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  View the latest questions and answers at askaphilosopher.wordpress.com
pathways (ask a philosopher)

Ask a Philosopher: Questions and Answers 23 (2nd series)

When referring to an answer on this page, please quote the page number followed by the answer number. The first answer on this page is 23/1.

The latest questions are distributed weekly to members of the Ask a Philosopher panel. If you would like to join the panel, please email askaphilosopher@fastmail.net, including a brief CV and statement of your academic qualifications.

Ask a question Answer a question

(1) Shane asked:

I know this might not have anything to do with philosophy I'm only young!?, but.. I was wondering what the deal with colour blindness? Like can you not see colours, or is you mind just adjusted to that colour in some way?, I am so lost!

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Color blindness is a physical condition just like deafness is; part of the eye, basically, is missing. It's a very small and subtle part, but it's not there... and so people who are color blind, just as people who cannot hear are not able to experience sounds, are not able to experience colors. There are several types of color blindness, ranging from complete (all one sees are shades of grey) to partial, where some people, for example, cannot see any difference between red and green, but can see a difference between red and blue. Color blindness is mostly found in men... men have only one copy of the genes necessary for seeing color, while women have two.

But compared to some animals, all humans are partly color blind... there are some birds (types of parrots, I think) that can see more colors than we can, because they have more color-sensitive pigments in their eyes. Bees see into the ultraviolet. The colors we see are just one very small part of what's termed "the electromagnetic spectrum"... we can't see heat, for example, which is exactly the same kind of stuff (radiated heat) as light, but just a different frequency. We hear in a much wider range than we see. If you look at a piano, you'll see just some of the range of our ears... 10, 12, octaves... well, we see within one octave of the electromagnetic frequencies. We don't see heat, radio, radar, x-rays... and on and on.

Steven Ravett Brown


(2) Troy asked:

How does a person know right from wrong when it hasn't happened yet?

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And when would that be? What does a baby think about being born? If they liked it, why do they cry? To put it another way, just what do you mean by "right" and "wrong"? Think about it. A baby starts with those ideas meaning something like "what feels good" and "what hurts", right?

Take a look here:

Blasi, A. "Kohlberg's Theory and Moral Motivation." New Directions for Child Development 47 (1990): 51-57.

Dawson, T.L. "New Tools, New Insights: Kohlberg's Moral Judgement Stages Revisited." International Journal of Behavioral Development 26, no. 2 (2002): 154-66.

Piaget, J. The Moral Judgement of the Child. Translated by Cabain, M. New York: Free Press, 1997.

Steven Ravett Brown


(3) Steph asked:

I am writing a research paper/debate on philosophy. The statement I was given is...A debate is framed in favor of a particular side. I am thinking of attacking this question with examples of "true objectivity" and personal bias. If you have any advice please help me. Thank you for your time!

============

You might look at the last set of answers for one take on this issue. Also, take a look here:

Evans, J. St. B. T. Bias in Human Reasoning: Causes and Consequences. Hove, UK: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Ltd., 1989.

Giovannoli, J. The Biology of Belief: How Our Biology Biases Our Beliefs and Perceptions: Rosetta Press, Inc., 2000.

Hrobjartsson, A., and Gotzsche, P.C. "Is the Placebo Powerless? An Analysis of Clinical Trials Comparing Placebo with No Treatment." New England Journal of Medicine 344, no. 21 (2001): 1594-602.

Lynn, F. M. "The Interplay of Science and Values in Assessing and Regulating Environmental Risks." Science Technology & Human Values 11, no. 1, Spring (1986): 40-50.

Schroyens, W., Schaeken, W., and d'Ydewalle, G. "Error and Bias in Meta-Propositional Reasoning: A Case of the Mental Models Theory." Thinking and Reasoning 5, no. 1 (1999): 29-65.

Shaffer, N.E. "Understanding Bias in Scientific Practice." Paper presented at the Philosophy of Science Association: proceedings of the biennial meeting 1996.

Steven Ravett Brown


(4) Nia asked:

What do religious believers mean when they say the world is a creation?

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As far as I can tell, they mean that since they can't explain it any other way, they're going to "explain"the world as analogous to a thing, of some sort, made by man. Something like, "we can't know where lightning comes from, so Zeus must be throwing it".

You might look at:

The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design by Richard Dawkins

Steven Ravett Brown


(5) Amber asked:

Sorry, I meant to put why are LETTERS in math?

============

A better question. Well... suppose you wanted to ask a question in math about many numbers, all at once. How could you do that? You might write out all the numbers, one after the other, after the other, after the other... and on and on and on... or you could just say, "let X stand for all the numbers between 1 and 100". Saves you writing out 100 numbers, doesn't it, or at least it saves you writing out that phrase ("let X stand for..."), over and over and over....

Steven Ravett Brown


(6) Bob asked:

Agnosticism says that we can't know. What is the position that we don't know if we can know?

============

Agnosticism. I'd say that if we could say, correctly, that we couldn't know, we'd be closer to atheists, if you're speaking of religion... "agnosticism" actually applies much more broadly. Go look up the derivation of the word.

Steven Ravett Brown


(7) Brian asked:

How would Derrida respond to the question,is it possible to read without translating the visual word into an auditory message? I cannot imagine reading without forming a sound in my mind. If it is impossible to read without a mental voice then it seems that Derrida's belief that the primacy of the spoken word over the written word is arbitrary is wrong. Am I right? Also, I have a question about Wittgenstein's private language argument. Wittgenstein seems to make the point that language cannot be based on reference to internal mental representations. It must have a social context. However, does this mean that when I am alone I lose my ability to speak? One can argue that the social context has been internalized but isn't that an internal mental representation? My argument seems so obvious that I must be missing something. What am I missing?

============

1) Go look at:Derrida, J. Memoirs of the Blind: The Self-Portrait and Other Ruins. Translated by Brault, P-A. and Naas, M. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1993.... and I think you'll have no problem finding his answer.

2) Yes I've met many people like you... mostly academics, very verbally-oriented. When I read novels, I see pictures, like being immersed in a movie. When I read philosophy, more slowly and thoughtfully, I both hear sounds and feel kinesthetic sensations. Take a look here:

Arnheim, R. Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1974.

Coulson, M. "Attributing Emotion to Static Body Postures: Recognition Accuracy, Confusions, and Viewpoint Dependence." Journal of Nonverbal Behavior 28, no. 2 (2004): 117-39.

Dienes, Z., and Perner, J. "A Theory of Implicit and Explicit Knowledge." Behavioral and Brain Sciences 22, no. 735-808 (1999).

Ellgring, H. "Nonverbal Expression of Psychological States in Psychiatric Patients." In What the Face Reveals: Basic and Applied Studies of Spontaneous Expression Using the Facial Action Coding System (Facs), edited by Ekman, P. and Rosenberg, E.L., 386-97. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Grush, R. "The Emulation Theory of Representation: Motor Control, Imagery, and Perception." Behavioral and Brain Sciences In Press (2003).

Kepes, G., ed. Education of Vision. 3 vols. Vol. 1, Vision + Value Series. New York, NY: George Braziller, 1965.

------, ed. The Nature and Art of Motion. 3 vols. Vol. 3, Vision + Value Series. New York, NY: George Braziller, 1965.

------, ed. Structure in Art and in Science. 3 vols. Vol. 2, Vision + Value Series. New York, NY: George Braziller, 1965.

Knauff, M., Fangmeier, T., Ruff, C.C., and Johnson-Laird, P. N. "Reasoning, Models, and Images: Behavioral Measures and Cortical Activity." Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 15, no. 4 (2003): 559-73.

Lampinen, J.M., Odegard, T.N., and Bullington, J.L. "Qualities of Memories for Performed and Imagined Actions." Applied Cognitive Psychology 17 (2003): 881-93.

Meister, I.G., Boroojerdi, B., Foltys, H., Sparing, R., Huber, W., and Topper, R. "Motor Cortex Hand Area and Speech: Implications for the Development of Language." Neuropsychologia 41 (2003): 401-06.

Pylyshyn, Z. W. "The Imagery Debate; Analogue Media Versus Tacit Knowledge." Psychological Review 88, no. 1 (1981): 16-45.

3) Oh boy, Wittgenstein. Look here, especially at Law's and Wright's papers:

Cunningham, S. "Husserl and Private Languages: A Response to Hutcheson." Philosophy and Phenomenological Research XLIV, no. 1 (1983): 103-11.

Edmonds, D., and Eidinow, J. Wittgenstein's Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument between Two Great Philosophers. New York, NY: Harper Collins, Inc., 2001.

Law, S. "Five Private Language Arguments." international Journal of Philosophical Studies 12, no. 2 (2004): 159-76.

Wright, C. "Kripke's Account of the Argument against Private Language." The Journal of Philosophy 81, no. 12 (1984): 759-78.

Steven Ravett Brown


(8) Max asked:

Simply put, how do we even know that we exist? I don't want to call myself a nihilist, both because I don't like the idea of being one, and also because I really don't think I am, but there seems to be no real way to know if all this, including myself, is real. I don't buy into the whole "I think, therefore I am" idea because I can't be sure that I really am thinking in the first place.

============

Um... simply put, what do you mean by "know"? By "sure"? Look, the literature on this question is enormous. If you really want to tackle it, you need literally years of preparation... I'd say two, at least, if you're very smart. I won't even give you references... go to your library and start reading; take some courses. On the other hand, if you're asking this because you're depressed, go see a good friend or a counselor.

