We can only live in this "here&now moment"...in fact, there is no way we can ever live out of "IT"...is it not?

If the alternatives are living in the past and living in the future, we can only live in the present. If the alternatives are thinking about the past and thinking about the future and thinking about the present, we have choices. "Living in the present" is a cognitive psychological technique used, often successfully, by those who brood about the past or fret about the future. Concerns with the past or future may be appropriate (e.g. someone regrets a romantic choice or gets a worrisome medical diagnosis) or inappropriate (due to anxiety, excessive guilt etc); the technique works for all of them. Many people report that it helps them live a fuller and calmer life. For those who suffer from poor impulse control or psychopathy, however, it might be better to focus more on the future and the past and less on the present.

I've noticed that most comments on abortion ignore the question of foetal conciousness and the stage at which the foetus becomes sensitive to pain, and is susceptible to suffering in the course of the abortion procedure. The gradualist approach (the foetus has few rights in early pregnancy but more rights at later stages) is attractive but suffers from the drawback that it does not provide a definite point in gestation at which personhood can be considered to start. Would it be reasonable to think of the onset of foetal consciousness as providing such a starting point? (I know there are immense practical difficulties in identifying the onset of consciousness but I am looking at this question as a matter of principle.)

The idea of giving rights to fetuses as soon as they are capable of consciousness is, I think, discussed in the literature. Fetuses have a functioning central nervous system very early in pregnancy (typically before pregnancy is detected) and possibly consciousness of some sort starts at this point. Probably you should also be willing to extend your ideas about the importance of consciousness to human rights later in life (e.g. to comatose patients). Some writers on abortion argue that fetuses have rights to life before the onset of consciousness, and perhaps you might be interested at looking at these e.g. Don Marquis.

I have a question that is really intriguing me as I watch news analysis and read Op-Ed pieces over the past several years. So, here is my question: There is a tendency to make a sort or analytical or "expert" or general claim that "IF such-and-such a thing (could be an activity, an obligation, a process, or an institution, etc.) fails or does badly often enough (10%, 25%, 50% of the time, etc.), THEN the conclusion is that such-and-such a thing is not worthy, not sacred - or, e.g., is a failure as an activity, obligation, process, or institution - simply because it is done poorly or mishandled some, most, or all of the time." Yet, due to human flaws and human mis-handling or misapplication or simply due to bad behavior - it is not reasonable to assume that the original, standard (or "ideal") is "bad" just because it has come to be handled or done badly by humans. Is that a basic fallacy of reasoning? Is it not reasonable to claim that? Does the argument that this position is faulty or unreasonable...

I've wondered about your question myself. It is common these days to say, for example, that communism does not work because "look what happened to the Soviet Union." Or that lack of regulation of financial markets does not work because "look what happened to our economy." But of course, someone who wants to defend communism or capitalism can put forward an "ad-hoc hypothesis" that the reason the Soviet Union "failed" is not because of Marxist theory but because of corruption (or bad weather or alcoholism...) and that the reason for failure of the financial markets is corruption (or poor people not paying their loans or public anxiety...). I like to think of political theories as scientific theories--it is common to get contrary data, and typical to construct an ad-hoc hypothesis to "explain away" that data. But that's not the end of the inquiry. The next step is to go on and see if the ad-hoc hypothesis has any data in support of it, or whether it is simply embraced in order to save a favored...

As an Englishman, I share a dilemma with many of my countrymen that we do not have a strong sense of English (rather than British) nationality - in contrast to say the Scots, the Welsh etc. My question is what are the moral arguments for and against the establishment of a clear English national identity. My question is definitely not one geared towards a backward-looking (and hence white Anglo-Saxon) identity, but one that can unite the inhabitants of the country in a sense of pride. If the team prefer to answer with reference to other nationalities then this is fine - it is more the moral principles that I am seeking to understand. Thank You

For what purposes is a countrywide "sense of pride" useful? English pride was high during the German bombing in WWII, and served the effort to win that terrible war. National pride may serve useful motivating functions in similar circumstances. Provided the purposes are morally worthy, national pride is morally justified. I'm not sure I can think of any moral arguments for the value of national pride in itself (i.e. without reference to some specific national goal).

