I have recently heard that, according to physics, you can never actually touch anything. This seems clearly false and I feel it should be refuted with philosophy (if not physics). Can you comment on this? p.s. See for example https://futurism.com/why-you-can-never-actually-touch-anything which seems to claim that, according to physics, you can never actually touch anything

According to the internet, the sun rose at 6:02 this morning in Washington. I was awake and when I got around to opening the blinds I could see that the sky was blue. The sheets on the bed are blue too, though not the same blue. They're a few years old and I like the way they feel when I touch them. But the sun doesn't rise, does it? Although centuries ago, people thought it did, they were just wrong. And there isn't really a sky—no dome or roof or thing of any sort. There are sheets, but they're made of atoms, which aren't colored, nor are collections of them. And touching the sheets; don't get me started on that. Except… If someone says the sky is blue, they've said nothing false, nothing wrong. Same goes for telling you the color of their sheets; likewise for telling you they touched them. People may be mistaken about what being a blue sheet amounts to, or a blue sky, or about what's going on under the covers, so to speak, when we touch a sheet, or anything else. But that doesn't make the...

Can philosophy make you go crazy? If you think too much about philosophy, will you end up not being able to think properly?

If you obsess too much about more or less anything, it can be bad for you, but some of the topics that philosophy deals with can be more troublesome for some people. I have in mind especially some forms of radical skepticism. I have met people who've been obsessed with the possibility that they don't really know that there's an external world, or that there are other people. I've had them in my office, clearly distressed. I'd guess that there were already some underlying problems. I'd guess that it wasn't a case of someone who was otherwise fully functioning and then happened on Descartes' Meditations , but the skeptical questions provided something for their background issues to latch onto. When I'm talking with such folk, I tend to stress two things. The first is philosophical: the fact that something is possible in some rarified sense isn't a reason for thinking it's at all likely. Yes: in some sense of "could," it could be that what's going on in my mind is all there is. But in this sense of ...

Are people and businesses misusing the word philosophy when they say, for example, "My philosophy is to always tell the truth," or "Our philosophy is that the lowest price is the best price?" Isn't that closer to a creed or an ideology?

Briefly, no. Words mean what people use them to mean, and words can have multiple meanings. Expressions like "My philosophy is..." are so common that they represent one of the meanings that the word "philosophy" has come to have in English. Of course it's not what professional philosophers usually have in mind when they use the word, but professional philosophers don't get veto power over usage. A further thought or two: I can't really get bent very far out of shape by this one, but it's a bit unfortunate in at least one respect: it gives some people the impression that philosophy is all about truisms and banal principles instead of being something that calls for rigorous thought. But the cure for that is not to complain about how folks use the word; it's for philosophers to do a better job of helping people understand what we do and why it's worth doing.

It seems to me that a lot of basic philosophy is about definitions of abstract words. So, Plato might have asked what courage or love are, Enlightenment philosophers might have been interested in what freedom is, more modern philosophers might inquire what science is. I guess I'd like to ask a two-part question. The first is what the difference is between the sort of definition a philosopher might give and the sort of definition a lexicographer might give. What are philosophers doing that lexicographers aren't? The second is, if it's fair to say that philosophers are interested in defining abstract words, well, is the task inevitably culturally and temporally specific? I mean, does the Latin word "pulchritudo" really mean the same thing as the English word "beauty"? Does the Greek "aletheia" really mean the same thing as "truth"? And couldn't the meaning of a word like "freedom" change over time?

Think about water. When a lexicographer asks what the word "water" means, s/he is asking how the word is used. It's an empirical question about people's actual linguistic behavior. If it turned out that enough people use the word "water" to refer to vodka, then "vodka" would be one of the meanings of the word "water." But when a chemist answers the question "What is water?", s/he's not telling us how the word is used. On the contrary, s/he will assume that that's settled. The question isn't about the word; it's about the stuff that we use the word to refer to. What is it? And, at least close enough for present purposes, the substance that we refer to by using the word "water" is the liquid composed (mostly) of molecules of H2O. The chemist's answer can be quite different from the lexicographer's. A lexicographer could have come up with a perfectly acceptable account of the meaning-in-use of the word "water" before we knew what water is. Many people who use the word "water" correctly don't know...

I do not understand how can anyone with at least a BA in philosophy relate to the world and act as people that do not have one do. And I take it that the average western person lives a better more untroubled life. Why? Well, I live with my brother and from my philosophical studies at a top ten university in the world I (without being cynical) assure you that it is perfectly reasonable to doubt many core beliefs that anyone takes for granted and that make life not liveable. I am deeply concerned about how does my mental representation of the world arise, whether a sufficient relation between the phenomenology of my conscious experience and a mind‐independent physical world can be established not only for metaphysical reasons but also for epistemic ones, hoping that it can allow me to know of the existence of an external world and make judgments of it. EXAMPLE: Sitting down eating while talking to my brother. (challenging, I know) I am thinking of the traditional philosophical questions such as the...

