I am seeing a married man that had already started his divorce proceedings before we had our affair. His wife is a friend of mine and approves of our relationship because she still wants her husband around for advice and help but she is seeing other men and in fact has a stable relationship with one. I care for this man deeply and he has said he "loves me". From the beginning my guilt about being with a "married man" has haunted me from a religious point of view. I can't get around it. Now we are both in stressful situations where he is going to court (more than once because we are in Mexico and it takes a long time) and I am selling my house with a major issue with the closing. Since we have started to argue, I just want to break it up until his divorce goes through and my closing to get some breathing room. At this point, I don't even want to be with him. We were going to live together after I sold my house and feel this is a bad idea under the circumstances. In fact I feel my soul has been...

According to many (but perhaps not all) Christians and many secular philosophers (and persons of other faiths) marriage is fundamentally based on the vows that persons make to each other. So, for many Christians in the west, the church does not actually marry two persons; the church recognizes and proclaims (and blesses) the marriage. Insofar as "the married man" and his spouse have ended their vow (whether they think of this as breaking the vow or releasing each other from their vow), the marriage has ended, even if it is still a legal matter of divorce. One reason why the state has an interest in the legality of making and ending marriages is to protect persons from harm and insure fair benefits (e.g. see to it that there is proper child support and a fair distribution of property) that might not happen on a voluntary basis. Apart from such a legal matter, however, it sounds to me that the soul of his earlier marriage (so to speak) has been dissolved in virtue of the two of them releasing each other...

Is philosophy something that everyone uses? Should people use philosophy more, than they already do?

If by "philosophy" we mean something like having a view of reality and values then it is hard to imagine not having a philosophy. If we mean something more like "disciplined reflection on reality and values," then it also seems hard to imagine that doing more philosophy would be harmful. And if we go to the etymology of "philosophy" (from the Greek "philo," meaning "love" and "sophia" meaning "love") then it is (again) hard to imagine that doing philosophy would ever be bad. After all, if engaging in what we call philosophy was unwise, one should not do it. Coming at your question from a different angle: let's say we define philosophy in terms of this site: should more people engage in AskPhilosophers? I think so, but we need to balance our tasks and responsibilities in life. Should a single parent of 6 children who is also a physician and caring for parents in hospice care, spend lots of time on this site? Well, I would like to believe it might provide a bit of relief / distracting stimulation, but...

I'm leaning toward the position that there is little or no difference between advocacy and lying. Has any other philosopher discussed this in detail?

Check out Tom Carson's book Lying and Deception (Notre Dame University Press). It's brilliant. I am not sure why you are leaning to equate lying and advocacy. Maybe you have in mind the idea that when persons advocate for a cause or person they might be tempted to do *anything* on behalf of the cause or person. I will admit (and hope that my college administration is not reading this) that my advocacy on behalf of some students has led me to "stretch the truth" a bit (or lie), but this is rare! Check out Carson's book. It is brilliant.

A man has a full grain silo and he refuses to feed the starving village people who the starve to death. I know he’ll be absolved in a court of law but, isn’t it wrong to let people die when you have the means to save them?

Great question. You are right that, very often and in many places through history, there has been some reluctance to compel persons (through law) to save others when they are in a position to do so. This has included not just a reluctance to compel persons (as in your case) to provide food or other resources to aid others who would otherwise die from starvation, but compelling persons to physically aid others who are in peril (rescuing someone who is drowning, for example). Gradually, in the United Sates and elsewhere, there have emerged Good Samaritan Laws that require (and protect from liability) persons to make *some* effort to assist innocent persons in need (e.g. a passing health professional is expected to assist someone who has had a heart attack when no one else is available, and the professional knows basic means of reviving the victim), but these concern emergency situations. Be that as it may, there have been philosophers who prioritize the right to life over the right to property, opening the...

What is it to know what a thing is? Suppose I can identify a laurel tree by its smell, but not by the shape and colour of its leaves. Or the other way around. Do I know what a laurel tree is in each of these cases? Or suppose I am a scientist and can identify it by analysing its genome, but not by its smell nor by the shape and colour of the leaves... Suppose I know only or, on the contrary, do not know the uses people give to laurel leaves. How many properties of laurel must I know so that I can know what laurel is? I think I must know something, otherwise I wouldn't even know what the word"laurel" means. But what? It can't be just one small thing: I wouldn't say that I know what laurel is if I can identify it only by its smell.

Great question(s). I suggest that "the bottom line" philosophically in such matters involves whether your concept of a "laurel" enables you to identify the plant as distinct from other plants and things in general (including minerals, animals, computers,...). Another criterion that philosophers use involves identifying what features are necessary or sufficient for a thing to be what it is. Such an analysis will probably take shape in terms of differentiating a thing's essential characteristics from its accidental features. So, I assume that an essential feature of being laurel would be being a plant, but it would only be an accidental feature that the plant was used in ceremonies to make a kind of crown that was conferred on someone quite distinguished (a successful poet, say). Because things like laurels will have almost indefinitely many features (the way it tastes, the sound it makes or does not make, when harvested.....), we tend to prioritize what features are vital depending on the context. So, for...

