Is feeling good the only thing that has value in itself?

This doctrine is sometimes known as ethical hedonism and itlies at the heart of some very grand traditions in ethics, inparticular, utilitarian ethics, first forcefully and extensivelyarticulated by Jeremy Bentham in the 18th century. Feeling good, orperhaps the net balance of pleasure over pain, was deemed to bevaluable in itself and furthermore the only thing that has value initself. That it is the only thing of value seems quite wrong at firstblush: lots of things that don't feel good, for instance education, aredeemed by many to be valuable. But utilitarians (for instance, JohnStuart Mill in his Utilitarianism ) argued that this wasillusory. Other things are deemed to be of value because they lead tohappiness, or because they've become so associated with happiness thatthey've come to viewed as part of happiness. Neither Bentham nor Millthought they could prove that happiness itself was of value -- that wassimply too basic a proposition to admit of proof. Mill argued that youcould only show...

Would you agree that a cat or dog can love a human in the same way humans can love in a non-romantic sense?

No, I wouldn't. Humans are creatures with language and thought, and these features of our life permeate our loving. Dogs lack language and thought (in anything like the sense in which humans possess these), and so whatever it is that they are doing, it's not loving in the sense that we do this. Harder to answer is whether we love dogs in anything like the way in which we love another person.

Why should I care about life at all? I am on track to achieve financial and intellectual success. I will have the opportunity to serve humanity as well. I have a loving family. I am healthy and handsome. But if consciousness dissolves with annihilation; if the earth will ultimately become a cold, dead rock; if all of the science, wisdom, and art eventually cease to have meaning because no one will exist to apprehend them; why should I care about life at all? The only reasons I can think of are momentum, an ineffable sense of obligation to my friends and family, and fear of the undiscovered country. There have to be more and better reasons to care about life.

Usually, the question "Why should I care about X?" is asked against the backdrop of many cares that are taken for granted. Often we convince ourselves to care about something by showing that it's a means to getting or sustaining something we antecedently care about. I'd like to hold (but people disagree: see Question 127 ) that there are some things we care about immediately, without the need to have that care mediated by anything else we care about. But either way, if one gets into a state in which one cannot see why one ought to care about anything, life included, well then it's hard to see how to find the materials in that care-less world from which to fashion any kind of care. The theoretical expectation of this difficulty is borne out by examining case histories of the descent into what used to be called "melancholia". For instance, you might appreciate John Stuart Mill's Autobiography , in Chapter V of which he describes his nervous breakdown at the age of 20: he no longer attached...

Is there such thing as true freedom? (My thought is that only in an anarchist society there would be-meaning that even the slightest rule or law would detain one's freedom to do as one pleases...)

It's worth distinguishing between what one is free to do and what value to one that freedom has. Perhaps you're right that in a world in whichthere was no political society (a State of Nature, as some politicalphilosophers call it) we would be free to do many more things than weare now (since no laws would exist that restrict our freedom). But the worth of those freedoms would be very small. Yes, we'd be free to travelwherever we wanted (without the need for passports, etc.), but mostlikely, absent the security that a political society provides, thelevel of industrial development would be so low that there would be nocars, no planes, no roads, etc. Even if there were roads, it would beso very dangerous to set out on them that I wouldn't dare risk it.Whereas now, my freedom to travel is worth something to me: I can drive(I have a car, I can buy fuel for it, there are roads!) confidently tothe airport (there are airports!) and take a plane (there's anaerospace industry!) to Reykjavik. The freedom to...

Is this a probable way to think about death?: the same "nothingness" we 'experience' before we are born and have memory is what we will 'experience' when we die. (It just makes sense to me - what about to whomever reads this?)

I agree with you that the state before you're born is like the state after you've died in that in neither will you exist. But I don't agree that these are states that we somehow experience. I note that you yourself place "experience" in scare quotes, indicating that perhaps it's not to be taken literally. And that's right: the period after you've died and before you're born is not a period in which you are around and having, how can we put it?, rather bland experiences. No. Before you're born and after you've died, there is no you to be the subject of any experience. Your birth brings that subject of possible experiences into being and your death terminates its being.

Why do many philosophers posit that there are no members in the set of necessary beings? There seem only two explanations if they are correct: 1) Necessary beings are logically possible, but none exist in this world or 2) Necessary beings are logically impossible. Explanation 1 seems untenable since if a necessary being exists in one world (is logically possible), then it must exist in all worlds (and thus this one) by virtue of its necessity. But explanation 2 (which seems likely the more preferred one) seems to do no better, since the set of necessary beings is made a subset of the set of impossible beings. While perhaps this is merely a trivial case, it still seems unsettling, if not contradictory. Is the existence of at least one necessary being necessary? Or is there some other explanation for how none could exist?

Just a quick comment on your remark about (2). If there are no necessary beings, then the set of necessary beings is empty. The empty set is a subset of every set. (Every element of the empty set is a member of any given set — since the empty set has no elements.) Hence, if there are no necessary beings, the set of necessary beings is indeed a subset of the set of impossible beings, just as it is a subset of any set. I'm not quite sure what an impossible being is, so I'm not quite sure what the set of impossible beings is. It sounds to me like it's another way of describing the empty set. But whatever the set of impossible beings is, we know that, if there are no necessary beings, then the set of necessary beings is a subset of it . I don't see any contradiction here.

The fact that we have eyes is proof that a consciousness was present, prior to our creation, which was aware of the existence of light. And while this truth does not confirm the existence of a God, doesn't it verify an intelligence older than our own?

No, our having eyes doesn't prove that at all. The theory of naturalselection provides an alternative explanation for how our visual systemdeveloped, an explanation that makes fewer assumptions than onethat appeals to a pre-existing "consciousness" (whose own existence andattributes don't require explaining?). For an entertaining expositionof this kind of explanation, you might read Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene .

How can we rationalise societal condoned killing like war and execution. Is our collective conscience so bereft of compassion that killing others in the cold light of day is ok, especially if our peers say it is?

I'm not sure those who hold that is is just to kill or execute people under certain circumstances believe this simply because "our peers say it is". That might explain why some people have formed this judgment, but it doesn't tell us why we ought to form the judgment, that is, tell us what's to be said in the judgment's defense. (See Question 367 for more on why this would be a problematic argument.) If you think it's wrong, it's worth trying to say why it's wrong. To begin with, you might try to get a sense of the contours of your moral judgments? For instance, do you think we're also "bereft of compassion" to deprive individuals of their freedom? For the remainder of their lives? For five years? Perhaps you'd be interested in Debating the Death Penalty , a collection of essays arguing both sides of the case.

Why is it that we can "think" about something such as breathing or blinking, but not about such things as, let's say, moving our fingers? (I have been thinking about this question for a long time now. Can someone please shed some light on this if they get what I am asking?)

I'm not sure I do quite get what you're after. Can't one think about moving one's fingers? Didn't you think about just that when you formulated your question? Is it that you believe that we don't have familiar concepts or words to describe the movements our fingers make, but we do to describe our breathing (e.g., exhaling , inhaling )? And absent such concepts/words, we can't form thoughts? But about the first: even if there is no single word in English for the movement my fingers make when I grasp my coffee mug, I can refer to that movement -- that's what I just did when I used the words "the movement my fingers make when I grasp my coffee mug". And if I can talk about that movement, then I can think about it too.