Why do philosophers consider their memory and perception as a valid source of knowledge but not their intuition? Aren't memory, perception and intuition (pre)processed/coloured by the same unconscious processes before we get aware of it? Kobe

A very good question. At first blush philosophers' practices might seem arbitrary, indeed. There are a number of considerations, however, that might help those practices seem more sensible to you. First off, it's important to define the concept of "intuition". You might be surprised to learn that the concept has a long history and that it has a number of meanings. In one sense it means something like the way the intellect apprehends things. Philosophers who find ancient and medieval philosophy convincing still do give that sense of "intuition" considerable credence. Secondly, it means something like, "our basic moral commitments." Many ethicists still appeal to moral "intuitions" in this sense to guide and limit moral deliberation. On a third, scientific level, intuition might be thought of as something like an educated guess. It's true that philosophers don't think of "intuition" in this sense as source of "knowledge"--though they are likely to respect its standing as a way of generating...

Is it fair to require Muslims born in Britain and brought up under Sharia law to accept as universal, laws which are underpinned by and reflect Western values utterly at odds with Muslim beliefs?

It's hard to know exactly how to respond to this question, I'm afraid, without knowing what the specific conflict is. I suppose your questions might be rephrased as something like: when religious imperatives are somehow inconsistent with government law, which should be given precedence? I don't think there is a definite answer to this question. I can think of cases (such as conscientious objection to military service or the defiance of race-based segregations laws on religious grounds) where I think religious imperatives trump national law. I can also think of cases (such as laws against murder, rape, or assault), where I think national law should supersede religious prohibition. I suppose your question might refer to the Archbishop of Canterbury's recent remarks about incorporating Sharia into British law. Evaluating his remarks depends, however, upon what specific changes one might take them to imply. I think distinct judicial system for Muslims in Britain would be a bad idea, but a separate...

Should there be a human right to freely move where people want to, including crossing over into other sovereign territories, provided that this right does not infringe on the rights of others?

In a word, yes. The extent to which states prohibit people from exercising the liberty to live where they wish troubles me. In fact, it's funny you raised this question just now, as just the other day my son found himself reeling when, after announcing to me that he planned to emigrate to Scotland or Greece when he grew up, I informed him that doing so might not be possible unless the governments of those nations gave him permission. It was painful to see him come to terms with the extent we live at the discretion of others. Now, having said that, it is also important to recognize that migration, like many transactions in life, does need to be regulated. Why? Well, because unregulated migration can, in fact, as you put it, "infringe on the rights of others." It can because people are not simply individuals but social-collective beings, and sudden or overwhelming migrations of large numbers of people can disrupt and arguably undermine various social collectives--e.g. national cultures. Of...

I am a student at Lafayette College and last weekend, we celebrated Marquis de Lafayette's 250th birthday. Is such a celebration valuable to Marquis himself, even when he is dead? Since we are all going to die, should we all try to make an effort to be remembered by future generations? To whom is that valuable? Thank you.

My hometown is Bethlehem, PA, and I spent plenty of time around Lafayette and downtown Easton growing up, so I had to respond to this. I hope things are well there with you. I agree with my colleague Amy Kind that people can harmed (or benefited) even if they're unaware of it, and so in a sense even the dead can be harmed (or benefited). A colleague of mine used to speak of harm in terms not of experience but interests, and one of the the interests that some people have might be described as a narrative interest--that is, an interest in the story of their life. Most of us, I think, have an interest in our reputations. Some of us maintain an interest in producing a reputation that endures after we've died. Such an interest might, I think, be something not terribly admirable--a product of vanity and excessive pride or ambition. But an interest in an enduring reputation might be morally virtuous to the extent it, say, sustains a family name or enhances the reputation of a good institution ...

I believe that Kant defended the "law of cause and effect" by stating this argument: (P) If we didn't understand or acknowledge the law of cause and effect, we couldn't have any knowledge. (Q) We have knowledge. Therefore: (P) we acknowledge the law of cause and effect. Isn't this line of reasoning a fallacy? P implies Q, Q, : P

You have certainly put your finger on a complex issue. One might say you've got a dragon by the tail. First, I should call your attention to the fact that you've rendered his argument in two logically different ways. The first rendering is actually a valid form of deductive inference, not a fallacy. Philosophers, in their pretentious way, call it a modus tollens. The terms in which you've put it allow for this rendering: 1. If Not-P, then Not-Q. 2. Q. 3. Therefore, P. And, by the way, that first rendering can also be restated in another valid form called a modus ponens: 1. If we have knowledge (Q), then we understand or acknowledge the law of cause and effect (P). 2. We have knowledge (Q). 3. Therefore, we understand or acknowledge the law of cause and effect (P). There's a rather large issue lurking here, too, as to what "understanding" and "acknowledging" mean, how they're similar, how they're different. (See, for example, Stanley Cavell's, "Knowing and...

