Is a doctor or an optometrist ethically or morally obligated to report a patient with poor eyesight to the state department of motor vehicles?

I assume we're imagining that the doctor knows that the patient hasn't herself reported her optical problems. I suppose the first thing to try would be asking the patient to do so. Now imagine that the patient refuses, or that the doctor has reason to suspect that the patient won't make a report. The first issue is whether the law requires the doctor to inform the authorities. If it does, then it seems to me pretty clear that she should do so. If the law doesn't require this, then the doctor may be subject to legal, or professional, obligations of confidentiality. If those are absent too, then I'm inclined to think she should go ahead and make the report. It might be said that it would damage the relationship of trust between her and her patient, and I guess that is more than likely if the patient's driving licence is revoked! But that seems a price worth paying. Nor do I think it would do much if any harm to the reputation of the doctor, or doctors in general, if it became known that the doctor had...

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?

You ask whether a being that had never experienced unhappiness could experience happiness. Alex appears to be suggesting that happiness requires the possibility of unhappiness. Now that possibility could exist even if it were never actualized. I find no difficulty in imagining a human being who has never suffered a moment's unhappiness living a very happy life. Further, I can imagine a being who is actually incapable of unhappiness being very happy. Many have thought of God in this way.

Are there any arguments for the existence of an objective morality that are not religious?

The main argument is probably that it *feels* to most of us as if there are objective moral constraints on our actions. So the burden of proof lies on the person who says that we don't feel like that or that if we do then we're making some mistake. It may be that you think that religion can indeed provide an argument for an objective morality. If so, then you need to face up to Plato's *Euthyphro dilemma*: either (e.g.) torturing babies is wrong because God says it's wrong (and morality is indeed dependent on God) or God says it's wrong because it is indeed wrong. If you go for the former, then morality appears arbitrary. If God decreed that parting your hair on the left was a terrible wrong, then it would be. And if you go for the latter, then you will need what you are seeking in your question -- a non-religious argument for objective morality.

If you had the chance to save either a newborn child or an elderly woman, which would you choose and why? In this situation would it be immoral to choose on just the basis of their age? Would this show that people's own thoughts on others put down the possiblity of equality? In one idea, I would chose the newborn because they still have not experianced life. But in another idea, it is more righteous to save the elderly woman because she may have offered more to society.

Well, you are asking for my own view, so here it is. I think decisions about who to save are difficult, because we have no secure view on the ideal population level. It might be argued that since resources are finite, and future people are likely to use resources much more efficiently than us, neither should be saved. But let's say I have to choose one. Then I'd choose the newborn, primarily for reasons of equality, broadly understood. Justice requires that each of us has a good enough life, and if we assume that the elderly woman's life has been pretty good then the newborn should be given his or her chance. What if the elderly woman has offered much to society? My view is that desert is a mistaken concept, since it relies on what appears to be an implausible and confused conception of freewill.

In human terms, is not euthanasia a preferred and valid alternate to the artificial and selfish attitude of "life at all costs" now generally practiced?

I take it that you are talking about extreme and expensive technical measures to prolong life. These measures are of course artificial, but that in itself shouldn't count against them (what is wrong with, say, taking an 'artificial' pill for a headache rather than allowing the 'natural' pain to continue?). Is requesting those measures selfish? Well, we don't usually condemn as selfish those who spend resources even on comparatively trivial things -- such as CDs or cars. One's life is a condition for many if not all other goods, and most people believe that we have a right, other things being equal, to decide when it should end and in what way. Now it might be said that the resources being used to provide this kind of care could produce a whole lot more good elsewhere. But that point -- which seems to me a strong and important one -- applies to most expenditure, in the developed world at least, not to that on life-saving medicine in particular.

Is it morally wrong to tell children that Santa exists? Regardless of how much joy and excitement kids get from believing the Santa myth, it is an outright lie, so how can it be regarded as morally right? Should we always take the moral high ground and tell the truth where children are concerned, or should we make exceptions? When they find out the truth, aren't we teaching children that no one, not even their parents, can be trusted?

