Hi! In Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' she states 'context is all.' Does this mean there is no such thing as truth? Thank you!

One of the greatest philosophers on totalitarian states, Hannah Arendt observes that in totalitarian states, "truth" and even "empirical facts" are relative to the needs of the state. In such a setting, Arendt notes (and I agree with her) almost nothing is so absurd that people cannot be coerced to believe it or profess (or act as though) it is true. So, I think the answer to your question is (sadly) "yes" in terms of the culture, but in reality, I think the question is "no" in the sense that truth and falsehood (from a realist philosophical point of view) cannot be subject to state control. The state cannot make it the case that 1+1=3 (though see Orwell's 1984, and check our Arendt's book Origins of Totalitarianism. published in 1951).

Is it easier to love or be loved? I have tried to be loved by people, but I usually get pushed away. I guess I'll never be loved. All I can do is love and take care of other people.

When you write "I guess I'll never be loved," I think you might be able to change that right now. You can love yourself. You may already have proper self-love, but if not, self-love and acceptance can be an important means to finding love with others. I am pretty sure that if I lack self-love and instead hate myself, I am probably not in a good position of being in a loving relationship with another person: I might be baffled with thoughts like "why does she love me when I know that I am not worthy of attention, let alone love?" Philosophers have come up with various philosophies of love and this site would not be big enough to fill all these positions out. But I can record an answer to your first question by a famous philosopher, Kierkegaard. He thought it was easier to love than to be loved. To love, you do not have to depend on how your beloved responds. You can love him or her without requiring or expecting love in return. Of course that can also be a hard, non-compensatory love. It is,...

What do we mean by the assurance, "It's not personal"? Why is that supposed to mollify us?

Great question! It might mean different things in different contexts! When a firefighter tells you this after rescuing you, she is probably trying to prevent you from thinking she is the new love in your life. "It's all part of the job" sort of thing. In the context of philosophy, the expression probably comes up when one philosopher is criticizing another. Aristotle says something like he has loyalty to Plato (his teacher for 20 years) but he loves truth more. He might have said: "Plato. My not accepting your theory of ideas and the soul is not personal." I suppose the expression conveys (on occasion) that mutual affection, even close friendship, is not a guarantee of agreement or loyalty to the views and arguments at issue. In that sense, while the expression may not "mollify" it might be intended to convey the message that disagreement does not mean personal disrespect or (even) lack of love for the persons involved. Still, I am drawn to the (at least general) idea that philosophers should...

Good morning, Please give me your perspective on the following topic Theological determinism and free will. Theological determinism seems to imply that I am not truly free if God is omnipotent and has infallible foreknowledge. After all, if God knows in advance that I will steal a car, it seems as though I am destined to do so, and that I am actually not responsible (God's fault, I am absolved of morally unacceptable behaviour). Some (Christian) Philosophers would probably argue to the contrary. They might say that God's foreknowledge does not imply that I am destined to act in a certain way, as God's foreknowledge only means that he knows what I will freely choose to do. Had I chosen to freely act in another way, his foreknowledge would have anticipated that as well. My own thought is that this argument merely implies that our Free-Will is an illusion. A simple thought experiment to support that is : If God decided to reveal some of his infallible foreknowledge to me, such as, for example, that I...

Thank you for your excellent question and observations. While I am inclined toward what is known as open theism (in accord with work by William Hasker) which essentially denies that divine omniscience includes truths about future free action (referred to sometimes as future, free contingents), I am (for the most part) agnostic about whether omniscience of the future would indeed show free will to be an illusion or provide evidence for fatalism. The reason why I am inclined to open theism is because I suspect that what you and I as free agents will do tomorrow is under-determined. It has not yet happened that tomorrow you will (freely) buy a red car. HOWEVER, if we adopted some form of 4 dimensionalism, according to which all times are equally real, and it is true that (say) in 2018 you are freely buying a red car (and so the event of your free action is the result of your free action at that time), then I suggest God's knowing that would not violate your free action. Your point about what would...

As a believer, I think that theism is more reasonable than atheism although I think that atheists can have good reasons to believe that their worldview is true. Is this position rational? Put in another way, is it possible for me to claim that my worldview is the correct one while granting that the opposite worldview can be as reasonable as the one I hold to be true?

I hope you are right for I while I am a Christian philosopher (or a philosopher who is a Christian) I believe that many of my friends and colleagues who are atheists or agnostics or who accept Islam or a non-theistic view of God (as my Hindu philosopher colleague and friend) are just as reasonable as I am in the sense that each of them has intellectual integrity and has spent at least as much time intelligently reflecting on their convictions, earnestly seeking the truth in such matters. Still, I think each of us needs to hold that the reasons that justify our different beliefs are not defeated (undermined) by the reasons for incompatible beliefs. An atheist might be able to acknowledge that I am just as reasonable as she is, but she cannot (in my view) think that her reasoning is undermined by the evidence or reasoning that I undertake. Alternatively, consider a Christian-Muslim exchange (something I am deeply committed to). I accept a traditional Christian understanding of God incarnate on the basis...

