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Is there any general concern among academic philosophers that Richard Dawkins' amateurish treatment of philosophy in 'The God Delusion' might be giving the false impression to the general public that complex debates in the philosophy of religion can be knocked down in a few pages of popular writing? Surely this is highly misleading, and obscures deep debates in academic philosophy.

Yes, and not only Dawkins. but lots of scientists think wrongly that they have solved longstanding philosophical issues with their theories. I suppose the difference between a scientific theory and a philosophical theory is not that easy to grasp, especially after a difficult day looking at a test tube or doing nasty things to laboratory animals, but it is important nonetheless.

Should the first amendment cover the right to advocate violence? If a person honestly believes that assassinating the president is justified shouldn't that person have the right to express their opinion? I'm a little uncomfortable with the idea that the government should restrict that or ANY kind of political speech. I think that all political speech should be permitted perhaps especially ideas that radically oppose the current state of affairs and I can't think of a more fundamental way of opposing the system than the idea of a violent overthrow of the government or an administration and one which specifies explicitly what that would entail.

I remember in the 1960's there were many political philosophers who argued that the state tolerated opposition provided that it was ultimately not going to threaten the status quo. When liberals complimented their society for its freedom those opposed to them would say that the freedom only extended as far as allowing non-revolutionary change. In fact the latter sometimes suggested that the toleration of opposition was repressive, since it directed what would otherwise be radical demands for change into something more amenable to social cohesion. Whatever one thinks of such a theory, the idea that people should be free to say absolutely anything at all has recently been challenged by the Charlie Hebdo events, and in many countries there is legislation forbidding people from saying things that are held to be offensive by others since that might lead to violence. Are we not entitled to demand a level of respect for other people and their beliefs? If I have a Jewish neighbor and I greet him each...

i loved a guy since one year..i felt he was my life and god.i was so true to him and so he was.we were physically close.we had many dreams about our future,kids,etc.but an unexpected incident happened.his father came to know about our affair.he was completely against our marriage.he threatened his son that he would send him out of the house forever and never talk to him in his life time.we had no choice, but to break. all my dreams were shattered.if i remain unmarried in my life, i would suffer from lonliness, so , i decided to marry the guy shown by my parents(arranged marriage, as i am an Indian girl). Now the problem is, i am guilt struck , i feel that i am cheating the guy whom i am going to marry.i wont reveal to him about my past affair. He marries me with trust onn me and my family.but, i don’t deserve his trust.i feel that moving closely with a man other than my husband as a sin, but everything was unexpected. I believed strongly that i would marry the person i loved, hence i was close to him...

It is not unusual for there to be conflicts in life, and for us to have obligations to different people which cannot be reconciled. In that sort of situation you should expect whatever decision you take is going to leave you with regrets and doubts about whether you have done the right thing. I understand how guilt can arise here, and how inevitable such feelings are, but what is left out of your account is what would make you happy. You do have a duty to listen to the concerns of other people but many philosophers would say that you also have a duty to yourself to be happy. You might want to think seriously how in this situation your happiness is going to find a place, since it seems to me that the desire to be a martyr is likely to satisfy no-one in the long run.

Commentators on the Holocaust often refer to the oft cited justification "just following orders" as a paltry excuse. But given that "just following orders" can often mean that a person must choose to follow orders or face legal consequences or death isn't that a pretty good excuse? We generally don't judge a person who is acting under duress in the same way as someone who isn't. Maybe when commentators reference this phrase they are only citing the most egregious cases where it was used, but I can't help but feel that these commentators are glossing over the moral complexity involved in cases where a person is said to be "following orders".

It is certainly true that moral philosophers recognize that people who are in receipt of orders are operating under duress, and this may play some part in excusing their behavior. The fact that one is under duress does not necessarily excuse everything that is done, though. The evidence of what happened in the Holocaust suggests that people who did not want to carry out the various atrocities that went on did not suffer as a consequence. In fact, most of the participants were enthusiastic and profited directly from their cruel conduct. Even where this is not the case, many would refuse to do something immoral even if the consequences are serious for the agent. Utilitarians might contemplate the balance between the pains and pleasures involved, but from the point of view of deontologists there are many situations where the fact that the agent will suffer if he or she does something evil would be irrelevant to the issue of whether they should do it or otherwise. If it is wrong you do not do it...

