Would society be better off if no one could inherit money? If everyone had to make their own start in life?

An affirmative answer might put us on a rather slippery slope. What about the gift of money prior to death? Would you prohibit a parent paying for a child's education? And why just money? Would you prohibit all inheritance, from a farm to a sentimental photograph? It seems that in a general sense of the word "inherit" it is difficult for persons not to inherit all kinds of things (good or bad) from parents / family / care-givers (getting one's own start in life, then, is not easy, for others will invariably have had a hand in each person making a start) and so long as you allow for gift-giving among the living it is hard to see why one would prohibit someone willing that, when she dies, some of her belongings go to her children. So, there are some reasons to hesitate in giving an unqualified affirmative answer to your question(s), but there are also some reasons in a democratic republic which prizes fairness for moderating inheritance to prevent or at least discourage vast amounts of dynastic wealth...

What is an interest? I mean it in the sense in which I have an interest in having an answer from you.

Great question! Someone else will be better at replying to this, but I will take a first shot to get the ball rolling. I do not think the term "interest" has a standard, clear usage, though I think it is probably most generally equated with a preference or perhaps a desire. So, your having an interest in a reply to your question would be the same as your having a desire or preference that someone give you an interesting answer. "Interesting" (I assume) means worthy of interest. In this sense, if someone is uninterested in X it does not follow that X is uninteresting. A few more distinctions: Philosophers sometimes distinguish the interests that a person has and what is in a person's interest. In this sense, a person may be interested in drinking vast quantities of vodka, but it is not in that person's interest to do so. We also sometimes think in terms of hypothetical or ideal interests. Someone may mistakenly think a glass of liquid is water and report "I am interested in drinking that"...

Does writing a book or making a film render a hard copy of (part of) one's mind outside the brain? Are these two products as close as one can get to making one's mind accessible to others?

Without getting into the technicalities of philosophy of mind, I suggest that there is a general sense in which you give other people access to your mind any time you are honestly disclosive and expressive of your thoughts, feelings, desires. Films and books may be disclosive of the mind of the author / director, but they also may obscure and mask a person's inner thoughts. Actually, you might consider flipping around the question and ask whether it makes some sense to think of works of art having a mind of their own. Arguably, this is all a matter of metaphorical attributions, but in our experience of art works can't we sometimes pick up a mood or emotion (there is anger or passion or desire in that film / book / painting, for example). John Updike once remarked that he thought books should have at least one secret. Of course one may interpret that as Updike claiming that the author should perhaps not be completely disclosive of all aspects of the plot and characters. But what about considering...

Does Philosophy have a truth claiming capability? And if so are the truth claims of Philosophy somehow unique?

Interesting. Much of philosophy does consist in making and assessing claims about what is and what ought to be the case (is there a God? is there free will? what is justice? do we human beings have moral obligations to future generations or nonhuman animals or...? and so on). And in seeking answers to such inquiry philosophers may draw on science, history, literature, logic, phenomenology and so on. Though philosophy also consists of inquiry into the very concept of truth, the limits of inquiry, and the challenge of skepticism. I suggest that the truth claims you find in philosophy are, in one sense, not unique and are like the truth claims you find in other domains. One philosopher (a theist) may claim there is a God, while an atheist philosopher claims there is no God; this is not unlike a historian claiming that Marco Polo visited China and another historian claiming that is false. But philosophy does seem to take on unique sorts of questions. Some of these concern the underpinnings of different...

I have recently stumbled upon a short book written by the Catholic theologian named Peter Kreeft. He deductively argued for Jesus’ divinity through an approach he summarized as “Aut deus aut homo malus.” (Either God or a Bad Man.) Basically, his argument works only on the assumption made by most historians. Jesus was a teacher, he claimed divinity, and was executed. So, assuming this is true he says Jesus must’ve been one of three things. One possibility is that he was a liar. He said he was divine even though he knew it was not true. Another possibility is that he was insane. He believed he was divine even though he wasn’t. The final possibility is that he was telling the truth and he was correct. He was divine. He goes through and points out that Jesus shows no symptoms of insanity. He had no motive for lying. In fact, he was executed because of his claims. That gives him a motive to deny his divinity, which he apparently was given a chance to do by according to the Jewish and Roman sources on the...

