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I have been duscussing lately with my friend about thinking. We both agree on what thinking can lead to. But, we disagree on wether or not you should think. Our theory is that thinking will often/most cases lead to unhappiness or depression because most question/problems are for the most part hard to solve. For example, what is the meaning of life? Not an easy question to answer, and the answer you do get may be sad. Therefore, I think not thinking will be good for a person so hin won't get to a stage where hin gets sad. However, my friend see this as fake happiness because you only hide sadness away instead of dealing with the problems. The problems are philosophical and not physical or physiological. So the question is, should people asks "why" questions more often and seek answers to find true happiness? Or is not thinking at all about philosophically questions just fine?

I belong firmly to the camp that advocates more thinking rather than less, especially when the issue is philosophical. Take your sample question: What is the meaning of life? I would answer it this way: In the sense in which the question is probably intended, there isn't and couldn't possibly be any such thing as the meaning of life. (See this link for details.) Should that answer make someone sad? I don't think so. When we come to see that the notion of the meaning (i.e., ultimate purpose) of life makes no sense, we can recognize that seeking the meaning of life is a logically misguided quest, like seeking the largest integer. I hope no one feels sad that there's no largest integer. Really it's an empirical question whether thinking about philosophical issues makes people, in general, happier or sadder than they would otherwise be. I don't know the answer to that question, but in my own case I believe that philosophical thinking has greatly contributed to my overall contentment. But even if it...

Should the impossibility of reaching a definite answer for many of the questions that philosophy asks realistically lead one to stop asking , or even considering, these type of questions? Ultimately, is asking a waste of time and energy?

Philosophers are routinely asked these questions, whereas (say) physicists never are. I'm not sure that's fair. If the task of physics is to discover the fundamental laws governing the physical world, then there's no guarantee that physics can accomplish that task. For one thing, there may not be fundamental physical laws; it may be that for every physical law, there's a more basic physical law that implies it, without end. (The alternatives seem to be that some physical laws are not just physically but metaphysically necessary, which seems implausible, or that some physical facts are inexplicable and therefore not explained by physics.) Even if fundamental physical laws do exist, physicists can't reasonably claim to have discovered them given (for example) the ongoing disputes over how to reconcile general relativity with quantum mechanics. Are physicists therefore wasting their time? Some of the controversies in biology (e.g., abiogenesis; one tree of life or more than one?) seem just as...

One major problem I have with a lot of arguments is that at least one premise relies on intuition to be justified. The problem is that intuition is terribly unreliable and therefore cannot be used to justify a premise. Arguments that rely on intuition seem common in normative ethics from my what I have seem (The utility monster is one such example). I decided to make a thought experiment to tell if the argument relies on intuition that goes like this: You are alien which is born with the intuition that utilitarianism and is self-evident You discover a planet and decide to go visit it to find people living on it. you ask a person about utilitarianism and the person think it is false and use the utility monster argument to back up that assertion. Would you think this argument is sound or even makes only sense or a actual problem with the position you think is self-evident? Utilitarianism can be changed to whatever the position be attacked is and the utility monster into the argument against said...

It's hard to see how any thought experiment could be good for filtering out all intuition-based arguments, for the simple reason that one's reaction to any thought experiment is itself a matter of one's intuitions. In your own thought experiment, I'm supposed to imagine how I'd react to the utility-monster objection if two non-actual conditions held: (1) I'm an alien, and (2) I'm born with the intuition that utilitarianism is self-evident. To be honest, I have no idea how I'd react under those conditions, but the only thing I can consult to answer the question would be my intuitions about the imagined case. Any (finitely long) argument, including any sound argument, will rely on intuitions in the sense that it will contain premises that the argument simply asserts and doesn't defend. That being said, if one's argument depends on controversial premises, then one ought to improve the argument by finding less controversial premises that imply one's conclusion.

how many branches of philosophy are there, and why is language picked apart so meticulosly?

