As far as I know, it's not illegal in football (soccer) to kick the ball really hard at someone's face if they are in the way of goal. Throwing dummies and gamesmanship are also treated as acceptable. So how exactly does agreeing on rules of a game remove normal moral constraints? I know people wouldn't be happy if I started blasting a football at their faces, but would it be morally ok?

It's not illegal but practitioners of the game would certainly be judged to be immoral if it was done with the intention of hurting someone. It is true though that we can do things in sports that would be judged to be immoral in other contexts and on this point I agree with Douglas Burnham that it is a matter of giving consent - accepting the rules of the game.

Why is academic genius valued more highly than sporting genius? This seems pretentious to me.

I'm not sure that this is so in the general public. But the reason would be that some great good can come from "academic genius" e.g. cure for a disease, whereas only entertainment can come from athletic brilliance.

In The Stone column on the New York Times Site, there is an article about the issue of moral responsibility, in light of the notion that we are what we are because of such factors as genetics, environment, or perhaps determinism and/or chance. In the end the author stoically concludes, that despite it all in some sense we can choose to take responsibility for our actions. While I respect the author's sense of duty, can we fairly extend that same responsibility to other people? For example, could there still be any defense of punishment that isn't consequentalist. For that matter how can any nonconsequentialist ethical theory hold up against this argument?

Given the premises, I can't think of anything but a consequentialist defense of punishment or "correction." I also believe that that some of the arguments around this issue provide an opportunity for reflection on our powerful attachment to the rhetoric of "taking responsibility."We do not hear enough about our responsibility as a nation to create communities that nurture a sense of morality and connection with others. Many only want to talk about personal responsibility and it is often with a punitive edge. There might be other terms in which to couch the issue of moral striving.

Why is it that when a white person says a racial slur, such as "nigger" it is thought to be the most heinous crime. However, when a non-white, in particular blacks call whites "crackers" it is dismissed as nothing. Why is there such a double standard in American society? Why is reverse racism rampant more than ever? Whites have to fear of being shunned for voicing their injustices, because if they do, they will be called a racist. If a white is mistreated due to race in the work place nothing occurs. On the other hand, if it happens to a black it gets mass media coverage. The politics are backwards, the NAACP, pushes racial equality for blacks, yet they are immersed with racism towards whites; not all are but it has been displayed. If a white were to make an Organization for the advancement of their race it would be an outcry for its dismantle. Shouldn't all race Organizations be abolished since we're under the same umbrella, the Human race? I too often experienced this firsthand, being of black decent. I...

The meaning of word is not fixed. The same word coming from different people can have different meanings. For instance, growing up as an Italian American I was always told that if a non Italian used certain terms it was time to fight - however, when used between ourselves the same words were considered terms of endearment - of affection. This is, of course, not to suggest that members of an oppressed minority cannot be subject to the charge of being locked in racial stereotypes. Whether or not they are culpable for those attitudes is an open question. We all need to be aware of the stereotypes that we grew up with and to try our very best to overcome them -- but again that requires making a real effort at self-scrutiny.

Do humans have a greater right to live than other animals? If so, would beings of much greater intelligence and perception hold that same right over humans?

I am not a vegetarian but I think I should be. I would not couch the issue in rights language but putting animals through suffering just so I can have my New York Strip Steak just seems wrong to me. Given human history, I cannot imagine what kind of arguments we humans could muster if aliens came down and proposed to us as a food source.

I'd like some help for a panel discussion next week on "What makes a good doctor". My weekly reading of the BMJ online (which I access through a university library) yields a spate of articles, and over 70 criteria and still counting. An epidemiologist proposed "a doctor who is interested not only in the individual patient but also in the likely health of other relevant people. This of course recalls the poem of the 6 blind Hindoo scholars describing an elephant (qg, which is shorthand for "google this for more", similar to qv). A coffee-time discussion today foussed on whether a doctor should be "touchy-feely" or not. The answer is, of course, it all depends. No for an intensivist at the bedside of a gravely ill patient, yes when s/he is talking to the relatives about possible outcomes of proposed treatments or withholding them. There is of course William Osler's Aequanimitas, which advises emotional detachment. Are there other useful talking points like "touchy-feely" to convince or suggest to other...

I can only speak to the issue of what seems to be to be one of the necessery conditions for being a good doctor, namely, the capacity to listen. No more than that -to draw people's feelings out.Many people are terrified of doctors for the sentences that they seem to pass down. It is imperative that docs grasp the vulnerability that people feel with them. I understand that a certain level of detachment is required for cutting into someone but that same kind of dteachment need not exist at the bedside or in the exam room. Our inner lives inscribe themselves on our body and for good treatment a doc has to make an effort to connect and understand what is going on behind the eyes. Perhaps I am misreading but the references in the question to "touchy-feely points" seems to me to suggest a somewhat dismissive atttitude towards the emotional life. But again, essential to being a god doc is the generosity of heart and psychological literacy to take the time to get to know the people you are treating. Thanks for...

We all wish that we die before a person we love a LOT (our parents is an example), because we think that we'll be very sad and cry all the time. But, isn't it more moral to wish that this beloved person dies before us, so we would support the extreme sadness and not them ?

I don't think that we have a lot of control over what our wishes are. If you are asking what is the more loving wish than I suppose it would make sense to say that you would want to spare the person you love so much the pain. But I don't think these kinds of moral calculations are useful. The important thing is what you do and perhaps what kind of person you make of yourself. Again, it sure sounds as though you want to be as loving an individual as you can be. A very admirable goal.