Steven Ravett Brown


(9) Mary-Anne asked:

I am not entirely sure that this question is in your area but if it is I would greatly appreciate a quick response, as it is for part of a presentation I will be doing Thursday: Piaget's theory of the four different stages children go through during development are sensori-motor, pre-operational, concrete operational and formal operational. In what ways do you think Piaget over estimates and under estimates these stages? Thank you for your time.

============

Well, you might look here:

Blasi, A. "Bridging Moral Cognition and Moral Action: A Critical Review of the Literature." Psychological Bulletin 88, no. 1 (1980): 1-45.

Dawson, T.L. "New Tools, New Insights: Kohlberg's Moral Judgement Stages Revisited." International Journal of Behavioral Development 26, no. 2 (2002): 154-66.

Kohlberg, L., and Hersh, R.H. "Moral Development: A Review of the Theory." Theory Into Practice 16, no. 2 (1977): 53-59.

Wendorf, C.A. "History of American Morality Research, 1894-1932." History of Psychology 4, no. 3 (2001): 272-88.

Steven Ravett Brown


(10) Jan asked:

Is there a book that tells you what drawings mean, i.e. what do eye lashes mean in a drawing?

============

Not really. But you might look at these:

Ekman, P., and Rosenberg, E. L., eds. What the Face Reveals: Basic and Applied Studies of Spontaneous Expression Using the Facial Action Coding System (Facs). Edited by Davidson, R. J., Ekman, P. and Scherer, K.R., Series in Affective Science. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Ekman, P., and Scherer, K.R. Emotion in the Human Face. 2nd ed, Studies in Emotion and Social Interaction. New York, NY: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 1982.

Klee, P. Pedagogical Sketchbook. 8th ed. New York: Polyglot Press, 1977.

Kepes, G., ed. Education of Vision. 3 vols. Vol. 1, Vision + Value Series. New York, NY: George Braziller, 1965.

------, ed. The Nature and Art of Motion. 3 vols. Vol. 3, Vision + Value Series. New York, NY: George Braziller, 1965.

------, ed. Structure in Art and in Science. 3 vols. Vol. 2, Vision + Value Series. New York, NY: George Braziller, 1965.

Steven Ravett Brown


(11) Bobby asked:

When is the world going to end?

============

I think in 12 minutes, according to Douglas Adams. That is, if you see any Vogons. Otherwise I'd bet on a few billions of years, given the position of our sun in the GO sequence.

Steven Ravett Brown


(12) Jessie asked:

"If God is dead, everything is permitted". How defensible is this connection between morality and religion? As far as I can see, it is not very defensible at all — for as far as I can see, morality exists independently of religion — it's a matter of using one's reason. I have found many critiques of such a claim, (i.e. toward the Divine Command Theory, and the assumption that God is necessary as an objective foundation for morality) but no real defense of it. Is there a strong defense? Can anything defend the claim that if God is dead, morality would cease to exist? Also, as far as I can see, although the Theory of Natural Law asserts the omnipotence of God, it does not support the above claim, because it also, leaves morality independent of religion. Am I correct in how I have understood this?

============

Well I'm not going to defend it, because I don't agree at all with that claim. I think you're correct. You might look at my answer #5, and also my answer #29, in Answers 19 for a bit of a discussion on that issue. As for using one's reason, I'm all for that, but remember that one must have a basis on which to proceed through reason.

Steven Ravett Brown


(13) Melanie asked:

Hello, I am a fourth year student of Philosophy at Stirling University. I am currently studying a text which claims that the categories universal, particularity and relation are positive realities but not existent facts. I do not really understand what this is supposed to mean. Can you explain the difference between the two? Any help would be much appreciated!

============

To tell you the truth, that aspect of analytic philosophy is just not my field, and so I'm not going to answer this the way you might want. The reason it's not my field, and I'm not interested in it, is because I think it operates from a rather large set of misconceptions... about "reality", metaphysics, and ontology. First, clearly whoever has written this text (Russell or a Russellian, right?) is some kind of neo-Platonist, and probably also believes (yes, believes, in something very close to the religious sense) that logical operators, numbers, etc., are also "real" entities. Second, this person has chopped up "reality" into a formal system which necessitates formal operations, elements, and postulates to build the engine and get it running, so to speak. And then, third, since this person has gone ahead and assumed that a) their formal system describes reality, and b) those abstract entities I just mentioned are necessary for that system, then by gosh, they must also describe reality (i.e., "be real"). Oboy. But a "fact", of course, can't be the structure underlying the engine, it has to be the exhaust coming out the end, right? So those categories can't be facts... but, since they're integral in describing reality, they have to be real, in some sense. If not, then the engine might start, but it won't go anywhere... well, anywhere "meaningful" or "real", anyway. Well. A nice way to program a computer, yes indeed.

Take a look at my answer #31 in Answers 19, ok? And in addition, you might find this interesting:

Lakoff, G., and Nunez, R.E. Where Mathematics Comes From: How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics into Being. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2000.

Steven Ravett Brown


(14) Jenni asked:

Why is there evil in the world?

============

There is evil in the world because this is the best of all possible worlds. This is the best of all possible worlds because it is the only type of world that could produce another entity that is similar to God.

Aristotle was able to reason his way up from the contingent nature of the world to the necessity of a self-existent creator upon which the contingent world depended. He was not able to reason his way back down from that self-existent entity to the world. Because the self-existent creator could need nothing, the only motive for any action had to be love, but it was inappropriate for the perfect creator to love the imperfect world. Aristotle was baffled.

Aristotle's problem was that he did not understand that the cosmos was a process. The creator could not create a world that was similar to the self-existent creator and therefore appropriate for the creator to love. Logically the creator could only create a creature, and a creature is the opposite of a creator. But the creator could initiate a process that could ultimately enable a creature to re-create itself in ways that made it good, loving and creative, and therefore similar to the creator. We are that creature in the process of trying to make ourselves as similar to the creator as possible and therefore an appropriate object of the creator's love. We have to achieve this result freely, so we have to be free to be good or not-good, even to be evil. The moral law can command, but it cannot compel.

Tony Kelly


(15) Erica asked:

How might a phenomenologist study suicide?

============

Well... here's a few possibilities:

Grad, Onja T; Zavasnik, Anka. Phenomenology of bereavement process after suicide, traffic accident and terminal illness (in spouses). [Peer Reviewed Journal] Archives of Suicide Research. Vol 5(2) 1999, 157-172. Taylor & Francis, United Kingdom

Green, Gerard A. Bereavement in the family as a result of suicide: A qualitative study using internet technology. [Dissertation Abstract] Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences & Engineering. Vol 65(1-B), 2004, 437. US: Univ Microfilms International.

Watson, Chris. The practical art of suicide assessment: A guide for mental health professionals and substance abuse counselors. [Peer Reviewed Journal] Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. Vol 38(6) Dec 2004, 480-481. Blackwell Publishing, United Kingdom

Brent, David A [Ed]; Apter, Alan [Ed]. Editorial: Adolescent Suicide and Suicidal Behavior: A Time to Assess and a Time to Treat. [References]. [Peer Reviewed Journal] Israel Journal of Psychiatry & Related Sciences. Vol 40(3) 2003, 159-162. Gefen Publishing House, Israel

Fielden, Jann M. Grief as a transformative experience: Weaving through different lifeworlds after a loved one has completed suicide. [References]. [Peer Reviewed Journal] International Journal of Mental Health Nursing. Vol 12(1) Mar 2003, 74-85. Blackwell Publishing, United Kingdom

Bell, David. Who is killing what or whom? Some notes on the internal phenomenology of suicide. [References]. [Peer Reviewed Journal] Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy. Vol 15(1) 2001, 21-37. Taylor & Francis, United Kingdom

Seeley, John Robert. Comorbidity between conduct disorder and major depression: Phenomenology, correlates, course, and familial aggregation. [Dissertation Abstract] Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities & Social Sciences. Vol 62(12-A), 2002, 4122. US: Univ Microfilms International.

That ought to get you started.

Steven Ravett Brown


(16) Mireille asked:

I Have 3 questions.......please help me. 1. Should we be scared of death? 2. Is philosophie necessary to the human? 3. Is a life with no exams worth living?

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The fact is that we are naturally scared of death and often we have no control over this. I suppose looked at objectively death in itself is not something to be scared of in the way that a painful illness might be but human beings are designed to want to survive as are other animals. It is natural to humans to philosophise just as it it natural to them to produce art and poetry. It may not be necessary to our survival in the way that food and water are but it is just something that we do. I think a life without exams could be worth living but I would have to try it first before I could give you a definite answer.

Shaun Williamson


(17) Maria asked:

Is there a such thing as mental diseases, or is it just a way of thinking deeply and then acting?

============

I think mental diseases really do exist and people suffering from them often experience real unhappiness. They cannot just be explained away as a different way of thinking. If a delicate mechanism such as the brain can function correctly then it can also be damaged or suffer from inborn defects that cause disturbances in peoples' thoughts and feelings. If you ever meet people who are mentally ill then you will see that it is not just another way of thinking about things.

Shaun Williamson


(18) Joel asked:

Is life as we know it all a dream?

============

No. When we learn the meaning of the word dream, part of what we learn is how to distinguish dreams which happen when we are asleep from the things that happen when we are awake (reality). However life can seem to be a dream but that is a metaphorical use of the word dream.

Shaun Williamson


(19) Melissa asked:

"We can reason that God must exist based on our observation of the world around us. I mean, it seems pretty clear that something must be maintaining the order or nature, and that the natural processes are sustained by some sort of Mind." Does this view fit Descartes' view about how we know God exists?

