I studied Sinology for a year, and met a great deal of Chinese people. Whenever the topic came up, most of them - particularly the women - insisted that they would only ever date Chinese men, and were particularly vocal about not dating blacks or Japanese men. On the other hand, I met a Korean woman who had moved to Germany (where I lived at the time), and who said she had come looking for a husband, because she believed "Korean men are no good". Interracial relationships are becoming more and more common, and with them come stereotypes: there is one stereotype that would have us believe that all women love black men, and another that all men love East Asian women. For many people (though not as many as the stereotypes would have us believe), these racial preferences in dating and sexual attraction are real, not just media tropes. There really are women who only date black men, and men who only date East Asian woman (as well as the reverse, and all other possible combinations). The relationship of...

Some of the stereotypes that drive such preferences could, of course, be racist. But it is also true that the factors that attract us to others erotically are not generally matters of simple choice, and the mere presence of a preference "type" does not seem to me to be clear evidence of racism. Some of us prefer tall partners--is this "shortism" because we tend not to prefer short partners? I think of racism as consisting in beliefs or practices that would deny equal moral, political, or economic rights to members of the targeted race. I don't think anyone has any kind of a right to have me attracted to them as a potential romantic or sex partner, so I can't really see how my preferences in these areas can have the consequences of denying anyone equal rights. Having said this, I also think that many cultures do lend some support to sexism or to regarding women as second-class citizens. I wouldn't blame a woman from such a culture for having a preference against men of that...

Is it valid to talk about ethnic groups as having a distinctive psychological make-up? Can we speak of a "European psychology", an "Arab psychology", "Chinese psychology", etc?

There are broad differences between ethnic and cultural groups that have to do with the ways in which people are socialized into those groups. But to understand these artifacts of culture as differences in psychology seems to me to be a mistake. Anyone who has had any kind of rich interaction with different members of such groups will know well just how hugely varied people are. But enculturation does have effects, of course.

Is it wrong not to inform a friend's organization of a potentially bad hire--because I work with this person and want them to leave our organization? And yes, it's a bad hire, by the work ethic standards of everyone else I work with, it's not a personal issue!

I guess there are different angles to this one. Is it wrong in a business ethics sense not to tell your friend's organization about the person they may hire? Not unlesss you are one of the people contacted for a referencce, I suppose. You are not obligated to inform other businesses about the errors they may be about to make! But what has more traction for me in your question is where you identify the other organization as your friend's . As a friend, yes, I think you owe it to your friend to let him or her know about the problem--just because you would like to be rid of the bad colleague, you will sit back and allow your friend to inherit your problem? Not nice!

Many people criticize the concept of an "open relationship", that is, a relationship in which both partners are allowed to have sexual relations with people other than the primary partner. There are also other forms of so-called "polyamory", for example a three-way relationship which excludes sexual relations with anybody besides the other two partners. While in some cases such relationships may only benefit one party, may involve coercion or neglect, or sacrificing for one's partner, there are some such relationships in which both or all partners find themselves more fulfilled and happy than they otherwise would. Yet these "good" polyamorous relationships are the subject of the same moral aversion and disdain as the abusive, coercive ones. What kind of moral argument could lie behind the idea that such relationships are wrong - surely not a morality based on happiness. Is some kind of deontological sexual ethic at the root of the criticism of open relationships and polyamory? What does this ethic...

I will leave it to others to supply whatever they may think is a good reason for supposing that there is some kind of rule written in Heaven (about which, more in a moment!) as to why "one size fits all" in terms of fulfilling sexual relationships. As you quite rightly point out, it is one thing not to abjure any kind of relationship that amounts to abuse or coersion, and quite another to lump in with these any sort of relationship that deviates from the social norm of a single partner. Nor can it even be said that single-partner relationships are a norm that is or has been always realized in human societies, even if it is endorsed in most (but not all) cultures. Were that the case, prostitution would not be, as the saying goes, the world's oldest profession, and polygamy would be unknown. I rather suspect that the historical basis for the very restrictive ideal to which you refer goes back to a time when women were regarded as men's property, which is why in so many cultures the sexual...

Is it ethical to have pets? Wouldn't a dog or cat be happier in the wild, where it could procreate on its own, run freely, interact with its own kind etc.? As a pet, these animals do experience joy, but most are spayed or neutered, are bored or generally trapped inside while people are at work, have their nails clipped when they wouldn't like it (or declawed altogether), etc. I think the animals would have more happiness living in the wild. I know the animals would live shorter lives on average, but I am not convinced that a longer life necessitates a better life.

You are right that a longer life is not necessarily a happier life, but there are other things that go with longer life that are probably relevant to your question. I am not sure what the exact statistics are, but I see to recall that feral cats (felis domesticus) have an average life span of something like two years. The question is, what is the quality of those two years, relative to the very long average lives of cats that live as household pets? In addition to the factors that you mention, how should we think about the quality of life of an animal that has to be: Constantly alert to the danger of predators (feral and domestic dogs, coyotes, etc., who will kill cats for amusement or food). Depending on the environment, constant risk of accidents with automobiles. Constantly in search of food, with starvation and malnutrition always serious risks--especially if the cat should suffer from some injury that prevents it from hunting or scavenging effectively. Constantly...

