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to what extent is the definition of mental "health" conditioned by society and social mores? To what extent is the job of a psychotherapist grounded in and/or free from the beliefs of the society in which s/he operates?

I may be wrong, but I have a sense that your key interest is the extent to which matters of mental health are grounded in nature or in a reality that is independent of changing or contingent matters, right? I am checking in to make sure I get the question, for there is a sense in which if you are asking about whether the term 'health' is defined by society, the reply should probably be that 'health' like all terms (from 'dog' to 'mountain') in all languages is indeed defined by social conventions. But it is a further matter whether 'health' or 'mental health' refers to something that is not only a matter of social convention. If I am right about your concern, then I think we have reason to believe that there are some norms that define 'mental health' and 'mental illness' that appear to range over cultures (or that cultures hold in common) and are pretty basic, e.g. it is not mentally healthy for parents to torture their children or for pilots to deliberately crash an airplane full of passengers into...

Is judging a person by their intelligence analogous to racism? A person can't help the genetics that determines their intellectual capacity and the belief in the superiority of intelligent people seems to arguably be a basis for social inequalities.

Great question! Some preliminary thoughts: Racism seems to involve treating a group of persons who share an ethnic identity with derision, disrespect, and partial disadvantage. Accounts of racism today are controversial, but I propose that a comprehensive account of racism should involve both action as well as attitudes. What you write suggests that one reason why racism is inappropriate / unjust / wrong, is that persons cannot help being a certain ethnicity. I suggest, however, that racism would be wrong whether or not one could voluntarily adopt or abandon a race or ethnicity. If I converted to Judaism and, in the eyes of the world I became Jewish, anti-semitism would still be wrong even though I could have remained a Christian. In a related way, I suggest it would still be wrong to discriminate against homosexuals whether or not a person can choose whether to be homosexual or not. It should be added as a side point that the very category of "race" is vexing. Some think of race as a...

is the existing reality of a thought dependent upon our mind or upon on our external world?

Not an easy question to respond to! If, by 'thought' you are referring to what persons think about (as in: I am thinking about math), then because it seems as though we thinking persons can think about the world around us and about ourselves and abstract objects (as in mathematics), then the truth of what we think about the world and ourselves and abstracta (e.g. math) will (I suggest) very much depend on how things are. I might think I am an expert in mathematics, but it turns out I am rubbish. The 'reality of [my] thought' that I am a math expert does not depend upon whether it is true or false, but the consequences of its being true or false might be quite significant in reality. Some philosophers (such as myself) are prepared to go in what must seem like a hopelessly mysterious direction. So, some of us treat the objects of our thinking to be propositions or abstract (non-concrete) states of affairs. For example, i hope to live in a universe in which there are unicorns, while my friend...

Do philosophers consider psychology to be a science? If not, do they think philosophy should inform personal life values or psychiatric treatment?

Interesting question! The field of psychology emerged in the 19th and early 20th century as a science; at least the early self-described psychologists first described themselves as developing a science of the mind, and later changed this to the science of behavior. In any case, I suggest that whether psychology is a science, it is difficult to avoid philosophy when addressing one's personal life or engaged in psychiatric treatment. Presumably, one's personal life will include some kind of philosophy of values or some ideas about what is good and healthy, bad and ill, what is kind or cruel, and so on. Some of the therapeutic communities I know in which persons seek recovery from mental illness involve a philosophy of health, responsibility, and care (see for example, Spring Lake Ranch in Vermont). They do not employ a philosophy course from Plato to Nato, but much of the dialogue is about wellbeing, the value of community, and living a philosophy of mutual respect.

Does intelligence imply obligation? That is, if you can understand a situation better than other people, or have a generally higher aptitude for solving problems, are you obligated to use that capacity to better help society? Are you held to a higher moral standard, say where crime (or harmful behavior) is concerned, if you have a demonstrably greater grasp of the values in play; are you more responsible to consider long-term consequences because you can anticipate them better? I'd be curious to know which, if any, philosophers addressed these sorts of questions historically.

Very good question! Those philosophers in the utilitarian tradition tend to think that such a gifted person ought to apply her intelligence in such matters if that would be the maximal way in which she might bring about the greatest happiness. Formally, what is called 'act utilitarianism' is the view that an agent should do that act of which there is no other act that will produce greater utility (or happiness). A Marxist approach to social roles (in which persons are assigned roles in accord with their abilities) would probably also deem the gifted person degenerate if she failed to help her comrades. Philosophers who are in some religious traditions would also contend that one should use one's talents in ways that maximally benefits others. Christians, for example, offer a Good Samaritan ethic that obliges us to help the vulnerable. In that tradition, though, it is sometimes thought there is a difference between ordinary obligations, and the precepts of perfection. Ordinary virtue may...

I'm currently reading Simon Blackburn's "Think", in which he claims to use metaphysics to all but explain away the idea of Cartesian dualism. He claims that if it were true that the mind is distinct from the body, that it would create the possibility for "zombies" to exist who function just like us, but without a consciousness, and for "mutants" to exist, who have different mental responses to stimuli than most people. Because he believes that both of these conclusions are ridiculous, he rules out substance dualism. However, I don't see how the idea that the mind is not contained inside of the brain necessarily makes either of those options possible. As to the zombie theory, just because the two components of mind and body lie in different realms, it doesn't seem to make it necessarily true that the body would be able to function without the mind. The two could be separate but still rely upon each other in order to function. For the mutant idea, I don't see how that would be any less possible if the...

