Do employers have some kind of ethical obligation to employ their countrymen (as opposed to outsourcing)?

One might make a Kantian style argument that it is unethical to 'use' one's countrymen by using the local resources and the education you received within the community to start your business, but then outsource the overwhelming majority of the work (and the implicit benefits) to a different community based strictly on cost once your business is successful. I think the argument is plausible, but I don't find it ultimately convincing. The argument might be strengthened by revising the conclusion. Instead of making the blanket judgment that outsourcing is unethical, one might claim that one is obliged to weigh the benefits you and your business have received from your community of origin as one important factor when deciding whether to outsource (and perhaps how much to outsource if you decide to).

Does it make any sense to say that a person has an "obligation to develop her gifts/talents to the utmost"?

It seems that there are a couple of ways that it might make sense to claim that someone has 'an obligation to develop her gifts'. Let's suppose that I believe ethical egoism is correct (that each person morally ought to do that which benefits them the most). I might believe that developing your gifts is essential to benefiting yourself the most long term. Second, a similar argument might be made from a utilitarian viewpoint (the view that morality consists in promoting the most happiness for the most people long term). I might believe that developing your gifts is essential to promoting the most good for the most people long term. Third, Kant's ethics actually uses an 'obligation to develop gifts' instead of living a life of pleasure as one of his four paradigm examples of moral obligations. I think his argument was that human dignity requires that you treat yourself as something more than a mere means to pleasure (but I haven't reviewed that argument recently). In any case, there are...

When, if ever, should philosophy get mixed into politics?

I'm afraid that philosophy and politics are deeply mixed whether we like it or not. Consider a question like 'what rights do/should people have?' This is deeply philosophical question and what answer you give will be very influenced by your philosophical views. Other important philosophical questions include: what is the purpose of government? what is the purpose of laws? what is justice? Every government is rooted in some sort of philosophy whether we like it or not. Perhaps, you meant to ask a different question like 'what role should philosophers have in society?'.... I've always liked Plato's answer to that question, philosophers should be kings! ;-)

When someone starts a political argument with "Our Founding Fathers believed..." are they committing a logical fallacy?

It seems likely to me that there are some situations where such arguments are based on a fallacious 'inappropriate appeal to authority,' but that there are other circumstances where the views of the founders are deeply relevant. For example, if the question is 'how should the first amendment be interpreted' the actual views of the people who wrote the first amendment seem extremely relevant. Naturally, even in this situation we can criticize the founders and argue that we should believe something different than they did. Of course, there are other times when such arguments seem quite irrelevant. For example, George Washington warned against maintaining a 'standing army' but the realities of the 21st century seem to make his view quite impractical. What bothers me more about these types of arguments is that people who make them (IMO) are often incorrect about what the Founders believed or at least engage in very selective 'memory' concerning them.

I enjoy playing lots videogames, listening to (and DJing) lots of various styles of electronic dance music, and frequently smoke marijuana. These things are hobbies of mine that usually make me happy. It seems, however, that most philosophical thought says to disregard things like this because they instill a false sense of happiness in us; that they are temporary, material things that satisfy the senses and should be discarded in favor of supposed "real" things that have a lasting value. Take Plato's cave allegory, for example. Are the things that I like simply shadows, fooling me from real happiness? Because I fill my free time with these things, am I living in ignorance of what real happiness could be? Is there any value from engaging in these activities at all?

An excellent question, it is important to reflect upon the things we invest our lives into. I think there are three very different concerns you might have about investing life into these activities: 1: Perhaps, these activities aren't happiness at all, but merely distract you from genuine happiness. 2: Perhaps, these activities are genuinely good to a degree, but distract you from more important things that are more central to happiness. 3: Perhaps, these activities are genuinely good because you find them pleasurable (or fulfill your desires). And pleasure (or fulfilled desire) is the only thing that is genuinely good, but these ways of pursuing pleasure are only effective short-term and are likely to undercut your total amount of long-term pleasure. Since you ask whether there is any value in these things at all, you seem to be more concerned about the first potential problem. However, the good news for you is that Plato's view is a minority view (even among philosophers) since it...