============

Sorry Melissa but it doesn't seem obvious to everyone that we need a God to maintain the order of nature. There are alternative explanations such as the theory of evolution and many people are happy to accept this as providing an explanation of what we see in nature. If the theory of evolution is true then this doesn't exclude the possibility that God exists and that he created the world but it does weaken certain attempts to provide that God exists by using the argument from design which is similar to your reasoning. Descartes proof for the existence of God is not like your argument. It is a complex argument which starts with the idea that if God exists he necessarily exists. If you search on the Internet for Descartes, existence and god you will find essays which explain the steps in Descartes proof. However it is not easy to understand.

Shaun Williamson


(20) Rob asked:

What is the latest & best philosophical refutation to the following "move" by a psychological egoist who (a) is told of a third party's sacrificial punishment of an attempted (non-successful) wrongdoing by someone anonymous to the punisher (such that the punishment can gain the punisher no material benefit and none psychologically via the esteem of others); then, in response, the egoist says "Well, the punisher choice between punishing & not punishing simply on the basis of self-interested desire-satisfaction, such as the avoidance of GUILT feelings s/he anticipated from NOT punishing (or to protect his/her self-esteem by the avoidance of failing to punish an evil attempt)? E. Sober claims to have refuted most of the classical challenges to psychological egoism (including J. Butler's famous "stone" argument)--so has anyone lately come up with even more powerful refutations of psychological egoism?

============

If psychological egotism amounts to the thesis that each man acts so as to be best satisfied with his actions, there is no refuting it, and no thesis to refute either. I would have myself act as I would have myself act is pure tautology.

If, on the other hand, psychological egotism amounts to the thesis that on every occasion every man will decide how to act according to which course of action best benefits himself, this is a substantial thesis which is false. This falsehood requires no philosophical proof. It only requires that one notice the facts: some people and actions are more selfish than others.

It would appear that the "move" you speak of by the proponent of psychological egoism is to obscure the distinction between these two classes of thesis, tautological and substantive. He begins by asserting the substantive thesis. When reminded of the facts about the variety of non-selfish behaviours he responds that whatever the Judge does he must necessarily be acting so as to satisfy himself — the tautological thesis. A large range of possible motivations are then attributed to the Judge including, what a surprise, a number which would fit the substantive version of the psy-ego thesis. The range of motivations offered is of course designed to leave out the contrary altruistic motivations which would equally well explain the Judge's actions. Those possible motivations are simply left out of the picture. With this feat of editing the psychological egoist strives to suggest that the tautological thesis (that the judge must have had his own reasons) somehow implies the substantive thesis (that the judge must have had his own reasons which were selfish). It does no such thing. There is no logical connection between the tautological and the substantive thesis, and there are no reasons offered for believing the substantive thesis here. All we get is a reassertion of the substantive thesis, without any attempt to deal with the fact that alternative accounts of the judge's behaviour would fit equally well, and that we have been given no good reason for abandoning them.

In claiming that we are all as selfish as each other psychological egotism asserts something which is both counter-intuitive (Hitler and Mum have exactly the same moral character?) and corrosive of the meaning of their own terms (since 'selfish' has it's context in comparisons and judgments). These considerations are not conclusive but they are enough to give them the duty of explaining to us what positive evidence or argument they have for their claim — the burden of proof is on them. So far they have offered in their support a simple confusion between a tautological thesis and a substantive one, some selective editing of the infinite range of motivations that might be ascribed in the absence of any positive information, and now, in the "move", a neat combination of the two. I am not impressed.

The style of argument of the "move" hardly deserves the name 'fallacy of equivocation' since it lacks the structured clarity of even that con. It more resembles the three card trick — keeping a large number of quite different things moving so fast that you forget which is which — so that you forget, in particular, that the fact that the judge decides within himself has nothing to do with whether he decides for the sake of himself, however careful the editing of baseless hypotheses about his inner reasoning.

Regarding Sober's claimed refutation of all the "classical challenges" to psychological egotism — 'refutation' is odd terminology here — terminology that speaks ill of Sober's comprehension. The main challenge to psychological egotism is not a premise-upon-premise counter-argument that needs refuting, but a simple appeal for one good reason, any reason, why anyone would find psychological egotism plausible. To date I've seen none. And yet the phenomena continues. I suspect that the explanation for this is that the appeal of psychological egotism has nothing to do with reason or reasons, and everything to do with a desire, an unconfessable desire, to see saints and do-gooders brought down a peg or two. How comforting and democratic to think that we're all of us, basically, just as corrupt as everyone else. The ultimate labour-saving device. Also, baseless piffle.

David Robjant


(21) Millicent asked:

I need to teach Parmenides Arguments against plurality to school age children like 2nd — 3rd graders. Do you have any ideas of how to show them (with real life objects) that all is one and nothing changes or moves etc. Maybe an experiment?? Thanks!

============

This strikes me as a joke. Have you actually read Parmenides? 'Maybe an experiment??' Ha ha ha. I recommend the Hackett published "Presocratics Reader". Together with several passages deploring an obsession with experiment and the visible, the core thought of his argument is that negation cannot be made sense of, and that consequently limitation and division and plurality cannot be made sense of either. This is an argument about the essential structure of all language and thought, and not about relationships between 'real life objects', which, he concludes, are illusory. I think we will have to allow that there are some ideas and arguments, such as this one, which are not best understood or explained by exploding coffee tins and plastic cones. Have you considered using words?

By the by, don't imagine you can bypass understanding and explanation and move straight on to the critique. Any cogent response to Parmenides has to deal with his claims about 'that which is not', about what is required for negation to be meaningful (see Plato, The Sophist).

David Robjant


(22) Bobby asked:

When is the world going to end?

============

A common difficulty with the posing of plain straightforward questions to slippery philosophers is the danger of being asked, by the said philosophers, to explain terms.

"Define 'world'" he may say. "What constitutes 'the end' in this context?", and so on. What to do then? Well, one might run away. Another strategy would be to define the terms involved in 'the end of the world' quite specifically and concretely, with reference to the objects and sensations that we either experience or could experience, thus specifying the criteria by which the continued existence of this world is to be measured.

But we'd have to be careful. Things do change. Specify the criteria too tightly and we'll end up crying 'it's the end of the world!' just because there are no more episodes of Friends. But we don't want to be too generous either. Criteria according to which it's still not the end of the world despite all sentient life in the universe having joined the choir invisible are, for instance, a bit troubling. Also there are plenty for whom their own end, or perhaps the death of a specific loved one, would be the end of meaning, the end of the world. Or perhaps we want to say that when we're all gone, mum and dad and me too, perhaps even when all sentient life is gone, the world, if we mean atoms and goo and energy and stuff, somehow continues. Is that what we want to say? Or what exactly do we mean by 'world'? 'This world, obviously' you retort. Oh dear. Hand-waving isn't enough. When 'world' can be defined so many ways, how do I know that you're idea of what constitutes the essential characteristics of 'this world' matches mine?

Besides running away, which would be cowardly, and attaining general agreement about all the essential qualities of this world, which would be difficult, a third, bolder, more decisive strategy is open to you. You could simply declare that when you say 'world' you mean to indicate totality, and that therefore 'world' and 'universe' may be used interchangeably. But courage is not without it's obstacles. A difficulty here is that since time is treated as a dimension of the universe, it cannot make any sense to ask when the universe will 'end'. Compare 'what time is it in the universe?' with 'where is the universe?' The second question is clearly nonsensical, therefore if time is a dimension, so is the first. The universe cannot have an end or be at an end, any more than it can have an edge or a middle or be five feet tall or slightly to the left. The range of things which can intelligibly be said to end includes any one of the things within the universe, but not the universe.

In summary:

All things will end. Is the universe a thing? No. What kind of thing is a 'world'? Anybody's guess.

David Robjant


(23) Lee asked:

What are "qualia"? Do they exist? And do you think the qualia objection is a knockdown argument against functionalism? why or why not?

============

Go look here:

http://consc.net/online.html

and do some reading.

Steven Ravett Brown


(24) Bill asked:

I occasionally read that solipsism leads to some kind of dead end or black hole, and that you would probably be insane if you really did believe it. Does solipsism have psychological benefits? I find that by imagining that I am truly the only person that really exists, I am able to approach more people without anxiety. I experience less shyness during the day, and also make myself less frustrated/angry if somebody behaves in a way that I don?t like. Do you have any opinion on this? I think it?s irrational to truly believe that you are the only one who exists, but if you just use it as an image or visualization (even just for fun), do you think it can be psychologically beneficial?

============

Look at it this way. We can control, pretty well, how we move, say, our arms. We want to reach for something, we just do it, right? We can control what we think about reasonably well. If you want to think about putting on a shirt, you can do that, right? Ok... what we don't have much control over is what we feel. We feel anger, sadness, shyness, etc., etc... as we are pushed to feel those, by genetics, by our past... whatever. Now, what if our feelings were under the same control that our motions, for example, were? Then you could go out and decide to feel cheerful, sad, confident... whatever... and just do it. But you can't, and neither can most people. But how you go about controlling your feelings indirectly, since we can't easily control them directly, is very important. A lot of people do it by dressing in some way that makes them feel "cool", or "fashionable", or whatever, in order to feel confident. Or you can get tattoos, in order to feel in charge of your body. Or you can dress opposite to the way your parents dress... and so forth. Other people fantasize that they are movie stars, or characters in novels... all to make themselves feel, mostly, self-confident, calm, in charge, or wealthy... or whatever.

