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My wife wants to retire to a gated community. I find the phrase to be an oxymoron, and believe that the whole gated project is morally flawed; for example, it can lead to us vs. them thinking, social stratification, etc. Is there an argument here, or just a personal preference?

Fascinating situation. And really important to resolve in a marriage or intimate relationship! There might be some interesting empirical evidence or social science that can shed light on the situation: my guess is that gated communities probably contain more persons who prize privacy than public works, the greater community or a nearby municipality, but this might or might not be backed up by social research. If I was in your situation, the most important factor for me would be to reach agreement on core values with my spouse. Perhaps she shares the same values you do, but either fears or has been the victim of violence / crime or (as a woman) she believe she is more likely to be assaulted than males, and so a gated community is preferred for her safety or she may feel the need to be more protective of both you and her and your family. If so, those may be good reasons (for her sake or for the sake of those values) to (perhaps reluctantly) joining the gated community as I would think one could offset...

Say the universe is natural (say it had 'natural' beginnings and there was no creator)... what should this mean for my life? If we took this a step further and said we are the products of some accidental RNA interaction and there is no soul or afterlife, what should this mean about an overall worldview? Am I to live happily? How am I to struggle through moments of toil - work hard in society - if there is no meaning?

The topic of the meaning of life is now very big among philosophers. Most non-theistic / atheistic philosophers would respond that even if there is no meaning or purpose OF or FOR life, there can be meaning IN life. So, even if all life is the result of purposeless, accidents, etc, there is no reason to not love other people, work as a doctor in society, be an artist, fight for justice. I agree, but it is worth considering that IF theism is true and the cosmos exists for goods (such as persons loving and caring for each other, etc) then perhaps life has even more meaning than if theism is false. This is a quick reply; for more nuanced reflection see T.J. Mawson's God and the Meaning of Life or The Purpose of Life by Stewart Goetz.

Hi! I'm someone who strongly dislikes Trump, but I also feel that I ought be loyal to whomever is President. What I wanted to ask is -- should loyalty be considered a virtue, or is it inherently a silly, irrational thing, and closer to being a vice? Could it, for instance, be responsible for partisanship and disunity? I've read that 90% of people who identified as Republican and voted, voted for Trump: is unthinking loyalty to a political party (if indeed that was one of the factors here) an evil?

Tough question(s). There is a recent book with Cambridge University Press by Simon Keller, The Limits of Loyalty (2007), that is highly critical of loyalty. While I am not as critical of loyalty as Keller, he highlights enough cases (real and imaginary) in which loyalty goes wrong that I suggest loyalty should be seen as having secondary value. That is, if some person or good or cause is good, then being loyal to that person or good or cause is itself good, but if some person or ill or cause is wicked, then loyalty would be bad (or a vice). On this view, unthinking loyalty to a political party is (minimally) at least risky (if, it happens that the party is good, great, but it could be awful, if the party is terrible). As for being loyal to (soon to be) President Trump, you might think that you are not so much loyal to the person, as you are loyal to the United States of America or to the democratic process or to the ideals of the Constitution or to the office of the Presidency.

If science, robotics, and society progressed to the point where all human basic needs were provided for (food, clothing, shelter, health care, daily chores) at no cost and therefore nobody was required to labor, what would be of value?

Interesting! I may be misunderstanding the question, but you seem to suggest (or want to explore whether) labor is an essential measure or determinant of value, for the way you put matters is that if food, clothing, shelter, health care, daily chores, were not the result of labor, their value would be in question. I suggest, initially, that food, clothing, shelter, health care, daily chores, etc, are valuable whether or not they are the outcome of labor. It may be that we ourselves (psychologically) may not appreciate such values without them being tied into labor, but I propose that our lack of appreciation would then be the result of simply taking this satisfaction of basic needs for granted. As you did not specify the security or reliability of such non-labor satisfaction of basic goods, it might be added that our appreciation for their value may be quite vivid when we realize our vulnerability to theft, warfare, malicious destruction. Another matter to consider: What kind of environment are...

"Everything in moderation" is a common view. But then moderation should be in moderation. If so, isn't moderation not fully moderate, and thus is partly immoderate?

Wonderful question. In Ancient Greco-Roman philosophy there was debate and disagreement about such a matter: some philosophers thought moderation in terms of appetites should be strict and without exception, whereas others thought the occasional immoderate indulgence was reasonable (for some, a person might on occasion over consume wine while still having living a life dedicated to the love of wisdom). One way to address the paradox you raise is to distinguish levels of moderation, thus restricting the "everything" in the injunction "Everything in moderation." So, if one alters the original claim to (for example) 'a person who loves wisdom should exercise moderation in satisfying their appetites and first-order desires (e.g. avoiding gluttony),' one avoids the idea that one should only be moderate in following this dictum. The kind of paradox you raise comes up in other areas. For example, if we consider a dictum that 'persons should be tolerant,' does this dictum require persons to be tolerant...