Is it fair to label childhood religious indoctrination as abuse ? at the moment in any given society it's seen as the norm , I often wonder will future generations look back in astonishment at this practice .

I don't think so, since it is really difficult to indoctrinate anyone in anything, if by that one means that it is very hard to change your mind on the issue later on. As we know, children brought up to be religious often abandon the religion and vice versa. Religious parents may say that bringing their children up within their faith gives them an appropriate background to decide when they are older what attitude to take to the religion. Obviously the parents hope it will be a committed attitude. Should they not though just do nothing with the children and allow them when older to decide on what if any religion to pursue? The trouble with this is that a religion is more than just a set of doctrines, it is a way of life, and children need to experience this before they can make an informed decision. It is a bit like learning a language. It is useful to be brought up within a language community, and when one is an adult you can decide if you want to continue using that language, or perhaps would it be...

Just what is exploitation? Is it not unequal agreements between two parties in which one has a higher status than the other in which the lower of the parties agrees to a social or legal contract merely for the possibility of future equality or future hypothetical greater status? Is not the unequal ability of one person to capitalize on another the very definition of exploitation and why is it so bad? In other words, does social Darwinism dictate our lives whether we like it or know it or not?

I am sure you are right that the strong tend to prevail over the weak, if that is what you mean by social Darwinism.But that does not mean it is justified. If parties need to come to an agreement then they should freely choose what is in that agreement, and any imbalance of power is likely as you say to interfere with this. It is not necessarily bad since what the stronger party wants to do may be in the best interests of everyone, or it may be the most just action overall. On the other hand, it is likely to be whatever the stronger party thinks is in its interests, and that is unlikely to be fair. That is what is wrong with exploitation.

I just can't get my head around what Kant means by "transcendental" in the term "transcendental idealism". Can you help? Also, Kant CAN"T be serious suggesting that we create space and time! If I create it, how did YOU get in my space-time and I in yours? After all, we're talking to, and recognizing each other. (Not sure I'm even understanding this really). Also, idealism seems, as Popper says somewhere, very anthropomorhic. We think we are so special, so crucial to reality. My, we are quite full of ourselves.---Baffled.

Transcendental idealism does not mean that we create our own ideas, but that we can only apply them to our experience. That is, we can only know they apply to our experience, since what counts as objective knowledge is defined in terms of them. We cannot say whether those ideas extend anywhere beyond our experience, that would be transcendent realism, and transcendental idealism is far less ambitious. It just claims that what we call an object has to be characterized by particular categories of thought and those categories can only be used by us to describe experience, nothing else. It is anthropomorphic in the sense that the rules of what counts as an object for human beings is indeed limited to human beings. We are not crucial to reality, but what we call reality has to be based on our ideas of it. It is in fact a very restrictive and limited principle. We cannot say whether what we call objects really exist outside of our approach to the world, since our ideas stop at experience. Not a lot to be...

Would you consider a 16 year old an adult, i.e. a rational agent who is capable of of making decisions on their own? To what extent can you hold a 16 year old, or similarly aged person, accountable for their actions?

There are plenty of rational and responsible young people and just as many adults who clearly are not capable of making their own decisions. States have to posit an age when certain activities can be legally carried out because they use generalizations about how most people are at those ages, but these are just generalizations. Whatever the law says, we should judge individuals case by case where rational action is at issue.

Do people have something like a right to have children? What would be the basis or justification for such a right?

It might be argued that people who want to have children and cannot then fail to live the lives they choose for themselves, and since other things being equal children are generally taken to be a good thing, their efforts should be supported. After all, we are naturally designed to have children, as members of a species that reproduces, but not everyone can have children at all, or not without complicated procedures. Whether this should count as a right is an interesting question. It is a bit like the right not to have children, where otherwise one would. It is often argued that if having a child is not something welcomed by someone who is pregnant then they have the right to discontinue the pregnancy by removing the fetus. There are two interesting aspects of rights language here. If someone has a right to something, then someone else, like the state, has the duty to support them in exercising that right. The other pertinent remark is that rights language has tended to replace the idea that one...

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