In the past few days, the Tate gallery in London has been the target of protests because it receives funding from BP. My girlfriend and I have been discussing this, and where she finds that the use of tactics that cause damage to property are not permissible, whereas I deem them to be, if not merely permissible in fact close to a moral requirement. I often draw parallels between the tactics employed by the suffragettes, the civil rights movement in America and Nelson Mandela's ANC (as well as the ANC's military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe) and today's 'anti-climate change' environmental activists. Her argument is that the arts are important, and funding them is surely a good thing. If this means accepting money from legal, if slightly unsavoury, bodies then that is a 'necessary evil'. It basically comes down to the question "what is a legitimate form of protest to get an important point across?"

Slightly unsavory is okay but not very unsavory? So if the Tate Gallery were supported by the KKK then I suppose she would think that it would be time to protest. But a company that destroys the environment and causes many people to lose their livelihood is still in the moderately evil realm? Were the administrators of the Tate cognizant of the environmental policies of BP? Should they have been? These are all factors that I would take into consideration. Still, I can't come up with a formula for deciding between legitimate and illegitimate protests but I'm with you in thinking that, if all other means fail and the cause is important enough.e.g apartheid, there is nothing absolutely sacrosanct about private property.

Some Professors at the department of the Law School I attend seem to have a kind of mystical obsession concerning the writings of Hegel. I really don't understand the importance of deeply studying the works of this philosopher in our present context. What is the legacy of Hegel?

I work from what might be termed an existential perspective and as such have almost an innate repugnance to H.' s approach to philosophy. He often reads like a blowhard to me - as far away from a Socrates as can be-- and yet I have to concede that there are many epiphanies in Hegel - not the least of which is his recognition of the connection between our social/ economic conditions and individual consciousness. His Lord and Bondsman passage is remarkable. There he captures the importance of our need for recognition and the extent to which the look of the other impacts the way that we look at ourselves. Though I'm no expert on it, I believe that he also had a good deal to say about the nature of law. Sorry that I can't be more help.

Why students checking facebook on class are regarded disrespectful, while a professor who checks his facebook on a symposium as another professor is reading his paper is said to be cute and cool? Are there absolute boundaries between righteous and evil, right and wrong?

These are two very different questions-- First, I would not regard the Facebook checking prof as cool. Going on to your computer while someone is giving a seminar or talk is just disrespectful. I doubt our Facebook checking prof would take kindly to someone doing the same to her as she delivered a talk that she had been working on for months. As for your other monumental question, I would suggest that while there are some acts that are clearly always wrong, there are many that might be wrong in one context and not so in another. Lying is generally wrong but if you are doing it to save an innocent life or lives? The term "boundary" is of course a metaphor that would need to be unpacked to answer your question but on the face of it (another metaphor) I don't think there is an absolute boundary between right and wrong such that we can say of every act- this one is on the righteous side- this evil. Thanks

Should boxing be banned?

I am a boxing trainer so I suppose that is my answer to your question. Boxing should be much more carefully regulated at the professional level of that there can be no doubt. But amateur boxing is quite safe and has been a lifesaver to many young people who are perhaps on the edge- and are often not involved in other sports. While the physical demands of wrestling and boxing are similar, ask anyone who has done both - boxing offers some different challenges. I argue in a forthcoming article in the NY TIMES (Philosophers Stone) that the sweet science provides some unique exercises in dealing with fear - and I think that can be incredibly valuable. Also, while there are of course exceptions, the objective in boxing is not to harm the other person - but instead just to win the contest.

I find that a very common discussion that I have with friends and family is about which sport (baseball, football, soccer, etc.) is the "best" or which sport is "better." As my quotations may indicate, I find this discussion rather fruitless. For instance, I love baseball (watching or playing) but dislike soccer. But I do not know of a way--and am skeptical that there even is a way--to objectively measure the quality of a sport. Although they may share the common, but rather vague and general, attribute "sport," they nonetheless seem incommensurable with one another. At the same time, I am always wary of becoming a full-blown relativist, no matter the topic. So my question is whether or not there are fruitful ways to have an inner-sports dialogue that attempts to answer the question as to what sport is "better," "more praiseworthy," "more sophisticated," and so on? Or is our conception of what makes a sport good so tied up with our culture and (perhaps) our own athletic abilities that, in this case, we...

I cannot imagine an objective criterion that would enable us to decide what sport wins the tournament of sports. And yet - always have to have an "and yet" in this business-- and yet I personally feel that a sport that engages more physical and mental capacities is more a sport than say, flipping baseball cards at a wall. However, this inclination leads me to the conclusion that --and here I have to prepare to duck- that golf is not a sport or at least not as much a sport as say boxing which involves - courage, intelligence, endurance, quickness, coordination, tenacity, and I could go on - but then I am also a boxing trainer and writer.

Will it be moral to continue working for a cigarette company knowing the sickenesses that smoking creates?

No I don't think it would be moral- and yet it would also seem immoral to me, as someone with a good job, to morally condemn someone who was working for a tobacco company because it was the only decent job that he could find to take care of his family. So I would go for degrees of culpability, but yes I would have to say that being part of a business that killed millions would not exactly be a righteous line of work.

How does a philosopher become popular? Why do we teach the writings of some philosophers, but not others if all philosophers work from a common history, or work within a common tradition or set of ideas that include logic? Is there a social construction to philosophical ideas?

Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and a few others aside, the stocks of philosophers does seem to go up and down. In the late forties and fifties, for example, Kierkegaard was quite popular. Then analytic philosophy developed a strangle hold and he was dubbed to be too obscure. Then in the late eighties, with the emergence of deconstructionism/ postmoderninsm, analytic philosophy ceased to dominate and Kierkegaard was back in the club. There is a social dimension - a kind of market force at work. I direct a research Library on Kierkegaard and we have many international scholars come to the Library and their take on Kierkegaard, what they find important, differs according to the their political and economic situation. As you hint, difficulty is also a factor. I can't teach Husserl in my Existentialism class because it would just go over everyone's head. Thanks.

Are double standards always wrong? Even though I am a female, I have always had more (and closer) male friends than female. For example, one of my best friends is male, and we talk on the phone/computer about once a week, not counting intermittent texts throughout the week. However, I would be extremely uncomfortable if my boyfriend (of six years, perhaps irrelevant) had the same type of relationship with a female. He does not have any close friendships with women, both prior to and during our relationship, whereas prior to our relationship I have had many close friendships with men. Is it morally wrong for me to expect something from him that I do not apply to myself? For example, I would not like it if he called another woman on the phone, "just to talk." In response to the question of whether he is comfortable with my friendships with men, most of them are his friends as well, and he does not indicate any problem with my friendship with them. But as already said, I don't have many close...

If we think of justice as, in part, equal treatment, then yes it does seem unfair. Why couldn't you work at being less threatened. Sometimes doing the right or fair thing means bumping up against and dealing with feelings that we don't like; feelings of the sort that you are describing. Also, might be good to try and develop some same sex friends but that has nothing to do with your normamtive question. Thanks.

Why philosophy? Mindful of truly urgent issues like climate change and the gulf oil gusher, if the question is existence or extinction, doesn't merely thinking about either seem a dubious luxury?

It depends on how you think of philosophy. If we think of it as an abstruse set of problems - then yes it does seem a luxury. Like doing crossword puzzles. On the other hand, philosophy is about the love of wisdom, which has much to do with a knowledge of how to live. And there can be no doubt that wisdom would be helpful in solving the world's problems. Of course, degrees and publications in philosophy are no guarantee that a person has wisdom.

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