And so you are doing something similar. However, I do not think that your strategy is a good one, because you are fantasizing to an extreme degree, and attempting to impose that fantasy on the external world, rather than imposing a fantasy on yourself, in the real world... like dressing in a certain way. In other words, it's one thing to change yourself, and to do it in actuality; or even to imagine some degree of change in yourself. It's quite another to literally live in a fantasy world, which is what you're attempting to do. You are rejecting both emotional adaptation and rejecting control over your environment (you could, for example, redecorate your room. You could, for example, force yourself to speak to strangers), in favor of staying the same and living in a fantasy. No, I do not think this can be beneficial.

Go see a counselor. Make some friends. You need outside contact, with other people... and yes, other people, like it or not, are real.

Steven Ravett Brown


(25) David asked:

Why does homosexuality exist?

============

It has an evolutionary survival value according to the latest research.

Shaun Williamson


(26) Andrew asked:

if I was given some socks from my Grandmother and she then died and I wanted to keep those socks for a long time, then if I were to wear them so much and I had so sow up the holes so much that none of the original wool is left in the socks then are they still the socks my grandmother gave to me?

============

There are no real official standards for this sort of thing. You will have to decide for yourself. If there is less than 50% of the original sock left then most people would feel that you were lying if you claimed that these were socks made by your grandmother. The good news is that this is not a matter for philosophy to decide but rather one that is up to you and your own conscience.

Shaun Williamson


(27) Wesley asked:

Is the ability to interpret the world around you and react to it in a rational manner a prerequisite to having free will? In other words; If the concept of free will exists, and that free will is a trait supposedly shared by all humans, do those with severe mental illness have free will? Firstly, by severe mental illness I am not describing states of depression or functional neurosis but states of severe psychosis in which the individual suffering from this condition appears incapable of productive social interaction or even coherent communication with the outside world and exhibits behaviours that appear quite random and uncontrollable.

============

I think that it is recognised by everyone that people suffering from psychotic illness cannot always be held responsible either morally or legally for their actions. However it depends upon the circumstances of each individual case.

There is a widely held superstitious belief that psychotic people are violent but this is not true. The proportion of psychotic people committing acts of violence against others is no greater than the proportion of non psychotic people committing acts of violence against others. In fact psychotic people are more likely to be a danger to themselves.

One of the stipulations of our legal system is that you can only be held guilty of a crime if you know the difference between right and wrong. So yes a certain degree of rationality is necessary for you to exhibit free will in the choices you make.

Shaun Williamson


(28) Christina asked:

I was wondering...if everything just came into existence (I believe in God, but am confused over many things like this) couldn't everything just stop existing? Not even give us time to know anything was happening, just instantaneously stop existing, or if God just thought us into existence, he thought us and himself back out of it?

============

I don't think anyone can know if everything just came into existence or if God willed it into existence. Either answer seems too implausible. I don't think philosophy can find the answer to this sort of question. In the end it is just a matter of belief or faith.

It is true that we could stop existing at any time. The recent tsunami wiped out 200,000 lives. A meteor could hit the earth and make human life impossible. You could die in a traffic accident tomorrow. You don't really need to bring God into it to realise how impermanent human life is. But you can't live your life thinking that it might end at any moment. If you do that then you will be unable to do anything. The most reasonable expectation in the western world is that you will live to the age of seventy four. So you have to plan your life on this basis while at the same time being aware that you might die at any time. It is how you live your life in between your birth and your death that is important.

Shaun Williamson


(29) Anonymous asked:

is it possible to get rid of all fear if not most fear without losing touch of reality or becoming crazed or something? if so how? oh yea, do you have to put your email address on this thing?

============

No you don't have to put your email address on this thing and if you are especially fearful you might not want to. Fear is a natural part of the human condition. Superman is a comic book hero, he doesn't exist in real life. Fear is an instinctive warning of danger and can be useful and help to keep us in touch with reality.

Shaun Williamson


(30) Jagan asked:

What is the exact meaning of luck?

Is there any luck factors in life?

============

I see luck as the fortuitous coincidence of events. The winner of the National Lottery randomly chooses six numbers from forty-nine, which fortunately coincides with six numbers randomly selected from forty nine on a Saturday evening. Winners of football pools randomly select the potential results of football matches which eventually coincide with the actual results. Bad luck occurs when the selected results fail to coincide with the actual results. Another example of bad luck can be illustrated by the coincidence of a person walking under a ladder just as the workman above accidently allows his spanner to slip from his hand.

One can go on for ever demonstrating instances of good and bad luck, but they all manifest the simple coincidence of events. It is often expressed as a person being in the right place at the right time , or the wrong place at the wrong time , as the case may be.

A luck factor could be the coincidence of being born into a privileged family. The string of good fortune following this has little to do with coincidence and hence cannot be regarded as luck.

John Brandon


(31) Joshua asked:

Which philosopher said "Consciousness does not exist"?

============

No one that I know of. The nearest was Dennett, who has claimed that qualia do not "exist", in the sense that they have no ascertainable constant qualities.

Steven Ravett Brown


(32) Andrew asked:

if I was given some socks from my Grandmother and she then died and I wanted to keep those socks for a long time, then if I were to wear them so much and I had so sow up the holes so much that none of the original wool is left in the socks then are they still the socks my grandmother gave to me?

============

What does "same" mean? The same structure? The same components? The same relationships between components? The same chemicals?

Steven Ravett Brown


(33) Eric asked:

What is the relationship between an existential dilemma and a Hegelian dialectic?

============

I don't know... what is a "relationship"? Do you want to know how they're different? The same? Whether one causes another? Whether one is a subset of another? What? Clinically speaking, if one is "in" an existential dilemma, one is having emotional problems with motivation, by and large, and one is aware of those problems. But that doesn't imply that one is debating opposite positions on the problems with a view to "synthesizing" them, whatever that actually means, necessarily.

I mean, what's the point of your question? Put the way you've put it, one could write a dissertation on it, easily, and there's no way I'm going to get sucked into that. If you're in an existential dilemma and you want to turn it into a dialectic resulting in a new synthesis, I'm sympathetic, but you need counseling or a good friend, I'd say. Otherwise, your question is simply too vague.

Steven Ravett Brown


(34) Manroop asked:

What does it mean to have respect and why do others not have respect for the way I just am?

============

This question comes at a time when even politicians in the U K are becoming concerned at the lack of respect in society. It has always been generally considered, up to recent times, that the prerogative of every person was the recognition of his or her sanctity, more so when religion was at the heart of society. There were of course failings in this perception from time to time, but it was generally felt that the concept engendered respect for the person. Where it all began to go wrong is anyone's guess. Perhaps the first contribution to undermining respect for others in the U K came in the 1980's when a certain Prime Minister claimed that there was no such thing as community, implying that societies were simply collections of individuals, whose main responsibility was to look out for their own well-being. The never mind you I'm alright society. This was rapidly followed by the removal of discipline from schools. Then came the weird idea that human rights could somehow be applied to the activities of criminals and law breakers, and that retaliation against such persons could lead to condemnation of the victim. The real end of respect was established when it became acceptable for young people in schools to make clear to teachers that any imposed discipline was a violation of their human rights, and that they were well aware of the limited authority which teachers could exercise.

The breakdown of family life as we knew it, the threatening behaviour of car drivers. The privacy of the car as opposed to walking the streets and using public transport, again leads to the private individual, unused to mixing with others: these and many other things lead to lack of respect for others. Modern society now seems far more shallow, with little or no spiritual depth. I am afraid we live in a materialist world whose leaders are obsessed with materialist concepts.

Not being aware of your circumstances I am unable to comment on why you believe that you are not shown respect. Maybe your views and ideas just do not fit into modern concepts. Who knows?

John Brandon


(35) MTT asked:

According to Einstein and most other thinkers, scientist and philosophers, science seems to be--and this is where I want confirmation--relative. Since am a Christian, I'd like to believe there can be ABSOLUTE morality, but since I also believe in science, may I believe in the RELATIVITY of all science?

============

I think you are just confused by words here. Einstein's Theory of Relativity is a theory about the measurement of space and time. It is not a theory about science and doesn't imply that science is relative. The words Relative and Absolute mean something entirely different when applied to ethics and often its not exactly clear what they do mean.. Also I don't agree that being a Christian commits you to a belief that morality is absolute. It seems to depend on what sort of Christian you are.

Shaun Williamson


(36) Santos asked:

There was a philosopher who liked looking up at the sun. A king came to ask him if he would teach son but his only reply was,you're blocking my view from the sun. I am just paraphrasing. Thank you.

============

Diogenes (the King was Alexander the Great).

Shaun Williamson


(37) Asem asked:

How to entertain myself when I have a terrible mood?

============

Learn to play a musical instrument

Shaun Williamson


(38) Gerry asked:

Do you have the impression that a philosopher really does not have to write so long and so much to tell us a message which when stripped of his own invented terminology is a common sense idea? -- that is when it is said in the common language of ordinary people.

============

Your idea that philosophers put forward ideas that are really common sense is so far away from the truth. Philosophers will tell you things like you can never really know if other people are conscious or have feeling or sensations like you do. Does this idea strike you as common sense?. Philosophers will say that everything we do is determined by forces that we cannot control. Is this something you believe and are you consistent in your belief?

Shaun Williamson


(39) Gerry asked:

Can you tell me five problems philosophers today have solved for certain? Or they have realized that these problems are irrelevant because they are not of any importance whatsoever in modern society.

============

Do you mean that a majority of philosophers would have to agree on the answer or would all of them have to agree. How about if 40% agreed that answer X was the correct answer to question Y, would this do? What do you mean by important? Is poetry important? Is business important? Is literature important? Do politicians agree on the solutions to problems. Is that important?

