Archive for the ‘Questions’ Category

This review essay of two recent books provides a useful introduction to some of the philosophical problems surrounding the compatibility of religion and science.  Prof. Coyne thinks that religion and science can never really be made compatible – but is this right?  How might one form an ‘indirect’ response to this kind of  view? It […]

While traditional moral arguments about euthanasia tend to focus on cases where the condition of the individual is terminal, the recent case of a 23 year old British man commiting suicide in a Swiss euthanasia clinic, after being left paralysed from the neck down from a sporting injury, raises a number of moral and legal questions. Is there […]

Was Wittgenstein a behaviourist?  If not, why not?

How can we tell when we are dreaming? Some people have such lucid, everyday dreams that they believe they are awake. When they are truly awake, however, they realize their mistake… how?

Is it possible that you are nothing more than a brain in a vat, cleverly linked up to a machine that stimulates your brain in such a way as to make you believe that you are a person with a body who can walk around, talk to other people and do all of the other […]

Direct responses to religious scepticism accept the grounds of criticism, and attempt to offer a response on similar grounds; i.e. offering a rational grounding for a belief, offering ‘evidence’, offering argument. With respect to scepticism regarding the existence of God, there are three main types of argument: ontological, cosmological and teleological. (There are various different […]

Judith Jarvis Thomson has argued that pregnancies resulting from a rape or where the life of the mother is in danger should be terminated on moral grounds. In ‘A Defence of Abortion’ she begins by conceding that an unborn baby is indeed a person – the argument offered most often by those opposed to abortion […]

Should abortions be freely available?

“Suppose, for example, that you and another person are shipwrecked on a desert island and the other person is dying. Before he dies, he gives you a sum of money and makes you promise that, if you are rescued, you will give the money to a certain Austin Jones, his unacknowledged illegitimate son. You promise; […]

This question is distinct from asking at what point ‘life’ begins. A foetus is clearly a living entity. We do not, in general, ascribe the same set of moral obligations to a foetus that we do to a person. For example, we find it quite unacceptable to terminate a person because they were the product […]

At the start of his trial in December 2003, Meiwes said his motive for killing and eating his victim, Bernd Juergen Brandes, was born from a desire for this younger brother he never had – “someone to be part of me”. Armin posted an advertisement on the Internet, looking for a willing victim. The post […]

Is actively killing someone always morally worse than just letting them die?

Is euthanasia always morally wrong?

Terri Schiavo


One of the most high-profile cases of euthanasia in recent years was that of American woman Terri Schiavo. She collapsed after a heart attack in 1990 and spent the next fifteen years in a coma. Terri was in’persistent vegetative stat’ (PVS) which meant that she not in a coma, but was unable to react to […]

What is the difference between ‘active’ and ‘passive’ euthanasia? How do they differ (if at all) from assisted suicide? Are these differences philosophically significant?

“Jim finds himself in the central square of a small South American town. Tied up against the wall are twenty Indians, most terrified, a few defiant, in front of several armed men in uniform. A heavy man in a sweat-stained khaki shirt turns out to be the captain in charge and, after a good deal […]

Are there any crimes for which only a death sentence could be an acceptable or just punishment? Could this be used as a justification for suicide?

Are there any circumstances where we could reasonably say that someone might owe it to other people to kill themselves?

Is it ever rational to commit suicide?

Imagine that Jeremy has an elderly relative, who is old and frail, but is in no pain, and may yet live for years. Because there is no-one else to care for her, and the family can’t afford to put her into a home, the responsibility of caring for her falls to Jeremy. It feels like […]