Florida legislators will soon introduce a bill legalizing open carry for firearms. If the advance information is correct, it will be legal to carry even in government buildings where we conduct the public's business. Can't one argue that a person who is obviously armed may well intimidate others who hold positions different from him/her? Put another way, those who carry carry an advantage in an arena where everyone, in theory, aspires to a level playing field. Should the aforementioned corruption of the political process be part of the conversation?

Excellent question. I am overwhelmingly sympathetic with the suggestion that this would count as illicit intimidation and there would be a presumptive case to ban guns in government buildings in which there are public forums, but I suspect this might put us on a slippery slope. I can imagine that persons might be threatened in government buildings by others who enter fully dressed up as black belt marshall artists or who come with military medals honoring them as expert killers (with knives, say, rather than guns) or simply a person comes into a building who has a huge reputation for physically harming (without using guns) those who disagree with him. Still, I think there are probably reasons for us to lower the standards of when a person might carry a firearm and be illicitly threatening (and perhaps subject to discipline, fine or expulsion). So, imagine that there is a debate on flag burning, and the person who wants to make flag burning illegal puts his hand on his gun and says something like "It...

Hi, I had a question about the nature of free will. Is it a fair interpretation to say that we actually do not have free will because we are limited in the choices that we can make? For example, say that I really want a blue book, and given complete freedom, I would buy myself one, but for whatever reason today there are only red and black books available in my price range. I can only choose from two options that I did not want, and so my selection of book is limited by my external choices. Is this a silly interpretation? Thanks, Hayley

Good question, Hayley. What the case you describe brings to light is that free will is best understood with respect to a set of alternatives and not with respect to an unlimited range of possibilities. Being free with respect to purchasing a red or black book (or make no purchase at all) is still a bona fide case of freedom, even though "you can't always get what you want" (the Rolling Stones were right on that point). Philosophers have sought to address such cases. Consider a case from Aristotle: imagine a sea captain in the midst of a storm throwing her cargo into the sea. Is she doing so freely? In a sense, she is, but in a sense she is not. She would prefer not to, but unless she does, she, her crew, and ship will sink. This is a case when we would hedge an easy reply to questioning whether the sea captain acted with (to use your term) "complete freedom."

Being that Christianity teaches that Jesus is Lord of all of our lives, and this therefore means that He determines how we should live, do you think that God could therefore ask us to stop studying or practicing philosophy? Could surrendering our lives to Christ entail the end of one's philosophical studies?

Being a Christian and a philosopher, I hope not! "Philosophy" comes for the Greek for the love of wisdom, and given that Christianity, like Judaism, supports a rich tradition of wisdom (see, for example, "The Book of Wisdom" in the Hebrew Bible), to think God / Christ would ask us to cease being philosophical seems as likely to me as being asked to stop breathing or to only listen to Bach. But you are on to a good point in asking about when traditions or institutions or when philosophy itself might limit or caution us about the practice of philosophy. Presumably there are all kinds of practical, common sense conditions when it would be good to stop doing philosophy in the sense of, for example, debating some point on how to interpret Kant when engaged in rescuing people who are drowning (unless you are rescuing a Kantian and discussing Kant will calm the person down). We also might allow that while Socrates is commonly praised for giving up his life for his practice of philosophy, sometimes even a...

Hi! I'm someone who strongly dislikes Trump, but I also feel that I ought be loyal to whomever is President. What I wanted to ask is -- should loyalty be considered a virtue, or is it inherently a silly, irrational thing, and closer to being a vice? Could it, for instance, be responsible for partisanship and disunity? I've read that 90% of people who identified as Republican and voted, voted for Trump: is unthinking loyalty to a political party (if indeed that was one of the factors here) an evil?

Tough question(s). There is a recent book with Cambridge University Press by Simon Keller, The Limits of Loyalty (2007), that is highly critical of loyalty. While I am not as critical of loyalty as Keller, he highlights enough cases (real and imaginary) in which loyalty goes wrong that I suggest loyalty should be seen as having secondary value. That is, if some person or good or cause is good, then being loyal to that person or good or cause is itself good, but if some person or ill or cause is wicked, then loyalty would be bad (or a vice). On this view, unthinking loyalty to a political party is (minimally) at least risky (if, it happens that the party is good, great, but it could be awful, if the party is terrible). As for being loyal to (soon to be) President Trump, you might think that you are not so much loyal to the person, as you are loyal to the United States of America or to the democratic process or to the ideals of the Constitution or to the office of the Presidency.

Are there good reasons to believe in God?

I believe that there are. I find versions of the cosmological and teleological arguments convincing, as well as an argument from religious experience. You might check out on the free online Stanford Encyclopedia the entry The Cosmological Argument and the entry Philosophy of Religion. The latter will also go through arguments against the reasonability of believing in God. At the risk of being horrifically self-promoting, you might look at the 2016 book Contemporary Philosophical Theology I co-authored with Chad Meister. It is not apologetics; that is, it is not written to convince readers of theism. It seeks also to present reasons behind atheism, non-theistic forms of Hinduism and Buddhism, secular naturalism. But we also advance reasons for thinking that theism (belief that there is a God) is a live option that reasonable, intelligent persons may reject, but also reasonable, intelligent persons may accept.

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