in the sciences). It's really an interesting question. It seems to me reasonable to argue that subjects of thought are truly special--different in kind from other sorts of beings in the universe--and at the same to to deny that subjects of thought are immaterial. But, of course, many disagree!