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It has always struck me that philosophy is not a subject that has made any real progress. A lot of elaborate constructs of when we perceive certain things to be piles and so forth seem to be problems that can be dealt with (eventually) by sciences such as psychology and neurology. Why waste time constructing elaborate theories that are not scientifically provable? Things like inconsistencies in how people act may be a result of people just not being perfectly logical creatures. Why waste so much time pondering questions where 1. progress is hard to judge 2. the resulting ideas do not really change the world in any significant manner.

I think it's pretty obvious that philosophy has made profound contributions to human knowledge and culture. John Locke's Two Treatises on Civil Government , for example, lay the foundation for the political system in the United States, and that, despite its flaws, seems like a good thing. But maybe you weren't thinking about ethics or politicial theory. Well, Rene Descartes's Meditations on First Philosophy helped to establish a conception of the world and what is required for knowledge of it that made it possible for empircal science to grow and flourish, and that was a pretty good thing, too. But maybe that isn't what you had in mind, either. To speak for myself, I tend to think of philosophy (outside ethics) as what something is before it's science. Indeed, in Descartes's time, there wasn't a division between philosophy and science. There was just "natural philosophy", and both the Meditations and his work on optics were part of natural philosophy as he understood it. But as a result...

Recently I was debating with others the proposition that solving social problems in games enhances one's ability to solve real-world problems (my view was the negative: many excellent strategic gamers consistently make spectacularly foolish personal decisions in real life). This seems to generate the question: "Do philosophers have a better track record of making successful personal decisions than the average minimally-thinking individual?"

In college, I had a professor who was both a devout Jew and a Kant scholar. Kant, you may know, was pretty anti-Semitic, which wasn't uncommon then, of course. I asked him how he handled that. He said to me, "One wouldn't expect a geometer to be a triangle" by which, I take it, he meant that someone who can think profoundly about moral questions need not be very good at putting theory into practice.

Hello, smart people! Okay, here's what I wonder about: why doesn't it seem to bother most philosophy types that all arguments eventually have to be based on unprovable premises? I mean, I liked the philosophy classes I took in college. I'm not just philosophy-bashing here. But I can't see how anyone writes philosophical works when the first requirement is to ignore something so fundamental. Yeah, I know this isn't an original question, but that's just the problem. Since there doesn't seem to be any good answer, why spend so much time thinking about all the questions that come after it? Oh, and if any of you has an extra minute, I'm also curious about the meaning of life and why time and space exist. :)

Philosophers do spend a good deal of time worrying about this matter. Indeed, it is characteristic of many areas of philosophy to be particularly interested in the "unprovable assumptions" with which arguments begin. Two examples: Perceptually-based beliefs---such as that there is a window in front of me---form the starting point for many of our beliefs. (Empiricists hold that all beliefs must be grounded there, but let's set that aside.) But it seems clear, at least to some of us, that these beliefs are not reached by argument from other beliefs. In that sense, they cannot be "proved" on the basis of anything else. How then should we understand how we arrive at such judgements? What is it for one of them to count as known? These are basic questions in the philosophy of perception. In mathematics, theorems are proven from axioms. Axioms, on the other hand, are accepted as true without proof. On what ground do we accept such axioms as, say, that, if there are two sets A and B, then there is a...