A philosopher writes, "Capital punishment is immoral. It was immoral even when the majority of people were convinced it was moral. They were simply wrong." Is there any empirical, verifiable, and falsifiable method of testing a statement like "Capital punishment is immoral"? If not, why can't an advocate of capital punishment insist with equal vehemence that the philosopher is simply wrong?

You boil things down very effectively. To respond in kind: There's not, and he or she can. But that doesn't make conversation, debate, argument, etc. about capital punishment pointless. Why not? Because there's more to discourse about morals than vehement insistence. Moral conversations can shape participants values, their sentiments, their ways of seeing things so that they come to feel and think differently about issues like capital punishment. Participants might be unaware of certain facts (such as the ways race and class and error play into capital punishment or the effects of capital punishment on those who administer it). They might be unaware of various logical inconsistencies in their positions (for example, the inconsistency between capital punishment and the 8th Amendment to the US Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment). They might through the course of their conversation come to change their metaphysical commitments (for example, about the nature of a person or...

What does "morally wrong" really mean? Something that offends my parents, the local police, the local clergy, a specialized group of philosophers, or my peer group at the golf club, or my occasionally very forgiving conscience?

Consider the question, ‘Is cannibalism morally wrong?’ One can first ask whether this question is about some sort of fact. And if it isn’t, does that mean that all possible answers are personal opinions, social conventions, or something else such that ‘true’ and ‘false’ simply have no meaning here. Of course, even if there is a fact of the matter with regard to this question (and hence it makes sense to say that answers to the question may be either true or false), could anyone ever know what it is? Those who think there are facts of the form ‘such and such is morally right or wrong’ are called moral realists. If, in addition, they think that such facts can be known, they are called cognitivists. Those who deny there is any fact of the matter about which acts are morally wrong are called non-realists or anti-realists. Some non-realists think that their position entails that all moral judgements are therefore meaningless. But others disagree. They think that although there are no moral facts, or anyway...

Do you believe that the future of feminism lies in downplaying our differences instead of "celebrating" and emphasizing them? It seems to me that bar physical differences, male and female gender roles are largely social constructs, and the marginalization of women is as much due to their own awareness of their "difference" compared with men. A major example of this is the fact that we have a Minister for Women in this country. Is that not basically admitting that to be female is to deviate from a normative male standard, and that issues concerning therefore requires special attention? That is tantamount to admitting, accepting or condoning the fact that female interest is not present in all the affairs dealt with by other ministers (Finance, Health, Education), and it seems a contradiction in terms. It's more than positive discrimination - it's willful marginalization. On the part of women, obviously. It seems by seeking to put ourselves on an equal level with men we have overshot and are now seeking to...

You ask a powerful and intriguing question. From where I sit, feminism ought to work towards a delicate balance of celebrating diversity and downplaying difference. Diversity should continue to be celebrated in the name of liberty so that our society is able to support maximal forms of human self-expression. Diversity should also be celbrated as a sort of vaccination against the oppressive potential of sameness. It's often the case that sameness--or the downplaying of difference--is achieved by repressing some people towards the end of re-making them in the image of other people. On the other hand, the very ideas of woman and man (feminine/masculine) need to be undermined or at least loosened up a bit. Celebrating women (as a category opposed or differentiated in its contrast to men) can also constrain people by establishing confining norms about what it means to be a 'real' woman. Part of loosening the idea of woman will mean expanding it to include a diversity of woman, but part of it also...

Should you always expose the truth to the ones you love, even when it may do them harm by knowing?

No, I think there are times when it's better to conceal the truth. Part of wisdom in ethics involves not just being truthful but knowing when and how the truth should be told. Mind you, there are good reasons for being maximally truthful; but they do not count in every case.

What happens to Justice when a state is in democratic transition (that is to say, moving from a regime that was percieved as commiting atrocities against its own people or violating its citizens' human rights in some way - Taiwan and the "228" incident, Poland and the whole issue of "lustration", South Africa, etc.)? The TRC in South Africa, for example, went for restorative justice, while in other cases many opt for a retributive justice. While the former hopes to "heal" the community there is a sense in which the guilty go free; whereas the latter punsih the guilty many see this as causing further divisions. Is there any other option for justly dealing with such transition?

For myself, I see no third option and I think the trade-off between retribution and restoration to be a difficult one. It is likelly that both forms of justice should play a role in transitional situations. But it's also likely that the contingent features of a particular situation--the differences iin history, culture, the nature and extent of prior injustice, etc.--will effect the balance between the two. My own assessment of the experiments tried so far suggest that the greater a culture's capacity to achieve some sense of restoration the more promising the prospects for the establishment of a just society in the future. If that's true, then the objective should be to maximize restoration and minimize retribution.

Pages