Suppose someone is thinking about killing himself. Can philosophers or philosophy give him reasons for or against doing it? Or isn't suicide a philosophical subject?

Suicide is not murder unless you understand "murder" to mean "to kill a person". But we don't so understand it, as we don't usually speak of the hangman's murdering the convict, or of a soldier's murdering his enemy, or of someone's murdering in self-defense a man who was trying to kill him. The point is that murder involves a killing one had no authority to commit. To claim that suicide is murder, one would have to argue that I have no authority to take my own life. But why not? For a fascinating defense of the claim that I do have such authority, read David Hume's essay "Of Suicide". As for the claim that suicide is wrong because it makes something of value disappear from the world, consider (1) whether I do not sometimes have the right to destroy things of value and (2) whether events can sometimes so conspire against us that our lives simply don't have value and there is no reasonable prospect for a change in that regard.

My question is whether or not my disagreement to the next statement makes sense, and what you philosophers think about my argument. There is a popular belief that if aliens were to "visit" us, it would be in a destructive and war-like manner. I disagree. In order for a civilization to evolve and grow to one capable of interstellar travel, it would have to be a culture strong enough and intelligent enough to grow into and support such an advanced race. - If a civilization had the mindset of destroying something like a planet and every intelligent being on it, its society could not develop into something so great as to travel among the stars. - On the other hand, war has given our world many technological advancements in the past. Does this thought process make sense, what are your thoughts concerning my thinking?

Well, not really a philosophical question, but no, I don't agree withyour reasoning. I think there is little evidence for your claim that"If a civilization had the mindset of destroying something like aplanetand every intelligent being on it, its society could not develop intosomething so great as to travel among the stars." We know of only onecivilization, ours, and the claim's very nearly false for it: we almost have the ability to travel among the stars and we have alsoshown ourselves—through war, the development of nuclear weapons, andour depredation of the earth's resources—to be just about ready to destroy,either in a flash or gradually, our own planet. Prospects for ourhumane and rational treatment of other planets are not favorable.

If two things are the same thing under one concept, and yet two distinct things under another concept, is it logically possible that things of the second concept are things of the first concept? For example if two people have the same belief, but one has knowledge and the other doesn't, is it logically possible that knowledge is belief?

Are you imagining a situation in which x is F and y is F, but x is G and y is not G? And then are you asking whether all things that are G might also be F? If so, I think the answer is Yes: let x be Fido, your dog, let y be Kitty, your cat, let F be the property of being a mammal and let G be the property of being a dog. Fido is a mammal, as is Kitty; Fido is also a dog, but Kitty isn't; and also, all dogs are mammals.

Jesus claimed that he was the son of God. Why is it that if one did that nowadays then they would get sent to a mental institution, instead of being praised and worshipped as that? Isn't it the same thing as what Jesus did but not in ancient times? -Jessica and Elise

1) We don't really know how people responded to this kind of claim in the very distant past. The events recounted happened so long ago, passed through so manymouths – many of them eager to believe, eager to impress their audience – that it's very difficult to be confident about them. It wouldn't really be surprising to learn that many who made such claims in the distant past were in fact swiftly dispatched. 2) That said, even today some who make comparable claims are indeed "praised and worshipped". In the late 20th Century in New York City, thousands of people convinced themselves (and many remain convinced) that Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson was the Messiah. That's in the past twenty years in one of the most technologically advanced and intellectually sophisticated cities ever to exist. If you can make it in New York .... To paraphrase David Hume, you'll never go broke overestimating the "propensity of mankind towards the marvellous." 3) And following on that, we don't...

I'm a high school student and the question I may be asking might seem dumb to others, but nevertheless. If matter cannot be created or destroyed then how could God create our world and everything surrounding it?

Well, if it's true that matter can't be created, then it follows that it can't be created by God. Presumably those who believe that God did create the universe also believe that matter can be created. Perhaps your central worry is how that's possible, how matter can arise from nothing. That sounds like a good question. But the question can be directed to cosmologists as well, for it seems that Big Bang theories raise the same kind of question.

Some people define a set of propositions as science only if they make testable (or perhaps falsifiable) predictions, and those preditions are verified. Is that a good working definition of science? If not, how do philosophers distinguish scientific claims about the world from non-scientific claims? (This question comes up in the current controversy over whether Intelligent Design is science.)