Shaun Williamson


(40) Gerry asked:

Who have higher IQ's, scientists or philosophers or religious leaders?

============

We don't know. I would guess that (the average) for religious leaders is lower since they are often a self appointed body and that scientists and philosophers are fairly equal. What we do know is that PhD students in British universities have an average I.Q. of 145. But you should remember that averages are not that important. Individual differences are what matters and there are many other factors such as creativity that are not included in I.Q. measurements.

Shaun Williamson


(41) Liz asked:

I've never studied set theory, so I'm looking for non-technical explanations of 1) the Axiom of Choice (and why its supposedly so controversial)and 2) Cantor's Continuum Hypothesis.

============

These are difficult questions and I don't know how much you know about set theory so its difficult to give an answer that I can be sure you will understand. However I will try. Cantor first devised set theory which was founded on the idea of a set of objects and a member of a set.

So lets take the set of colours {red, green blue}. If someone asks does yellow belong to this set of colours then we can answer no. Cantor hoped that set theory would provide a foundation from which the whole of modern mathematics could be derived.

Cantor's set theory which came to be called naive set theory was destroyed by paradoxes discovered by people such as Bertrand Russell and was replaced by axiomatic set theory which restricted the sort of sets we could talk about but still had the same idea of providing a foundation from which all of modern mathematics could be derived.

There are several versions of axiomatic set theory but one of the most accepted is called Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory.And it is agreed that their set of axioms allows us to derive all of modern mathematics including Calculus.

So on to the axiom of choice.

An additional axiom suggested by Zermelo-Fraenkel, this axiom says that given a collection of sets we can define a function ( a procedure) that allows us to choose one member from each of these sets. So for example given these sets of real numbers {1,2,3}, {4,8,16,32}, {4,7,8,9,0} we can define a choice function which simply picks the smallest number from each set. This would give us the choice set {1,4,4}. In fact given any number of sets of integers we can always define a choice function which picks the smallest number from each set. So what is the problem?

The problems start we we come to consider infinite sets because there are some sorts of infinite sets where we do not know how to define a choice function and it is not obvious that we could ever do so. However at the same time this axiom has allowed the derivation of certain mathematical truths which would be difficult to derive in any other way. Its status is rather like Euclid's original axiom of parallel lines in geometry. Mathematicians are not convinced that it is an obvious truth but it is useful.

It has been proved that Zermelo+Fraenkel axioms + the axiom of choice is true will not lead to a contradiction AND Zermelo+Fraenkel + the axiom of choice is false will not lead to a contradiction and this has increased the feeling of uncertainty about the soundness of this axiom as one that is necessary to mathematics.

2. The continuum Hypothesis.

Cantor showed that some sorts of infinite set of numbers can be counted for example

a) the set of all positive integers b) the set of all positive and negative integers c) the set of all positive fractions d) the set of all positive and negative fractions

He also proved that there are some sets of infinite numbers that cannot be counted, for example the set of all real numbers between zero and one. He then defined a distinction between sets of infinite numbers that can be counted and those that cannot in terms of their density or power.

So that the power or density of the set of all real integers is called 'N' and the density or power of the set of all real numbers between 0 and 1 is called 'c', and c is greater than N. Cantor's continuum hypothesis states that if any set has a power greater than N (i.e. N1) then N1 =c. Mathematicians are not convinced that this is true but no one has yet managed to prove that it is false.

To follow up these ideas you can use the Internet. Open 'www.yahoo.com' and go advanced search. Search for 'Axiom of choice' and 'Continuum Hypothesis'. There are interesting articles at http://Planetmath.org and http://vanderbilt.edu.

Shaun Williamson


(42) Sunny asked:

How is materialism connected to other areas of philosophy?

============

By saying "other areas," it implies that you had area from which you derived 'materialism' in the first place. Indeed, there are many areas of philosophy in which materialism plays a prominent role. Most philosophers, however, would first associate it with the Philosophy of Mind.

In that subject alone, there are many different schools of thought associated with materialism, and even more debate as to its usefulness in contemporary philosophy of mind. In general, materialism is hostile towards features of the mind deemed 'mental,' such as consciousness and subjectivity. An extreme version of materialism would be 'eliminative materialism,' which proposes that mental states don't exist at all. In other words, we really don't have desires, hopes, or beliefs, at least according to this theory (largely put forth by Feyerabend in the 60's).

Materialism, especially in its extreme forms, often has implications that carry over to other theories. It often implies a negation of 'folk psychology,' for example, largely because that theory postulates the existence of theoretical entities such as pain, pleasure, etc, and attempts to make concrete, empirical associations between such things as hunger and thirst. It also allows for the evaluation of beliefs to amount to one being more false than another. Some reject eliminative materialism on grounds that it negates the existence of the theoretical entities postulated in folk psychology, whether or not the latter is completely accepted on its own.

Another materialist theory is 'functionalism,' which posits that such things as belief and desire are just constituted by a system of causal connections. According to this theory, anything could conceivably have the qualities of human belief and desire so long as it had the correct causal connections. This leads to another, more widely held belief in 'strong artificial intelligence' or 'computer functionalism,' which postulates that a computer could potentially have the same thoughts and feelings as humans so long as they had the correct system of inputs and outputs.

Some philosophers take the 'intentional stance.' That is to say, they only view things such as desire, belief, etc. as mental vocabulary with no real substantive connection to actual mental phenomenon. They think it's merely a way of describing behavior or brain activity. On the other hand, rather than claiming those are just useful descriptions, some claim that what they're describing don't exist at all. In other words, consciousness does not exist (not a very widely held view, especially as it can be viewed as a self-refuting argument).

For a rather in-depth refutation of materialism, or even an accurate description of the development of modern materialism, John Searle is a good starting point (even if you just want to find out more about the above).

Another view of materialism hasn't much of anything to do with the philosophy of mind; rather, it has rather obvious implications with ontology. In the view typically called 'historical materialism' (as it was outlined by Karl Marx), your consciousness is a product of your being, and thought is limited by what's within your range of experience. Sartre is perhaps the most vocal opponent to this theory (although he could be seen as merely reconciling it with his own), particularly how it neglected the idea of individual 'praxis,' or purposeful human activity. In essence, Marx attached himself a pure, objective truth and made humans themselves to objective in the process by ignoring social realities (as Sartre pointed out).

You've asked a very broad question, so I hope I answered broadly enough.

Reece G. Johnson


(43) Jeanie asked:

Who is your life's greatest love; your parents, spouse, siblings or children?

============

Well I assume you are looking for a general answer to this. It seems that the strongest biological bond that exists between humans is the bond between parent and child. It has been noted that parents are often willing to sacrifice their own lives to save their children. So we would have to say that parental love is the strongest love. However while this is true in general it is an individual thing and many parents may not have this strong bond. Bertrand Russell stated that the First World War convinced him that parental love didn't really exist since he noticed that many parents in their patriotic fervour did not care if their sons lived or died as long as they died as heroes.

Shaun Williamson


(44) Steven asked:

I was thinking about the truth or falsity of a statement where someone told me 'If I eat out tonight then I will meet you for the movie at 9:30 pm.' I know that if the person eats out and meets me for the movie at 9:30 pm then the statement is true and if the person eats out and does not meet me for the movie at 9:30 pm then the statement is most assuredly false. However, what if the person doesn't eat out? If they still meet me at 9:30 pm for the movie is the statement true? Or, if they don't eat out and don't meet me for the movie at 9:30 pm, will this statement be true? And why?

============

The important thing is how you analyse the logic of the statement. Most English sentences are logically ambiguous. You could interpret this as having the logical form 'if a then b'. This statement will only be false if a is true and b is false because that is the standard interpretation of a logical if. However the statement could also be interpreted as 'b if and only if a'. This statement will be true only if a and b are both true or if a and b are both false. The second form of the statement is what people often intend when they use the word 'if'.

Shaun Williamson


(45) Liz asked:

Can I legally open up a school (in the US) that adheres to the standard curriculum prescribed by the state (in the subject classes like Math, History, etc.),but also teaches that the earth started as a ball of fire, and millions of years ago, it suddenly dried into a solid planet within 2 days,and the following day, all the animals rose up (simultaneously)from the rocky ground and that humans first existed alone on Mars, but needed company so were transported to earth instantaneously? Why not? Isn't this as arbitrary as what is taught in parochial schools? Why can't my school just be considered a parochial school?

============

Well I take it that this is a joke but that what you are really concerned with is the teaching of creationism. I don't object to the teaching of creationism in church schools since people are free to teach any nonsense they care to teach. What is worrying is the way in which some States are starting to insist that Creationism is taught in science classes and is presented as a serious scientific theory which it isn't because there is no experimental evidence for it whatsoever and creationists never try to find any.

But I am not American so this will have to be sorted out by U.S. citizens and their Supreme Court. If they make the wrong decision then the rest of the world will laugh at them. Why don't creationists object to chemistry and physics? Doesn't the bible have anything to say about these things? By the way I went to a church school run by the largest Christian denomination but I was never taught creationism nor would anyone at my school have thought it worthy of serious consideration. So why is it that these smaller Christian denominations who are a minority even in the U.S. are able to determine education policy in some states. Perhaps the apathy of the majority is to blame. Fundamentalists in all religions are a major cause of trouble in the world and we need to fight against them and their undemocratic attempts to force their ideas on everyone else.

Shaun Williamson


(46) Taylor asked:

I need help understanding the behaviorists joke, "You feel fine. How to I feel?

