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Many people, like myself, think of Ayn Rand when we think of philosophy, having read her books when young, etc. Coming from this sort of background, it was surprising to me, recently, to be told that the majority of professional philosophers don't regard her as a philosopher at all, or, if they do, take little notice of her. Is that truly the attitude amongst philosophers? If so, is there any particular reason for it? For instance, is it to do with resistance to ideas that come from outside the university?

I don't know if most philosophers would say that she's no philosopher at all, but I suspect many would say she's a marginal philosopher. One reason is that however influential she may have been, many philosophers don't think she's a very good philosopher—not very careful or original or analytically deep—even if they happen to be broadly sympathetic to her views. The fact that she came from outside the academy by itself wouldn't be disqualifying, but in one sense, philosophers are not just people who engage with philosophical issues; they're people who are part of a community whose members read and respond to one another (even when they disagree deeply) and interact in a variety of particular ways. Being outside the academy tends to put you outside the ongoing conversation of that community. Whether that's good, bad, or neutral is another story, but to whatever extent "philosopher" means "someone who's a member of a certain intellectual community," the fact that she was outside the academy is part,...

In Plato's book 'The Republic' there is no mention of Plato himself (as far as I've gotten) and it seems the main speaker and also narrator is Socrates. If this is true and Socrates is the narrator/main speaker then how is it that the book was written Plato? Thank you!

I fear I'm misunderstanding. The obvious answer is that Plato wrote books in which his teacher Socrates is the main character. There are many similar examples in literature. How much of what Plato attributes to Socrates was really said by Socrates is harder to say.

I am confused about Aristotle's virtue ethics as it applies to Aesop's fable of the boy who cried wolf. Since he was telling the truth the second time, is it actually the townspeople who are behaving immorally by ignoring him? Just because the townspeople could not instantly verify the veracity of his testimony (which can be independently verified), is that really a sufficient reason to let the sheep die? By Aristotle's reasoning, is the boy (an occasional liar) just as immoral as the townspeople (by negligence)?

Perhaps you're putting more weight on the fable than fables are meant to bear. Fables are short, stylized ways of conveying a point, and the point here seems clear enough: if you come to be seen as a liar, you risk not being believed when it matters. Though I gather that there's a remark attributed to Aristotle that conveys much the same message, once again it may not be profitable to put too much weight on the fable as a device for exploring Aristotle's Ethics. The boy seems clearly to represent someone who lacks an important virtue: truthfulness. The fable doesn't really address the question of whether the townspeople also lack some virtue such as prudence or caution. In real life, we might wonder how many times the boy would have to lie before it become reasonable for the townspeople to ignore him; in the context of the fable, that's not really the point at issue.

A lecturer I met a few weeks ago said to me (among other things) that up to this point no-one has managed to disprove Kant's famous claim that 'we should always treat others as ends in themselves and never as mere means'. While I agree that this is a noble maxim by which to live our lives, is it true that it has not been disproved? It seems slightly hasty to claim this about anything.

I think there are two different issues here, so let me start with the simpler one. Suppose the lecturer said: "To the best of my knowledge—and I've read a great deal on the matter—no one has disproved Kant's claim. That seems the sort of thing one might reasonably be able to say, and might well be what the speaker meant. If so, no problem. If the speaker is claiming more or less a priori that no one has a disproof, this would be harder to swallow, but there's a way to understand it that makes it not just mere arrogance. Suppose I said: no one has disproved that 3+4 = 7. I might well mean not just that no one happens to have done this, but that no one could do it. And in fact, I'm quite sure that's right: no one could disprove it. So the speaker might have meant that Kant's claim had a status rather like "3+4=7": necessarily true, hence not disprovable. If so, I'm not sure he's right, but also not sure he's wrong. However, there's yet another possibility. To see it, ask what would count as a...

I'm having trouble appreciating Kant's moral philosophy. According to him an action is bad if we can't universalize it as a maxim of human behavior. Under that way of thinking being gay is bad because if everyone was gay nobody would have any babies and that means you are willing the non-existence of the human race which would be a contradiction if you want to exist. So I guess bisexuality is okay but being a monk isn't. The reasoning seems absolutely bonkers if you are gay whether from choice or from nature there is no reason to surmise that you think everyone has to be gay. If Kants moral philosophy is so lame I must admit that it prejudices me against his whole philosophical system. Is there any reason why I should give Kant's ethics more credit?

On one version of the Categorical Imperative, we're told to act only on maxims (roughly, principles of action) that we could will to be universal laws. That may or may not be the right way to think about morality; I don't have a settled opinion. However, there are philosophers who think Kant had the theory right, but fell down in applying it. Kant thought that lying is always wrong; whether the Categorical Imperative requires this is less clear. The question is whether there's a way of formulating an acceptable maxim that allows for lying in some circumstances. Kant's argument to the contrary isn't entirely convincing, to say the least. The case of homosexuality is arguably a case in point -- or more accurately, the case of homosexual sex may be a case in point. Kant thought, far as I know, that homosexual acts are always wrong. But when someone who's homosexual by orientation acts on that orientation, it's pretty implausible that their maxim, universalized, requires that heterosexuals have...

is Jungs' theory of synchronicity simply nonsense? I can make neither head nor tail of it. It is often quoted by 'new agers' as sign that we are all in a way "connected" (i.e networks for a higher consciousness, etc) and I feel that they have abused the original concept, but I myself can't even understand it.

