Do you agree with "Right is still right even if nobody's doing it. And wrong is still wrong even if everybody is doing it"?

To say that some action is right isn't a short-hand way of saying thatmost people perform that action. If that were so, there'd be no senseto the question "Everyone's torturing their children, but is itright?". For more on this style of argument, which purports to showthat rightness can't be identified with any kind of "natural" property,like "what everyone does", see Question 367 .

What are the major open questions of mathematical philosophy? Of these, which are mathematically significant, if any? By "mathematically significant," I mean "would affect the way mathematicians work." For example, the question of whether mathematics is created or discovered has no impact on working mathematicians. On the other hand, studies into the foundations of Math were certainly mathematically significant, and although one could argue that that was more Math than Phil, we can give Phil some credit. But that question is now closed, as far as mathematicians are concerned.

You write that "the question of whether mathematics is created or discovered has no impact on working mathematicians", but this doesn't seem so to me. If that question is a vivid way of asking whether intuitionistic logic or rather classical logic is correct, then the answer to the question has great consequences for how mathematicians work. For instance, if intuitionism captures the inferences that are really sound, then mathematicians will have to curtail the use of reductio ad absurdum arguments. (For more on this form of reasoning, see Question 121 .) Classical mathematicians do not hesitate to infer "P" from the derivation of a contradiction from the assumption "not-P". But intuitonists believe that this inference is not in general correct and so should be avoided. The German mathematician David Hilbert thought this had such great "impact" that it was like depriving the boxer of the use of his fists! (For some more on intuitionism, see Question 168 .)

What is the basic difference between philosophy and science?

The difficulty Peter reports might encourage the thought that there is no "basic difference" between the two. For various sociological, historical, and bureaucratic reasons, we might label some rational inquiry "science" and some "philosophy", but one should not imagine that the labels follow fault lines within the world of inquiry. (But then one wants to say: isn't the basic difference between science and philosophy, or the manifestation thereof, that the former would never stop to ask what the basic difference is between science and philosophy, while the latter is kept up at night by that question?)

What is the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter? For example, in South Africa "terrorists" in the full definition of the word were reconsidered as freedom fighters after the regime change. Is it in this case (and in others) characteristic of the academic philosopher profession to simply repeat the view of the status quo?

If a terrorist is someone who seeks to achieve his goals either by terrorizing innocents or through the threat of such terror and a freedom fighter is someone who is engaged in a struggle to liberate a population from a tyrannical ruler, then some terrorists have been freedom fighters and some have not, and some freedom fighters have failed to be terrorists. If "terrorist" refers to someone who's adopted a particular means and "freedom fighter" characterizes someone on the basis of his goals, then it's only to be expected that such cross-classification will arise. These definitions are quite coarse, can't be expected to be useful in describing the complexities of real world situations, and also are misleading in encouraging the thought that the technique of terrorizing innocents is one that is primarily adopted by individuals, when arguably the more notable instances of such misdeeds are committed by governments. Political discourse would be clarified if the labels were dropped and we sought to...

Which is more important, the question or the answer?

I'm not sure how to rank questions and answers by their importance. But I do think that if you focus exclusively on the questions and answers in philosophy you'll miss half (well, maybe a third) of the fun. Because one of the joys of philosophy is its arguments . Sometimes, the point of a question once deemed pressing has been dulled with time, and correlatively the answers it generated have dimmed in interest. But nevertheless an argument offered in defense of one of those answers might still be the subject of intense fascination.

Why don't people who say that when you die you go to a better place kill themselves? If death is a better place, why are they staying in this "lesser" world? Is it that they are unsure if they are right or not and don't want to risk it? -Dylan (13)

Maybe some people are, as you say, confident but still not certain about the afterlife. Perhaps some don't wish to cause pain to their friends or loved ones, who will miss them terribly. And perhaps some don't believe that they have the right to "quit their station in life" (as the philosopher John Locke put it): they are God's property and have no right to destroy themselves.

I believe that death is nothingness, when my conscious mind is dead, nothing else will exist. What are your thoughts on this and are there any writings on this theory?

Are you saying that you believe that when you die, you will be utterlygone and not survive in any way? Or do you mean that when you die,everything will cease to exist? The first thought is one that many areinclined to, especially if they do not accept a religion that promisesan afterlife. The second thought is far less common. I suppose that ifyou were a solipsist , someone who believes that only he exists, then you might come to the conclusion that your death spells the end of everything. You can find an on-line introduction to solipsism here .

Is it wrong to eat people?

I'll go out on a limb (oops). My own view is that if one could eat a person without harming anyone, there would be nothing wrong with it. (Still, the idea disgusts me in the same way that, when I did eat meat, the idea of eating calves' brains disgusted me. But that's another matter.) The bare fact of having human flesh in one's alimentary system does not seem morally fraught to me.

This might not sound intelligent, figuring that I am 16 years old and I do not have an extensive vocabulary as I would like. But, getting to the question, If we ever find out if there is really a God in some shape or form and that the evolutionary theory or "darwinism" is in fact not true, do you believe that it would be mass destruction and chaos in this world due to the fact that many people's beliefs have gone to waste? -Joseph S.

If someone's belief about something turns out to be wrong, that doesn't show that his belief was "wasted". Perhaps it was his false belief that led others (or himself) later to arrive at a correct belief. True beliefs usually don't spring into being from nothing; they gradually emerge from a fertile soup of false beliefs. And this process is usually gradual enough that arriving at the truth doesn't have the dislocating consequences you mention.