============

A behaviorist believes that talk about feelings can be reduced to talk about behaviour. So if I say John is in pain then this is the same as saying John is exhibiting pain behaviour. If a say I am angry then I am saying I am exhibiting anger behaviour. Since we can often see other people's behaviour more clearly than we can see our own, if behaviourism were true it would make sense to say to other people 'How do I feel?'.

The joke is really an anti-behaviourist joke.

Shaun Williamson


(47) Nia asked:

What do religious believers mean when they say the world is a creation?

and Christina asked:

I was wondering if everything just came into existence (I believe in God, but am confused over many things like this) couldn't everything just stop existing? Not even give us time to know anything was happening , just instantaneously stop existing, or if God just thought us into existence, he thought us and himself back out of it?

============

Religious believers refer to a world created by a deity. Those believing this notion accept the presumption that a deity in the form of a god or Supreme Being exists. The origin of such a being is never questioned as the problem is regarded to be beyond the scope of the human mind. However, it is accepted without question that the Supreme Being is responsible for bringing the universe, and hence the world, into existence. This is understood as the theory of creation.

Dealing with the second question, it follows that if God is in sole charge of all existence as we understand it, He has the power to do exactly as He pleases. If God is the instigator of all things by some mystical power of 'thought' it seems ostensibly that He could just rub it all out at will and start again, or rub it all out and forget the idea. "Thinking himself out of it", as you suggest, would, however, depend on whether or not God Himself is self-generated.

Considering the way the world is going, and as the human race continues to destroy itself by way of selfishness, greed, material obsession, and general destruction of the planet in the interests of power and profit, I doubt that God will bother to concern himself with bringing the world to a premature end. If you believe the Bible it seems that He has done this before by drowning everybody, guilty and innocent alike. However, now that the human race has discovered God's source of power, the atom, He can quite reasonably leave it to 'man' to bring about such destruction. Who knows, He may have something a lot better going on in another part of His vast universe.

John Brandon


(48) Sandy asked:

Can you answer the following questions please in relation to analysis of this argument. Moral norms are relative to particular cultures or social groups. The rules of conduct that are applicable in one community do not apply to the actions of people in another 'since' moral codes vary from time to time and place to place. To put it simply: what is right is what my social group approves of and what is wrong is what my social group disapproves of. Hence' what is right for the members of one community may be wrong for the members of another Moreover, no one groups standards are any better than any other groups. This throws doubt doubt upon the whole enterprise of moral education. Surely it follows that any attempt to influence the young in respect of their moral is an exercise in indoctrination, an attempt to impose the preferences of a particular social group on immature minds. What are the premises? What is the final conclusion and intermediate conclusions if any? Are the premises true? Does the writer support them? Do the premises support the conclusion? More precisely how strong is their support? this is the second time I have posted this question — how and where will the answers appear? I sent an e-mail but it comes back unable to deliver to host unknown.

============

Sandy this website exists so that people who are interested in the subject can ask questions about philosophy. Unfortunately your question looks very much like an essay question that has been set by one of your teachers. You cannot expect that other people will want to do your school work for you for free especially since there is no sign that you have tried to tackle the question yourself. I would think that the teacher expects your essay to be your own work. So this is an answer but probably not the one you hoped for.

Shaun Williamson


(49) Rebeka asked:

I am attempting to draw a related line between the Vampire as Archetype and the human fear of dying, growing old, illness etc..The myth of Vampire was created from imagination why? Is it because we are attracted to the idea of living forever with no boundaries or very little? Our fear of dying also somehow played out in the Vampires act of taking life to sustain his?

============

Good idea, but I think it's been done. Remember, for example, Renfrew's saying (in Stoker's original Dracula), "The blood is the life". I think the idea is a good one with which to start, but not good as an essay in itself... you need to try to take it somewhere original.

Steven Ravett Brown


(50) Natasha asked:

Can you please tell me the meaning of my name?

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Well, go here:http://www.zelo.com/firstnames/index.asp and look.

Steven Ravett Brown


(51) Elena asked:

How can I seek revenge for being misunderstood and for the pain caused?

============

As far as I'm concerned, unless "revenge" will result in some great good, much greater than your feeling better, the best thing you can do is learn from the experience and, first, not let yourself get into the same kind of situation again, and second, not inflict something like that on someone else. If it's lack of understanding you consider bad, then learn to understand others so that you won't have someone else feeling that way about you.

Steven Ravett Brown


(52) Elia asked:

How do you compare and contrast humanism and psychodynamic theories, and how will I recognise when these are put into a therapy setting? and what is the difference between a theory and an approach anyway?

============

Go here:

http://www.answers.com/topic/praxis

and here:

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&safe=off&client=safari&rls=en&oi=defmore&q=define:Praxis

and read about "praxis". That should get you started thinking about this issue.

Steven Ravett Brown


(53) Liz asked:

Can I legally open up a school (in the US) that adheres to the standard curriculum prescribed by the state (in the subject classes like Math, History, etc.),but also teaches that the earth started as a ball of fire, and millions of years ago, it suddenly dried into a solid planet within 2 days,and the following day, all the animals rose up (simultaneously)from the rocky ground and that humans first existed alone on Mars, but needed company so were transported to earth instantaneously? Why not? Isn't this as arbitrary as what is taught in parochial schools? Why can't my school just be considered a parochial school?

============

All you have to do is found a religion based on that, and yes indeed you can. What fun, right? Hey, there are millions taught that an angel named Moroni brought tablets of gold with post-New Testament revelations to a guy named Joseph Smith, among them being that polygamy is better than monogamy. It's called Mormonism. There used to be a sect whose members believed that any sex at all was evil... so they didn't have any. There aren't any more of them... And the snake-handlers? If you've got faith, you should be able to be bitten by poisonous snakes and be unharmed. It's still practiced today in the good old US of A. And what about resurrecting the dead and using them to work your fields? Pretty practical, I'd say... and only relatively recently outlawed in Haiti... and still probably practiced. Well, they're not exactly dead... the drugs are fairly exotic. And all you want is a bit about Mars? Come on, you can do better than that. Read up on the Hindu creation myths, or the Mayans, if you want real sci-fi! I mean, wouldn't feathered snakes be cute?

Steven Ravett Brown


(54) Gerry asked:

Do you have the impression that a philosopher really does not have to write so long and so much to tell us a message which when stripped of his own invented terminology is a common sense idea? -- that is when it is said in the common language of ordinary people.

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Well, gee gosh, those philosophers... just taking simple ideas and adding a bit of verbiage here and there to make them seem hard... and they get paid so much for that.

No, I don't have that impression. My impression is that many philosophical questions may have started with a simple idea, just like geometry started with simple ideas about parallel lines, angles, simple figures... and that they got developed into extremely complex ideas, just as Euclidean geometry turned into Riemann geometry, or arithmetic turned into set theory, to take two out of thousands of examples.

And what's the point? Well, without complex geometries, we'd have no relativity theory, no advanced physics. Without complex ideas in philosophy we'd have no way to ask and attempt to ask, much less to answer questions about what "science" is, or what "induction" is... to name just two easy to state — and extremely difficult to understand — issues.

Steven Ravett Brown


(55) Gerry asked:

Can you tell me five problems philosophers today have solved for certain? Or they have realized that these problems are irrelevant because they are not of any importance whatsoever in modern society.

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Oh dear, now you want certainty. As for relevance, I think that if you take the effort to look at, say, Duns Scotus, Aquinas, or pretty much any of the Medieval philosophers, you'll find many many issues, not to mention questions, not considered relevant any more. As for solving "for certain", you tell me a problem in physics solved "for certain" and I'll tell you one in philosophy. Is it certain that the sun will rise tomorrow?

Steven Ravett Brown


(56) Mike asked:

1. What is the difference between an anti-matter and a anti-particle?

2. What is dark matter and what kind of gravitational effects does it have on the cosmos?

3. Why can't the standard model predicts a subatomic particles mass. Do we know the mass of any subatomic particles or do we only have approximations?

4. How could gravity possibly fit in with the atom, and does there really need to be a gravity force carrier particle in the atom? As such a particle is predicted or theorized to exist but hasn't been detected yet?

5. Why are scientists confused by the decaying process of atoms? Why is it so important to scientists to come up with a formula that will enable them to predict when a atom will decay?

6. Are there some subatomic particles that only human constructed collisions bring about, and that nature or decaying never bring into existence? Which of the particles that exist in the particle accelerators also exist by themselves in nature without human interactions or human intervention? What are their names?

Also scientist do not even know why 2nd and 3rd generation particles even exist since they do not make up any of the stable matter that is in existence. Do 2nd and 3rd generation particles only exist in the particle accelerator machines, or do some 2nd and 3rd generation particles sometimes also exist out in nature under certain circumstances? Which ones of the 2nd and 3rd generation particles also exist out in nature by themselves sometimes?

7. Could an "orbital theory of the universe" be a possibility of how the universe really exists. Such a theory would believe God exists and created the universe in shells, say 10 (something similar to the orbits of our solar system). The outer shell being the largest and the inner shell being the smallest. God then would put so many galaxies on each shell depending on the size of the shell. Plus he could use dark matter between the shells and between the galaxies themselves to help hold all the gravitational forces in place. If the earth was on the center shell closest to the center of the universe, other stars would mostly appear to be moving around the earth. However if the earth was on the outermost shell close to the edge of the universe, then other stars would mostly appear to be moving away from the earth (like an expanding universe), but in actually the universe would not be expanding, it would just be having galaxies moving around their orbital shells that might take millions or billions of years to complete the orbit depending on the size of the shell. In your opinion do you believe and "orbital theory of the universe" could be possible?

