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If a person chooses to drink alcohol in order to become more violent, should philosophers/society blame alcohol as "the evil substance," the drinker himself for not understanding the meaning of life, or society for not helping the person overcome alcohol consumption the first place?

Alcohol, not being sentient, can’t seriously be considered evil or blameworthy in the way many people (not including me) think some humans or other sentient beings can be. It is probably more fruitful to forget about blame and think instead in terms of causes and possible solutions. If the person drinks and succeeds in becoming more violent as a result, then alcohol is a cause. But attempting to deprive this individual of alcohol would probably not achieve much in the way of solving the problems. The immediate causes of the person’s choosing to drink would be his own mental states: his beliefs, desires, hopes, fears and so on. Some of the causes of those might be internal the individual: an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, or a lack of certain neural structures, perhaps. And some will lie in the individual’s social environment. A detailed case study would be required to get the full story, and to determine what, if anything, could be done to make matters better.

Many prison sentences are far more damaging than the crime which led to the sentence. To what extent is that morally justified?

Good question. I assume you mean that they are more damaging overall, to the universe as a whole, rather than just to the person imprisoned. Two arguments are typically offered to justify punitive sentences: retribution and deterrence. Personally, I can see no moral justification for retribution. It just seems to be a product of a primitive eye-for-an-eye kind of gut reaction that humans could and should transcend. Forgiveness, with a view making the world a better place for everyone, seems to me a worthier ideal. Deterrence is a different kettle of fish. As matters now stand many humans will commit crimes if not deterred. Given the deterrent value of prison sentences, it is hard to judge whether, on balance, they are damaging or beneficial to society as a whole. In cases where the deterrent value is high, that can provide a very good and morally acceptable reason to imprison offenders on occasion, even if it does the offender far more harm than good – in my opinion, anyway. But if the deterrent...

Wikipedia has an interesting (for me, at least) definition of question: "A question is a linguistic expression used to make a request for information, or the request made using such an expression." This means that there are two senses of the word "question": one very general and abstract (a question is an abstract sequence of words, even it no one asks it), the other one concrete (a question is a concrete asking for information). In the abstract sense, all persons who have ever asked, say, what's the capital of Portugal, they were asking the same question. But here is my problem: in this abstract sense (or perhaps in another possible abstract sense), a question is not a linguistic expression (although Wikipedia says so...), since the same question can be formulated in any language or in different ways within the same language: many linguistic expressions can formulate the same question. A question is an abstraction, something like a thought (that many people can think). What is special about (abstract)...

You might find it useful to think of question as a set of propositions. E.g. 'Is Paris the capital of France?' would correspond to the propositions: Paris is the capital of France and It is not the case that Paris is the capital of France . 'What is the capital of France?' would correspond to a large set of propositions of the form x is the capital of France . An answer to a question would be a proposition that rules out some or all of the propositions that make up the question. A request or command, in the abstract, could just be a proposition of the same kind as that expressed by a declarative: 'Shut the door' addressed to individual x would just be the proposition that x will shut the door. The idea of request or command would come it at the level of the language expressing the proposition rather than the kind of proposition expressed. For example, one could think of the meaning of 'Shut the door' in terms of fulfillment conditions rather truth conditions

One can say something mixing words from two languages (say, English and Ukrainian), and make good, clear and exact sense. One can even mix parts of words, or structures, and make perfect sense. My problem is that such an invented sentence wouldn't be meaningful according to any one of the "previously existing" languages. But, since it has linguistic meaning, it seems that it should have meaning according to some language. What language is that? The "sum" (what is that?) of the two used languages? The sum of all the existing languages in the world (since we can mix words from whatever language)? A new language created just by saying or thinking (one doesn't have to say it) the mixed sentence? And what about sentences with newly invented words? Sometimes we can invent a word and make perfect sense for people who listen to it for the first time. My point is that, after all, it seems that linguistic meaning isn't meaning according to a language. Or, if this is wrong, at least there is no "definite...

It depends on what you take ‘language’ to mean. I take it to mean, roughly, a set of rules for constructing meaningful sentences. These rules specify a list of words and ways of putting them together to form sentences. It specifies the meaning of each word and how to compute the meaning of sentences from the component words and the way they are put together. All typical human languages conform to the principles of what Noam Chomsky called ‘Universal Grammar.’ Universal Grammar is a set of principles for the construction of languages, which severely constrain the range of possible human languages. All normal human children are born with a representation of Universal Grammar encoded in their mind/brains and they (or their mind/brains) use this representation to construct a representation of a language that resembles those of the people around them. Each normal adult human has at least one language represented in their mind/brains. Each such language is unique to the individual, though it will be very...

Is my memory an important part of who I am or can I be ME without my memories?

Good question. My own take on this is inspired by works of Richard Wollheim, “The Thread of Life”, Derek Parfit , “Personal Identity” and Bernard Williams “The Self and the Future” (though Williams argues for an opposed view). I distinguish between on the one hand, my body and brain, and on the other, my mind. I choose to think of myself as my mind. I think my mind is made of, or, as we say, ‘realized by’, my brain, in something roughly like the way a statue is made out of, or realized by, a piece of clay. The piece of clay is not identical with the statue. It existed before the statue came to be. And if the clay in the statue were very gradually replaced with new clay, over time, the statue would survive without the help of the original clay from which it was made. I also think my mind is, or is like, a set of computer programs. In manmade computers the programs are usually realized by patterns of silicon chips. The chips could exist without making the patterns, as the clay could exist without being...

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