The moral question of whether abortion is wrong is whether or not it is a person. Well, I don't understand why people say that a fetus is not a person. How are a fetus and an infant any different. An infant doesn't understand the future just the way a fetus doesn't. At 14 weeks a fetus begins to move and "explore" the womb and itself. That shows some curiosity and some sort of "thinking". On a genetic level or the form of the fetus also at 14 weeks it is "a person". So then at the very least shouldn't abortion be illegal after that? If we should not kill an infant, which is very illegal, why can we kill a fetus which in many instances is on the same level as the infant? If anything we should not kill the fetus because it is innocent and the infant is not. An infant cries just to be held where it should cry because it needs something. Just as a small example.

It's been famously argued -- both by Mary Ann Warren and by Michael Tooley -- that an infant isn't a person either. The rough idea is that to be a person, a being needs to have at least a rudimentary understanding of its future that even a small infant still lacks. The point isn't to endorse that conclusion, but rather to point out that the premise of your argument -- that an infant is a person -- isn't universally accepted. That said -- it's hard to make the case that there is a difference in the moral status of a late-term fetus and a newborn (though that doesn't settle the abortion issue by itself.) But if we allow the term "fetus" to include early stages of pregnancy, then the further back we go, the more glaring the differences become. When we reach the point of a newly fertilized ovum, we have a gulf that one philosopher pointed out (sorry; I forget who) is quite stark. Some people insist that the conceptus has the full moral status that you or I have. Others can't even imagine what it would...

Many people find it natural to think that we cannot always apply modern moral standards to our judgment of people who lived far in the past. There is something counter-intuitive, for instance, about saying that a misogynist from 300BCE and a misogynist from 2008 are equally culpable. And this is seen in the fact that we don't often make much of such moral shortcomings in historical persons; we say that they were, in this respect, just a product of their times. Is this a tenable view? Is the ancient misogynist less guilty than the modern? If so, does this imply that morality is somehow relativistic?

At least one difference between the misogynist of bygone days and his contemporary counterpart: the ancient misogynist probably suffered from a higher degree of non-culpable ignorance. He likely held factual beliefs about men and women that were widely shared, that underwrote his misogyny, but that no tolerably educated person can believe anymore. What a person can be held responsible for is at least partly dependent on what s/he can reasonably be expected to know,

Should the government take a role in promoting certain moral attitudes? When the United States made Matin Luther King Day a holiday, it (intentionally) endorses the moral attitudes Martin Luther King dedicated himself to. These may be admirable attitudes, but it seems to me that citizens should project their attitudes onto the government, not the other way around. Has anyone written on this topic?

But if citizens project their attitudes onto the government, won't that amount to electing legislators who favor certain policies? And won't that likely result in the passage of laws that favor certain points of view and mesh with certain attitudes? And by the way, would MLK day have been made a holiday if there hadn't been broad public support for doing just that?

All the empirical objects that I perceive around me are structures of sensations: sensations of color, tactile sensations such as hot and cold, hard and soft, and rough and smooth. But sensations are supposedly manufactured in the brain, out of neural signals delivered from the sense organs. This leads to two questions: how do they get out there, into the real world; and if sensations are unreal --- they exist only as long as they are perceived --- and the real world is composed of sensations, is the real world really real?

I think the best place to begin is with the first sentence: "All the empirical objects that I perceive around me are structures of sensations." I think this confuses two things. The objects we perceive are things like tables, chairs, tin nickels and left-handed paper-hangers. And none of those things are structures of sensations. Now it may be that the way we perceive these things is by having various sensations, and it's also true that in some sense the sensations are manufactured in the brain, brought about with the causal assistance of the paper-hangers and such. But the machinery of perception isn't the same as what's perceived. More generally, it's no surprise that we perceive things by way of stuff going on in our brains. But that stuff isn't what we see; it's what makes seeing possible. So yes: the real world really is real (last time I checked). It's not composed of sensations, though sensations may be among the many things that make up the world entire.

Is it possible for the constituent parts of a conscious being to be conscious themselves? Can I infer from the fact that I am conscious that the cells which make up my body are not conscious?

It's possible that the constituents of a conscious being might be conscious, though there's no strong reason to think that it's true. Some philosophers have speculated that there are primitive little events or occasions of experience that, when arranged properly, make up minds like ours, though this isn't a popular view. Perhaps a little less odd is the possibility that each hemisphere of your brain contains a separate stream of consciousness. The philosopher Derek Parfit (among others) has had some interesting things to say about this based on evidence from cases of people whose corpus callosum (the bundle of nerves connecting the two hemispheres of the brain) has been cut. Whether this would be a case of one conscious being with parts that are also conscious is harder to say. In any case, from the fact that you are conscious, nothing follows one way or the other about whether your cells are. To infer that they must be would be to commit the fallacy of division. To infer that they must not...