8. I've developed a theory I call the "pie vector theory" to help either validate or invalidate the big bang theory. Let me know if the theory has rational to it. Draw a big circle and place a dot in the middle of it representing the origin point of the big bang. If a big explosion occurred debris and gases would blow out in all directions creating a universe shaped like and "expanding pie". Now draw a line from the origin point of the big bang to the edge of the circle, we will call this the earth's angle line. Now put a dot in the middle of that line representing the Earth and our Sun. Now any debris, gases or stars that were blown out of the big bang before we were would be ahead of us on that line, and those stars would appear to be moving away from us. And debris, gases, or stars blown out after us in the big bang would be behind us on that line and the stars would appear like they are approaching us. Now draw two more lines from the origin point of the big bang, one on each side of the earth line. And draw the lines at about a 10 degree angle from the earths line. Now all the stars on these other two lines that blew out of the big bang at about the same time as the earth did will appear to be even with out earth and sun and traveling at about the same speed as our earth and sun. But because these stars were blown out of the big bang at a different angle line than we were, they will appear to be slowly moving away from us at their 10 degree angle difference. Now draw a small circle around the dot representing our earth and sun with the edges of the circle just touching the inner boundaries of the two 10 degree angle lines. That small circle represents the only part of the universe that is visible to us. That's probably only 1% to 5% of the universe then that is actually visible to us with our most powerful telescopes. Now using this "pie vector theory" we should be able to determine from which direction the big bang occurred. Plus if the big bang is correct, then by using our telescopes and measuring the directions of all the stars around the earth, all the stars directions should line up with the "pie vector theory". If they don't then the big bang is incorrect. Please give me your opinions and ideas on this theory?

Any answers on insights you can give on these questions would be greatly appreciated.

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1. None.

2. Dark matter, as far as I've read about it (not much lately — I've been busy), has been hypothesized to account for effects of gravity which can't be accounted for given the matter that's observable.

3. We know the mass of the electron very exactly. But think: what's an "approximation"? We're limited by our ability to measure, not by theory. We have to start somewhere, right? So where is that? Measuring the charge of an electron, to get that constant? Measuring the rest mass of a proton? What? Any measurement is subject to error.

4. Particles in the atom have mass, so they have gravitational fields. Yes. The "graviton" has been detected, pretty easily, I'd say... we don't go floating up into the air, do we? The question you need to ask is "why is the gravitational field conceived of as particles as well as a field?" Well, what about electromagnetic radiation? Think about it.

5. Um...?? What?? This isn't a coherent question. Scientists are confused by everything, that's why they're scientists.

6. — The first interesting question you've asked. The answer is no.

— All of them.

— Give me a break. Go look them up.

— Yes they do, and so what? Think: what's going on in the inside of stars? Of black holes?

— All of them. Didn't you ask this before?

7. No. No. NO. This is the classic Medieval theory of the universe. Believe me, it's been really, seriously, disproved.

8. It's wrong. The universe isn't a flat plane on which you can "draw a big circle". Think of this: suppose the universe is a balloon, and we live on the surface. The "bang" inflated the balloon. Now, from the viewpoint of someone on the surface, who can only see the surface, from which direction did the bang originate? You see your problem?

Look. You can't do it this way. The last person who attempted to think something up without knowing anything about it was Ramanujan, and he had the grace to confine himself to number theory (he was successful, by the way... after about 10 years of work... starting in his early teens). You have at least 5, yes that's five, years of intense studying, in a coherent program of study, i.e., a graduate school, before you can even start to ask these questions meaningfully and coherently. And if you really do that studying, then after that time (and really I'm pushing it... 5-10 years is more like it) you won't want to, because you'll be asking much more difficult and interesting questions. No, it doesn't matter how smart you are. You need to know what's already known, which is much more than you think.

Steven Ravett Brown


(57) Karina asked:

I would like to introduce philosophical ideas to my children ages 8 and 12. What kind of philosophical questions should I start with and get them thinking?

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Actually you might just go to Google and put in "children's philosophy" or "philosophy for children" or something like that. The last time I did that I found an enormous number of resources. Of course what comes immediately to mind is Gaardner's book Sophie's World, or Alice in Wonderland by Carroll, but there are lots more.

Steven Ravett Brown


(58) Reece asked:

Why do analytic theories of reference account for complex demonstratives but not complex indexicals? Should 'tomorrow' entail an automatic reference to the day after today if I'm unaware that it's really 12:01 AM Tuesday instead of Monday night and that by saying tomorrow I'm actually referring to Wednesday instead of Tuesday? Why even bother accounting for true indexicals if they have these limitations?

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I'm going to preface this with the caveat that this isn't my area of expertise, then plunge in, haha... My answer to this kind of question is that analytic theories are based on the deductive model of logic, with the underlying idea being that with a fairly small, finite, set of postulates, operations, and basic elements, one should be able to derive, i.e., prove, all that's necessary to explain... well, whatever. Language. Life. Etc. You might notice a bit of skepticism here on my part, but aside from that, given the shifting nature of the meaning of indexicals, wouldn't you think that they would give such an attempt much more problems than demonstratives, which are, seemingly, nice and neat about what they refer to, and how they do it? When you have a pronoun like "you", which can mean different things depending on context, and indeed is intended to be used that way, it's not going to be easy for an approach that wants to simplify, whose very reason for being is the idea of simplification, to handle. So that's why analytic theories have such problems accounting for them. If it comes to that, analytic theories aren't all that fantastic at accounting for definite reference either. Take a look at Complex Demonstratives, by Jeffrey King, if you doubt that.

Steven Ravett Brown


(59) Steven asked:

I was thinking about the truth or falsity of a statement where someone told me 'If I eat out tonight then I will meet you for the movie at 9:30 pm.' I know that if the person eats out and meets me for the movie at 9:30 pm then the statement is true and if the person eats out and does not meet me for the movie at 9:30 pm then the statement is most assuredly false. However, what if the person doesn't eat out? If they still meet me at 9:30 pm for the movie is the statement true? Or, if they don't eat out and don't meet me for the movie at 9:30 pm, will this statement be true? And why?

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Suppose that "if A, then B" is true. Like your first statement above, ok?

Then "if not-B, then not-A" is...

And "if B, then A" is....

And "if not-A, then not-B" is...??

Remember that if something is true, it's always true. If it's not always true, it's false, in the kind of logic we're talking about here.

Then go look up: 'Statement', 'Contrapositive', 'Converse', 'Inverse'.

Steven Ravett Brown


(60) Joseph asked:

Hi! In one of my Philosophy lessons, my Philosophy teacher said that in the philosophical point of view, an autist person is not a human being. She gave us a "definition" of Human Being and some of it's characteristics (for example Autonomy, Communicability, Perfectibility, meaning that we can improve ourselves, we can become better, and Rationality). She said that the autist is not a human being because it doesn't have the "requirements", I mean, it does not have the characteristics of the "normal" Human Being. Now here's my big question: Isn't there any way I can proof that an autist is a Human Being (according to the Human Being characteristics and the philosophical point of view)?

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If your teacher actually said what you say she did above, then she is an idiot, and she should not be teaching. First, there is no "philosophical point of view"; there are many many many points of view that philosophers have on pretty much anything, including what a human being "is", whatever that means.

Second, there is no "definition" of what a human being is. That's nonsense.

Third, she's wrong, in any case, about autistic people.

Fourth, there's no way you're going to "prove" anything about what an autistic person is like, because they're as variable, changeable, and undefinable as anyone else, and in addition, proof is for formal systems, not for statements about reality, much less about what human beings are like, which is something that no one agrees on anyway.

So basically you've had a load of crap shoved at you, which is a real shame.

If you want to read about autism, you might take a look here:

Baron-Cohen, S. Mindblindness: An Essay on Autism and Theory of Mind. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999.

Grandin, T. Thinking in Pictures: And Other Reports from My Life with Autism. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1995. Grandin's book is very good.

Steven Ravett Brown


(61) Walt asked:

What percentage of professional biologists are Christians?

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What percentage of professional biologists are Hindus? What percentage of professional biologists are Jews? What percentage of professional biologists are Zoroastrians? What percentage of professional biologists are Buddhists? What percentage of professional biologists are Muslims? What percentage of professional biologists believe in fairies?

But what you're really asking is: "What percentage of professional biologists are... believers in some creed that denies evolution?" Aren't you. And what that neglects is that one can be a Christian (etc.) and not be a fanatic fundamentalist, and accept the enormous weight of evidence which supports evolution.

Steven Ravett Brown


(62) David asked:

Why does homosexuality exist?

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Yes, a very good question. It's still being debated, but right now one answer seems to be that homosexuality may be associated with desirable traits in other family members of the homosexual, such as better child-rearing. In addition, homosexuality seems, at least in part, to be due to a very very small alteration in the pheromone receptors involved in sexuality. That is, women smell good, and sexy, to men, and vice versa, and that smell preference is genetic. But the chemicals responsible for those smells, the pheromones, are very similar to each other, and the receptors in the nervous system which respond to them could easily get confused, if some very small changes happened to the genes responsible for their structure. It's possible, then, that there is a mutation which is easy to happen, by chance, which keeps popping up in mammals (because humans are only one of pretty much all mammals in which homosexuality occurs in about 10% of the population), which lets the male receptors respond to male pheromones, or the female to female.

Go here:

http://evolution.berkeley.edu/

and here:

http://www.hbes.com/

and look around.

