Are virtues something innate within all people at birth, or are they things that one learns over time, and could the same thing be said about one's morality and motivations? Thanks, Gene Mauldin

If one means by virtues, character traits such as prudence, courage, kindness, and honesty, then, as Aristotle says, they are developed by education and training, although it must also be true that most people are born with the capability of developing the virtues. Hobbes points out that children learn more by example than by teaching, so that if we want to bring up our children to have the virtues we should exemplify them in our own conduct. However, some people mean by virtues, personality traits such as compassion and fearlessness. Personality traits probably are innate although they develop as the child grows and can be altered to some small degree. To talks about one's morality suggests that morality is a private matter rather than a public system that everyone one is supposed to follow. Although there can be some slight differences among people about what counts as moral, there is overwhelming agreement on most matters, e.g., that it is wrong to hurt someone simply because you don't like them....

I've read that The Prince by Machiavelli is all about how the ends justify the means. However, it seems to me that the means are also justified in themselves. I think that many of Machiavelli's tactics are just common sense that should be practiced in any case, though obviously in today's world you'd take care of political enemies by propaganda (for example) rather than killing them. Is there a philosophical case for this idea that the means are justified?

It is not clear what it means to say that anything, especially means, are justified in themselves. It may be that the means do not need to be justified as they do not involve doing anything wrong. It is only actions that would be wrong if not justified that need to be justified. Many of the means that Machiavelli recommends do not involve doing anything wrong, so they do not need to be justified. But killing or slandering someone are the kinds of action that do need justification, and it is not a justification for doing such actions that they benefit oneself.

Why is human life valued more than animal life in the absence of religion? Are arguments based on our being intelligent or sentient valid, after all we make the rules. If you could ask an elephant it might offer other criteria to value species by.

Some people value their pets more than other people, but one reason for holding that morality protects human beings more than other animals is that morality only governs the behavior of human beings, that is, in order to persuade all human beings to follow the moral rules prohibiting killing, causing pain, etc., all human beings must know that they have the protection of the moral rules. Neither elephants nor any other non-human animals that we know about have any criteria for valuing species. And morality is not related to species either; if there were another species that was required to abide by the moral rules, the members of that species would also be protected by the moral rules.

What is the definition of love? Can you define love without listing characteristics of love?

To love someone is to get pleasure from their pleasure. This is what is common to all forms of love, e.g., parents' love for their children and romantic love. It also accounts for all of the characteristics of love, and distinguishes love from lust and liking.

What if two politicians are running for office and neither is qualified? Is there an ethical duty to vote for the lesser of two evils, even if doing so results in putting a stamp of approval on an unqualified candidate? Or is there an ethical duty not to vote for either of them, since doing so would give them legitimacy?

There is no ethical duty to vote or not to vote. Only a person who is an act utilitarian view holds that people have an ethical duty to do whatever has the best consequences, and this view seems to require far more than most people would accept. Especially in this case, when it is not even clear whether voting would have better consequences than not voting, it would seem quite extreme to claim that one had a duty to do either. However, if you think that one of these choices has better consequences than the other, then it would be a sign of a good moral character to act in the way that you thought would have the best consequences, or in this case, the least worst consequences. It was pointed out to me by Wm Derek Bowman, Philosophy Grad Student at Tulane University that my answer was incorrect. It is not only act utilitarians that might claim that you have a duty to vote. Almost any revisionist ethical theory can claim that you have a duty to vote. However, if we are using "duty" in the ordinary...