Does the "ethics of care" have a special relationship with Feminism? It seems that Feminism can be justified under lots of ethical theories. A Utilitarian could argue that since women experience pain and pleasure, their welfare should be factored into our felicific calculus. A Deontologist could argue that women have rights, and it is wrong to violate those rights. So what makes the ethics of care a more Feminist theory than other moral theories, like Utilitarianism and Deontology?

Excellent question! You are right that utilitarianism or other ethical theories may well be able to advance causes that are central to a feminist outlook. The reason why an ethics of care has been historically associated with feminism is largely because it was seen as an important contrast to the mostly male dominated field of ethics in which justice and impartial rationality were seen as central. So, at one point John Rawls was seen as the leading architect in post-world war two ethics of a rational political theorist (celebrating a thought experiment in which one imagines oneself behind a veil of ignorance). When Carol Gilligan then came of the scene with an ethics of care, it was supposed by many that Gilligan was the feminist response to the more male oriented Rawlsian framework. But really there is no reason in principle why one could not embrace Rawls' outlook and feminism (or many or most feminist ideals), and one could embrace some versions of an ethics of care and yet (because of some...

Many people will say that such and such a poem or book or movie taught deep truths but then they never say what exactly they learn and I rarely challenge them since I suspect that they don't know. But I don't think they are kidding me since I have had the same impression from reading a great literary work. So is great literature more like music than actual philosophical discourse in its ability to convey ideas about life?

Very interesting! Consider two options, among others: one is that great literary works might be (as you suggest) akin to instrumental music. Such music may have emotive features (joy, anger, expressions of longing...) that are difficult to put into words and that is why your friends seem a bit weak in terms of their ability to state these deep truths. But secondly there might be deep truths that are not merely about emotions, but one finds hard to articulate because of a lack of vocabulary. Imagine one finds Tolkien's Lord of the Rings very moving and revealing but one cannot quite say why. Imagine (what seems likely) that Tolkien's trilogy raises questions about the ultimate meaning of life and the possibility of transcendent purpose, but that the reader is completely secular and has no vocabulary or training by which to put these matters into words.

Are there any good critical discussions, if not refutations, of communism, especially its philosophical concepts, e.g. theory of knowledge, communist materialism, dialectics etc.?

Probably Karl Popper's work comes the closest. Get his book (I believe in two volumes) on the enemies of a free society. His work was taken seriously by eastern Europeans who were under the authority of the Soviet Union. Popper provided them with an alternative perspective by which to offer a critique of communism. Popper's work is systematic and fair (except in the case of his critique of Plato, which I believe to be based on a partial misreading of Plato) and historical. A book that is less historical but is profoundly anti-collectivism (and thus communism) is Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia. The latter is full of great arguments, colorful examples, and well worth a slow read.

I was just looking out my window to admire the loveliness of the mountains and trees. It makes me think does the natural world conform to any known aesthetic principles of color, balance, texture, harmony, etc? Or is nature lovely for more mysterious reasons? And supposing it did conform to aesthetic principles are those principles actually derived from nature?...For instance the colors white and blue often go together well and I wonder if this is a good combination because it reminds one of the sky or if the sky just happens to use a good color scheme of blue and white. I am thinking right now, how before a storm, the clouds turn an ominous black, and that does seem awfully symbolic (and aesthetically logical) to my primitive and pre-philosophical mind. It makes me wander if there are other less obvious things like this that I haven't noticed or I don't have the artistic sophistication to see. Have any 19th century romantic philosophers (or any other philosphers for that matter) had anything...

Yes. In the 19th century there were debates over beauty and nature, specifically there was a dispute between Darwin and Wallace about whether evolution could account for natural beauty. Wallace (the co-discoverer of evolution) thought natural beauty signaled something more vital and valuable than can be seen as a by-product of natural selection and adaption. The 19th century also held (or Kant and Hegel did) that natural objects (unlike works of art) lacked an "aboutness"; Constable's painting of a storm might be about the transience of life, whereas the storm itself does not bear out such meaning. Lots of other debates on aesthetics and nature were initiated that are still with us (the difference between beauty and the sublime). Probably the most lively current exchange among philosophers that bears on your experience concerns the extent to which one needs to know ecology (or the relevant natural sciences) to deeply (or more deeply) appreciate the natural world. Would your experience of a valley...

Can anyone defend using animals as food? All I see are pro-vegetarian responses. We shouldn't hurt animals etc etc...they are alive. Plants are alive. As are bacteria. Why is eating bacteria and plants condoned? Having helped raise chickens I am not inclined to think they are more intelligent than your average root vegetable. And I was thinking. I recently got offered a job that several fairly desperate people I know needed. Needed badly. They need to support families and children. Yet I got the job. I earned it. Should I step aside and let one of my less qualified colleagues have the job. Should I spare them the pain and discomfort of being jobless and searching? If I shouldn't eat animals, because it causes them pain, then shouldn't I not take this job because it causes a human being pain? Is there not a limit to this line of thinking. By virtue of being mariginally attractive, I "won" a competition for a mans attention. He was subsequently my boyfriend and I loved him. However, the runner up...