The other day when work ended, rather than go to my car and drive home as I have every day for the last four years, I just sat outside the building for no reason at all. Maybe I didn't want to go home just yet; maybe I was tired; maybe this maybe that. I sat for about 30 minutes, almost without moving, before finally leaving. I was thinking and thinking about why I did it, and then I started to wonder why I felt anxious about not being able to answer the question. Is it possible we've all been brainwashed into accepting the - if I remember this correctly - "principle of sufficient reason" (assuming this states that all things happen for a reason). Is it possible I sat down for no reason at all?

This principle of sufficient reason (PSR) in its modern form is usually associated with Leibniz, though its origins seem to go much further back. It claims that for anything that exists or for any event, there exists some reason that explains its existence or occurrence. While it has implications for human actions like your own, the PSR is not primarily a psychological theory. It seems to me that for the sake of fulfilling PSR, all we have to say is that the cause of your 'sitting and staring for 30 minutes' is that it happened because you chose to do so. There's probably much more we could say about your actions: maybe you did so because you needed rest, or maybe you had a sub-conscious motive that you were not completely aware of. Like all universal laws/principles, PSR is very difficult to establish with certainty. Even if everything I've observed appears to have a sufficient reason, I can't be certain that I'm correct in attributing those things and events to the reasons I associate with...

I am reading some philosophy and psychology about happiness, and much of the work proclaims that we must act in order to be "happy" (Aristotle, William James, as well as more popular writers such as Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie and Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi). As you will notice, they are all men. Are there difference in how female philosophers describe and prescribe "happiness" (or subjective well-being or flourishing)? Thank you.

The four major views of happiness (aka subjective well-being) are that happiness is constituted by: 1) Pleasure (and the absence of pain) 2) Fulfilled Desires 3) Virtue 4) A number of different sources that form an objective list of some sort: usually including things like pleasure, fulfilled desire, virtue, but also friendship, knowledge, or beauty. Of course, this list of theories is an oversimplification since each of the theories has a number of variations. I'm not aware of any correlation between gender and preferred theories. I think theories one and two are the most dominant theories among philosophers and psychologists. Theory four seems to be the 'common-sense' theory that most people intuit...(but academics are often drawn to theories one and two because they attempt to reduce all the sources of well-being posited in theory four to a single value). Theory three enjoys a lot of classical support and still has contemporary supporters as well. I should also point...

I have always been more talented at exposing flaws in reasoning or hypocrisy in actions than in constructing anything to replace what I criticize. Naturally many people are bothered when they're criticized and aggravated beyond that when not presented with an alternative. What is the status of this ability? Should someone hold his silence if he has nothing better to offer, or is just being critical worthy by itself?

It strikes me as very 'Socratic' to expose flaws in reasoning even if you don't have claims of your own to make. However, we should also remember that things didn't end well for Socrates (at least not by conventional measures.... I sometimes joke that Socrates was the first person in history that was executed mostly for being annoying). More seriously, it is important to remember that relationships are valuable and in many cases it isn't worth alienating friends over minor flaws in reasoning.

While I don't have a firm opinion on the issue, I never understand many pro-life positions that state they are against abortion except in the case of rape or incest. Life is life. These babies are as innocent as others. The situation in which they were conceived should have no bearing on whether they should be allowed to be aborted. It is illogical.

Perhaps, such positions concerning abortion are based on the idea that a developing fetus is very morally valuable, but not equal in moral value to a fully developed human being. Therefore, something like the great emotional pain involved in being forced to carry a child conceived as the result of rape might be enough to justify an abortion. But, very few things other than the life of the mother or rape would be adequate to justify an abortion. Or, perhaps, such views on abortion are mainly developed based on political pragmatism.

Is it wrong to subject older drivers to more frequent (or perhaps more stringent) driving tests? Although I don't have any statistics at hand, it seems that we often read about an older driver plowing into a group of bystanders b/c they fell asleep, forgot to take the pills, etc. So why not subject them to annual driving tests? Or annual vision tests?

More frequent tests might be justified IF we have legitimate reason to think that their driving skills may have degenerated and that they present a real danger, but I don't think more stringent tests would be just. Why hold them to a higher standard? Instead, shouldn't we want to ensure that they meet the same standards that other drivers meet?