In the Platonic theory of forms, one could imagine a thing participating in many different forms at once. E.g. a large oak tree could participate in tree-ness, oak-tree-ness, bark-ness, leaven-ness, green-ness, brown-ness, large-ness, beauty, etc. One could imagine this could go on ad infinitum (i.e. ever more specification leading to ever more forms). Where is the limit? Or is there no limit? Or in reality, is there really only one form? (The Good?) or to put it another way the Form of "being." It might remind one of Parmenides....it is or it is not.... It seems to me that sensible things either participate in infinite forms or one form. Thoughts? Lou, New York

I think the only really honest answer to your question is that Plato is never quite as clear about this issue as we wish he were. On the one hand, as you say, there seems to be no obvious limit on how many Forms a given particular might participate in--after all, something can be not just a good image of F-ness, but also a bad image (and hence participant in) G-ness. But maybe it helps that nothing in the theory of Forms (such as it is as a "theory," as opposed to something more like a hypothesis) allows participation that would create category mistakes (e.g. "The lion sleeps greenly" or "Putting the number 2 on a diet"), so there is presumably some limit on how many Forms can apply to a given thing. Anyway (back to the really honest answer), your question shows one of many reasons why few today find the "theory of Forms" adequate as a metaphysical theory.

Suppose I agree with theists that "God exists" is a necessary proposition, and so is either a tautology or contradiction. That seems to indicate that the probability of "God exists" is either 1 or 0. Suppose also that I don't know which it is, but I find the evidential argument from evil convincing, and so rate the probability of "God exists" at, say, 0.2. But if the probability of "God exists" is either 1 or 0, then it can't be 0.2 - that would be like saying that "God exists" is a contingent proposition, which I've accepted it isn't. How then can I apply probabilistic reasoning to "God exists" at all? If I can, then how should I explain the apparent conflict?

I confess I don't understand the notion of "metaphysical necessity," if it does not entail that that there is no possible world in which the "metaphysically necessary" being does not exist. But only a pencil exists in world W. So I really don't see what is gained (or why the very question of God's existence is not simply begged) by the claim that God is a (metaphysically) necessary being.

If "God exists" is necessary, then the probability that God exists is 1. Full stop. It is not either 1 or 0, it is simply 1. It is also not 0.2 or any other number. Nothing like begging the question big-time, eh? On the other hand, I can't see why anyone serious about the question of God's existence (even theists, who would like the answer to be affirmative, but presumably not on foolish grounds) would accept the claim that "God exists" is necessary. If that were true than the could be no possible world (=a world that can be described without contradiction) in which God did not exist. But it seems obvious that there can be such a world. Consider this description: World W = a world in which only a single pencil exists. It's hard to spot the contradiction in that simple world! It would be a pretty boring place to be...but wait! If anyone were to be there, it would be a different world! Whew!

However hard I try, I cannot shrug off the impression that philosophy asks all the truly important questions, but has always been somewhat vague when it comes to giving staightforward answers to those very questions. Do people have to turn to religion to get final answers? Because one thing is for sure: they are looking for those final answers.

Beware a certain inference that you seem very close to making (and which I do think people make all the time): Because I want such-and-such to be true (e.g. I want there to be a "final answer" to some question, Q), it must be true (e.g. there must be a "final answer" to Q) You are right, people want "final answers," and some people want them so badly that they are willing to accept as "final answers" all kinds of nonsense. I rather suspect that it is part of the human condition that the actual "final answers" we discover that are actually comprehensive and fully correct will be few to none. Success, for a human inquirer, is, rather, to continue to make progress--even if the "final answers" continue to recede before our inquiries.

Doesn't the fact that prostitution is illegal imply that pleasure is not a considered a legitimate and significant moral good? Prostitutes are said to be people who provide nothing of value to society. Nothing of value? Really? Perhaps this is because our society has a deontological system of values? In a utilitarian standpoint wouldn't it not only be moral to make prostitution legal wouldn't it in fact be extremely immoral to make it illegal since sex is extremely pleasurable and in a utilitarian calculus more pleasure equals more good?

I think the historical fact of the matter is that prostitution is illegal (where it is illegal, which is not everywhere--there are lots of places where it is quite legal, including a few places in the US) is because from a religious point of view prostitution involved adultery, and adultery is regarded as a sin. We have lots and lots of laws with the idea of sin as their basis of origin, some of which even non-religious people would accept (e.g. laws against murder), and some of which non-religious people are increasingly opposed to, because their sole moral basis is in religious doctrine of some sort (e.g. laws against various kinds of sex acts between consenting adults). In some cases, people have found some secular reasons to give support for keeping laws that had the concept of sin as their historical basis (for example, what are called "blue laws," against the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sundays). So the question really is whether there are good non-religious reasons for keeping prostitution...

When did philosophers first start arguing about free will and determinism and who were they?

Aristotle raises this issue in On Interpretation 9, but simply assumes that we have free will. The ancient Stoics believed that the only freedom of will that we have is the freedom to assent or dissent from the way things actually are. In other words, we have no free will over how things actually happen in the world. I believe (subject to correction!) that these were the first philosophersto address the question of free will directly.