I understand. I believe you are making the point that (in the case of the boyfriend and the job) we do not always have duties to minimize the stress or pain of others. In the two cases you cite, I think we can even propose that you have zero obligation of any sort to relieve stress. In the case of raising nonhuman animals, however, the case is different (they are not suffering, if they are suffering at all due to the aftereffect of a fair competition, because of a romantic competition or competition on a job front; rather they are made the direct object of suffering for the sake of benefiting another party). So, I suggest that if we do have reason to believe that, say, chickens are the object of directly inflicted suffering, this is something to take seriously ethically. Two things can be said on behalf of your position: while I think chickens have feelings and plants do not (plants lack brains, nervous system...), it may be that by allowing them to be free range or not overly cramped, you are able...

More and more, I find myself defaulting to "I need more information to draw a conclusion" or "I just think that the affected parties should decide" on various political and personal issues. I could easily form an opinion by combining by morals and values with the information that I am given, but I am always wary that I might not be forming a well-informed opinion (a sin I consider greater than not having an opinion). I would like to know, in terms of civic duty, is it better for the voter in a democratic society to form the most logical conclusion possible from whatever information he or she is given (still treating each bit of information with rational scrutiny), or to form no opinion until enough information becomes available?

An excellent question! I think that the answer lies in terms of the urgency of the relevant decision-making. Insofar as some issue (take energy policy) is being determined in the next election, and your vote or not voting will give an advantage to one policy over the other, I think you have a duty to form as sound an opinion on the topic as possible. If you honestly think you lack the competency to vote either way, perhaps you should refrain from voting (even if that has the foreseen consequence of giving one side an advantage), but insofar as you can form a responsible (though fallible) judgement, I think you should act on that basis. In matters that are not urgent (e.g. should the USA seek to colonize Mars) I suggest there is no civic duty to become informed on the topic.

Can a system of ethics exist that is universal and absolute to all societies and cultures if no supernatural power exists to enforce it? I mean, suppose that somehow God, karma or any possible force that could punish people for not following this system of ethics have been proven not to exist. What would prevent a specific society (or even the entire world) from simply saying "Since we will not be punished, we simply reject this system of ethics"?

This is an important question. Most philosophers today probably think that an overall metaphysical framework (theism or karma...) is not necessary to secure universal ethical codes or to preserve their authority and normative force. And assuming a stable world order in which there is wide agreement on what is just or unjust (and a willingness to enforce principles of justice with force), it may be thought than an appeal to a supernatural or sacred reality is not necessary. But in a case in which there are no human or natural guarantees that justice will prevail, matters shift. Consider Darwin's situation. He remained confident till the end that it will always be in our general self-interest to be kind and just, etc, but he did not think this was necessarily so and he also thought it quite natural that stronger races would seek to exterminate weaker ones. If one is a theist, one has an account of why such exterminations are wrong (they are cosmic sins, and contrary to the will and nature of the...

What does it mean to "objectify" someone? What makes an act or process objectifying?

Good question! It might seem harmless to think of a person objectively or even to think of him or her as an object (e.g. "she is the object of my love and attention"). But when it is used derisively, it seems that to objectify someone is to not take their subjectivity or character seriously as important for its own sake. In this sense, one objectifies a person by treating him or her merely as an object, and possibly an object to be used for one's self-interest, e.g. a man may objectify a woman by thinking of her merely as an object of desire or arousal and not as important and worthy of respect for her own sake.

How do you know when you are in love?

I suggest one of the ways is by monitoring when you feel happy or sad. When you are with someone (Skippy), do you feel happy? When Skippy is not around, do you feel sad? If so, this is one of the marks of love. Further reflection will then be in order: what is it about being with Skippy makes you happy? Maybe Skippy likes you and you like being liked. This would not be enough, I suggest, to indicate whether you actually love Skippy her or himself. When you get to the point of realizing that you are delighting in the sheer goodness and well being of Skippy and that when you are sad, you miss the presence of Skippy, then I think you have quite a bit of evidence that: you are in love.

Why should one be moral? Regardless of what ethical system is correct (if there are any), I haven't come across an adequate explanation for why one should act in a morally virtuous manner. It seems to me that though almost all ethical theories implicitly claim that one should always act moral if possible, there is never an explanation why. If one were to claim that acting in a morally virtuous manner will likely improve the satisfaction/happiness/etc. in your life, then it seems that this pragmatic reasoning can allow for someone to act in a morally vicious manner (as long as they are happy). Ultimately, it appears that what I am asking is the following: what reason will I have to value moral obligations over my own desires and satisfactions? Is it even sensible to ask such a question? An analogy can be made with the value of reason: if you have no goal in knowing the truth, valuing reason in that regard will be pointless. So what goal would correspond to morality (if that makes sense)?

Good question(s). A range of philosophers have sought to argue that one should be moral out of self-interest. Some philosophers who argue that morality must lead to fulfillment (the virtuous should be happy) combine their ethics with a moral argument for God. Kant thought that for morality to make sense we need to have a kind of moral faith in God as an ideal judge who will insure that the good are rewarded, and the vicious are not. Still other philosophers will question the intelligibility of your question: asking why one should be moral may be likened to asking you should do what you should do. Questions like 'why is the sky blue' make sense, whereas 'why is blue, blue?' do not.