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Given a particular conclusion, we can, normally, trace it back to the very basic premises that constitute it. The entire process of reaching such a conclusion(or stripping it to its basic constituents) is based on logic(reason). So, however primitive a premise may be, we don't seem to reach the "root" of a conclusion. Do you believe that goes on to show that we are not to ever acquire "pure knowledge"? That is, do you think there is a way around perceiving truths through a, so to say, prism of reasoning, in which case, nothing is to be trusted?

There's a lot going on here. You begin this way: Given a particular conclusion, we can, normally, trace it back to the very basic premises that constitute it. If by "conclusion" you mean a statement that we accept on the basis of explicit reasoning, then we can trace it back to the premises we reasoned from simply because we've supposed that there are such premises. On the other hand, most of what we believe doesn't come from explicit reasoning. (I don't reason to the conclusion that I had a burrito for lunch. I just remember what I ate.) And even when it does, the premises don't usually constitute the conclusion. The easiest way to see this is to consider non-deductive reasoning. A detective may conclude that Lefty was the culprit because a number of clues point in that direction. Maybe a witness saw someone who looks like him; maybe he had a particular motive for the crime. But the clues don't constitute Lefty being the criminal; they merely make it likely. After all, even given all the...

Is certainty a requirement for truth? We know that certainty is not a requirement for knowledge, but how about for truth?

No; truth doesn't require certainty. Whether something is true is a matter of how things are, whether anyone is certain about it or even aware of it. For example: I have a file cabinet in my office with some papers in it. No one (certainly not me) is certain exactly how many pieces of paper are in the cabinet, though there's a truth of the matter. The truth is determined simply by what's in the cabinet, whether anyone knows or bothers to check. In the case of my file cabinet, it's at least possible to find out how many pieces of paper are in it, and so someone might suggest modifying the view you're asking about. Perhaps there's a truth about a matter only if it's at least possible for someone to become certain of it. And indeed, people have defended views like that. They go under the umbrella of verificationism . There are even some cases where something like verificationism is plausible. For example: we don't believe there's such a thing as absolute uniform (inertial) motion because our physics...

How do the authors of dictionaries know what is the meaning of words? They may know the occasions when people say or write those words, but they still have to guess what words and people mean on those occasions, don't they?

The rough answer is that the authors of dictionaries do it the same way the rest of us do. When you run up against a word that's not in the dictionary, sometimes you can tell what it means from context, and sometimes you find out by asking other people. In fact, for most of human history, these were the usual ways of learning the meanings of words. How this works in detail is a deep and interesting question, but whatever the answer, it clearly does work and so there's no special problem for compilers of dictionaries. Here's an illustration adapted from https://bestlifeonline.com/new-words-2017/. If someone said "Just ping me when you've made a decision," you might need to do a bit of guessing or asking, but it wouldn't take too much work to figure out what they mean: "Get in touch with me by text or email or on Facebook messenger or..." Lexicographers have more systematic and refined methods for deciding what people use a word to mean, but they don't do something radically different from what...

My question is regarding Loneliness. How can anyone overcome loneliness? But first some considerations: The uncertainty of the future does not imply an answer. Saying that someday the feeling of loneliness can disappear because of the possibility of finding someone its not a method to overcome it, its just waiting and tolerating it. Present interaction with other people is not efficient. This may result in feeling more lonely. Of course this is a topic that i can relate to. Thats why previous considerations can have the wrong approach, as it personal. In my opinion, getting involved with other people its just a way to cover the real problem. This has gotten me to think that a logical solution cant be generalized or universalized. But I hope there are aspects of loneliness, that every feels, which can be treated with the same solution. Thanks for your time.

Philosophers may not have any special wisdom to impart on this question, but a bit of analyzing might still be useful. You haven't said what you mean by "loneliness." It might seem that the answer is so obvious that it's not worth asking, but I think it matters for some things you say. Typically when people say that they're lonely, they mean either that they lack company and find that distressing or painful, or that they don't feel an emotional connection with the people they have as "company." We'll at least start with that understanding. You're surely right that even if it's possible that you'll find someone to salve your loneliness, that doesn't get you very far. But then you go on to say that interacting with people in the here and now isn't "efficient." On the face of it, this is puzzling, since if it's loneliness as spelled out above that you want to cure, it's hard at first to see how the cure could come without relationships with other people. You say that getting involved with people covers...

Which is the more morally detestable action. To discriminate against people due to the color of their skin, or to discriminate against people due to their religious beliefs? On both accounts one discriminates against an involuntary characteristic, race being innate, and religious views being a matter of conviction. In the question, I assume that one cannot choose ones conviction, one cannot be forced to believe in God, not truly. Thus, being convinced of the truth of a certain religion is involuntary. Therein lies my question, if we accept the moral detestability of racism, should we also accept a moral detestability of religious prosecution? And if so, wouldn't morality dictate the refrain from verbal offenses against religious people, on par with those against races?

There are at least two issues here. One is whether race and religious belief are involuntary in the same way. Another is whether it's ever okay to discriminate on the basis of a person's beliefs—religious or otherwise. On the first issue I'm going to simplify by mostly setting aside some important questions about whether there is such a thing as race in any deep sense, and just what race amounts to insofar as there is such a thing. The important point is that in typical cases, there is for most any practical purpose nothing people can do about their race; racial identity is strongly involuntary. That's not so clearly true of matters of conviction. There's nothing at all unusual about people changing their convictions, including their religious convictions. Non-believers become believers; believers become non-believers. This doesn't tell us whether such changes are voluntary, but it's an important difference. Are such changes belief voluntary? That's too simple a way to frame the issue. It's often...

