The phrase "You must forgive" is often bandied about - especially in religious teachings. Surely this is not fair - the wrong-doer has an entitlement from the wronged? What if the wronged is unable to forgive? Is forgiveness an emotion?

There is a lot of really interesting philosophical work currently being done in the area of forgiveness (in fact, the 2008 Annual Meeting of the American Catholic Philosophical Association next November is planned around the theme of forgiveness; and its consideration won't be limited to religious teachings). So what I say here should not be taken as the last word, or even anywhere close to it. The wronged party is indeed owed something ("has an entitlement from") the wrong-doer; voluntarily foregoing this entitlement is precisely the essence of forgiveness. If this is so, it is simply inaccurate to tell someone, "You must forgive." Forgiveness is not an obligation, or else it wouldn't really be forgiveness. It must be a freely chosen act. I would say that forgiveness is NOT an emotion, but rather a deliberate movement of the will -- a free choice to waive the entitlement owed by the wrong-doer. Sometimes that entitlement will consist in compensation, material or non-material, sometimes...

Could someone ever be considered significantly responsible for another's suicide? I don't mean to include cases in which, e.g., someone gives a weapon to an unstable person. The person I have in mind causes severe emotional distress to another person who ultimately kills herself.

Yes, though I wouldn't want to have to adjudicate responsibility in a particular case. Here's the philosophical principle I've got in mind: If a person A provides sufficient motivation for person B to commit an act, then A might be responsible for B's act. If A intended to provide sufficient motivation, intending that B commit the act, then I can't imagine A not being responsible. And if B would not have committed the act but for A's motivating actions -- in other words, if whatever A did was also necessary to B's committing the act -- and A knew this, then A would definitely be responsible. The problem with applying this general principle to suicides is that what counted as sufficient and necessary motivational conditions for a particular suicide are almost never known for certain. Most suicide victims (as I understand it) are assumed not to be in full rational control of their actions; e.g., there is mental illness involved. If suicide is an irrational act, then assigning...

Should philosophy and epistemological precepts be taught to grade school children?

There are indeed philosophers making strong arguments in favor of introducing philosophy to young children. See Michael Pritchard's article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy for some examples. Gareth Matthews has been working for a long time in an area he calls " the philosophy of childhood ." As a philosopher and mother of nine, I can think of many, many instances in which a philosophical precept has helped my children understand a difficult idea or make a tough decision. (Of course, I can think of many more in which their eyes glazed over as they mumbled some remark about their friends' "normal" moms...)

Is it ethical to usurp the copyright to this, and every other question deposited on this website? One could ask a question which provokes an answer equal to the meaning of life, and even though this website obtained it through answering the question, the answer only came about because of the question proposed.

If we take your description ("usurping the copyright") at face value, then the answer is no, it isn't ethical. It's usurping, which is defined as seizing and holding something without legal right to do so; barring some highly unusual circumstances (and certain views about the relation of law to morality), that's going to be unethical. Similarly, "copyright" is by definition a legal protection. If "usurping the copyright" isn't precisely what you meant, but rather are curious about the ethical status of using internet content without the permission of the original source, then you've hit on an important and fascinating issue, from both the ethical and the legal standpoints. It's an issue still in the process of being worked out. Some internet content is explicitly copyrighted -- sometimes technically so, sometimes by virtue of the site owner slapping a copyright symbol on the page. Not beign a copyright lawyer, I'm not sure what difference this would make to a judge. But it does indicate that...

I accept that one does not need a religious belief to be 'moral'. But is there any good reason, in the absence of religious belief, why one should want, need or have to be 'moral' as opposed to being immoral? In case this should lead to a debate about the meaning of the word 'moral' or a diversion into the law, neither of which are behind my question, may I arbitrarily focus on morality being confined to the single simple example of not stealing and that the being (or the fear of being) caught be ignored.

