Hello. A roll of dice is supposed to be the perfect example of randomness, but it's easy to see how you might go about explaining why someone got a 1 instead of 6. The die was this way up when it hit the table at this angle, it had this amount of force, there were certain weight imbalances that caused it to spin this way rather than that, etc. So is there really such a thing as chance, or is that just the word we use for when something is too complex for us to disentangle all the cause and effect that goes into it?

Good question. In fact, most people who work on these matters wouldn't agree that a roll of a die is a perfect example of randomness. And you are quite right: we believe that if we knew enough about the prevailing conditions when the die was rolled (and if we could do the calculations!) we could figure out how the die would land. That convinces many people that dice rolls aren't really chance events at all, though not everyone agrees. The issues about "deterministic chance" tend to get technical, but they have partly to do with the amount of complexity involved in disentangling the causes and effects. But your question still stands whatever our view on whether determinism and chance can somehow fit together. That question is: are all apparent examples of chance cases where a complete account of the details would determine the outcome of the supposedly "chance" process? The answer is a solid "Maybe not." The reason is quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics, as you may know, is a theory in which...

Does the following successfully establish a presumption of strong global atheism? "Define strong global atheism as the view that there is no god. There is a presumption of strong global atheism because theists propose the addition of a supernatural entity (a god) to what is already known to exist (the natural world). That is, theists make an extraordinary claim, and extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. In the absence of such evidence, strong global atheism is warranted."

I'd say no. (By the way, I'm not sure what "strong global" adds to "atheism," but let that pass.) The trouble is that the argument begs the question against various forms of theism. To state the most obvious problem, there are plenty of theists who think that God is already known to exist and has been for millennia. Now perhaps these theists are wrong, but in this context one can't simply assume that without argument. Nor could you expect the theist simply to agree that knowledge of God is "extraordinary" compared to knowledge of the natural world. This is a topic that Alvin Plantinga has discussed extensively, but one of his persistent themes is that the theist is entitled to her beliefs without having to produce arguments for them; she is entitled to them as "basic beliefs," not unlike your belief that you are looking at a computer screen right now. Again, you might disagree, and Plantinga might be wrong. But once again, in this context you can't simply presume that he's wrong. (By the way:...

How can I be morally 'good' and make sure I'm not seeking moral dessert? I'm trying to be a good person but it's impossible to do that without deep down inside wanting something out of it. I don't mean that I'm doing good things to get something I want. I don't feel like I deserve something because I did something good. However I don't think anyone can say that they don't do something good without having any selfish thought of wanting something because of it. Even if that thing is wanting to be seen by others as a good person. That's all I want. I am just afraid that what I'm doing doesn't count as good because I want the littlest thing out of it. I'm afraid that I can't become a good person because of this.

You write "I am just afraid that what I'm doing doesn't count as good because I want the littlest thing out of it." That would only be true if actions had to be completely free of mixed motives to count as good. But that's not very plausible. Consider two scenarios. In each of them, you're in a coffee shop. In each of them, the person at the next table gets up to leave, having forgotten to pick up the wallet that you see sitting on the table. In the first scenario, the person is someone you'd like to have an excuse to meet. In the second it's not. Are you the kind of person who wouldn't do the right thing in the second case? If you are, you're right to worry about your moral state. If you are, then you're the sort of person who may do the right thing, but only if there's something in it for you. But I'm betting that in both cases, you'd get the person's attention and point out that s/he left the wallet behind. The fact that in one case, you have an extra reason doesn't show that you wouldn't be...

Most questions I see asked about the death penalty seem to center on whether it is wrong because of the harm it does to the person who is executed. What about the harm done to others by keeping a dangerous sociopath alive? Let's posit that we have a person who is so depraved that a prison sentence is no deterrence; and this person will gleefully cause pain, suffering, even death to prison guards and other inmates whenever he has a chance. Is it reasonable for all these other people to have to be exposed to such danger? Granted this scenario is an extreme case, that prison guards (let alone other prisoners) never anticipated such a danger to themselves when they first signed up for the job.

