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why do we associate different colors with different things? for example, blue is consistently associated with either feeling 'down' or 'relaxed'. black, while considered fashionable is generally considered a morose color. so, why do we feel a need to attribute certain colors to certain states of mind? if color is just a question of wavelengths, (etc) then why does society do this? - Farris, age 26

This is largely an empirical and psychological rather than a philosophical or conceptual question. I suspect that there are both natural and social reasons for the association. I can think of how some cultures use white for mourning while others black, how some associate red with luck and good fortune while others associate it with vice and anger. On the other hand, there seems a biological link between seasonal affect/exposure to bright/intense/full spectrum/natural light and therefore between dark/gray/blue environments and depression. I suppose one philosophically interesting bit would be whether it's possible to have an experience of color that's not conditioned by emotional and conceptual matters. The conditions for the possibility of color experience and the possibility of color experience independent of other experiences would be interesting to investigate not only empirically but also conceptually. We might argue that the very concepts of color (red, blue, yellow, etc.) are more and must be more...

How should we distinguish between personal memories of our past (what psychologists call episodic memory) and the imagination? Aren't the mental states at the heart of both phenomena fundamentally the same?

One might say, in fact, that memory is part of our imaginative capacity, or at least dependent upon our imaginative capacity to the extent it is composed of imaginative mental phenomena. One way to distinguish memories from other imaginative events, then, as Oliver Leeman suggests, is by their epistemic status. Genuine memories are true, while imaginative events generally may or may not be. But I'd add that it's possible to have imaginative events that are true but are not memories. They would be true accidentally, or by luck. For example, I might imagine that right now a Turkish fighter jet has engaged a target along the Syrian frontier--and by chance it might be so. I'd say, then, that another feature of memories that distinguishes them from imaginations is their causal history. Memories are cause by past experiences, by our past interactions with the world, ourselves, and others. Imaginations may be dreamt up at any time. But these are rather objective ways of distinguishing memories from...

Are there good philosophical reasons for taking drugs? Michel Foucault, Aldous Huxley and Sam Harris are examples of people who have experimented with drugs for creative purposes and in order to gain insight. Given that one is destined to live their entire life in sobriety (which is just one state of consciousness), do they have an inherent right to experience other consciousnesses which completely alter their understanding of reality? In this sense, can people who have not taken drugs but criticize them, be considered ignorant in that they have no experience of drugs?

Yes, I agree with you. There are good philosophical reasons for experimenting with mind altering drugs, the same reasons that make it desirable to experience travel, different kinds of people, different cuisines, different art, etc. Now, of course, the benefits of mind-altering drugs must be balanced against the harms they can produce, and those harms are real enough, although, arguably suffering of various kinds is also something that can provide one opportunities philosophical insight. But just as one is not obligated to suffer or experiment with different cuisines, one is not obligated to experiment with mind-altering drugs. Those who do not experiment will be in some sense ignorant, but it's not clear that philosophically speaking theirs will always or often be a pernicious or limiting ignorance, no more so than the ignorance of one who has not traveled to Peru or experienced the pain of cancer. Moreover, the ignorance will not be complete, for many philosophical purposes one can gain relevant...

Why is it that solipsism can't be 100% refuted? It seems that the theory is very flawed and is called incoherent. And if this is the case then why is it said to be irrefutable? Is the only reason that it can't be refuted is because we can't directly experience what another peron is experiencing, so in other words we can only experience life through ourselves. Is this correct?

Hume once described skepticism as a "malady that can't be cur'd" (a colleague of mine says it's like herpes in that way), and perhaps it's the same with solipsism. The suspicion that it can't be fully refuted depends upon the concern that any reasons brought against it might be gounded simply in the contents of one's self or one's own mind--and that one doesn't fully know oneself or one's own mind. So, pehaps the world and the people in it one experiences are something like dreams or hallucinations. Perhaps the ideas and languages one encounters are one's own invention. Perhaps one's mind has the power (and exercises the power) to create or imagine everything we experience and think and feel, but that power remains hidden from consiousness. One of the most persuasive strategies for subverting solipsism in recent years has been to show that the very thoughts and language in which it is expressed require others to make those thoughts and words meaningful. So, the very existence of the thought and...

Have the advances in brain scanning techniques that allow the brain to be monitored in real-time had an effect on the philosophical discussions regarding the mind/body question? If so what are they? I'd be interested to find out what a student of Wittgenstein or Peter Winch had to say about the subject?

Wittgenstein once posed the following question: If one could open up the top of one's head and then hold a mirror in front of oneself so that one could see inside one's own brain, would one see one's thoughts and feelings? It seems to me that the answer is no, and so whatever the relationship of mind is to body, brain activity is not properly called thought and feeling. Realtime monitoring of the brain gives us something like Wittgenstein's mirror. It shows us what goes on in the brain when we think and feel. But it doesn't follow that we should call what it shows us thought and feeling.

Are there any good, contemporary arguments against materialism?

It depends, of course, upon what you regard as "materialism"--not to mention what you regard as a "good argument." For myself, I think that you might consider that things like relations, sets, patterns, numbers, the self, space and time are not material. You'll also find that much of the controversy about materialism focuses on issues in the philosophy of mind. I'm not sure one can count this as an argument against materialism, but so far as I can tell, reductive materialism hasn't (yet?) succeeded in underming entirely the basis of Descartes's argument that mind is not matter. Here the relevant issue is whether or not mind/mental entities/thoughts/feelings/conciousness possess properties that are adequately explained or defined in terms of matter. If mind/css/etc. possesses properties that have not (yet) been explained or defined in terms of matter, then mind might not be matter. If mind/css/etc. possesses properties that are in fact inconsistent with the properties of matter (for example,...

Is telepathy possible? I have never had a telepathic experience and nor have I met anyone who claims to have had one. I think I would be pretty sceptical if I did. But is it even possible to have a telepathic experience? How would you know you weren't the victim of some kind of psychosis? How would you be able to sort out the 'ownership' of thoughts and other mental states? When I think about telepathy I imagine it as some kind of telephony without the instruments and wires. Let's say I wanted to communicate with my friend Sandra. With a telephone I pick up the instrument, dial Sandra's number, hear some rings and clicks and then I hear Sandra saying 'Hello' (or whatever). I know it's Sandra because I recognise her voice. I know it wasn't me saying 'Hello' because I didn't open my mouth. But with telepathy all the physical actions and events seem to be eliminated. If I want to communicate with Sandra I presumably 'tune in' to her brain somehow. But then all sorts of problems start. How do I know I...

I doubt telepathy is possible, as I can't figure out any causal mechanism to make it work. But that's an empirical matter. I'm reluctant to rule it out in any a priori sense. Must one "know" that the content of a telepathic event is some specified other's thought or mental state? Suppose I'm reading an e-mail or engaged in Instant Messaging with someone. Clearly, I am in some sense apprehending their thoughts (or at leat their words). I do so, however, even if I don't know who the other person is, even if I'm mistaken about who it is, etc. Perhaps, someone has hacked into my friend's IM account or is impersonating my friend in an e-mail. So what? The words I apprehend remain meaningful. In the case of telepathy, one worry (as you point out), however, is that the supposed telepath might simply be apprehending her own thoughts and attributing them to others. But couldn't it go the other way, too? Couldn't one apprehend another's thought and mistakenly take it for one's own? If so, then one could...