At least 33, to judge from the Areas of Specialization (AOS) listed here: http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl. Less facetiously: There's no non-arbitrary way to give a precise answer to your question, just as with the question "How many branches of science are there?" Careful attention to language is essential because, among other things, only when we're careful about language can we tell which philosophical problem (if any) we're trying to solve or which philosophical question (if any) we're trying to answer.

I think of philosophers as people who describe and debate in order to reach defensible positions concerning ethics, truth, etc. But what is uniquely philosophical about such practices? Philosophers identify fallacies, but so do logicians. Philosophers are trained in intellectual movements, but so are historians. As Rorty put it, where is the fach in philosophy? Is philosophy more about excellence in argumentation than content?

I myself would answer "Yes" to your final question. I think you've put your finger on what distinguishes good philosophers from good practitioners of other disciplines: the desire and the ability to attain the highest standards of argumentative attentiveness and rigor regardless of the topic at hand. We can rely on good mathematicians, physicists, and biologists (for example) to be careful and rigorous about math, physics, and biology. But get them outside their scientific specialties, and the results are very much hit-or-miss, with a lot of miss: Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Lawrence Krauss, Jerry Coyne, and Bill Nye on the nature and value of philosophy; Sam Harris on free will and on the ability of science to resolve ethical questions; Coyne on free will; Richard Dawkins on free will and on the sorites paradox; Krauss on why there's something rather than nothing. Those are examples of sloppy argumentation that come readily to mind from just my own reading. It's not...

When solving a philosophical question, do you have a preconceived notion of the answer and work backwards to justify or do you start from scratch with absolutely no psychological bias? Is the former method intellectually dishonest and how prevalent is it amongst the profession?

I can't imagine that anyone sets out to solve a philosophical problem with "absolutely no psychological bias" concerning what the correct solution will look like. The degree to which I think I've already surmised "the answer" to a problem before getting down to the hard work of solving it depends on the particular problem. But I doubt I ever embark on finding a solution with no preconceived notion at all about the right answer. I don't think this method counts as intellectually dishonest in general, and especially not in philosophy, where the success of one's solution depends entirely on the quality of one's argumentation, which is open for all to judge. Unlike empirical scientists, philosophical problem-solvers can't fake data. If a philosopher's proposed solution to a problem isn't clearly supported by the argumentation that he/she provides, anyone who reads the proposal is in a position to see that. This bracingly high intellectual standard is one of the main virtues of philosophy when it's done...

Why do scientists seem to dislike philosophy so much? (For example Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss). Even Dawkins seems to have joined the club (which is odd given he now seems to spend most of his time making what seem to me to be fairly clearly philosophical arguments). Is it simply that they are using different definitions of the word than philosophy professors? Are they generally attacking just bad philosophy and taking that unrepresentative sample? Do they mean philosophy as in "that thing taught in philosophy departments" or some more abstract notion about the relations of ideas? I really don't understand what their problem is with philosophy (and why they don't define their terms)...

I'm not sure why Tyson, Hawking, Krauss, Dawkins, Coyne, Feynman, et al. , express so much contempt for philosophy. But my best guess is that they're ignorant -- unaware -- of what philosophy is when it's done well, perhaps because they received little or no academic training in philosophy when they were undergraduate students. (By the time they reached graduate school in the sciences, it may have been too late for them to get that training even if they had been interested in getting it.) I don't think they're using different definitions, at least not systematically. Krauss does claim that physics has redefined the words "something" and "nothing," but I think he's deeply mistaken (see Question 4759 ). In general, I find that when non-philosophers, including scientists, reason about philosophical issues, they do so sloppily: making elementary mistakes in inference, conflating concepts that ought to be kept distinct, and so on. That's unfortunate but not surprising, since reasoning well about...

Have you ever changed your mind about a major philosophical problem or theory and did you feel that it was a waste of time defending your previous position?

Yes. No. The time I spent defending my previous position -- against what I now regard as decisive objections -- helped me to see why a different position is more plausible, and it helped me to adopt the new position without having to worry that I hadn't given my previous position a fair shake.

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