Can a depiction or a representation of something be considered the something itself? For instance, can a picture of a unicorn actually be considered a unicorn? Is there a need to specify certain definitions in one's head in order for this to be argued? Like must I specifically define that if I want to see a unicorn I must specify I need one that must be living right in front of me and be able to perform the natural processes something that is living would, or could it be assumed to that if I want to see a real unicorn someone could show me a picture of one or a stuffed animal and it still be a valid response?

There could be a picture of an X that is itself an X. For example, there could be a minimalist picture of a square that is itself a square. The picture could even be titled in such a way that it is or is meant to be a picture of itself, so that this square is a picture of this square. But in general a picture of X is, obviously, not X. A picture of a unicorn is an oil painting, say, and an oil painting is not a unicorn. The famous portrait of the Duke of Wellington by Arthur Lawrence (1815-1816) is most certainly not the Duke of Wellington himself. It has outlived him for by a longtime, for example. We can of course say, looking at the portrait, 'Oh look, there's the Duke of Wellington. I can see why they called him the Iron Duke.' There is a difficult and interesting question about depiction, and how to construe the first of these statements. It cannot mean, 'Oh look, there is a picture of the Duke of Wellington.' This is an observation about a picture in a material sense, gold frame and all. Nor can...

Recently there was a question that said, "you can't create something from nothing, can you?" Actually, if I understand quantum theory correctly, something indeed can exist from nothing. - nothing can spontaneously decay into a particle and its anti-particle - usually, those two particles then interact with each other, leaving nothing again afterward - occasionally one of those two resulting particles will interact with something else instead - consequently, the remaining particle of the original two particles will then continue to exist. Voila! something out of nothing, and it is grounded in physics.

There is a well-known equivocation on "nothing" here. According to quantum theory, there are two particles that go in and out of existence, and leave behind "something". You might as well argue that when I win a trick in bridge, my score came from nothing because the trick disappeared into the "book" (the pile of tricks I needed to make") afterwards. How are two particles interacting "nothing"? Besides, there is also the structure of the sea of quantum gravity, with fluctuations. Is a sea nothing? Is a fluctuation nothing? The fluctuation in the sea of quantum gravity is a most definite something. No, when in metaphysics we talk about something coming from nothing, the nothing has to be a pukka nothing - absolutely nothing at all, and not just a vacuum, for example, which has a structure and is therefore not nothing, but merely not air.

You can't create something out of nothing can you! And yet, here we exist. Is this not the most relevant question we can't answer?

Leibniz considered the question, and perhaps was the first to ask it, in "On the Radical Origination of Things" of September 23, 1697. He gave a comparison for the sequence of things demanding explanations. For a sufficient reason for existence cannot be found merely in one individual thing or even the whole aggregate and series of things. Let us imagine a book on the Elements of Geometry to have been eternal, one copy always being made from another; then it is clear that though we can give a reason for the present book based on the preceding book from which it was copied, we can never arrive at a complete reason, no matter how many books we may assume in the past, for one can always wonder why such books should have existed at all times; why there should be books at all, and why they should be written int his way. What is true of books is also true of the different states of the world . . . This puts the skids under the type of explanation Quentin Smith gives. He commits what informal logicians...

I have never had a successful romantic love experience. If I love someone, how am I supposed to know that I do?

I suspect that in some cases the process of falling in love, and then, perhaps suddenly, realizing that that is what is happening, are part of the same process. You are only fully in love when you have the delicious experience of realizing that you are in love. I don't think this is quite as paradoxical as it might seem, but the paradox is certainly worth thinking about.

Are all philosophical questions unsolvable?

Questions do not have solutions, so your question needs rephrasing. It contains a category mistake. Perhaps one could say that questions are to answers as problems are to solutions. At any rate, it is questions have answers, and problems that have solutions. So we can put your question as this: 'Is no philosophical question answerable?' Your question has a history starting in classical philosophy, as the question whether there are insolubilia , or unanswerable questions, such as whether the statement made by the Cretan Liar is true, or whether it is false. But in modern philosophy the question about insolubilia expanded from logical annoyances into the entire world of metaphysics and epistemology. Can we ever find reality and know it as it is? Kant famously thought not, that we are somehow imprisoned within our own conceptual schemes. This is a big deal. His arguments are complicated and take some study to understand, if they can be understood. There is a possible lesson here, which is that we...

Hello! My question is simple. How do philosophy of time and the philosophy of history distinguish themselves from one another?

