Is there a specific label or name for the rhetorical tool of using a little bit of truth to try and disprove another claim. For example, if Person A says something like "philanthropy is less effective as a means to maximize well-being than if we just taxed everyone more" and in response Person B says "but philanthropy does some good". Even assuming Person B's response is truthful, it seems they are avoiding addressing the true question. I know this is similar to a red herring fallacy, but I was wondering if there is a more precise name (or set of work) looking at the use of a nugget of truth to try and distract from or disprove a larger issue. Thank you.

Philosophers are usually not the right people to ask for fallacy names. Most of us don't remember many of them, and aside from a handful (begging the question, for instance) seldom mention them by name. You mention the red herring fallacy here. That's probably good enough, but it's not any better than just noting that the response misses the point. If A says that taxing would be more effective than philanthropy and B says that philanthropy does some good, all A need say is "I agree: philanthropy does some good, but my point is that it's less effective than simply taxing people." A might be right or might be wrong, but what B says is irrelevant to the claim at issue, since A 's claim is entirely consistent with B 's reply. I notice this a lot on Quora. There's a whole sub-genre of questions in which people people describe a bit of reasoning gone wrong, and then ask for the name of the fallacy. Often the person has already done a good job of saying what's wrong. Sometimes...

Is landlording—understood as “fulfilling on one’s own property the housing needs of, and receiving rent from, another person/party”—a fundamentally unethical practice? I ask because it seems to me, at this point, that a landlord puts at risk the most inelastic needs of human beings, placing them behind more-or-less arbitrary paywalls. Sure, there is no shortage of “ethical landlording” articles/podcasts, and I am willing to do research (look for disconfirmation of the above hunch) myself. But asking philosophers never hurts! Thank you.

If your question was whether there are some unethical landlords, the answer would surely be yes. But you asked if renting living space is a "fundamentally unethical practice." Your implicit argument that it might be is that "at this point" (at which point?) a landlord puts at risk the most inelastic needs of human beings, placing them behind more or less arbitrary paywalls." Let's agree: people need shelter. They also need food. And clothing. And in very many cases, transportation. And medical care. And many other things. And let's agree, at least for present purposes, that a society that doesn't have a reasonable way of providing such things isn't doing what it should. We can even put it more strongly: insofar as we can talk about obligations that a society has, let's agree, at least for present purposes, that societies are obliged to devise reasonable ways for providing these things. The word "reasonable" is covering a lot of territory, but I don't think that will affect the point I'd like to...

Do philosophers generally reject that philosophical reasoning relies on axioms? The way I've always thought that philosophy worked is that philosophers have a certain set of tools (deduction, laws of thought, [basic sources of knowledge](https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epistemology/#SourKnowJust)) which they use to come to reasoned answers to questions. Most importantly, these tools are taken as axiomatic. That is, they are seen as starting points from which all reasoning must proceed. To question these axioms wouldn't be possible. However, I've recently seen an attitude that has puzzled me. Many philosophers state that very rarely does reasoning in philosophy rely on axioms. Axioms are things to be avoided and go against the spirit of philosophy. What am I misunderstanding here? If philosophers don't take their tools of reasoning as axiomatic, how do they go about doing philosophy? More importantly, if philosophical reasoning is so pervasive that it questions its own tools, from what framework does...

I'm a bit puzzled about where you got the impression that philosophy works this way, Looking at the work of Spinoza, perhaps, might give this impression, but who else? Certainly not Plato. Certainly not Aristotle. Not Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, Russell, not a single philosopher active in the last 50 years that I can think of. The description you quote from your philosophy student acquaintance is pretty reasonable. I'm not quite so happy with the last part—that philosophers determine general principles and rules from their intuitions. The role of intuition in philosophy is much more complicated and also much more controversial than this allows for. There is no one method that philosophers use. Philosophers worry about consistency and inconsistency. They look for counterexamples and try to avoid them in their own work. They may begin with "intuitions," but they try to develop those intuitions into more precise, well-articulated theses, and they count it as a plus for their view if it covers a range...

I am not a mind-independent moral realist. When I have a child, I am concerned that teaching them that certain actions are "good" or "bad" will instill an erroneous concept of objective moral realism that might have harmful consequences to their happiness in later life (for example not taking actions that will make them happy because they think they are somehow "wrong"). On the other hand, I am also concerned that explaining why not to take certain actions solely because of the possible social consequences (e.g. "if you are caught stealing then you may go to prison") will not instill a strong enough framework in their mind to prevent them from committing crimes or otherwise taking actions that could harm them. It can be difficult, for example, to predict the possible risks associated with certain actions when you are a child. So it is easier to teach that the action is "wrong" rather than explain the possible consequences, their liklihood and their impact. What do you recommend? Should I teach my...

I recommend that you don't think about it this way. Is mind-independent moral realism true? Geez. I don't know. (And, by the way, neither do you.) But here's some stuff I feel quite comfortable saying. I want my kids to be empathetic. I want them to give a damn about how their actions affect other people. I want them to take seriously the idea that if they wouldn't be willing to put up with being treated in some way or other, then they'd better have a very good reason, and not just a selfish one, for treating other people that way. I want my kids to treat others decently. I want them to be honest. I want them to be fair. I want them not to be jerks. Do I want all that because I'm convinced that mind independent moral realism is true? Nope. I want all that because I can't imagine not caring about such things. They seem right to me, and the fact that something called "mind independent moral realism" might not be true seems to me an awfully thin reason for turning my back on my considered judgment that...

