I work for an organization for which the buzz word "compromise" has great appeal. However, I am not a fan of compromise - I feel that it should be used as a last - very last - resort. I think that operations generally run more smoothly if the person with the better idea gets his / her way. However, in my organization almost all differences are "resolved" by compromise even where difficult people who disagree as a matter of course are involved - on the simple belief that compromise is always the best option. However, I feel that compromise can be used as a means of control, as a way of ensuring that the other person cannot win, etc. What is your opinion?

You're right that compromise can be used as a form of control. But so can being uncompromising. Compromise can sometimes impede efficiency; but sometimes it can facilitate it. From where I sit, I don't think that one can defend as a general principle either the idea that compromise or being uncompromising is better. When and where to compromise is a matter of art--or, perhaps in more philosophical terms, a matter of prudence, in the sense of practical wisdom. Much depends upon the context: what sort of people are involved, what's at stake, what the purpose and mission of the institution is, what sort of time and resource constraints one faces. There's a great deal of difference in making a decision about what to do about an imminent ICBM attack and what sort of retirement hobbies one might explore. In addition, compromise does work better, in my experience, when those involved have cultivated certain complementary habits and sensibilities. That is compromise works best when people value...

We are a Muslim couple and it's now 5 years and we don't have childrens. Doctors said that my wife is not having eggs to produce although she is only 32 years old. There is only way to take the eggs from another lady. Please tell me that is it ok or it will be a sin. The answer from the doctors is the final that she will never be able to produce her own eggs so this is the only option for ivf..... Please help me. Rashid

Whether and how to have a child is one of the most intimate and personal matters of life, whatever one's religion. So, ultimately you must make the decision as to what is most fitting for you. I cannot write as a Muslim or as one expert in Muslim theology. As a philosopher, however, I can say that I find nothing objectionable per se in the practice of using ova from a third party in order to generate a baby to which your wife can give birth, that can carry your genetic codes, and that the two of you can raise. I would offer this cautionary note, however. Sometimes the costs of such procedures can be terribly high. That being the case, one ought to consider whether in an (a) already over populated world, where (b) many children stand in need of adoption, and (c ) where many other problems demand attention it is proper to expend so many resources to bring a single child into existence. Conceiving, birthing, and raising a child using a third-party donor may be the best option for you. But do consider...

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...

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