A long time ago - Jan 2006 if I'm not mistaken - Alan Soble wrote (http://www.askphilosophers.org/question/875): "Finally, the heart and soul of philosophy is argument, providing reasons for claims, including claims about morality and duties. In the answer to the question above, I cannot find a shred of argument. We should also avoid, that is, pastoral or friendly counseling. Without rigor, philosophy is nothing." That was back in the days when there was routinely more than 1 response to a question. Today's responses seem more and more to be becoming "pastoral or friendly counseling" without rigor. The panelists do not argue with each other - the responses are just accepted. Here's an example: Peter Smith wrote very recently (http://www.askphilosophers.org/question/2823): "For irrationally formed beliefs are not likely to lead to actions which get any of us what we want -- including a decent life, lived well in the knowledge of our all-too-explicable mortality." This statement - simply put out...

Your comment on Peter Smith's claim, "utterly preposterous," doesn't sound like rigorous argument to me, but more like contemptuous dismissal. I'm glad panelists aren't displaying more of your style of rigor! The consideration you do offer seems to misunderstand Smith's claim. What you quote him as saying is that if our actions are guided by beliefs that have been irrationally formed, it's likely that those actions will not promote our ends. I can see why he says this: if you think (1) that irrationally formed beliefs are as likely as not to be false and (2) that actions guided by false beliefs are not likely to get us what we want, his claim follows. Your observation – that we sometimes take pleasure in beliefs even if they have been irrationally arrived at – seems correct but beside the point: it speaks neither to the truth of (1) nor to that of (2).

Is it possible to comprehend happiness if one never experiences unhappiness? In a life in which a person has no negative experiences, is it possible for a person to distinguish especially positive experiences? In other words, can happiness exist without something negative to compare it to?

I'm inclined to say No. Not because I think that happiness can only be experienced in contrast to unhappiness. But because I think that something that had never experienced unhappiness simply wouldn't be the kind of thing that could experience happiness (or perhaps even experience much of anything). We are happy when we feel comfortable, when our desires are satisfied, when things are going right. Where comfort is an option, discomfort is too; where satisfaction can be attained, frustration can too; where there's such a thing as a right way for things to go, there's a wrong way too. With the possibility of happiness comes the possibility of unhappiness. So, it's hard for me even to imagine a real being that had never been unhappy without thereby imagining a being that lacked the capacity for happiness (or even lacked any inner life).

Will good things happen to a person if they do good? Does karma exist? So in other words: If one share with the world everything they have without expecting good to happen to them in return, will great things happen for them anyways?

Are you asking whether, if one does good, then the world will always insome way reward one? I would think the answer is No. You may berecognized for the good you do and that recognition might bring yousome reward. But as often as not, I would think, one's good deeds arenot recognized or rewarded. If we shift our attention away from theworld, though, perhaps the answer's different. For perhaps doingsomething good is, in itself, healthy for one's soul -- just as doingsomething bad is corrupting of one's soul, regardless of whether theworld catches us out and punishes us. (For some related remarks, see Question 2 .)

I seem compelled to subscribe to the somewhat Panglossian idea that as everything is as it is, and could not have been any other way (cos it isn't), then it is the best it can be. Therefore, we should just be happy with it and make the best of it. Am I being naive or stupid or is there a reasonable defence to this way of thinking?

Everything certainly is as it is. (I think Dr. Pangloss' idea was that nothing could be better than it is.) I don't see why it follows that things couldn't have turned out differently. It's true that I didn't have pizza this evening. But I could have ordered it. And if I had, things would have been different. And even if you could somehow show that nothing could be different from the way it actually is, why must I then be happy about how things are? Can't one lament some bad situation one sees no way of avoiding?