Any two sets have different conditions for membership, so if object O is in set S because it's blue or green, then being blue or green cannot be the reason why any other object is in any other set. If so, how can there exist a set of green objects?

Suppose S is the set of all things that are blue or green. Then my mug is in S because it's green and therefore satisfies "x is blue or x is green," and my pen is in the set S because it's blue and therefore satisfies "x is blue or x is green." Now it's true: satisfying "x is blue or x is green" picks out only one set: the set of all things that satisfy "x is blue or x is green." But the condition "x is green" is a different condition, and so is "x is blue." However: when you say "being blue or green cannot be the reason why any other object is in any other set," there's an ambiguity. That could be read as "being blue cannot be the reason why an object is in any other set and being green cannot be the reason why an object is in any other set." In that case, however, it's false. Being green, and hence satisfying "x is green" puts my mug in the set G of all green things, and in the set S of all things that are either green or blue—that satisfy "x is green or x is blue." These two sets are not the...

Does low self esteem really exist as mental chemical dysfunction or is it just that i'm smart enough to know how stupid i am, stay my real place and not engage in something beyond my reach no matter how others may react or judge ?

If I really believed that you really believed that these are the only two alternatives, then I'd probably believe that you're stupid. But I don't believe any such thing. I'd be willing to bet a tidy sum that if someone else asked you the very same question, you wouldn't have any trouble pointing out a whole bunch of alternatives that they're overlooking. Since I don't know anything about your circumstances, I wouldn't presume to guess which alternative best fits your circumstances. But I do think the idea that there's a "real place" for each of us is something to be suspicious of, and I'm also pretty skeptical that even self-aware people are always reliable about what they're capable of. Of course, if you've already grasped the second horn of your dilemma (false dilemma though it is), my reaction won't count. In spite of this, I'd suggest that one kind of reaction it's often wise to ignore is the one that tries to shame you into not trying things. The approval of people who react like that isn't...

Chelsea are due to play Arsenal in a soccer match. Mr A prays for Chelsea to win, while Mr B prays for Arsenal to win. Chelsea won the match. Why were Mr A's prayers answered but not Mr B's?

Why assume that Mr A's prayer's were answered? Is the idea of the example that Chelsea won because Mr.A prated for it to happen and God acted accordingly? Suppose I ray for a natural disaster and one happens. Would we assume that this was God answering my prayers? Surely not on any conception of God that's worth taking seriously. That Mr A prayed for what happened doesn't mean it happened because Mr A prayed for it, and in this case, that seems to be the response the believer should make. There's no reason even for a believer to think that Chelsea's victory was a matter of God favoring Mr A over Mr B. Of course, non-believers have an even simpler reply. But I'm treating your question hypothetically.

My question is whether or not beliefs require objects. Put another way, is it possible to have a belief about “nothing” or about a negative, as opposed to affirmative, proposition? This question came up in a discussion about the definition of Atheism. Essentially, is Atheism either A) a belief that there are no Gods; or B) a lack of belief (or denial) in the existence of at least one God? Thank you.

There are several questions here, and we need to distinguish them. 1) Does belief require objects? Beliefs are "about" in a very broad sense, but I believe (as should you) that there is no ratio of two integers that equals 2 when squared. There is no object that answers to my belief, but it's clear that my belief is really a belief, indeed a true one, and in some sense is about something. In this case, we could perfectly sensibly say it's about numbers, though not about some specific number. This might sound superficially paradoxical, but the paradox persists only if we insist on treating the word "about" in a way that rides roughshod over how we actually use it. 2) Is it possible to have a belief about "nothing" or about a negative, as opposed to affirmative proposition? Two different issues here. I can believe that Barack Obama is not seven feet tall. That's a negative proposition, and I clearly can believe it; any analysis of belief that claims otherwise wold be silly. But it's not a...

Two different sets cannot have the same reason for membership, so if beauty is the reason why a painting is in the set of beautiful paintings, then beauty cannot be the reason why the painting is in any other set, such as the set of good paintings. Is that fair?

No. There is a set of even numbers. There is also a set of numbers that are even or prime. (Note, by the way: something can be even and prime: the number 2.) The number 8 is in the first set because it's even. It's also in the second set because it's even, hence even or prime. Not all good paintings are beautiful, but for present purposes, we can still assume that all beautiful paintings are good paintings. A beautiful painting clearly fits the membership condition for the set of beautiful paintings. But it also fits the membership condition for being in the set of paintings that are beautiful or good and it fits it by virtue of being beautiful. There's nothing peculiar here at all. If X and Y are both sets, their union is also a set. That's elementary set theory, and it's so whether or not X and Y are mutually exclusive.

Perhaps a semantic quibble, perhaps a more deeply-rooted consideration.... Why is the Deity so frequently portrayed as "all-"powerful, "all-"knowing, etc. Is there some really fundamental reason why the Deity cannot be "very" powerful" and know "quite a bit indeed"?

Some theologians and philosophers would say that religious devotion to anything less than a perfect being amounts to idolatry, and a less-than-omniscient or less than omnibenevolent or less-than-omnipotent being would be less than a perfect being. My own view is that this is a view that only someone in the grip of a theory could love. I rather doubt that most believers give much thought at all to the difference between omni-God, as it's sometimes put, and a being so far beyond us that, perfect or not, deserves their profoundest devotion. (Whether there actually is such a being is a separate matter, and not the subject of these comments.) Perhaps there's one exception. Perhaps a being that was less than morally perfect couldn't be the object of a non-idolatrous religious devotion. That's a subject for an interesting conversation, but I'm not convinced that even this is right. So I think your question is a good one, and I"m inclined to think you're right.

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