It is often stated that science is not 'value-free'. However, there are certain established facts about the physical world, for example, that a water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms, which irrespecitve of the values of observer or the social context in which this is observed, is just that, ie. an observable, indisptuable fact. How then can political or social environments alter or intrude upon such scientific facts whether they be about this planet, biology or whatever scientific enterprise one is studying. Surely, science in this regard is 'value-free'?

Great question; thank you for raising your point. I believe that the when the claim is made that science is not value-free various things may be involved. There might be at least four points to consider. First, there is the thesis that the very practice of philosophy itself involves values --minimally, given a realist view of truth (which I hold and I think you do too, e.g. water is H20 if true if and only if water is H20)-- a commitment to discovering the truth about various phenomena, being reliable or trust-worthy in recording observations and constructing hypotheses, theories, reporting anomalies given such and such a theory, and so on. Perhaps this is not radical news, for it seems that virtually any social interaction in which we trust each others' reports / testimony, all sorts of values and commitments are relevant. But what might be added are three other points. Second, the practice of science itself is guided in light of what scientists (or those who support the practice of science)...

What's there to gain from romantic relationships, aside from sexual gratification? For it seems as though there is more pain and loss from attempting to find our ideal significant other, than there is actual gain from finding someone adequate enough to fulfill such an unobtainable goal. It seems more worthwhile to culminate our own happiness within ourselves, than to put our happiness at risk, especially given that females (and people in general) who are interested in philosophy seem to be on the decline; and interest in philosophy is a must for any viable partner!

Wonderful to learn that a viable partner for you would have to have an interest in philosophy. If you are super attractive (etc) you might give a lot of people an important motive to develop philosophical interests! Picking up on another point, though, I am not sure you are right about declining interests in philosophy among females or people in general. At least where I teach (St Olaf College in the USA) philosophical interests among young women and men (straight, gay, as well as among transgender folk) seems on the rise. But more to your point, I wonder if your worry about romantic relationships would work against any serious, non-romantic friendship. You write about having reservations about putting your happiness at risk, but that risk seems to arise in every case when you or I truly love another person with or without eros. I have great (Platonic) love for a couple of friends, Patrick and Jodi, and I realize there is no way for me to do so without risking my enduring great pain and...

Lately, I have been feeling as if nothing in life is really worth desiring. As I was a little alarmed by these nihilistic thoughts, I tried to avoid them. But, in some mystic traditions, this state of "desirelessness" seems to be actively pursued by practitioners. My question is: can my nihilism perhaps have some value, i.e. what is good about the state of not feeling desire?

There are traditions philosophical and religious- that see value in states of living in which we are not ruled by desires but by reason or wisdom or the Dao, and so on. These traditions are rarely 'nihilistic' however when it comes to values, good and bad or evil, seeking enlightenment, and so on. In Christian mystical tradition, for example - e.g. John of the Cross....- there is a fascinating treatment of "the dark night of the soul" in which a person may feel a complete evacuation of desire and meaning, but this is a period or passage from ordinary life to a state of fulfillment "on the other side." The situation you describe prompts me to think you might find some consolation --or recognize something of yourself in ancient Greek cynicism. You might check out the classic Lives of Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius. While I am far from any alignment with Greek or modern cynicism, Diogenes is a fascinating figure whose indifference to the desires of his contemporaries was in my view ...

I would like to know if duty implies value. If I have the duty to take care of my daughter, does that imply that it is better that I take care of her than that I don't? If two people promise each other to meet that evening, is it then better (at least, according to their promises) that they meet? If I have the duty to join my country's army, is it better that I do than that I don't? Thank you.

Great questions. Many philosophers recognize that we have multiple duties which sometimes conflict. And they also recognize different degrees of complexity that come with duties. So, in a parent-daughter relationship, it is widely acknowledged that a parent does have a duty to take care of her and thus, it is recognized that, other things being equal, it is better to care for her than not but some of the following circumstances can come into play: imagine that there are great social and political forces that would make it fatal if the parent comes forward to acknowledge that he or she is the parent. Or imagine that the parent was abusive and for example a daughter is utterly estranged from a father she never wishes to see again. And sometimes duties such as those you mention can present us with cases when one duty might be served by following another duty. So, your duty to care for your daughter might be satisfied by your joining an army: imagine that your city is under aggressive military attack and...

If philosophers were paid to answer questions on sites like this one, I think we'd agree that there would be more responses. But do you think the quality of responses would decrease? Is something that one is willing to do for free intrinsically more virtuous than if it is done with a promised reward?

Fascinating question! Perhaps you are right that if we were paid for our responses, there would probably be more responses, but this might not mean that the responses would be better in quality. I have not seen a response yet keeping in mind I have not read all the responses that seemed to me to be done in a cursory manner, or in a way that would be less in quality if the question - response format was conducted professionally. I suggest that there may be no greater value as a rule for the superiority of value when persons act voluntarily or for free or for a promised reward money. Someone might volunteer to help the poor and do so because they have inherited great wealth, whereas another person who does not have such wealth and wants to help the poor may need to be paid if she is going to afford to do the work. Both persons might be equally compassionate and courageous Still, there are cases when it seems that a voluntary act may have greater merit: if someone refuses to be nice unless...

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