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Any comment the the fact that the expression "begs the question" is now used regularly in the U.S. media to mean "needs to be asked" rather that it's original meaning "Assumes the conclusion in the argument" ? Should Philosophers develop a new expression the capture the original meaning ? Thanks.

One of my biggest pet peeves, it drives me crazy! I don't know how feasible it is to develop new expressions etc., but we might consider this: when speaking to philosophers we can use the original latin term for the fallacy, petitio principi, and when speaking to the general public, use the term the way it's widely used. (When in Rome, speak as the Romans ....) This is painful to do for most philosophers, I imagine, but just slightly less painful than using the term properly and then either being widely misunderstood or taken by others to sound either arrogant or like an idiot ..... the worrisome thing is that so many who misuse the term in public discourse are educated, opinion-shapers, including journalists, politicians -- who (one would hope) might have taken some philosophy in college and should know better ..... but changing that practice (I think, sadly) is probably a losing proposition. which begs the question: how should one use the expression 'begs the question'.... :-) hope that's useful. ...

Dear Madam or Sir, this is not a question but a request: Is there an introduction into philosophy that you would recommend? Hoping to get an answer I remain sincerely yours Matthias

Glad to hear of your interest in learning more philosophy! There are MANY ways to go about doing this, from taking courses in person or online, or reading on your own etc. And then there are many different ways to read on your own, from working through primary texts by the philosophers themselves or various secondary texts. You are right to solicit advice and opinions, and no doubt you will find some terrific works out there to get you started. But I would be remiss if I didn't mention several of my own books that are aimed precisely at people like yourself, interested to get started in philosophy. (1) The 60-Second Philosopher: https://www.amazon.com/60-Second-Philosopher-Expand-Your-Minute/dp/1851686886/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1243353185&sr=1-1. Provides short pieces each presenting one interesting idea or argument, hopefully to get the reader engaged in the activity of philosophizing. (2) The God Question: https://www.amazon.com/God-Question-Famous-Thinkers-Dawkins/dp/1851686592/ref=sr_1_1...

Could there be colours we haven't yet seen?

A lot obviously depends on what you mean by "colour." (I'll assume "we" means human beings taken collectively over time and space!) If you take a physicalist/reductionist approach and identify colours with some property or properties of light or electromagnetic radiation within the visible spectrum, then, roughly, we might say "no" -- very plausibly light of every frequency (say) in the visible spectrum has causally interacted with the visual system of human beings causing a relevant visual experience etc. But if visual experience is more complex than that -- and it is -- perhaps there are all sorts of combinations of frequencies (and intensities etc) that we have not yet come across, which might even produce different kinds of visual experiences than we've had to date, turning that no into a yes. And surely that initial no is a kind of boring answer, and probably you have in mind something more expansive in asking your question. Perhaps (for example) we can imagine colours corresponding to parts of the...

If a State A attacks another State B's military apparatus knowing full well that there will be civilian collateral damage, then why is it that even if State B retaliates by intentionally targeting civilians, it's terrorism?

A brief addition to Jonathan's fine response. Of course different people define "terrorism" differently, but it looks like you're using the word to mean "intentional targeting of civilians" or something like that (independent of what the motive is for targeting the civilians). One (of many) ways to think about the difference is this. What's wrong isn't the "killing of civilians" per se, it's the "killing of civilians for no (or beyond any) legitimate military purpose." If we then permit the killing of civilians for bona fide military purposes (e.g. as collateral damage of bona fide military attacks) but forbid the killing when it lacks such purposes, then, overall, long term, over all conflicts (assuming combatants all follow these moral rules!), there are likely to be far fewer civilian casualties than if we treat the two cases identically. Put differently, if you could kill civilians at will, then both sides will kill lots of civilians; but if you can only kill civilians as collateral damage, then your...

How can you be confident that you're an open-minded or free thinker? Doesn't it seem likely that even the most prejudiced, dogmatic individuals view themselves as free thinkers (or, at any rate, appropriately responsive to evidence) with respect to their own views?

Good question. Could use some precision in the terms, i.e. what exactly counts as being "open-minded" or "free thinking"? some of these terms might have very specific meaning in certain contexts, but not clear what meaning you're assigning to them here. Also the heart of your second sentence/question is empirical, really -- we'd have to do a carefully devised survey to find out how people generally self-conceive. One of the really deep philosophical questions you have a finger on here might be this: is it possible to reconcile "open-mindedness" with "having reached a firm rational conclusion" -- since the degree to which you are convinced (rationally) by P is the degree to which you are no longer "open to" not-P. So even if you are initially "open" to all sorts of arguments/evidence, once you've made up your mind you are now "closing yourself" with respect to counter arguments/evidence. Of course, one might hold that an "open-minded" thinker is one who continuously revisits the issue, revisits the...