The answer is equally simple. The philosophy of history is about actual human history, and things such as what constitutes a proper historical explanation, whether there are historical laws, the role of the individual in determining historical events, and so on. The philosophy of time deals with much more theoretical questions, not about human history at all, but about time itself. Does time pass, or is that an illusion? Is "the myth of passage" really a myth? ("The Myth of Passage" is the name of a well-known article by the Harvard philosopher D.C. Williams. Does time always flow forward, if it flows at all? Can it flow backwards? If not, why not? If it flows, how fast does it flow, and though what? Since speed = distance/time, the speed of time would be the temporal distance covered by time, such as a minute, divided by time, e.g. per minute; but this makes no sense at all. Etc. Etc. There is occasionally a little overlap between the two subjects. For example, the first event is important both in cosmic...

I can see how private language does not make sense in Wittgensteins eyes, in that a language in its true sense cannot be with one person, but I don’t see how this is relevant to mind/body dualism? I see lots of people saying that a ‘language’ that is ‘private’ suggests mind/body dualism is not real, but all I see is the feeling of senses cannot be described in a (soliloquised, for lack of a better word ‘language’) doesn’t mean anything except a private language is not possible. Note: I’ve never asked a philosophical question online before, and I’ve also had a couple of beers as England have just got to the QFs of the World Cup so if this makes no sense I will try to reword!

You should study Wittgenstein's arguments against a private language more closely, because I don't think that his view is quite that language "cannot be with one person", although that is really a wonderful way of putting it. It seems to suggest merely the view that the nature of language is that of a interpersonal communication, which is a bit uninteresting, and yet your phrasing is profoundly interesting. I also didn't quite follow why thinking that there can be a private language goes against psychophysical dualism. Surely it's the other way round. Descartes, for example, has to think he can give sense to his words privately, because he can intelligibly doubt the existence of everyone else. And Wittgenstein himself has been thought to be a behaviourist, or closer to behaviourism than to psychophysical dualism. I am very sorry about Croatia too. I imagine you had some more beers. I did.

I have a mother with alzheimer dementia in a very advanced stage and she is unconscious about anything is happening around her. I think she is alive phisically but not a conscious being, she acts by instincts, grabbing a piece of bread or crying when she needs something, like a baby or an animal. Cant talk, dont know who she is or anything... I cant stop asking myself wether she is "alive", alive here meaning as a conscious human being. If I was religious I would ask where did her soul go?? Is it still there? Is it only her body what is left? Is all mad people also "alive"under this terms? What about very young children (who hasnt developed self awareness yet)? What about people who lives in auto pilot all their life and never question ther existence? Actually when do we start being "alive" under this concept? "I think therefore I am" Sorry for the long lines, I hope I explained myself. Thank you in advance. Juan C.

It is very sad to hear your story. I can give a guess about the awfulness of what you are going through, but I am more certain that I cannot appreciate the full daily horror for you. Your question is a most reasonable one. Is your mother "alive"? It is interesting that you feel obliged to put this word in scare quotes. It is something that "you can't stop asking yourself". So there is something very important here, an important issue. But you have also answered your own question, or part of it. Let us distinguish between the mental and the physical. Is your mother alive physically? Her body is not dead, if we can put it that way. Is she alive "as a conscious being"? Here you give your own answer: ' . . . she is unconscious about anything [that] is happening around her.' I think perhaps you should say that she is conscious only of the most immediate and restricted domain. That perhaps is part of the reason the question is difficult. She is conscious, but not in a full sense. The whole difficulty about...

Most bathroom sprays don't destroy bad odours so much as overpower them with a more pleasant odour. In such cases, can people really be said to be smelling the bad odour if they have no conscious awareness of it?

Philosophers will divide over the question whether tastes, colours, sounds, smells and so on are by nature physical or phenomenal. If these so-called "secondary qualities" are physical, then it makes sense to think of one smell covering up another, which is still there and reappears when the smell covering it up is removed. Similarly, if you think of colour as a physical entity, or you thinkbof it as rather like paint , you can think of one "colour" covering another up, so that the top layer of "colour" could be peeled off to reveal the older underlying colour. But if you think of the qualities as inherently perceptual, then one colour or sound or smell is not covered up by another; it is replaced by it. As Plato puts it in the Phaedo , 'in such a situation it either withdraws or ceases to exist.' My own preference is for a theory in which the "secondary qualities" like tastes are not inherently physical. It makes no sense to think of a physical blue, say, that lacks the quality blue . But...

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