When people argue for capital punishment, one of the considerations they sometimes raise is deterrence. We can ask about general deterrence: does the death penalty tend to lower the murder rate? That's not your question. But we can also ask about specific deterrence: do we need the death penalty to keep particular, especially dangerous murderers from killing again? Someone could argue that death penalty statutes need provisions to deal with cases of the sort you've described: murderers who are likely to be a serious danger even if they're incarcerated. I'll confess that I find it hard to imagine a case where we had no other way of protecting guards and other inmates; far as I know, so-called super-max prisons already do that, though of course I could be wrong about how well they succeed.* If your question is whether there's a potentially legitimate question here, I'd say the answer is yes. But whether it will amount to an important part of a case for capital punishment, all things considered, is harder...

Is one immoral just by virtue of having immoral thoughts? So for example if Joe really wants to steal from his neighbor, or in his heart he approves of the act of steaing for no reason, but didn't put that into action because he forgot or didn't have the chance. Is joe still "sinning"? He won't be punished for just having such thoughts but I don't see why in this case he is morally any better than an actual thief.

There's a strong case for saying that Joe really isn't any morally better than an actual thief. It's just fluke luck that separates Joe from Moe, who actually stole the neighbor's wallet a little later that day. Among others, you certainly have Kant on your side; Joe lacks what Kant calls a good will, and Kant though that a good will is the only thing that's truly good. As for whether Joe is "sinning" by wanting to steal from his neighbor, having an impulse probably doesn't count as a "sin," though sin is not a notion that has much currency in contemporary ethical theory. Just how one ought to deal with such impulses is an interesting question. The obvious first answer is by resisting the temptation, and that's fine as far as it goes. Giving in to the temptation is wrong, even if lucky circumstance has it that the giving in doesn't end up going anywhere. If we want to use the word "sin," we might want to say that forming the intention to do wrong is already wrong, even if nothing comes of it. But your...

Now it’s true the Eagles won the super bowl. Is the following statement true.?The team had always a winning chance of 100 percent regardless of their preparation , and there was absolutely no power in the world that could have changed the outcome .

Let's focus on one bit of your question. You ask if this is true:            The team had always a winning chance of 100 percent regardless of their preparation . Now compare that to something more mundane. As I write this, it's 3: 45 here in College Park. The light in my office is on. Would you say this?            The light always had a 100% chance of being on at 3:45 on February 15, regardless of whether anyone flipped the switch . I'm guessing you'd say no. The flipping of the switch was an essential part of the process that turned the light on. Likewise, the Eagles' preparation was an essential part of the process that brought about their win. No switch flipped, no light on; no diligent preparation, no win. It's not that this answers all the questions someone might have about freedom and determinism (or, in this case, freedom and determinateness ). It's just to say that there's no reason to think things would have turned out as they did regardless of the events that led up to them. The...

Suppose a friend tells us something that happened with him and asks us to keep it a secret. Suppose it is nothing very important, but our friend thinks it is. Suppose the story could have been known by many people, because it happened in a public place, but in fact no relevant person knows of it, except for our friend and us. Do we have the duty to keep it a secret? It seems that if we have that duty, it is only because our friend asked us to do so. But do people have the power to create duties for other people only by asking them to do something?

Let's consider two scenarios. 1) The friend asks you to promise not to divulge what she's about to tell you. You agree and then she tells you the "secret." 2) The friend tells you her story without any preamble to her tale. Then she asks you to promise not to tell anyone. In the first case, the obligation is a matter of your making a promise. Promises create obligations. You could have said no. Or you could have said "Only if I can keep it secret in good conscience." If you hadn't said "I promise," there wouldn't be an obligation. Your friend didn't create the obligation; you did. In case 2), you can still say no, but leaving things at that misses something. Respecting your friend's wishes could still be what you ought to do, because she's your friend, and not respecting her wish would distress her, and you've got no good reason to do that. In case 2), do we want to say that when your friend asked you not to tell, that created an obligation? Your friend's request isn't like an order from the court....