There will be an election in my country in the next few months and when I look at all the platforms of the parties that are running, I despise all of them. Yes, there may be a few parties which may have one or two stand alone positions I like, but everything else I find unappealing. Is the solution then to just not vote at all or should individuals do something active since voting is a very passive activity that only happens several years apart? I think low voter turnout in a democracy is actually a GOOD thing (since parties and electoral boards are always encouraging people to do the opposite, making politics into a competitive spectator sport) as it may lead to new parties and movements to expand the number of options.

good, difficult question. one of many possible strategies would be to choose the party that you think, overall, to be the least bad, or is likely to the least ill. Of course if you generally despise all the options then it may be very difficult to determine which party fits that description, in which case not voting at all seems to make the most sense (since any vote would just be arbitrary). One other option would be for YOU to found the "new party"/movement that you think is best, or at least take steps in that direction. You could do this either in place of, or in addition to, casting the vote for the least bad. ap

People trying to defend philosophy often point out that the natural sciences ("natural philosophy") grew out of it. Does that really recommend philosophy, or does it just mean that we use the word "philosophy" much differently now than in Newton's time? Is it at all likely that philosophy as it is practiced today will result in the creation of significant new disciplines?

nice question! hard to predict of course ... but some might say that psychology and now cognitive science have partly grown out of 'philosophy' fairly recently ... and some would argue that philosophy is essential for the continued development of cognitive science .... but more importantly (and perhaps you're sensitive to his), one might probably make the case for the value of philosophy intrinsically, i.e. philosophy is valuable in itself, not (merely) in terms of what other (good) things it might produce -- after all, the 'creation' of new disciplines, even if it can legitimately be assigned to philosophy, is a relatively rare thing -- and hard to justify centuries of philosophizing by saying every half a millennium or so it sloughs off a new discipline .... So better to look for your defense of philosophy elsewhere! hope that's useful ... great question! ap

I just watched the movie "Interstellar," in which the heroes try to begin a colony on another planet in order that the human race survive. Is there any compelling reason to do something like this? To be clear, as far as the heroes know, everyone who is currently alive on earth will die. The point is not to save those people, but only to see that there are future generations of humans that live after them. I can see that we have reasons to save actual, living people--they're capable of suffering, they have various interests, and so on--but those reasons don't apply to the hypothetical inhabitants of a future colony. Why should we care that humanity survive this larger sense?

great question! What I might say is ask your genes (a la "selfish gene", by Richard Dawkins). our DNA seems to have built into us this force for survival, if only for the sake of our DNA ... But that of course doesn't answer your question, b/c that perhaps descriptive account of where our 'instinct' for survival/continuation might come from doesn't address the normative question of why we should care or whether we should pursue that end. Those who attempt to collapse normatively via evolution might say that's all the answer we need -- but those who don't won't be satisfied. From my perspective I agree with what seems to be your own intuition -- no good reason why we should care. Indeed, the same question can be raised more immediately: why should we care about having our own children? Of course for many having/raising children helps give their lives a sense of meaning, but that's a very selfish reason -- you have children b/c it makes your life better, but that is not looking out for the children...

The question comes out of an thought experiment which goes like this: Suppose i ask you to choose a random word from English dictionary. And I tell you to find its definition. Now the definition of the word will also contains some set of words. I ask you to find the definition of all words taking one at a time. The definition of this second word will also contain some set of words, so you have to repeat this definition finding until you reach a word which has already been defined. Now you take the second word from the definition of the very first word you chose and keep repeating this process. As there are finite number of words in English dictionary, you will reach a point where there is nothing to define. Hence, if a set of definitions(in this case the English dictionary) there are finite definitions for each unknown. Accordingly, if our laws of universe are finite, then there will be finite answers to explain the entire universe. Or we can say existence of each physical process can be satisfactorily...

This is a first-rate question, if a little complicated, and deserves a longer (first-rate) answer. But it's Thanksgiving so I have to be brief! First your point about the dictionary is quite fascinating. I'm pretty sure Wittgenstein (and maybe Augustine) made roughly similar or closely related observations -- but partly in service of recognizing that ultimately for language/meaning to work we must connect (some) words not merely to other words but to 'reality' (or at least our perceptions thereof) -- we have some 'ostensive' definitions whereby we assign the meaning of a word by relating it directly to some object or object of perception ... (Not that that is problem-free itself, but it attempts to break the cycle of words-words definitions). Second, I'm not entirely clear on the analogy you make between the definition case and that of physical laws (and not clear whether the point I just made about ostensive definitions would apply in some analogous way to the laws). But apart from the analogy I can say...

Is there a role of mathematics in the development of human consciousness?

interesting question. not sure I understand it exactly. but I can refer you to some fascinating work that touches on it -- mostly anything by Douglas Hofstadter, but you might start with Strange Loops and/or Godel Escher Bach ... both spectacular works that trace the essence of consciousness to self-referential recursive (mathematical) processes ... he'd be a good place to start. best, Andrew Pessin

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