Steven Ravett Brown


(63) David asked:

This is an ethical inquiry. If my employer has made promises and assurances to me, and then breaches those in such a manner that it appears quite likely the assurances were never intended to be honored, AND I have facts (truth is a defense to defamation) that if publicized would embarrass the employer, would my releasing those facts to the media be unethical, or is the company no longer entitled to any duty of loyalty?

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The question can't be answered the way you state it, because you're not specific enough. What are "promises and assurances"? Were they made casually, in conversation? By whom? Were they written down in a contract? By whom? Are they legally binding? You say you have facts that would be "embarrassing". Embarrassing in what way? What "employer", the company? Your boss? Are these facts relevant to your hiring? To the agreement you say has been broken, or are they just random facts you've found out?

I have no idea whether you were out at a bar with your boss and he (I assume your boss is male; that's the likelihood) made some casual statements to you, or whether you sat down and signed documents which were subsequently notarized. The most ethical scenario: you had a legal contract, in writing, promising you something... salary, a job position... and that agreement was broken unilaterally, by the company. The reason that agreement was broken was because the company is doing something illegal, i.e., "embarrassing", and they wouldn't agree to pay you after you refused to do it (and you didn't know about it beforehand). Ok, go to the press.

Unethical scenario: you want "revenge" because you've been fired, or passed up for a promotion that you were "promised" in a casual conversation with your boss, and you'll reveal some company secret you've stumbled on to get that revenge. No, this is a bad idea, and unethical to boot. A casual "promise" isn't, and company secrets are proprietary, unless they're out and out illegal, or obviously immoral, like the cigarette companies concealing strong evidence that smoking causes cancer (which it's documented they did).

And of course there are all sorts of in-between scenarios of varying types, with varying degrees of morality one way or another, and no way for me to know what's really going on.

Steven Ravett Brown


(64) David asked:

This is an ethical inquiry. If my employer has made promises and assurances to me, and then breaches those in such a manner that it appears quite likely the assurances were never intended to be honored, AND I have facts (truth is a defense to defamation) that if publicized would embarrass the employer, would my releasing those facts to the media be unethical, or is the company no longer entitled to any duty of loyalty?

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I don't know but its not really a matter of life and death. I suspect you will have to make up your own mind about this. But are you only motivated by thoughts of revenge? If so how will this make you feel afterwards.

If an employer makes promises to me then I only count it as a real promise if it is in writing (i.e. part of my contract of employment). Anything else I hear but never count on. All I know is that the wish for revenge is one of the most destructive of human emotions. Also you need to keep in mind that truth is not a defence to defamation. Being able to prove in court that something is true is a defence.

Shaun Williamson


(65) Pete asked:

In ontology, the position known as physicalism is associated with the view that physical entities are what "really exists". What these physical entities really are is usually a question that is deferred to answers from physicists. Since physics is a mathematical discipline, this stance carries the implication that all real things are inherently describable in terms of mathematical constructs — a kind of latter-day Pythagoreanism. Is it ludicrous to question this, and posit that if we were to remove our "Pythagorean spectacles", we would find the world full of inherently non-mathematical entities, perhaps the prime example of which would be our own qualitative experiences: the infamous qualia?

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Physics uses mathematics but I don't agree that it is a mathematical discipline. There are many things in the world that exist but are not physical entities. Sensations, feelings, poetry, games and mathematics are some examples of things which exist but are not physical entities.

Shaun Williamson


(66) Anthony asked:

Can someone use their "brain, energy, power etc.." to move things and how can someone develop that energy?

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Humans do use their brains to move things and that is why we have invented the wheel, railways, rockets and motor cars.

If you think about it then all these things are miracles. However you are probably thinking more about telekinesis and I doubt that this exists since it seems to go against everything we know about the world.

Shaun Williamson


(67) Geoffrey asked:

Will the quality of questions submitted to Ask a Philosopher improve?

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The quality of the questions to Ask a Philosopher shows a confusion under young people.

The daily emitted myths through mass media are colliding with common sense. At the same time these myths have become their only truth. That results in 'weird' questions of the sort "do computer have a mind?" and "is it ethical to eat meat?"

First Western Truth needs a paradigm shift to result in a revolution in thinking, and then 'things will fall into place.

Henk Tuten


(68) Taylor asked:

Reductive materialism holds that each type of psychological state is identical with a corresponding physical state. Pain is identical with a particular brain state. Materialism says that each psychological state is identical with some physical state. Explain how Materialism could be true even though Reductive Materialism is false.

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A potential problem here is the large difference between 'is identified with', and 'is identical to'. The first thing gets said in labs, and the second gets said in quasi religious pseudo science sometimes calling itself philosophy. Note that the reductive materialist contradicts himself if he says "each type of psychological state is identical with a corresponding physical state". Either these states are identical, or they correspond. They can't do both.

Then again, if what was meant was 'is identified with' that's a modest, fair and philosophically untroublesome summation of current knowledge, if by 'brain state' we are allowed to mean those fuzzy pictures on scans and the like which, to be perfectly frank, people have the most rudimentary ways of distinguishing from each other (is the activity patch slightly to the left or to the right?).

Now, if you understand 'materialism' as distinguishing itself from 'reductive materialism' by ditching this silly 'is identical to the thing it corresponds with' nonsense in favour of 'is identical to' tout court, that's a fine way of making 'materialism' a tad less nonsensical in one respect, but hardly a way to get off scott free. This is because physical states obviously aren't identical with mental ones, and that's why they had recourse to the 'corresponds with' circumlocution in the first place. The mental states are mental, for a start. There is a whole vocabulary that applies to mental states and which quite obviously does not apply to three dimensional patterns of blood and electricity. It makes not much sense, when asked 'how are you?' to answer 'my brain is cheerful!' It isn't the grey gooey stuff that's in a good mood, it's me.

Now, obviously, mental and physical descriptions must have something to do with each other, but that's not the thesis under discussion. The thesis under discussion is not that the two are somehow connected, but on the contrary that there could be no connection between two things because there is only the one thing here in the first place. And that's nuts.

David Robjant


(69) Gerry asked:

Please if you know tell me of any websites engaged in the systematic bashing of philosophy and philosophers.

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'Systematic bashing': this might mean an organised gang of people taking turns to smash a hammer onto a statue of David Hume (ie vandalism), or it might mean an organised gang of people persecuting intellectuals for daft reasons (ie Pol Pot in Cambodia), or it might mean one dedicated man repeatedly hurling abuse to no particular purpose whatsoever, or it might mean criticism.

By definition, any systematic criticism of existing philosophy would be philosophical, and there are numerous instances of this in the history of philosophy. Wittgenstein gets mentioned here, but every thinker will imagine that they disagree with much of what went before them, or they wouldn't bother to write. Happily, much of this criticism is constructive. This encourages thought. I think thought is a good idea. What about you?

David Robjant


(70) Eric asked:

My question has to do with that old chestnut: "Cogito Ergo Sum". Rephrased as a syllogism, If I think, therefore I am.

Great.

What does it mean "I think"?

Please send your answer pretty soon as I'm not sure I've ever encountered anyone who does.

Thanks, Eric

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Is that the Eric from Monty Python, the one singing "You'd better pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space, because there's b all down here on earth!"? Nice use of surrealist comedy in a criticism of Descartes, Eric, — don't think I've heard that one before. That said, your claim here lacks something in the plausibility stakes, or does depending on what mood one's in, when one last saw 'The meaning of life', what you currently think about your girlfriend, and tittles of this tattle. Maybe a better way to rephrase your challenge to Descartes here is by asking 'what's the criterion for thought as opposed to mere animal reactions?'. Maybe no such challenge has occurred to Descartes. Read him more thoroughly and find out. The usual reading is to say that Descartes connects thinking with the use of language. Presumably you are challenging this connection. But that might not be such a cheap shot at Descartes, because perhaps you'll be forced to say something about what your criterion of thinking are, if you claim to doubt that you've met any thinkers. Well?

David Robjant


(71) Ammad asked:

What is the difference between philosophy and religion?

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All religions are founded on a belief in the existence of a deity or Supreme Being. This Supreme Being or God is considered to be the source of all creation, for which he is entitled to respect and worship. Proof of his being and His work is alleged to be found in ancient scripture. great faith is placed in such writings, many, particularly in the Judaeo-Christian faith, are considered to be the revelations of prophets, some of who claimed direct contact with God.

Most believers in religion form organizations, in some cases called churches, whose worship of the Higher Being or God can be made manifest. There is often an organized ritual or liturgy which is closely followed, which in Christian churches form the basis of a regularly performed 'service'. This is usually backed up by symbolism and powerful imagery. Essentially, the basis of all religious belief is faith, to believe without empirical confirmation, and by claiming an understanding of things unseen.

Philosophy on the other hand seeks confirmation of alleged truths, blind faith is, to a degree, frowned upon in the absence of constructive argument. Abstract arguments posed by religion are often the focus of philosophical debate, many of these entail a moral theme, with claims of reality for basic moral truths: these arguments are confronted head-on by philosophers who support a relative basis for morality.

Generally speaking, philosophy is basically investigative, though at the same time willing to present its own tentative theories; all is embedded in the essential search for knowledge and truth. Religion on the other hand also involves a search for truth and a moral foundation for the human race. However, as indicated above, the approach has a more mystic involvement and a greater dependence on faith. However, though philosophy may generate a popular idea that its scepticism is totally antagonistic to religion, this is not the case, and religion does have many supporters in certain branches of philosophy. The picture I have painted is a very loose general view, leaving out interesting facets of Eastern religions, and views of primitive faiths. Most certainly the lines between religion and philosophy are not always as clear cut as they may seem.

John Brandon