In Mere Christianity (don't let the title prejudice you), C.S. Lewis has some insightful things to say about why one should be moral. Without morality, which he characterizes as "rules for operating the human machine," we tend to do damage to others, damage to ourselves, and fail to realize our purpose. He uses (among others) the analogy of a fleet of ships. In order for the fleet to sail well, three things have to happen: (1) Each individual vessel must be seaworthy; (2) The vessels have to avoid colliding with one another (and Lewis notes that these conditions are mutually necessary: if the ships are not seaworthy, they will probably collide, and if they collide, they will probably not remain seaworthy for long); and (3) it must arrive at the port it was intended to reach. Where religious belief serves morality best is by providing the "port." In Lewis' case, of course, the port was fixed by Christian religious belief. But others have fixed it in other ways: Kant used the principles of...

What is a definition of good and also what would a definition of evil or bad be?

There's a good bit (pardon the pun) of variation in definitions of good, but I think what most of them will reduce to is, "That for the sake of which...". A good is an end, or goal, chosen for its own sake, and other things are "good" insofar as they tend toward such an end. "Bad" or "evil" is sometimes defined as the contrary of good; sometimes as whatever is inconsistent with good; sometimes (as in the medieval Christian philosophers, notably Augustine) as the absence of good.

My first question on this site: What questions should we put to philosphers? One of Kalynne's suggestions: You might ask what makes an answer to a given question a good one. Thanks, Kalynne! My question now: Are there some common parameters by which the "correctness" of an answer can be judged? I mean apart from logical coherence and factual accuracy, what else? I have a feeling that there is some textbook/weblink which has the answer for this. If yes, pls direct me to it.

Oliver is right, of course. (I feel obliged to offer an answer since I set up the question.) Sometimes it may seem as though philosophers are deliberately and mischievously obfuscatory, but this is more likely the result of living amidst the trees so long that memory of the forest has faded. In a forum like this, I'd say a good answer is clear, coherent, and logically consistent. If it must be obfuscatory, then it will be accompanied by a clear-as-possible explanation for its being so. Whence my metaphor of the forgotten forest.

I've noticed a difference between some eastern and western approaches to philosophy. Some eastern traditions seem to emphasize personal serenity and enlightenment through meditation, while some western traditions emphasize wisdom through curiosity, questioning, and thinking. My question is, which is the higher human good: serenity or wisdom? More concretely, which image represents the best in humanity: Buddha meditating or Socrates thinking and conversing on philosophic questions?

I'm thinking the best in humanity would encompass both; don't you agree? Serenity seems eminently compatible with wisdom, and some interpretations of Aristotle's eudaimonia (flourishing, roughly) characterize it as serene but active contemplation of wisdom. (I'm grossly oversimplifying on eudaimonia , but it is a well-known conception of the highest human good that accommodates much of what you suggest as opposed.)

Can you please give me the prominent scholars of Immanuel Kant especially with regard to his concept of person?

Whenever I personally have a question or interest regarding Kant and concepts Kantian, I go first to Christine Korsgaard . (My philosophical pedigree and particular research interests lead me in her direction; other philosophers would have other suggestions.) You might refer to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy , where you will find many authors who write on specific aspects of Kant's thought, as well as a thorough bibliography.

For ancient philosophers, like the Stoics, Metaphysics, logic, and ethics were all united, working together to form a single self-coherent world view that could provide its adherents with the good life. Is the fact that fields such as ethics and metaphysics are often taught distinctly in modern universities (at least in the analytic tradition) a good or bad aspect of the way we do philosophy today? Should our goal be a single complete world view or should we be satisfied with a successful explanation of a single phenomenon (like language) even if it screws up our understanding of another field?

What a great question! I think the answer will be largely determined by the level at which the course is taught. In an introductory class (which normally will not be metaphysics anyway, right?), I personally feel very strongly about showing the relation, and indeed, basic coherence, between the different branches of philosophy. I teach a core ethics requirement at a large, public, research-extensive university in the Southeast US. I begin the course by defining philosophy (as the "study" of wisdom, since they can't be expected to "love" what they do not know) and superficially describing its four main branches: logic, metaphysics/epistemology, ethics, and history of philosophy. I then tell the students that the boundaries between these branches are very much perforated. Although the "You Are Here" star appears over "Ethics," we start with logic -- how can one evaluate ethical arguments if one does not know what an argument is, let alone what makes it a good or bad one? -- examine plenty of...