Just to amplify on the excellent point in Peter's last paragraph.The reason Intelligent Design (ID) shouldn't be taught in science classisn't that it's not science. (That debate leads to all sorts ofdreadful philosophical attempts to demarcate science from non-science.)The reason ID shouldn't be taught in science class is because it's alousy account of the phenomena it seeks to explain, a lousy accountwe're in no way committed to as it has a far superior competitor. Thereis religion lurking here but it's locus is often misidentified. Thereligion isn't in the claims of ID. Rather, the religion is in themotivation for pushing a lousy account into the curriculum. Ithink there are two reasons why people shy away from this way ofputting the matter. First, if you call ID "lousy science", then itseems you've allowed the ID people a foot in the door, by acceptingthat their account is science. Science vs. non-science seems like amuch clearer and sharper dichotomy than better vs. worse science.(People are...

What is the best way to introduce philosophy to children? Are there any books specifically designed for this purpose?

In the lower right-hand corner of this page, you'll find a link to the site "Philosophy for Kids", set up by Professor Gareth Matthews of the University of Massachusetts, who has long been very interested in philosophy and children. At his website, you'll find suggestions, as well as links to other relevant websites.

philosohpy is for the stupid. now im not trying to offend but after reading some of your articles and some deep thinking it is. in my opinion (not to say my opinion is right or wrong) philosohphy is just big word for question and answering. its not a typical learning field, for example math and science your taught something you wouldnt know any other way. or atleast with out spending countless hours finding out yourself. so you cant say math is for the stupid. its for the inexperienced or unapplied mind. where as philosohpyQNA is common sense or ones opinion of whats right or wrong. and your born with common sense(please dont lecture me on how your not born with common sense you get the jist of what im saying) by the age of 18 your common sense you have then is pretty much all your gonna have for the rest of your life) so well say philosophy is for the stupid, unless your under 18 then its for the inexperieneced. and a person who ask questions in the field of philosophy and doesnt know the answer is...

OK, so I enjoyed your spirited attack! I agree with you that philosophy isn't like mathematics or science. But where I think we fundamentally disagree is about your claim that philosophy is just a matter of common sense. In general, that's not so: many of the greatest philosophical positions utterly fly in the face of common sense. Many arguments in philosophy lead to conclusions that seem quite outrageous from a common sense point of view. In fact, one gripe that some philosophers have with much of philosophy is precisely that it flouts common sense and that, in so far as it does, it's gone off the rails. It may be true that sometimes philosophers just tell you what your grandmother already knew. But (a) often that's not the case and (b) when it is the case, it's usually because the philosopher believes he or she's managed to wrestle down some outrageous beast that threatened your grandmother's claim to knowledge (sometimes, protection of the commonsense requires a detour through some pretty wild...

As a veggie, I am continually conscious that I have made a moral choice which does not fit with society's morals on the issue (in general). I believe that in this world of choice, I can have an adequate diet without the need to kill animals. What does the panel feel about this issue?

For those of us fortunate to live in industrially advanced Western countries, your claim about being able to have an adequate diet without meat is obviously correct. That doesn't speak to the moral issue. I'm with you on that one too: I no longer eat meat (I occasionally eat fish, guiltily). If you ask me to offer a defense of this position, I'm not sure I could do it. It's odd: I have a colleague who is quite convinced by some of the arguments for vegetarianism -- yet he eats meat. I find all those arguments quite unconvincing -- and yet I don't. The relationship between philosophical reflection and daily life can be a complicated thing.

One further thought on this for now. In a recent post, someone asked about whether torture could be justified in a "ticking bomb" scenario. I believe that these kinds of situations are precisely designed to lead to judgmental paralysis (often because they result in a conflict between several important strands woven into the fabric of some concept). Philosophers are very good at constructing such situations in their attempts to work out what's central to some concept. So that can be a good thing theoretically, but, practically, it can be a disaster because it can encourage us to lose our confidence in our judgments about the vast majority (all?) of real world situations that we face. So, can we imagine circumstances in which so many important considerations in addition to animal suffering are in play that we're not quite sure what to say about eating animals? Yes, surely. But does that mean that we can't be confident in calling the system of factory farming as it exists right now in the United...