Some of the states of consciousness or physiological reactions that movies seem calculated to produce are arguably pleasurable in themselves (for instance, consider comedies and porn films), but there are some emotions that aren't as obviously pleasurable (for instance, fear, disgust, pity) but which still have a market, and there are some emotions that don't seem to have a market at all (for instance, anger). Have philosophers said much in the way of explaining the attraction of non-pleasurable emotions?

There's a large literature on this problem, going back at least four decades. The most oft-cited paper is Kendall Walton's "Fearing Fictions," Journal of Philosophy 75 (1):5-27 (1978). Walton's thesis, developed at length in his later book, is that when we are "frightened" by a horror movie, for example, our mental state isn't accurately described as fear/fright. Instead, says Walton, what's going on is a complex form of make-believe. We derive pleasure and, arguably, other psychological benefits from this way of making-believe, or so the theory goes. Walton's view isn't the only one, of course. If you want to explore further, there's a recent collection of essays, Suffering Art Gladly: The Paradox of Negative Emotion in Art , edited by my colleague Jerrold Levinson. Although I've never been convinced by the make-believe account, it does seem right that I'm not literally frightened of the monster when I watch the horror movie. After all: I don't believe there's any monster to be frightened of...

What is right and what is wrong? Who can say what is right and what is wrong? How can we know what it is? Does it really matter, does it make a difference to know what the right thing and what the wrong thing is? I'm talking about stuff like sexism, racism, money, society etc.

Well, things are wrong if we shouldn't do them; they're right if we should. As for which specific things, there are many. Some people think they can boil it down to a simple principle or two (e.g. things are right if they produce the largest balance of good consequences over bad.) Other people think right and wrong are too varied for anything more than rules of thumb. Who can say what's right and what's wrong? If you mean who's qualified to pass judgment, then pretty much all of us are—at least about some things. It's wrong to mock people's infirmities. It's wrong to beat someone up because you're annoyed by something he said. It's wrong to kill someone so that you can collect on her insurance policy. And so on. You're in just as good a position as I am to make those claims. (Of course if you're asking who can make something right or wrong by declaring it right or wrong, there's a pretty good case that no one can. What's right and wrong isn't up to us.) Does it make a difference to know the...

In a primary school in South Korea, a teacher asked the students to think how happy they are when watching a video of children with famine in Africa. The teacher meant that they must be happier compared to poor children. Then one of the students responded "It's wrong that one feels happy to know other's unhappiness." When I read this article, I deeply agreed with the student. I think most of the NGOs for children in need are using that kind of way to move people and to encourge them to donate. That is, the organizations make people compare themselves to the poor and feel happier and sympathy for the poor. Then they would be willing to donate for the poor. I think this method is effective but wrong. I wonder if those organizations take the wrong method or I am wrong. Could you please let me know your opinion on this issue?

Consider the situation in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. When I think about the people on that island, I don't feel happy; I feel distress. Imagining myself in their situation is painful. That distress is an in-the-moment feeling. If I shift my focus to something else, the feeling abates or disappears. If I turn my attention back to Puerto Rico, the distress returns. That said, I'm also glad that I'm not living in the midst of that devastation. I am glad even in those moments when I feel distressed about the plight of people living on the island. This "gladness" isn't so much an in-the-moment feeling as a recognition that I have something to be thankful for. In fact, it seems odd to say that I'm happy not to be struggling in the way that the people of Puerto Rico are, even though we sometimes talk that way. Insofar as I'd put it that way, it would be another way to say that I'm relieved or thankful. To whatever extent there's a feeling that goes with that gratitude, it sits in a...

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