Following the recent tragic events in Japan there has been a "wave" of jokes and puns on the internet about the earthquake and tsunami. Is it morally acceptable to joke about something so serious and tragic? Should ethical people be outraged at photoshopped pictures showing Godzilla as the true source of the tsunami or at bad puns about waves?

I don't think it is morally acceptable to joke about tragedies. While I know that it is part of the orthodoxy amongst comics to try and be edgy, perhaps even to try and shock, cracking jokes about thousands of people being killed and thousands upon thousands more losing their homes certainly evinces a lack of compassion and humanity. I don't have a syllogism to proof this but I think that finding entertainment in tsunamis, or maybe next, the holocaust, makes us more indifferent to others and is bad for the soul.

Aside from reading, learning, and getting good grades. What are the best things an undergraduate in philosophy can do to make their prospects for getting into grad school better?

It depends in part on what field you want to go into but apart from studying for the GRE etc make sure to develop strong mentoring relationships with a professor or two. You will need strong and detailed references. Also, work diligently on your writing- which entails reading you work aloud with someone.

Is it ethical to live a lifestyle of luxury when that lifestyle relies on exploitation and unjust inequalities?

I suppose you could go the "it depends on what you mean by ethical route", but I would prefer a simple - of course not . And yet over the course of American history the robber barons and hall of fame exploiters inevitably become major philanthropists. They destroy lives to build their fortunes and then are pinned with medals for endowing universities and founding museums. But the virtuoso of money making who uses others to fill his or her coffers is not a morally virtuous individual, even when they have streets and buildings named in their honor.

What do you philosophers think of when non-philosophers step into your turf? Are "pop-philosophers" (for lack of a better term, I don't see the "man on the street" going hooplah over what Putnam or Kripke says) worth reading or do they have any good philosophical value at all? What do you philosophers think of Dawkins commenting on God which I believe is your turf? What do you philosophers think of when Stephen Hawking says that philosophy is dead?

I also don't think of philosophy as turf - nor do I think that teaching philosophy or studying philosophy necessarily makes you a lover and possessor of wisdom. I also find it irksome when some in the field act as though philosophy profs are the ones who have access to the so-called deeper issues in specific issues- as though philosophers could explain to an Einstein what he really meant.

Hello: Almost two years ago -in January 2009- I was supposed to marry my fiancé with whom I have had a five-year relationship. Three weeks before our wedding, I just called her and cancelled everything over the telephone. That was a very mean and coward thing to do. I inflicted a serious emotional harm on her (and on myself too). A couple of months after I did such an awful thing (I can’t find a better word for that kind of action) I called her to apologize for what I have done. I explained her that I committed such a grave error because I was terrified of getting married. I wanted her back, but she refused me. Since then I’ve tried to gain her love again, but she just do not care for me anymore. I accept that as a fair outcome for my reckless behavior. I just deserve to be refused by my ex fiancé. What I haven’t been able to do until now is to cope with my regrets and my endless sense of guilt. I just can’t believe that I did what I did. I feel awful and unworthy of anything. I don’t need a priest...

If a friend were to tell you the poignant story that you relate I doubt that you would tell them that there ought to be no end to their guilt, that getting spooked by marriage and backing out is a sin that can never be forgiven. Think of yourself as a friend. You apologized many times. You have suffered.You did not by any means destroy your former fiance. Truly, it would be irrational to keep torturing yourself and if it is irrational no amount of reason is going to assuage the guilt. Perhaps though it isn't all guilt. Emotions are not as easy to individuate as things in the world. Perhaps there is a strong admixture of regret for not being with her, of missing her and feeling alone, maybe that is what you need to deal with the most and that could be very hard and painful. I hope very much that you get your soul back- it sure sounds as though you have a lot of it.

I was taught by my parents, as a young boy, that I should never hit first, but that if anyone hurt me, I should hit back, to show them I wasn't worth messing with. This is basically how I dealt with violence until the fifth or sixth grade; I don't remember ever starting a fight, but I was picked on often because I was bilingual, and when push came to shove, I shoved. I always got into trouble with teachers when I fought back, and came to believe that they supported bullying because they never helped me when I was being bullied; I felt alienated, and didn't trust the teachers at all. Yet I remember what happened when I stopped hitting back, and just turned the other cheek: nobody helped me then, either, and I found myself defenseless against bullies who harassed me because of my bilingualism and my good grades - and because I was a "pussy" who wouldn't hit back. My girlfriend and I recently had a frank discussion about our future plans, and we would like to have children in the next few years, if...

