Is there any way to ultimately resolve, by reason or evidence, the conflict between moral relativism and moral realism? Reading about this issue makes me feel unsure about the real status of morality. Any suggestion would help.

If by "ultimately resolve by reason or evidence" you mean "offer reasons or evidence sufficient to get everyone to accept one side of the debate," then an ultimate resolution of any issue seems very unlikely, just as a matter of social psychology. If, instead, you mean "discover reasons or evidence sufficient to make up my own mind about this issue," then I hold out much more hope. I recommend starting with the SEP entries on moral realism , moral relativism , and moral anti-realism if you haven't yet read them. Each contains detailed discussion and lots of citations to further reading. When assessing criticisms of any view, it's of course essential to be as clear as possible about the content of the view being criticized and to make sure that the view being criticized is one that's actually held rather than a "straw man."

The reason that Pascal's Wager doesn't seem convincing to me is that to me it seems that you can't assign a probability to something that doesn't have any empirical evidence. So all gods seems equally improbable. And so I would be equally likely to suffer eternal torture if I chose Islam, Mormonism or nothing. Although on further thought, I don't feel so sure any more, largely because of the same reasoning that lead me to the question I'm about to ask. But, after I read the thought experiment "Roko's Basilisk," it seems to me that you could also make a Pascal's Wager-style proposition without metaphysical claims, one that would involve probabilities. Something along the lines of this: Biologists know a lot about the human body. Those that know a lot about the human body are more likely to have the capabilities to torture me for eternity. Those that are more likely to have the capabilities to torture me for eternity are more likely to torture me for eternity. If I go spend time near biologists it is...

I am much more familiar ... with human (or human-like) beings who lust after young peasant women than I am with ones for whom the very experience of lust is unimaginable ... To say nothing of the doctrine, central to one of the major monotheistic religions, that God became a flesh-and-blood human being while somehow remaining an omnipresent and perfect spirit who continued to rule the universe. It's hard to see how the Zeus story is "significantly less plausible" than that!

Why should I be convinced by a hard determinist's argument against free will if, assuming his position is true, I am simply determined by causes other than myself to believe in free will? And I also wonder if there are professional philosophers who are hard determinists who try to convince other people of their view if in their view all people are determined (by causes other than their free choice) to believe whatever they presently believe.

Your question seems to presuppose that one chooses whether to be convinced by an argument or whether to believe that one has free will. I don't find that presupposition to be psychologically plausible, and indeed it might be conceptually incoherent. Besides, wouldn't you rather form your belief because of a compelling argument than because of something else? You'll find relevant discussion in this online article . In any case, determinists -- who say that all events, including all human choices, are causally determined by prior conditions -- can grant that one chooses whether to be convinced by an argument or whether to believe that one has free will. According to determinism, such a choice will be causally determined by prior conditions, including any arguments to which the chooser has been exposed. It could be that the logical virtues of some argument are among the conditions that cause someone to choose to accept its conclusion. So I see nothing paradoxical about a (hard or soft) determinist...

Atheists argue that some things are intrinsically good or evil. Pain, for example, seems to be an intrinsic evil. It is evil in and of itself; its badness is part of its intrinsic nature and is not bestowed upon it from some external source. Is there an argument for the claim that some things are intrinsically good or evil or are atheists simply begging the question against someone who maintains instead that pain is bad only because God made it so.

Those who assert that pain is intrinsically bad are disagreeing with those who assert that pain is bad only because God made it so (i.e., only because God gave pain the property of badness). But I don't see how the former are begging the question against the latter, even if the former lack an argument for their assertion. Now consider the claim that pain is bad only because God made it so. The claim might mean either of these: (1) Pain is unpleasant or affectively negative only because God gave pain that property. (2) Pain has moral disvalue only because God gave pain moral disvalue. It's hard to see how (1) could be true, given that pain is typically defined as (or in terms of) suffering, discomfort, and physical or psychological unpleasantness. (1) is like the claim that all squares are four-sided only because God made them so: God seems totally superfluous to the four-sidedness of squares, because they're four-sided by definition. I don't think (2) is much more...

Does the acceptance of scientific naturalism commit one to the view that the universe is devoid of all meaning?