My wife wants to retire to a gated community. I find the phrase to be an oxymoron, and believe that the whole gated project is morally flawed; for example, it can lead to us vs. them thinking, social stratification, etc. Is there an argument here, or just a personal preference?

Fascinating situation. And really important to resolve in a marriage or intimate relationship! There might be some interesting empirical evidence or social science that can shed light on the situation: my guess is that gated communities probably contain more persons who prize privacy than public works, the greater community or a nearby municipality, but this might or might not be backed up by social research. If I was in your situation, the most important factor for me would be to reach agreement on core values with my spouse. Perhaps she shares the same values you do, but either fears or has been the victim of violence / crime or (as a woman) she believe she is more likely to be assaulted than males, and so a gated community is preferred for her safety or she may feel the need to be more protective of both you and her and your family. If so, those may be good reasons (for her sake or for the sake of those values) to (perhaps reluctantly) joining the gated community as I would think one could offset...

Say the universe is natural (say it had 'natural' beginnings and there was no creator)... what should this mean for my life? If we took this a step further and said we are the products of some accidental RNA interaction and there is no soul or afterlife, what should this mean about an overall worldview? Am I to live happily? How am I to struggle through moments of toil - work hard in society - if there is no meaning?

The topic of the meaning of life is now very big among philosophers. Most non-theistic / atheistic philosophers would respond that even if there is no meaning or purpose OF or FOR life, there can be meaning IN life. So, even if all life is the result of purposeless, accidents, etc, there is no reason to not love other people, work as a doctor in society, be an artist, fight for justice. I agree, but it is worth considering that IF theism is true and the cosmos exists for goods (such as persons loving and caring for each other, etc) then perhaps life has even more meaning than if theism is false. This is a quick reply; for more nuanced reflection see T.J. Mawson's God and the Meaning of Life or The Purpose of Life by Stewart Goetz.

Why can’t I argue that God exists noncontingently and is an abstract object? Some say it is because abstract objects lack causal power, and thus to argue as such would deny God at least one essential characteristic which any interesting concept of God cannot lack—omnipotence. But why can’t abstract object possess causal power?

Interesting question. Some philosophers have attributed to abstract objects divine attributes like being eternal and timeless. Perhaps some abstract objects (like the properties of justice and beauty) might be worthy of worship. I have actually argued that abstract objects do have causal roles, so I am sympathetic with your inquiry! Their causal role (in my view) takes place in accounting for our intentionality and thinking. When you think about 1+1, the reason why you reason that 1+1=2 is that you grasp necessary relationships between numbers, which are abstract objects. Moreover, for some of us who think God exists non contingently, we suppose that there is the abstract state of affairs of there being a non contingent, necessarily existing God. And no less a philosopher than Plato suggests that the Good might be the source of what is. However while abstract objects might have some causal powers, few have thought they can have intentional powers (e.g. the property of justice as an abstract object...

Music is considered an art so can we consider the sound of the wind an art?

Great question. It might be made even more vexing if we compare the sound of wind with a musical piece in which musicians play instrumental music that resembles almost exactly the sound of wind. The chief reason why most of us would distinguish the two is because it is long held that works of art are artifactual: things (events or sounds) that are produced intentionally. The term "art" actually comes from the word "ars" which refers to the technique (techne) that is used to produce something. So, for most of history and today, the term "art" is short for "work of art" and because the sound of wind is (typically) not an intentionally produced to be a work (of art), the two are different. Still, we can imagine someone recording the sound of wind and then using this in an overall musical production. We can also imagine musical compositions intended only to be performed on windy day or during extreme weather conditions in which there is thunder and lightning. In such ways, artists might attune their...

I'm thinking about writing a book to teach kids philosophy, but I've run into a bit of a writer's block from the onset. I'm not sure whether to start with epistemology(theory of knowledge) or metaphysics(theory of reality). At first I thought about starting with epistemology, then metaphysics, on the grounds that people base their views on reality around knowledge. But then I realized that one's understanding of reality will often influence how they perceive knowledge. Which one is better to start with? Or perhaps is starting with one or the other inaccurate and should both be introduced at the same time?

I wish you great success in this project! For inspiration, you might look at the entry on philosophy for children on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The books by Gareth Matthews are particularly good and are reference in the SEP entry. I suggest you might begin with both metaphysics and epistemology. It is very difficult to do epistemology without some (presumed) metaphysical claims (there are observations / sensations / there is thinking / doubting...) and difficult to consider metaphysical claims without engaging in epistemology (what do we know -or have good reason to believe about observations / sensations / thinking / doubting). You might even begin the book with making the claim that while it is tempting to prioritize epistemology (for example) it is difficult to do without some commitments or assumptions about what there is. One blended way of practicing philosophy with both epistemology and metaphysics can be found in the tradition of so-called critical common sense philosophy as...

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