There are different forms of violence- some physical, some verbal. It has been my experience that there are some angry and aggressive people whom you need to stand up to - if only to help them control themselves. I suggest that you get you future child involved in the practice of one or another martial arts from the beginning. People who feel like they can defend themselves, who feel grounded in themselves are less defensive, less easily threatened than others-- and as a result much less inclined to anger and violence. So, if your aim is to raise a non-violent, loving kid, be loving and nurturing, and get him or her boxing from an early age.

Why is there such a taboo in society about children and sexual content? It seems quite odd to me that we attempt to hide something so fundamental from children. Is it really the case that children, even very young children, are somehow harmed by knowledge of sex, or that they are too immature to comprehend the material? Isn't it more likely that lack of knowledge about sex could lead to unsafe experimentation in early adolescence (or even before, for especially precocious children)? Children seem to have a natural marked disinterest or repulsion about the nature of sex in any case; does hiding even moderately suggestive images and language, dressing up natural processes such as childbirth in misleading euphemistic fairy tales, and cultivating a general atmosphere of awkwardness and embarrassment when discussing sex around children actually help anyone? For my part, natural curiosity caused me to gain a working knowledge of the mechanics of sex from a biology textbook at age 7, so perhaps I am simply odd.

Freud would certainly agree with your concerns but disagree with the notion that children do not have an interest in sex. I think there is a sense that children would not be able to integrate certain kinds of detailed information about sexual life but I'm not sure why we would want to conceal the facts about reproduction. Adults clearly have their own interests in imagining that there is a non sexual time in life- a time of innocence.

I am thirteen years old and I do not understand the world. In terms of world hunger, how can one possibly find happiness in their lives when such tragedies exist? Approximately 24,000 thousand people starved to death today, and three billion people live with under two dollars every day. For one to continue their lives as normal, or even not give any care, would this be the equivalence of starving someone yourself since you have the power to make a difference, yet you are choosing not to? And is the root cause of poverty a lack of equality within the world, or are specific governments not running thing effectively? For people that are not actively practicing compassion, would that make you a horrible person for not wanting to aleviate the extent of pain and suffering that so many have to endure day after day?

A very good question - how can we happy in this world of seemingly boundless suffering? Of course, we could always get into the "it all depends what you mean by happiness" semantics game but lets not go there. Whatever the good life is, it will have to include a connection with other humans and a real feeling for their suffering. Maybe part of the good life would involve letting that suffering into your heart and making you a more compassionate person. Sinking into depression or despair over it would be rather narcisstic. A few random points, I think it is important of recognize that there are psychological as well as physical limitations in life-- on our capacity to care. It might also be important to remember to address the pain of the people sitting right next to you. In every class that I teach I find that about 20 percent of students are going through some very very hard stuff- parents dieing that kind of thing. So don't forget the person next to you in the face of world hunger. Finally, don't...

All human activities seem to have dramatic, defining, pivotal moments. Take basketball : 1987 Game 5 Celtics v. Pistons. Dennis Rodman rejects Larry Bird with 5 seconds left. Pistons take the ball. All they need to do is inbound the ball and hold it and they take a 3-2 series lead home. Instead, Larry steals Isiah's inbound pass and the Celtics win. Wow. Of course there are many such moments in sports. What are the equivalent moments in Philosophy? What Philosopher, finally, in what paper, knocked down a prevalent theory held for 1,000 years? That kind of thing. Can a few of you contribute your favorite moments in the history of philosophy?

Descartes ""cogito" ( I think, therefore, I am ) was certainly a walk off home run. It provided the foundation for a new approach to philosophy based purely on the examination of consciousness. This, however, was certainly not an uncontroversial move. Kant's transcendental approach was also a half court shot. That is, the idea of responding to problems in epistemology with the strategy of thinking - what must the cosmos be like in order for knowledge to be possible? There are actually quite a few moments like this in the history of philosophy. But few, I suppose, in which something was established in some incontrovertible fashion.

Pages