There are at least two ways to interpret your question: (1) Does scientific naturalism imply that no meaning at all exists anywhere in the universe? (2) Does scientific naturalism imply that the universe itself has no meaning? I think the answer to (1) is pretty clearly no . By "scientific naturalism," I presume you mean the denial of supernaturalism , i.e., the denial that any nonphysical minds or causes exist. On that reading, scientific naturalism is compatible with the fact that you meant something by your question (your question isn't meaningless) and the fact that I mean something by this answer to it. Nor does scientific naturalism imply that nothing is ever non-linguistically meaningful: it allows that an experience (say, of great music) can be meaningful to someone. What holds for the concept of meaning holds, I'd say, for the concept of purpose as well. I think the answer to (2) is pretty clearly yes . But what could it mean, anyway, to say that the universe itself has...

During a discussion in the pub the other day my friend suggested that morality -- and the associated concepts of right and wrong, good and bad -- doesn't objectively exist, and that the universe is therefore essentially indifferent and meaningless. Any meaning or idea of "rightness" or "wrongness" that we perceive is a completely subjective human construct. This seems to me to be intuitively incorrect, but is there a way to effectually counter this view?

Philosophers have been debating this issue for about 2500 years. As things now stand, most academic philosophers deny, or are inclined to deny, that moral rightness and wrongness are purely subjective: in the recent PhilPapers survey , a majority of "target faculty" favored moral realism over moral anti-realism. But it's an area of robust philosophical debate. You might start by looking at the SEP entries on moral realism and moral anti-realism . They contain careful discussions and lots of references to further reading.

Is it possible for someone to produce knowledge simply based on reason alone, without any emotion?

I see no reason, in principle, why not. If knowledge were not possible without emotion, then no emotionless computer could achieve knowledge, which would come as a shock to the proponents of artificial intelligence (AI). Nor do I see anything in the concept of knowledge itself that rules out knowledge based on reason alone without any emotional content or associations. I don't mean to say that emotion can't play an essential role in some kinds of knowledge, only that I can't see how emotion would be essential to every kind of knowledge.

What is the difference between a conclusion that is "necessarily true, but not false" vs. "necessarily false, but not true"? They seem the same to me or is the answer based on probability? In the same light, what is the difference between "probably not necessarily false" and "probably but not necessarily true"? Thank you, Joe

Hello, Joe. Except for the difference in truth-values, I see no interesting difference between your first two descriptions. "Necessarily true, but not false" is a redundant description, because any proposition that's necessarily true is ipso facto not false and in fact couldn't have been false (indeed, that's what "necessarily true" means in this context). The second description is also redundant, because any necessarily false proposition is ipso facto not true and couldn't have been true. As far as I can see, probability has nothing to do with those two descriptions. In these cases, the word "necessarily" is being used in what's often called a modal sense. The second pair of descriptions does concern probability. Any proposition that's "probably but not necessarily false" is more likely than not false but not certain to be false: the proposition has a probability greater than 0 but less than 0.5, on a scale of 0 to 1. Any proposition that's "probably but not necessarily...

Have Zeno's paradoxes of motion actually been satisfactorily solved? Physicists and mathematicians I've read on the matter seem to regard them as no longer important, but never explain convincingly (for my money) why they're not still important. Have philosophers said anything interesting about them recently? Could you either succinctly explain how they've been solved or point me in the direction of good recent discussions?

I recommend starting with the SEP entry on the topic, available here . There's an article not cited by the entry that may be relevant because it takes a skeptical view of the standardly accepted solution to one of the paradoxes: "Zeno's Metrical Paradox Revisited," by David M. Sherry, Philosophy of Science 55 (1988), 58-73. Sherry argues that the standardly accepted solution "defuses" the paradox but is too ad hoc to count as a "refutation" of Zeno's reasoning.

Is murder illegal because its wrong? Or is murder wrong because its illegal?

Your first question -- Why is murder illegal? -- is a sociological and/or historical question about the law and therefore a question on which philosophers, as such, aren't experts. Nevertheless (!) I feel confident in saying that the answer is yes : the direction of explanation goes from moral wrongness to illegality. Murder is a form of homicide meeting various conditions, such as being intentional and being done "with malice aforethought." Why does modern society outlaw murder but not, say, an adult's listening to "Baby" by Justin Bieber? Both actions reflect badly on the agent, but only the former is regarded as a serious moral wrong. When they start making things illegal, liberal societies tend put actions meeting that description at the top of the list. Your second question is more properly philosophical, and I think the answer is clearly no . It's at least imaginable that a society's legal regime might outlaw some things but not outlaw murder. Yet murder would remain morally wrong:...