You write that one response of professional philosophers is "they don't let the doubts affect their lives, which is contrary to what an intellectually capable human being (i suppose philosophers are of course) should do " Here's my question: why is this what an "intellectually capable human being" should do? I don't think that's even remotely obvious. There's more or less nothing that I couldn't bring myself to doubt if I really tried. Maybe 1+2 = 3 is an exception. On the other hand, 5879+3627=9506 is something I likely could get myself to feel unsure about with a lot of effort. But so what? It's consistent to doubt any empirical proposition. And it's psychologically possible to doubt a lot of non-empirical propositions by worrying about whether one's cognitive engine has gone on the fritz. But while all of this is true, it seems to me to have no force. The best way I've ever seen anyone make the point is the way my one-time colleague Dudley Shapere used to put it: The possibility...

Do philosophers ever assume anything in books or journals (not including thought experiments) and wouldn't that be completely contrary to the intent of philosophy?

If by "assume," you mean "accept without argument," then the answer is yes to the first part of your question and no to the second. Yes: philosophers assume all sorts of things. They usually assume that there is a world out there and that there are people who at least potentially can read and respond to their arguments. They very often take for granted all sorts of facts, scientific and garden-variety: that there are trees; that people sometimes do things deliberately; that water is made of H2O; that the 4-color conjecture has been successfully proven. No: this isn't contrary to the intent of philosophy. Except on very eccentric views, philosophy is not the enterprise of doubting everything that can be doubted and accepting only what can be proved from indubitable premises. That may have been Descartes' project, but it's been almost no one else's. In fact, most philosophers would say that this project is deeply flawed. Philosophy, like the Odyssey begins in the middle of things. Want to think...

Can every philosophical word or term listed in peer-reviewed philosophy dictionaries be explained with a real-life example? If not, how can we know that it's not just BS?

A not-really-relevant aside: most philosophers don't own philosophical dictionaries, but let that pass. Here's a non-philosophical word: unicorn. It's easy to explain what it means, but there aren't any real-life examples. Whether a term can be clearly explained and whether there are actual examples are quite different questions. If it's controversial whether something exists then a philosopher shouldn't pretend otherwise, but the question of whether something exists (God, for instance) might be an interesting one. And sometimes the best way to understand a notion is a philosophical question. The notion of free will is like that. In that case, there's no one meaning for the term, but it's possible to have a perfectly reasonable discussion of what might count as free will and why some answers might be better than others. In fact that sort of discussion comes up in many disciplines. Philosophers are unusual in that they're trained to notice this kind of unclarity and to reason about it carefully.

An elementary precept of logic says that where there are two propositions, P and Q, there are four possible "truth values," P~Q, Q~P, P&Q, ~P~Q, where ~ means "not."   Do people ever apply this to pairs of philosophy propositions? For example, has anyone applied it to positive and negative liberty, or to equality of opportunity and equality of condition, or to just process and just outcome? On these topics I can find treatments of the first two truth values but none of the second two.   If this precept of logic is not applied, has anyone set out the reasons?

I'm not entirely sure I follow, but perhaps this will be of some use. Whether two propositions really have four possible combinations of truth values depends on the propositions. Non-philosophical examples make the point easier to follow. Suppose P is "Paula is Canadian" and Q is "Quincy is Australian." In this case, the two propositions are logically independent, and all four combinations P&Q, P&~Q, ~P&Q and ~P&~Q represent genuine possibilities. But not all propositions are independent in this way; it depends on their content. P and Q might be contradictories, that is, one might be the denial of the other. (If P means that Paula is Canadian and Q means that she is not Canadian, then we have this situation.) In that case, the only two possibilities are P&~Q and ~P&Q. Or P and Q might be contraries, meaning that they can't both be true though they could both be false. For example: if P is "Paula is over 6 feet tall" and Q is "Paula is under 5 feet tall," then we only have three...

Are answers to political questions less concrete than answers to questions of epistemology? Does this mean that even if 100% of philosophers think that Israel has no right to exist, it is no more valid than if 30% of philosophers agreed to the problem of other minds?

Not sure I follow, but by "concrete" I'm guessing you mean either "objective" or "easy to settle." If you do, then on either alternative I can't see why there would be any difference between the two. In any case, the way you've put things suggests that nose-counting may be relevant. That's surely wrong. The percentage of philosophers who think Israel does or doesn't have a right to exist doesn't seem to me to tell us much of anything about whether that's the best view of the matter; likewise for questions about epistemology. What really matters are the reasons. I'd add this, however: most philosophers have spent a fair bit of time thinking about epistemological questions; it's part of their training. And so if most philosophers held a particular epistemological view, that would be interesting and might suggest something about the weight of the arguments. However, most philosophers have not spent much of their training thinking about political philosophy; insofar as we can talk about expertise here,...

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