It is said that happiness comes from within - that no one can make you happy. However, some people do bring out the best in us (people we fall in love with) and others bring out the worst in us (people we dislike). So the statement that happiness comes from within is not entirely true. What is your opinion?

You're pretty clearly right. What's going on around us matters for our happiness, and though how we look at things makes a difference, it's not all. There may be some people (a fully enlightened being such as the Buddha supposedly was, perhaps?) who are able to maintain their equanimity in all circumstances, but for the rest of us, this would be a superhuman achievement. Moreover, it's not entirely obvious that it would be desirable to have that kind of detachment. That said, there's a point to the saying that no one can make you happy. Making others responsible for one's own happiness is not a mark of wisdom, and not likely to succeed.

Can one tolerate something, someone, etc. indefinitely or is there a limit? If there is a limit is there any way of re-igniting tolerance? For instance, if a person in an unhappy marriage, tolerates the situation for a long time (e.g., for the sake of the children) but eventually is unable to put up with the situation - no danger, violence, etc. - just dislike, contempt, etc., for the spouse - is there any way of re-igniting tolerance?

The answer to each of your questions, I fear, is "it depends." It depends on the situation, the person, the problem... Some people can tolerate difficult situations better than others, though it's rather unlikely that anyone has unlimited tolerance. As for reigniting tolerance, I don't know whether there's a recipe, but sometimes trying to develop an empathetic understanding of the other person can help. Some forms of Buddhist practice are relevant to your question. I have in mind particularly so-called "metta" or "loving-kindness" practice. And on larger issues related to your question, I'm rather fond of a book called Radical Acceptance by the American Buddhist teacher Tara Brach. I'd stress, by the way, that even though the book is rooted in Buddhism, it doesn't call for taking on any religious beliefs.

Is human cloning immoral? Or can it help more society rather than do it harm?

It's hard to give an all-purpose answer. But notice: the way you've posed the problem suggests that if cloning does more harm than good, it would be morally acceptable. People who think right and wrong are a matter of consequences would agree; people with a different way of thinking about right and wrong might not. Someone might argue, for instance, that trying to make copies of people shows a fundamental lack of respect for the humanity of the beings who result -- doesn't treat them as "ends in themselves." I'm not sure that would be a convincing argument, but it's easy to imagine it being made. As to whether cloning people might have net benefits, the answer surely is that it would depend on a lot of other things, which is one reason why it's hard to give a blanket answer to your question.

It's a bit difficult to understand the difference between 'Being' and 'Existence'. From what I know, bring is the state or quality of existing. But to me this state or quality sounds extremely ghostly. Could you please elaborate? Thanks Shamik C. New Delhi India

What fun! And indeed, it turns out that Giovanna picked my birthday to show me the error of my ways! :-) As it turns out, however, I don't think we actually disagree about anything. Giovanna has pointed out, in effect, that folks in her tradition use these terms to mark out a distinction (or, it seems to me, a set of related distinctions) that folks in my tradition would talk about in different language. Needless to say, that's not a comment on the value of either tradition nor on the importance of the problems. I'll confess that I don't think I have the differences here fully in view yet, but if I have it right, one distinction marked by the existence/being distinction is the difference between individual things that exist, change, have properties, etc., and the background against which the possibility of such existents makes sense. Existence, on this way of speaking, refers to the existent things, and being to this broader metaphysical background. Giovanna points to the problem of understanding...

No doubt there are philosophers who make a distinction of some sort here. (For any sentence of the form "There are philosophers who___" you have a good chance of saying something true...) But one is tempted to ask whether being is the quality or state of existing; not everyone sees a a distinction here. One possibility: not everything that exists is a being. (For example: water isn't a being.) So one might say that among existing things, being is possessed only by the beings . But now we want to know: what's a being? Is it, for example, an Aristotelian substance — something like a person or an animal? Or is it any physical object? (On that story, my thumb would count as a being, but Aristotle wouldn't agree.) Or is it any "mereological sum" so that not only me and my thumb would count as beings, but so would Charley, whose parts are Dan Quayle, the Empire State Building and the marker at the tip of Key West, Florida? (Mereology is the study of part-whole relations.) The question of what it is for...

Is there any more scientific basis for the justification of a belief in Feng Shui, any more than the major religions have their belief in God? My Chinese girlfriend is a firm believer and practitioner. I'm a lapsed Christian and see no more "proof" in Feng Shui than I do in the God that Jews, Christians and Muslims believe in. Thanks.

