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What is the next best thing to studying philosophy at an undergraduate level? I had wanted to study philosophy for a long time — but I've decided to go another path. I'm disappointed, because I think the transferrable skills from philosophy are absolutely amazing. (This is on top of the fact that I really just enjoy philosophy.) For instance, if you look at GRE scores based on the subject majored in, those who studied philosophy were the number one in verbal reasoning and analytical writing, and pretty high up in the quantitative reasoning. People have told me that the only way to experience the depth and breadth of philosophy is to actually study it full time for a number of years. But is there a way to at least develop some of the skills that philosophers have in bucket loads without actually doing it for a degree? I am doing a law degree.

I think that many disciplines, and law is one of them, encourage precisely the same sort of reasoning processes as does philosophy. In fact, one could go further and say that virtually everything that people do relies on the ability to reason and argue, to solve problems and resolve difficulties. I was watching a carpenter yesterday working on my deck and he was constantly working out ways to get out of problems that the structure was asking him. I have often noticed that tradespeople are very good at that sort of reasoning whereas someone else who does not have their practical skills cannot do it at all. So some of the reasoning skills are readily available whatever one trains to be or studies. On the other hand, as the most abstract form of representing those skills philosophy stands alone. Whether it operates with a tougher set of concepts as compared with other disciplines, I tend to doubt. In some ways it could be argued that it is harder to work out conceptual issues when they are combined with...

Hi; I was wondering if there is ever justification in Religion and or Politics for "the Noble Lie". I ask this because it seems to me that both mainly rely on this is order to maintain relevance. Oddly enough what fascinates me most is the idea that it is necessary to invent some "Bogey Man" in order to maintain Social & Economic cohesion. Anyway I'd be more than interested in your views and opinions. Cheers Pasquale. BTW,, I've just finished reading your Book, "What should I do?" Great Read. Thanks.

Lies are a problem politically since they imply a paternalistic relationship between rulers and the ruled. Even from a consequentialist point of view this is problematic, since it would become more and more tempting for leaders to deceive themselves about when it was appropriate to level with the led. On the other hand, there is no reason why politicians should not present what they take to be true in ways that fit in with what they think will move the public. As with ordinary conversation, we tend to present information in ways we think will resonate with our audience, and often selection is involved here of both words and ideas. We should not lie, but shaping the truth to make it more malleable to an audience is acceptable morally. Of course, the more people do it the less effective it becomes.

Suppose that all the languages in the world have the same number of vocabulary. Is it possible that one language is more superior than another in the way it represents the world, even if they have the same number of words contained in them?

I don't see what is so good about brevity in language. What is wrong with lots of synonyms? You then get to choose which word to use. Perhaps it seems that it does not matter, since the choice is between equivalents. Well, they may mean the same thing but they don't sound the same or look the same. It is worth trying to avoid a Gradgrind theory of semantics!

Is it always irrational to procrastinate, or is there a way where procrastination as a choice can be rationally justified?

I was thinking of replying to your question immediately but then I thought a delay would be appropriate. That is a good example of when procrastination is appropriate. There is obviously a level of procrastination where it involves actually refusing to act and this is irrational, and probably requires treatment of some kind. Normally though it is no bad thing to think a bit longer about what to do and far from irrational. I am about to press the Submit button, should I wait, well, worth waiting to check what I have written and then I think it is time to release this into cyberspace. Or perhaps not, should I wait a bit longer? No more procrastination, it can go off now.

Can translations ever capture the true essence of the original word? More abstract concepts or ideas such as love, anger, or honor are fundamentally built on cultural and social understanding and context, which may be difficult to be aptly understood by outsiders. So when we take these culturally-laden terms and attempt to translate them into a different language, are we inadvertently imposing assumptions and simplifications upon the authenticity of the term? Is the art of translation so futile that only the native speakers can truly understand, or if not, how can we do these words justice when translating?