I disagree with Smith's (as usual) and George's reply because they fail to take into account the context of debate and argument. This is easy to do, I suppose, especially for those who think the framework of debate is so skewed against theism. If you adopt what Smith elsewhere describes as "cheerful atheism" then of course he will laugh and laugh at thinking the Kreeft argument can have any credence, but that is because he gives no credence to theism. An assessment of Christ's claims (or the claims by Christians about Christ) has to take place in the context of a broad inquiry that takes theism (and atheism) seriously. I happen to think there are good philosophical grounds to think theism is more reasonable than its most promising alternative (naturalism) and given that broader position reasoning like Kreeft's has credibility. I recommend Richard Swinburne four books, beginning with The Coherence of Theism and The Existence of God (which seem to me to overturn J.L. Mackie's The Miracle of Theism)...

Why in the western hemisphere are most text books only engaged with western thought, and very few with a mixture of both western and eastern? I am taking a class now that only focus is to prescribe to the western view, this is all the course reading consist of. For me this causes a great gulf, because of the dominance of European thought. Not even Confucious is mentioned on any of the reading, this really is paradoxical.....

Good question. This is indeed unfortunate. I believe most (if not all) philosophers in the English-speaking world today will have at least one other language, though I wager that for the majority of us that other language is not Asian (in my case my other languages are Greek and French). This need not impair a philosopher taking on Asian themes (I have taught philosophy of religion in English in Hong Kong), but some of us are reluctant to claim (to use your example) expertise or a deep grounding in Confucianism without being able to read Chinese. The two philosophers on my campus who specialize in Indian thought both know Sanskrit. As for the rest of us, not knowing the languages may not be a good excuse (maybe I should learn Chinese). And as more and more Asian (and African and Arabic) texts are being translated with commentaries, philosophy in the classroom is likely to be more global in the future. We are already seeing a concerted effort at more global coverage in all the new encyclopedias of...

I'm religious, but I'm also gay. My church teaches that homosexual relationships are immoral. They say that this is what God has told us and they back it up with scriptures and revelation from God given to my current church leaders. I have a hard time accepting that homosexuality is immoral. I don't see why people should be denied consenting, intimate, long-term relationships. So, here's the question that I need to find a solution to: Should I deny believing what I think is right to comply with what my church leaders say God thinks is moral?

Following up on Heck: The church I attend (Episcopal) is quite welcoming to gays. The associate pastor (and for many years my confessor) is a Lesbian priest. There are substantial support groups for homosexual Christians in different denominations. While Richard Swinburne is a Christian philosopher who has serious reservations on the merits of homosexuality, his book Revelation provides a goof philosophical framework within which to take Dr. Heck's advice and see the meaning of the Bible / revelation as something that is on-going and progressive.

If there is no proof that god exists, is there any evidence that he does and what form would this evidence take to be worthy of philosophical examination?

And I might commend my own Philosophy of Religion: A Beginner's Guide (Oneworld Press, Oxford) and Dialogues about God (Rowman and Littlefied) for a review of many of the arguments that seek to address the existence of God from the standpoint of evidence.

I'm a first year student of philosophy at UCLA, and I am interested primarily in philosophy of religion. I've just taken an introductory logic course which covered symbolization, sentential logic, and quantification. There are numerous other logic courses offered through the department, including metalogic, modal logic, etc, and I was wondering if AskPhilosophers could recommend a logic course to take? More specifically, I want to take a logic course that is related or will aid me in my studies in philosophy of religion. Maybe modal logic, since it deals with necessity and possibility? Thanks.

Contra Smith, I congratulate you on having an interest in philosophy of religion, one of the most exciting areas of philosophical inquiry. Actually, many who have been drawn to philosophy have often begun with a fascination with philosophical reflection on religion (Colin McGinn's autobiography notes his first being drawn to philosophy of religion by his encounter with the ontological argument). It is impossible to take seriously the history of philosophy without undertaking philosophy of religion or undertaking deep study of philosophical work on ideas that are religiously significant. For a history of philosophy of religion in the modern era, you might check out my book Evidence and Faith; Philosophy and religion since the seventeenth century. It provides a good sourse book for future study of this rich area of inquiry. As for logic, yes, I think modal argument is great.

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