My parents unnecessarily refer to people's race when narrating. When I tell them I find this offensive, they laugh it off, and say something like 'It's not like we're members of the KKK', or, 'people should be proud of their race, there's nothing wrong with us mentioning it', or a variation of the typical 'I have friends who are (whatever race it is)'. Of course, when I say "unnecessarily mention", I don't mean that the mentioning doesn't sometimes have a purpose, but it's usually a subtle and/or "unintended" one, like to emphasize the nature of a situation by relying on racial stereotypes. Something like "I was out late at night and I stopped at the gas station, and I was very nervous because there were all these homeless-looking black people around". What's going on with them, and how do I explain in a clear way why this is racist and offensive (they are 'offended' by my suggestion that they are racist or offensive)? As a final resort, my parents will sometimes respond with "well, that wasn't my...

How about sharing some of the literature from the social psychology research on stereotypes? This way you won't be arguing back and forth about "intentions" (conscious or unconscious) but instead giving them some robust research on social cognition that shows how racial (and gender and other social group) categories can bias thinking even in well-intentioned individuals. Ziva Kunda's book _Social Cognition_ is a good place to start, as is Virginia Valian's book _Why So Slow?_.

Is it the responsibility of the layperson to align his/her opinion with a scientific consensus (if there is one)? For example, if there is a scientific consensus contending that global warming exists, is it the responsibility of the layperson to assent to that contention? Is it irrational or unjustified for the layperson to dissent in such a situation?

This is an interesting question, combining issues in the epistemology of testimony and expertise with questions about philosophy of science. The reasons to agree with the consensus may include: deference to experts, accounts of the rationality of scientific consensus. The reasons to disagree with the consensus may include: knowledge of non-rational social epistemic processes (such as groupthink) and knowledge of the impact of ideology/politics on science. For many topics, it is unreasonable for the layperson to suppose that they can do better than scientists, although they might express uncertainty about the consensus (scientific consensus has often been wrong). For laypeople, the question of whether or not to dissent from scientists usually comes up for politically charged topics and especially those with practical applications (e.g. research on gender differences, research in evolutionary biology, research on global warming). For those topics, it is not irrational or unjustified for the layperson...

Mary Warnock says we have a right to have children. It's a question I asked myself in the waiting room of a fertility clinic as I was registering for IVF treatment - it's a question I continuing asking myself as I see more and more gay fathers flying off to exotic lands for their offspring through surrogacy. How can we conciliate the right to have children with the exploitation of women? Best regards Pensiero Rome, Italy

The right to pursue certain goods (such as having children, or making money) does not justify using immoral means (such as exploiting women, or stealing) and does not entitle one to success (being a parent, or being rich). There are many ways to try to become a parent (or a wealthy person), some legal and some illegal, some moral and some immoral. Perhaps you think that the right to have children is more of a right than the right to make money? (Like, for example, basic rights for food, shelter, education or health care.) Even if it was a universal human right to become a parent (which I doubt), it would not follow that there are universal human rights to be a parent by any particular means (such as IVF, surrogacy, adoption etc.) There are many ways to become a parent, and as those in the adoption community often say, "second choice does not equal second best." I wish you the best.

If animals have rights, shouldn't they have responsibilities? For example, dolphins have been known to kill porpoises, or even other dolphins, for fun. Do not the dolphins deserve the death penalty for these heinous actions? You might argue that dolphins are not developed enough to have moral responsibility. But dolphins are not developed enough to have morality, why should they be developed enough to have rights? Most animals rights activists (call them ARA's) assert that a humans right to life and well-being comes not simply from being human (that would be speciesist.) Instead, they assert that our rights come from from our functionality or development. Part of our development includes a moral dimension. So by the standards of ARA's, any agent with rights also has responsibilities. I doubt the PETA would approve of me stabbing a porpoise to death. Why aren't dolphins held to the same standard?

Humans have both rights and responsibilites, but other beings may have either, both, or neither. Think of infant humans: they have rights but no responsibilities. As children mature, they get some responsibilites. Mentally disabled adults have rights, but sometimes not the full range of "normal" adult responsibilities. Responsibility depends on the capacity to distinguish right from wrong. Having rights depends on (most people think) being sentient.