This is an issue that occurs to anyone who has ever translated anything, and you are right, it is a problematic activity. On the other hand, it depends what counts as translation. If it is a matter of capturing ever nuance that exists in the original language then it often cannot be done, perhaps never, since to understand a phrase or sentence completely might involve an insider's grasp of the culture and environment along with the language, in which case a translation of course is unnecessary. If it is a matter of understanding the basic ideas that exist in the original language, that seems to me to be quite feasible, and makes the translation enterprise worth doing. There was a lively debate on this issue in the early years of Islamic philosophy, where so much was translated out of Greek into Arabic, often via Syriac. Al-Farabi argued that behind the surface grammar of each individual language which are obviously distinct from each other there exists a deep grammar which is logic, and that is shared...

Does the expression "Lose your life" imply dualism? Consider the expression "to lose your life" and related ones, "to be robbed of your life", "to have the rest of your life stolen from you". To lose something makes a division of time into a 'before' and an 'after' the loss. The effects in terms of dismay, grief and pain obviously belong to the after. Experiencing this loss requires the presence of an affected subject. This is all quite clear for the loss of everything, from a key to a beloved spouse. Everything, except if the lost object is your own life. Because if you are a materialist, there is no experiencing subject in the after when life has ceased. This means that expressions like "losing your life", "being deprived of the rest of your life" etc, all seem to presuppose a dualistic attitude, creating images of an after-life spirit sitting on a cloud mourning its lost earthly life.

I think you are right, and Freud says that we can never really think of ourselves as completely dead in the sense that there is nothing of us left. I suppose the good thing about the losing life idiom is that it leaves open the possibility that there is more to us than just this body, and perhaps a soul or something similar continues to exist, or has that possibility. In fact, your comments remind me of those philosophers like Epicurus who argued that death is not to be rationally feared since after it occurs there is nothing to experience the absence of life.

According to consequentialism, is it less immoral to steal from a multi-billion corporation like Walmart than it is to steal from a corner grocery store?

Not really, since the theft affects the thief as well as the immediate victim of the theft. Walmart's profits will not be much affected by an individual minor theft, whereas a small shopkeeper might be affected in a more major way. Since I am harming someone much more in stealing from the little guy I may be harming my moral character much more, and making it more likely for me to steal in general in the future. On the other hand, the idea that Walmart will not be much affected may encourage me to widen my circle of victims to include those who would be harmed, since it would weaken my disposition not to steal at all. General welfare is perhaps dependent on people in general not stealing so anything that encourages theft is undesirable from a consequentialist point of view.

Why is it important to have more women students and professors in philosophy? So long as there is equality in opportunity why does equality of outcome matter? Asians are even less represented in philosophy departments and Eastern Philosophy is given much less attention than the Feminist School of Resentment yet that isn't being challenged.

It is a matter of fairness. If women are put off philosophy, and do not on the whole flourish in the profession, then it is unfair if they are able and interested and unsuccessful. The same goes for education as a whole. There is no reason why we should expect the various disciplines to be equally shared despite gender, class, ethnicity and so on, since in the past this has not been the case. Yet if some people are unable to reach their potential solely because of cultural influences stemming from the past, then this is clearly morally questionable.

Do cameras and microphones always "capture truth?" Suppose a surveillance camera in a store captures undoctored video of a person stealing. Does this video satisfy all of the correspondence, coherence and epistemic theories of truth that the person did indeed steal? Since the other theories of truth are primarily sentence based, how can a video be turned into "truth by words?"

This is not an issue of theories of truth but of what is involved in stealing. It is not just an action. If I absent-mindedly put my hand in your bag and withdraw your wallet I may not be stealing it, there needs to be a mens rea, an evil intention. I may think your bag is my bag, I may be thinking about something else entirely. I used to live in a country where supermarkets put goods on offer in shopping trolleys around the store as well as on the shelves, and sometimes in the US I forget where I am and help myself to something from someone else's trolly. Often there is an indignant reaction, but whatever the camera shows, I am not stealing.

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