Morality has a lot to do with the promotion of joy and excitement. I am inclined to think that parents or carers who tell their children the truth about Santa from the start are, in a small way, acting immorally. They are likely to gain little or nothing from that knowledge, and, as Mark points out, as long as the parents are in general trustworthy, the child's trust in their parents is likely to be undamaged. Grim-faced rationalism is to be rejected, especially at Christmas time!

What is the relationship between law and morality? Is the law simply a branch of morality?

Some so-called natural lawyers have claimed that the idea of an immoral law is an oxymoron. If some state diktat says that people of a certain race can't travel into certain areas, then that's not a law. That's fine -- but essentially it involves giving a new and special meaning to the word 'law'. Law and morality can be seen as analogous in various ways. They have a similar structure (both involve requirements, permissions, demands, etc.); they serve similar functions (such as coercing people into certain behaviour for social purposes); and they probably have similar origins (see e.g. the work of the anthropologist Christopher Boehm on this). If one sees both law and morality as essentially forms of social coercion, then one is not a branch of the other. In the case of each, we can ask ourselves whether we have a reason to accept it, or parts of it, and whether it can be improved in some way or other.

As far as I have seen the ideas of “Good” and “bad” are nothing but opinions to certain groups or individuals. I have been told that if this is the case ethical theories are useless. I do not want to believe this sceptical view or morality! What would be the best reason to suggest that what I believe is false and that “Goodness” and “Badness” are in fact objective absolute concepts?

As I understand you, you are inclined to think that there is nothing that is *really* morally good or bad, independently of our opinions. The first thing to note about such a subjectivist view is that many philosophers have defended the position that it's consistent with doing ethical theory, and with seeking to act rightly. One of the most prominent recent defenders of that view is Simon Blackburn -- take a look at his *Ruling Passions*. Blackburn takes himself to be following David Hume, the C18 Scottish philosopher -- look at his Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, esp. app. 1. But perhaps you are inclined to believe that if these ideas are just a matter of our opinions, then the rational thing to do might be to give up on them. In which case, ask yourself the following question. Imagine you come across two people setting fire to a kitten, for fun. Doesn't it seem that you take the view that this is terribly wrong -- or something they have a very strong reason not to do -- *because* that is...

Seeing that there are a great many virtues such as truth, justice, honor, strength, etc., what is the real meaning of virtue, and which is most important?

I'm tempted to recommend first that, if you haven't already done so, you take a look at Plato's dialogue *Meno*. That dialogue raises all sorts of issues about what virtue is, and how we should best go about understanding it. The view Socrates takes there seems to be that there is some single property, essential to all virtues, that makes them virtues, and that if we could grasp that property then we'd be in a position to decide whether some alleged virtue (such as those in your list) really is a virtue. Against that, you might want to look at what seems to be the anti-essentialism of Wittgenstein (see e.g. his *Philosophical Investigations*, esp. sects. 65-77). On this view, the claim would be that we group the different virtues together because they bear 'family resemblances' to one another. So the concept, to use another of Wittgenstein's metaphors, is like a rope, but with no single strand running through all of it. Let's say, taking a leaf out of Aristotle's book *The Nicomachean Ethics* book...

What is the difference between ethics and morality?

A distinction is sometimes drawn between ethics as concerning all the values or goods that might be instantiated in a person's life (well-being, friendship, virtue of character, aesthetic qualities, and so on), and morality as the narrower domain of moral obligation only (right and wrong, what's forbidden and permitted, etc.). Bernard Williams thought that one of the problems with modernity and modern philosophy is an excessive focus on morality as opposed to ethics, the former being what he called 'the peculiar institution' (see his *Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy*, ch. 10). The Greek philosophers, he thought, had a broader conception, one we should try to share.