You raise excellent points. Blackburn is probably assuming Descartes' concept of what it is to be an individual substance which is, roughly, if S is a substance it may exist without other substances --or, as Descartes adjusted this concept, S is a substance if God can create and sustain A without creating and sustaining other substances. So if mind is a substance, it can exist without its body and vice versa. A zombie would be the body without a mind. HOWEVER, you raise excellent points. It may be that mind and body are distinct but the two cannot exist independently. Certain properties may be distinct but it is necessarily true that one cannot exist without the other: being the smallest perfect number and being the successor of five are distinct but it is necessarily the case that if one is instantiated (there is the number 6) the other is instantiated. Your counter-example is also good, I think. I believe it is also worth challenging whether the idea of a zombie is incoherent. B.F. ...

Let's say when we measure the brainwaves of someone who is actually deluded and the brainwaves of someone who is fervently religious, they match up to an extraordinary degree. Are we justified to say that the religious person is deluded base on this observation of matching brainwaves alone? Can we judge the propositional content of a belief as to its truth value by brain activity? Can scientific neurological experiments determine the truth and falsity of propositional content or are arguments the only way to determine the truth and falsity of propositional content? Can we appeal to brainwave activity to invalidate theism? Galen O.

Interesting question(s)! I'm afraid that it will be very difficult to replace arguments and the different "tools" philosophers use with neurological data. First, I assume that in identifying a subject as "deluded" we would have to know the falsehood of her belief and perhaps identify which fallacies she has committed. We would also need to think through ideas of mental causation and the degree to which a person's beliefs may be linked to neurological events (are we going to assume a reductive account of the mental? or are we going to allow that propositions, mental acts such as 'believing' are irreducible to the physical, in particular, brain states and processes?. We also need more than neurology to identify and define what is a 'religion.' You seem particularly interested in theism, but some important religions are non-theistic (most forms of Buddhism), and some theists are not religious (Richard Taylor may have been a good case of this). Still, there are some common sense ways in which...

I hope this question doesn't conflict with the ''don't ask questions that are too general'' in the guidelines, but I have a question that I think goes under analytical philosophy, if I am not wrong, that I can't seem to find anywhere on the internet. The question is: what does it mean to understand? It seems like there are so many other questions that hinges on this question; so many other question that will become more intelligible if this question is answered. For example, if I am wondering whether or not we will be able to understand everything there is to understand in the universe, i.e. that nothing will remain mysterious in the end, it all depends on what is meant by understanding. It can't be the same as predicting, because one may be able to predict something without necessarilty understanding it. It can't be the same as saying some words, because one may recite something someone else have said without understanding. It can't be having the correct ''images'' showing up in your mind, because the...

Thank you for the question and your reflections on some possibilities and suggestions! I believe that in our ordinary usage in English, the term "understand" often suggests both a level of comprehension as well as some degree of empathy or sympathy (but not necessarily endorsement). A policeman might say: "I understand why you were driving dangerously. If I caught my husband cheating on me, I would probably drive quite dangerously myself. But in that case, we would both be wrong in endangering others." In philosophy, when we speak in terms of understanding some state of affairs, we usually are speaking in terms of comprehension, rather than expressing any sympathy. What kind of comprehension is involved will vary depending on the state of affairs. I might understand that 6 is the smallest perfect number by knowing that a perfect number is equal to the sum of its divisors, including one, but not itself and 6 equals 1+2+3. I might rightly claim to understand that my colleague is a materialist, but...

Throughout life, we all have fantasies, from childhood fantasies of being rock star/doctors/astronauts, to "adult" fantasies of wealth, fame and power. These "adult fantasies", including, but not limited to, images of wealth, power, lust, power, status, and/or self-actualization, are seemingly very common. Do you think these fantasies are more beneficial, allowing us to aspire for greater goals in life and being driven to attain them, or dangerous, filling us with envious glowers of lust with little determination to fulfill them?

A great question, and not easily answered! The English Romantic poet and philosopher Samuel Coleridge drew a sharp distinction between fantasy and imagination in which the first is relatively feckless and futile (and your examples would fit under what Coleridge would classify as fantasy), whereas imagination is more constructive and is employed to think about the meaning of life, God, the good, and our relationships and responsibilities to one another, and the life. I believe the Cambridge University philosopher Douglas Hedley defends position like that. I tend to take a somewhat more relaxed view. While clearly fantasies can be horribly self-absorbed, even cruel, surely (I suggest) our lives would be poorer without some fantasies --a child fantasizing about becoming an astronaut or an adult fantasizing about being a great diplomat who both gets Hamas to recognize that the state of Israel to exist and insures that the Korean peninsular is nuclear free. Sometimes the entertaining of outright...

What is imagination? How an explanation of the imagination? Is it true that a person's imagination comes from experience and knowledge of one's own. Is it possible to imagine beyond the limits of our own thinking? If possible how? what are the limitations in our imagination? and how we can eliminate those restrictions in order to imagine freely and without limits?

Interesting!! The old, classic definition of 'imagination' as the power to form images. We now use it more broadly as one might imagine something that involves no images, e.g. you might imagine becoming a world leader, but not thereby utilize any image whatever. I suggest that the imagination is our power to image, picture, think of some state of affairs that is not immediately present to your senses. In this vey broad definition, it may be argued (as some philosophers have done) that we routinely use our imagination whenever we perceive things. For example, technically, I may only sense the surface of a baseball, but because I can picture it as a solid, three dimensional object with a side that I am not immediately sensing, we naturally claim that I perceive the baseball. On your second question, surely experience, knowledge, memories, past beliefs, stories you have heard, films, plays, and more may enter into what you imagine. On your third question, about whether it is possible to imagine...

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