It gives one reason to question whether advice should ever be given except face-to-face, and perhaps even whether anything important should be written down at all. I mean the site, AskPhilosophers, which to my mind fails despite the best of intentions.
Here's how it works: chance persons send in their questions anonymously, which then get answered by any professional philosopher on the panel who wishes to take it up.
(No, it's not like those men of old who used to stand before large audiences and answer any question posed for money--the proceeds from the forthcoming book based on the AskPhilosophers website are being donated to worthy charities!)
The following tid-bit is not unrepresentative. A concerned reader writes in:
If no one ever loves me during my lifetime - if I don't ever have a relationship - will I have not lived properly? Is love that important to life, or is it something you can choose to engage in if you like? Thank you.Four philosophers chose to respond to this. Someone jumped in right away with the following pearl of wisdom:
Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics argued that philia (a type of friendship-love) is essential to the good life. But Aristotle was a pinhead. For another take from a contemporary philosopher, who rejects the claim that love is essential to the good life, see Raja Halwani, Virtuous Liaisons: Care, Love, Sex, and Virtue Ethics. Chicago, Ill.: Open Court, 2003. And which rock group (J. Geils Band?) more radically impressed upon us that "Love Stinks"? To counter, I suppose, the inanity of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" (la la la la la....). The way the Rolling Stones torpedoed the Beatles' "Let It Be" with their own "Let It Bleed."Thanks for that! Not to worry, however-- another philosopher quickly intervened and, getting right to the point, brought some needed clarity to the issue:
On Aristotle’s view, in order to determine whether Bob is living a good life, we first need to determine what kind of creature Bob is– e.g., is he a human being, a dog, or an oak tree. We then would judge the quality of his life against a species standard of flourishing. For example, our view of what it would mean for a dog to live a good life is informed by our views about the nature of dogs. We tend to think of a dog who lives its life in a cage as not living a good life for a dog, even if we imagine that it is given sufficient drugs to feel no discontent or frustration. A good life for a dog, we think, would be one that involved companionship, running around, barking at threatening noises and strangers, and so forth. Because a dog in a cage on drugs is not given the opportunity to engage in doggy activities, it is not functioning as a dog at a high level, and so, is not living a good life for a dog. If Bob is a dog, Aristotle would say, then we would judge his quality of life as good just in case he had a lot of opportunities to engage in doggy activities and was able to perform doggily at a high level. If Bob were a human being, however, we would not judge his life as going well if he spent his life running around with other dogs, barking at threatening noises and strangers, no matter how well he performed at these activities. There’s something wrong with Bob, we’d think; and even if he is content with his doggy life, since he’s a human being, he’s not living the life that is best for him.I hope the person who asked the question (that is, if he is a human and not a dog or a tree) now understands that, if he is the sort of idiosyncratic being for whom considerations of humanity are unimportant, then, if he chooses not to adopt anyway a life-strategy that has proved to be successful (I guess along the lines of "win friends and influence people"!), he will have 'lived properly' (his phrase!), even if in fact no one loves him.
It was on the basis of considerations of this sort that Aristotle would conclude that for human beings a good life would necessarily involve relationships characterized by mutual affection and good will. We might add that a life that involves such relationships has tended to be a successful life strategy for the human species, and as a species we have evolved to have impulses that motivate us to live a life that involves such relationships and that help us to sustain these relationships. On an Aristotelian view, any human life that did not involve the actualization of our distinctively human capacity to have close loving relationships would not be a good life.
However, we might wonder whether Aristotle is right to judge the quality of an individual person’s life against a species standard. While I agree with Aristotle that, in order to know what would be a good life for me, I would first need to figure out what sort of creature I am, and while I agree that it is likely that as a human being my nature will be very similar to the nature of other human beings, I don’t agree that the quality of my life should be judged in terms of its conformity to what would be a good life for most normal human beings. I might be quite unusual in that I feel absolutely no impulses toward loving relationships. I might feel no affection for other human beings, I might not be inclined to be in their company, and I might have no interest in their attitudes toward me. Whether they love me or hate me might be a matter of complete indifference to me. To be sure, if I were of this abnormal sort, life in a human society would be difficult, since others would have expectations of me that would be mistaken. And it is no doubt generally true that, for human beings, it would be easier to live a good life if one were normal in this respect. However, it doesn’t follow from this fact about the practical difficulties of such abnormality that my life would go better for me if it involved loving relationships. If my nature were idiosyncratic in the way that I described, loving relationships just would be no part of what would constitute a good life for me.
No doubt about it, filosofi/a biou= kubernh/thj! How fortunate we are that there is now a site that "puts the talents and knowledge of philosophers at the service of the general public"!