Perhaps we might start with a distinction between two things the accusation of nonsense might mean. One is that it's patently false; the other is that there's no coherent idea. Your worry is pretty clearly the latter, and I'm sympathetic: whatever exactly Jung meant, it's hard to be sure that one has gotten hold of it. With that in mind, my sense is that there's an interesting idea behind the notion of synchronicity, though not one I'm inclined to believe. Insofar as I understand it, synchronicity is meaningful coincidence . More particularly, it's meaningful coincidence between an inner state of mind and an occurrence in the outer world. By saying that synchronicities are coincidences, Jung meant that neither of the events causes the other. By saying that the coincidence is meaningful, Jung seems to mean two things. The first, and more obvious, is that the outer event corresponds in a meaningful way to the inner state. In one of Jung's well-known examples, a patient is recounting a dream about a...

What is a possible world? So I read Quine's two dogmas, and he says that there is no distinction between an analytic statement and a synthetic one. If I have that right. But when people talk about possible worlds they seem to think there is. So if Quine is right there is only one possible world, isn't there?

I'm not sure there's much of a connection. Whether or not some things are true by virtue of meaning along and whether there are incompatible ways things could be strike me as different questions. The thought might be that if there are no analytic truths, there are no necessary truths, no impossibilities, and no meaningful distinctions between supposed possibilities, hence no notion of different possible worlds. But that seems way too quick. For starts, whether there are necessary truths and whether such truths hold by virtue of meaning alone are different questions. I can't talk myself out of thinking that "1 +1 = 2" is a necessary truth, even if I'm a lot less sure that it holds by virtue of meaning alone. I also think that "There are no more than 2 people in this room" (i.e., the one I'm in right now) and "there are at least 7 people in this room" are two different, incompatible possibilities, whether or not the analytic/synthetic distinction is real. But leave all that heady stuff aside. You...

Hello Philosophers! Can anyone defend the Ontological Argument against Kant's criticism that existence is not a predicate?

Sure. Even if existence is not a predicate, it's at least arguable that necessary existence is. (As Norman Malcolm pointed out years ago, there really are two versions of the argument, and the second one deals with necessary existence.) We doubt that existence is a predicate because, roughly, saying that something exists tells us nothing about what it's like. Not so for necessary existence. Not just anything could exist necessarily. The computer I'm typing on is the wrong sort of thing to be a candidate for necessarily existing thing. Assuming that some things are of the right sort to exist necessarily, necessary existence would be a predicate. Whether this is a defense of the argument all things considered is another matter. But I think the point made here is fair as far as it goes. A being that merely happened to exist wouldn't be a being than which none greater can be conceived.

What would Kant say about "networking"? Poses a dilemma for me bc of his prohibition against using people, which networking is, by definition. Is there a way we could modify or qualify networking to fit his Categorical Imperative, as in: well, if you offer in return a commensurate service, and if you wouldn't mind everyone doing it or even would recommend it... any ideas?

The key is to be careful about what Kant says. You must never use people merely as means, but must also treat them as an end in themselves. One common example is buying something in a store. I use the clerk as a means to the transaction, but I don't coerce her/him. If I did, that would be a case of using someone merely as a means. Since I take seriously the need for the clerk's (implicit) consent to the arrangement, I am also treating the clerk as an end. Networking is similar. The people in the network all consent. No one is being coerced, and so long as everyone is being truthful and otherwise decent to one another, then there's no violation of the Categorical Imperative.

I am currently reading Theaetetus, for a course at university, and I am struck by the number of times Socrates discusses "God" (for example, 176c, where Socrates says "God" is utterly and perfectly righteous). Considering the fact that these dialogs were written centuries before the birth of Jesus, and the fact that the Greeks were almost certainly not Jewish, it seems odd that the translators should use a monotheistic god when translating Socrates' words. Did the Greeks actually have a serious concept of monotheism, and is this concept what is being referred to in the English translations of Theaetetus? Or is this "God" just a way for the translator to "whitewash" the ancient Greeks so as to make it easier for Christians (be it theistic Christians or non-Christians who grew up with Christian cultural heritage) to relate to the dialog? Does such a translation do justice to the original?

I'd been hoping one of our classicists would take a stab at this, but since none has… The Jews were not the only people in the ancient world to develop monotheistic ideas, nor, for that matter, was Judaism clearly monotheistic (as opposed to henotheistic — taking Yahweh to be their god and the most powerful.) There's a strong abstract and unificatory streak in Greek thought that would make the development of monotheistic ideas unsurprising, whether most people accepted them or not. But on the matter of translation, I fid it hard to imagine any of the classicists I know hedging their translations to make them acceptabe to wider Christian culture. On the contrary, if the usual translations were suspect, I'd expect this to be an active debate in the literature, and far as I know, it's not.

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