What I know about Feng Shui could be written on a very small scroll. But that said... There's at least this interesting difference between the two cases. Feng Shui claims that certain ways of arranging stuff tend to breed various sorts of good or bad fortune. If that's true, it's the sort of thing we have a pretty good idea how to test. So Feng Shui seems amenable to scientific investigation -- whether or not it would be worth the trouble to do the studies. But the claim that God exists isn't so obviously like that. It's far harder to figure out just what we should expect to see in the world if there is -- or isn't -- a God. Some might say: all the evil in the world counts as proof that there's no God. But anyone who knows the history of this issue knows that it's not really so simple. Or someone might say: the peculiar kinds of cosmic "coincidences" science has uncovered (the "fine-tuning" of various constants that allows for the possibility of life, for example) is evidence for God's existence. But...

From reading these pages I can tell all the contributing philosophers are decent and moral folk - anti-racist, feminist, compassionate, well-meaning, etc. but my question is, why should you be, especially if you hold no truck with an afterlife? Why not act immorally if you can get away with it and avoid jail and it is to your personal benefit? Does not behaving morally presuppose moral absolutes which I thought modern philosophy had done away with? I read an argument where ethical differences were described as being in the same boat only some get seasick and some don't (Alisdair MacIntyre) but again this is presupposing that philosophers all agree everyone should be "good". Why not be bad? Or is it all about tenure? (joke!)

Why not act immorally? How about because it would be wrong? You seem to be asking for a selfish reason why philosophers (or anyone else) wouldn't act immorally. But it's a mark of the moral that what morality calls for doesn't always suit our selfish purposes. Maybe we need a little more specificity. Suppose I was in a position to steal someone's wallet -- say yours -- without getting caught. Why wouldn't I do it? How about because it would cause you a lot of trouble, I wouldn't want anyone doing something like that to me, and in light of that, I can't think of any reason why it would be okay to do it to you. Why won't that do? The phrase "moral absolutes" means both too much and too little to be a useful analytic tool. And it's really hard to make generalizations aboout "modern philosophy." In any case, moral skepticism isn't as widespread among philosophers as you seem to think. Most philosophers, I'd guess -- like most people -- think that some things are wrong, and they don't need...

I recently read the following argument on a blog, and I was wondering what the panelists might say about it. It is a well known philosophical principle that one cannot infer normative facts from empirical ones (this is the is-ought problem). But if, as it is often supposed, "ought implies can," then cannot implies ought not ("ought not" in the sense of "not obligatory"). In that case, we can infer normative facts from facts about empirical facts about what people cannot do.

What a fun question! Suppose we agree that if X is something we ought to do, then X is also something we can do. Suppose further that X is not something we can do. Then as your blogger points out, it follows that X is not something we ougt to do. But that's perfectly consistent with there being nothing we ought to do. It's perfectly consistent with saying that there's no such thing as moral obligation. Compare: if there is such a thing as a necessary being, then that being can't be an ordinary space-time being. Since my desk is an ordinary space-time thing, it follows that my desk isn't a necessary being. (This is a point that gos back at least to Anselm.) But that's consistent with saying that at the end of the day, the idea of a necessary being is incoherent and that nothing is or even could be a necessary being. Likewise, saying that if there's anything I'm morally obliged to do, it must be something I can do is consistent with saying that on further analysis, the idea...

Is a child's life more valuable than that of an adults? Let's say you are about to be in a terrible accident (completely figurative) and you only have two options of ways to go. First, you could run into a construction area where there are five construction workers who are oblivious to the situation. Unfortunately, if you go this way all five will die. OR you could turn the wheel, but there is one single child playing which will be in the way and unfortunately die. Do you value the one child's life more than all five workers? Is it morally right to save the child because of its potential life?

Although I can imagine cases where comparing the value of lives might be the way to go, it's not obvious that this is one of them. Heading down a path where we value lives by discounting on the basis of the likely number of remaining years (which is all I see at work here) seems a very dubious idea, fraught with all sorts of moral peril. Although there is something particularly poignant about the death of a child, this doesn't simply translate into a case for saying that the best solution to the dilemma you pose is to give the child's life a weight greater than that of the five adults who would otherwise die. All this said, there are some hard issues in the general neighborhood. Deciding how to use resources in end-of-life situations, for example, is a serious problem where some sort of discounting doesn't simply seem out of place. But the issues here are tricky, and it's hard to see how any simple rule will work.

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,