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Is there wisdom which actually cannot be fully expressed except in poetry or literature or art? Or is addressing philosophical questions in such an "artistic" manner just a way of jazzing up an argument which could have stood cut-and-dried, anyway? Is there anything Homer could teach us which Plato could not?

As Nicholas suggests, it partly depends upon what you mean by 'wisdom'. Many philosophers (and others) have been attracted to the idea thatart provides a kind of experientially-based 'insight' that pureargumentation cannot supply. One possibility here is that there are properties or propositions that we (or at least, most ordinary people living fairly ordinary lives) can only become acquainted with through art. This might be because the art provides a kind of substitute experience for a reality most of us will never experience (e.g. slogging through the fog of war), or because the art provides an experience that simply does not occur in real life (e.g. the sublimity of a symphony). Another possibility is that art provides us with a perspective on, or a mode of presentation of, properties or propositions that we might already be independently acquainted with; but that this perspective or mode of presentation leads us to appreciate the familiar propositions in a more profound and intimate way. ...

Hello, My question is about definitions and I would like to know what it means to define something. From I what can tell, definitions seem to describe relations between processes, objects and other type of relationships. If I were to ask, "Define yourself", What am I really asking here? Can an answer be provided without referring to something else? Because I would at least not associate "define yourself" with physical attributes, the person´s job, career, family situation, personality attributes or any other sort of descriptions...or am I just way off? Hopefully you can sort out some of my confusion. Thanks in advance. M.

A definition of something specifies what it takes to be that sort of thing. (A definition of a word specifies the meaning of the word, which in turn specifies what it takes for something to fall in that word's extension: for the word to apply truly to it.) We usually assume that specifying "what it takes to be a certain sort of thing" means specifying that kind or individual's essence , or at least necessary and sufficient conditions for being that (kind of) thing. The problem is that many, probably most, of our words and concepts can't be defined in this way, not just because they are vague, as 'bald' is (it seems that there's no precise number of hairs that marks the boundary betwen being bald and not bald), but because there is no one quality that all things of that kind share (Wittgenstein argued in the Philosophical Investigations that the concept of a game is like this). The question of what kinds of definitions these sorts of words and concepts can have is a hard one, which philosophers and...

Is art all about context? Is it possible to have a viewpoint on a piece of art that does not involve the influences of culture, belief, upbringing and so on? Why is it that different genres of art require contextual referencing more than others - e.g. personally, I find that I either 'like' or 'dislike' novels without needing to think about why but when it comes to a contemporary art installation my opinion is based almost entirely based on what I know about the artist, their background, the precedents for the work, the political context in which it was made, etc.

As your examples suggest, different works of art and even different artistic media can require different kinds and amounts of knowledge about the world, and about the specific context in which the work of art was created. Some works are highly accessible -- a wide variety of audiences can engage with them without any specialized background knowledge; while others require pretty deep immersion in a specific artistic tradition and practice. This suggests that not all art is equally "all about context". (It also relates to, though it's distinct from, the distinction between "popular" and "high" art.) The next important question is what sort of context is appropriate for properly appreciating and evaluating art. In the 20th century, this question was debated most vigorously in the context of literary interpretation. 'New Critics' argued that knowledge about an artist's specific intentions in creating the work, and the specific context in which he or she created it, are (or should be) irrelevant to...

Why are there so few women philosophers?

Really, this is a sociological question about the practice of philosophy rather than a philosophical question. But I think it's interesting and important for all that. It's hard to say. The safest answer is that it hasn't been very long since women started being professional academics in large numbers in any field, and that we're steadily catching up. This is absolutely true, and important. But it also seems pretty clear that there are proportionally more women working at a high professional level in other disciplines, including closely related disciplines like linguistics, psychology, cognitive science, and law; thus, it seems that something more might be going on. Another relevant fact is that there appear to be proportionally more women in some areas of philosophy than others: for instance, in ethics and history of philosophy, as compared to metaphysics (although there are multiple notable women working at a very high level in all of these areas!). I've heard people suggest that women are ...

What is a concept? How are they formed? Is there such a thing as an objectively correct way of conceptualizing something?

Basically, concepts are the components of our thoughts, which enable us to think about objects and properties in the world. Most philosophers agree that two concepts F and G are distinct if (and only if) one could believe (desire, hope, etc) that a is F without also believing that a is G , even if everything that is (or even could be) F is also G. (This is Frege's 'criterion of cognitive significance'.) Concepts are also the sorts of things that can be misapplied: I can think that a is F even though it isn't. Many (most?) philosophers also think that concepts don't just involve representing things in the world, but also involve at least some connections with other concepts: there are at least some inferences you should be prepared to make if you believe that this is a saxophone , say; although there might not be any single determinate set of inferences you would need to accept. Some philosophers think of concepts as abstract entities, perhaps like word meanings; these concepts...