A medical doctor has graduated from an accredited school of medicine, passed board exams and completed a residency at a teaching hospital. A barrister has passed the par exam and graduated law school. Even a cosmetologist has received a relevant certification after a training course. What then, qualifies one to bear the title, "professional philosopher?" Adam Smith says, “Many improvements have been made by the ingenuity of the makers of the machines, when to make them became the business of a peculiar trade; and some by that of those who are called philosophers, or men of speculation, whose trade it is not to do any thing, but to observe every thing, and who, upon that account, are often capable of combining together the powers of the most distant and dissimilar objects in the progress of society, philosophy or speculation becomes, like every other employment, the principal or sole trade and occupation of a particular class of citizens. Like every other employment, too, it is subdivided into a great...

Nothing prevents a layperson from calling herself a philosopher. Likewise, nothing prevents someone from calling himself a concert violinist, or a master gardener, or a novelist or a mathematician. Of course, whether someone who calls herself a philosopher or calls himself a master gardener actually has the skills and knowledge that would persuade the well-informed to agree is another matter, and someone who doesn't even know how to tune a fiddle isn't a concert violinist no matter what she calls herself. When we add the word "professional", things get more complicated. There's no law that stops me from simply calling myself a neurosurgeon. There are laws to stop me from performing neurosurgery on people—particularly if I charge for my "services." Having an unqualified person perform your brain surgery is likely to be bad for your health. Having an untrained cosmetologist give you a perm may be temporarily bad for your social life, but hair grows pretty quickly. We've decided (wisely in my view)...

Is there any point in listening to sad music?

The best answer, surely, is yes. Whether we can say why the answer is yes may be another matter. Here's an external reason: untold millions of sane, healthy people listen to sad music and find it rewarding. It's possible, I suppose, that this is a kind of pathology, but that seems hard to believe. There's nothing special about music here. In literature, poetry, film, painting and dance, sad works abound. I found the ending of Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day deeply sad. (Not the movie, by the way; in my view the ending missed the whole point of the story.) I'm also glad I read the book. Many others feel the same way. Scary stories raise a similar puzzle. Many people read horror stories and watch scary movies. But why? Very few people want to be frightened in real life. So far: art that deals with difficult emotions brings up the same sort of puzzle as sad music. If there's no point in listening to sad music, there's no point in any of these other cases. But too many people find such things...

It's been said that the lottery is a "stupidity tax," and that people only buy tickets who fundamentally misunderstand the odds against them. However, I've seen people reply that, although they understand full well the infinitesimally small chance of winning, they view the lottery as a form of entertainment, and buy tickets with this in mind. Is this a sound rationalization for playing the lottery? Or is it just a way of laundering the same old irrationality?

Well, either it's not a way of laundering the same old irrationality or I'm irrational in this respect. I don't buy lottery tickets often, and even when I do, I don't spend much, but I do occasionally buy them, and it's for exactly the reason you suggest: it has a certain entertainment value. Now I admit: there is quite likely an irrational corner of my psyche that holds out a stronger hope of winning than the probabilities warrant. But I know how the probabilities actually work, am reasonably self-aware about my lurking id, and haven't shown any tendencies toward compulsive lottery-ticket purchasing. That little irrational bit of me is no doubt what makes the "entertainment" possible. A certain sort of caution would would counsel that it's unwise indulge this benighted part of my nature, though I'd need more evidence to be convinced. That said, my overall view is that government-sponsored lotteries are iniquitous because for many people they are indeed a tax on irrationality. It's a sleazy way for...

Hello! I have a question about a particular line of reasoning in a debate that, to me, only leads to a "do I care" conclusion. I have now encountered this reasoning in several debates and can't think of a better conclusion. There must be a name for this that I am not aware of. Most recently this happened in a debate about cults. We were chugging along on the topic of cults and what gets something labeled as a cult vs say a religion or a tribe or, more universally, just humanity. The conclusion, again to me, was that when you expand the definition of "cult" so far out, yes, the entire human race can be labeled a cult. That is to say that under that definition of the word "cult" everything can be labeled a cult and the only conclusion is "do I care". This did not help my friend who wishes to avoid all cults but seemingly proved they were in a cult called the human race. Is there a name for this type of semantic bloating? Is this perhaps a long established logical fallacy I'm not aware of?? Regards.

I don't know the name, though I like "semantic bloating." In any case, a couple of observations. First, words mean what people use them to mean. Words in English mean what competent speakers use them to mean—or, at least, that's close enough for our purposes. Competent speakers of English don't use the word "cult" to refer to the whole human race. But the issue isn't really about the word. If your friend has a point, s/he ought to be able to make it by setting the word "cult" aside. What bothers us about the things we typically label cults is that they display a cluster of undesirable traits and tendencies. They make a rigid distinction between insiders and outsiders; they enforce membership conditions that alienate members from family and friends who mean them no harm; they insist on accepting dubious beliefs; they make it psychologically distressing for people to challenge or doubt those beliefs; they expect unquestioning obedience to the group's authority figures. All of these things show up in...

What is the purpose of a college degree? If I teach myself a subject from reading books about it, how is it any different from paying expensive tuition to learn the exact same information?

There's not just one answer and others may add their own. But your question equates getting an education with acquiring information, and that's not a good way to think of it. I'll use philosophy as an example, but some version of what I'm about to say would apply to any discipline I can think of. A philosophy student may acquire a lot of information—for example, about who the Utilitarians were, and what compatibilism about free will is. But that's a small part of what she gets through her philosophical education. What she gets, if things works out, is the ability to think well philosophically. That comes from practice, from interacting with philosophers and, crucially, from getting feedback. It's hard to learn to do philosophy if all you have is a library of books that you read. In particular, it's hard to know whether you're learning to do it well. And—trust me on this—your own judgments about that may be way off the mark. There are exceptions, of course, but they're just that: exceptions. You may...

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