Hi. This is a question about Logic. I've read in a book by Michio Kaku, _The Physics of the Impossible_, that it may be possible to receive a signal before it was sent. This to my way of thinking would violate the logic behind causality. And yet on a social level we are effected by what happens in the future. An example would be Christmas shopping. My question is can an effect precede a cause, and if so what does that mean in relation to actuality and reality? Cheers, Pasquale

We normally assume that causes can't precede their effects, but this isn't a logical truth, and in fact it's possible to tell coherent stories where the principle fails. By "tell coherent stories," I don't just mean tell science fiction. As your author may point out (I haven't read the book), it's possible to say how causal loops and backward causation might fit into physical theory, even though there's no strong case for saying that such things actually happen. So there's no issue about the "logic" of causality being violated. As for your Christmas shopping, this isn't really an example of the future affecting the present. Your present intentions do the causing. You want to make sure that come Christmas day, Granny gets that gorgeous pair of Manolo Blahniks, and it's that present desire and intention that gets you to head off to the shoe store. Granny's beaming grin isn't reaching back from the future to get you to the mall.

If I am correct, the opposite of 'A' is not 'B', 'C', 'D', etc., but rather, the opposite of 'A' is 'not-A.' Likewise, the opposite of 'Green' is not 'Blue', 'Orange', etc., but rather, the opposite of 'Green' is 'not-Green.' And the opposite of 'Dog,' is not 'Cat' or 'Whale,' but rather, the opposite of 'Dog' is 'not-Dog.' And so on. However, each letter 'B' through 'Z' is not 'A' (after all, it seems, 'B' is not 'A', 'C' is not 'A'. and so on). Does that mean that 'not-A' is, or can be, or includes 'B' through 'Z'? Thus, does that mean that the opposite of 'A' is or can be 'B', 'C', etc.? Logically, I suppose, letters can stand for anything -- so perhaps 'A' is or can be equal to, say, 'B' and, therefore, 'not-A' would be equal to 'not-B,' so the opposite of 'A' might be 'not-B'. But what about objects that are not logical symbols? Cats and whales or not dogs. So, if the opposite of 'dog' is 'not-dog', and if cats and whales are not dogs, then are cats and whales the opposite of dogs? Am I missing...

The idea of an "opposite" isn't really well-defined. What you're calling the opposite (e.g., "not-dog" as the opposite of "dog") is what a logician might call the contradictory . But even though "opposite"' doesn't have a precise meaning, it's clear from the way that people use the term that it doesn't just mean the contradictory. If we want to figure out what a term means, we're well-advised to attend to how competent speakers use it. Ask any competent speaker for the opposite of "white" and she'll say "black." Ask any competent speaker for the opposite of "tall" and he'll say "short." But what can we gather from this? First, that a term and its opposite can't both apply to the same thing. Opposites are contraries . A bit more precisely, if the term "Y" is the opposite of a term "X," then "a is an X" and "a is a Y" can't both be true. However, in typical cases of opposites, they could both be false. (My pen is neither white nor black, for instance.) Still, that isn't enough. After all, ...
Art

If a team of monkeys with typewriters accidentally typed a coherent and beautiful sonnet (one that appeared to be written by a talented author, despite being written by a shiftless monkey), would that qualify as art (or at least worthwhile literature)?

If Olla Fritzharold were to give a scat-singing performance whose syllables accidentally added up to something that sounded just like calling one of the audience members a shiftless monkey in his own native language, would that qualify as an insult? No. There's nothing like the relevant intention anywhere in the ballpark (or the auditorium.) Art and insults aren't the same thing, but it's part of the conventions that go with what counts as art that typically, at least, there had to be some sort of relevant intention behind the object. Of course, this isn't airtight. After all, there's such a thing as "found art," and then there's Duchamp's famous "Fountain," which was a factory-made urinal. But in cases like these, there's a good case for saying that what makes the thing art as opposed to merely an interesting(?) object is the fact that someone who stands in the right relation to the "Artworld" declares it to be art. And so we still have an art-relevant intention. The larger point is...

How does the temperature ever change? If we assume that temperature is a continuous measurement, then we know that it has an infinite number of potential values. In order for temperature to transition between two values, it must then pass over the infinite set of values that lies between whichever two values the temperature is transitioning between. It now seems that temperature should not be able to change at all because before it may change to a given value, it must first reach a value between the desired and the current. Since we can make this claim infinitely, it would seem that temperature becomes "trapped", in a sense, at its current value, unable to change at all. Of course this problem can be applied to other concepts as well, and we might easily draw comparisons to Zeno's ancient thought experiment of Achilles and the tortoise. But the logic here is slightly different; the desired temperature is not continuously fleeing from the present as the tortoise is from Achilles. I simply raise the...

I'll have to confess that I'm one of those people who was early on seduced by a particular sort of solution to this sort of problem, and since then I've never been able to feel the force of the puzzle. Here's a somewhat fanciful example that conveys the idea. Suppose that we have a body whose temperature at 12:00 midnite is o° Celsius. And imagine that the body's temperature is increasing at a steady rate as follows. Let T t be the body's temperature at time t. And let the temperature at any given time over the hour after midnite be given by T t = t where t is the number of minutes after midnite. In other words, the temperature rises steadily at the rate of one degree Celsius per minute. It goes through all the intermediate values in finite time. If the arithmetic of real numbers makes sense, so does this. And so I can't find the puzzle. Pick any time you like over that one hour period. There's an answer to the question "What is the body's temperature at that instant?" And in...

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