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Considering the problem of induction, do we need faith to believe in the uniformity of nature even though it would seem that we have little choice but to?

This is what David Hume's great skeptical argument seems to show. The claim that nature is (and will be) uniform, or such that our inductive practices will tend to take us to the truth, is itself something that it seems we could only know by using induction, but to use induction to justify induction seems worthless.

For my money nobody has yet given a fully adequate reply to Hume's argument. And if his argument is sound, the our reliance on induction does seem to be a matter of faith: something we believe though we can have no good reason for it.

As you probably know, there is a huge literature of attempts to solve the problem of induction. My own view is that the prospects for inductive justifications of induction are better than they first appear. For example, I think that the fact that a particular method of predictive the future has worked well so far can give some reason to trust it in future, even though that argument would of course have no force for someone who refused to use induction at all. But the attempt to parlay that thought into anything like a general justification of induction is a long story.

Which philosophical texts are considered, generally, to be canonical (in the sense that any and everyone who either has an interest in philosophy or is studying it should have read them)?

The list of such texts will either be very long (if you allow that not absolutely all philosophers need to read each one), or else there will be no such list (if you insist that absolutely all philosophers should have read each one).

Philosophy has come to have so many sub-disciplines that it is quite possible for someone to be very good in field X and yet never have read any of the basic texts in some other field(s). Also, the closer we get to the present day, historically, the more difficult it becomes to name the texts that are going to be the "classics" of philosophy.

The safest answer to questions such as yours would be to look at the lists of texts taught in most history of philosophy classes (those covering ancient Greek through 19th Century European philosophy). What professors assign to their students in these classes are generally regarded as very important works of philosophy that good philosophers would do well to have read and understood.

I acknowledge that Descartes "Founder of Modern Philosophy" and the "Father of Modern Mathematics," ranks as one of the most important and influential thinkers of modern times. Obviously very influential and smart right? Well.... If this guy was so bright, then why did he believe that non-human animals were not sentient and therefore could not suffer or feel pain? This belief led him to accept vivisection as ethical. If you squeeze the skin of a cat violently and pinch it, it will scream in agony. My question is, how could a person supposedly brilliant and also striving to prove the existence of god and the infinite essence known as the soul in human beings found in meditations on first philosophy have the misconception that non-human animals cannot suffer? When inflicting vivisection or violent harm, the truth is SCREAMING at you in the face! I am boggled. Can somebody please shed some light on this supposedly wonderful mind of Descartes?

I hope others will chime in on this one, but here is a partial answer. The problem that lies behind your question is na version of what is called the "problem of other minds." The truth, as you put it, is actually not "SCREAMING at you in the face." Even Descartes would not have denied that cats will struggle and make loud noises when you begin to cut them open. The screaming, as you put it, is something that happens when cats are vivisected. The question--on which you and Descartes differ--is whether that screaming should be understood as a decisive indicator of whether the cat actually feels pain.

Consider even another human being. You witness them suffering some injury, and they cry out. You assume they are feeling pain, and that is why they cry out, because when you injure yourself in the same or similar ways, you feel pain, and that is what makes you cry out. But if you think about it, the only pain--indeed, the only consciousness of any kind that you ever have or ever will experience is your own.

But are analogies of the sort you make with this other human being (she is like me, so when she cries out, it is for the same reason or reasons) really all that reliable? Do you like the taste of liver? If you do, what do you make of people who hate it? Are you male? If so, do you really think that the way females experience things is exactly the same as the way you do? And so on... Now, if such questions arise when it comes to other human beings, how much more complex do they become when you are trying to assess the conscious states of non-human animals, whose neurologies and other morphologies, and whose evolutionary histories are in many ways significantly like ours? A famous question, framed years ago in a famous article by Thomas Nagel, is: What is it like to be a bat? Honest answer: Haven't a clue! Well, then, what makes you so certain that you know what it is like to be a cat??? Is it simply inconceivable, or logically impossible, that a being (such as a cat) might not respond to stimuli in ways that look very similar to the ways we respond to them (in some cases, anyway--not when my cat and I contemplate the same dish of cat food, however!), but in the case of the cat, there is no intervening (or supervenient, or whatever it might be) instances of consciousness? That is what Descartes supposed--that cat screaming was just behavioral only, and not related to consciousness. Since consciousness appears not to be directly observable (except in first-person, as it were), your evidence against Descartes's view is not at all compelling.

Of course, I don't think he had any very good evidence that cats do not have consciousness, and I myself suppose they do (at least my two cats do...well, sort of). But I have tried to show why your case against Descartes is not as easily made as you seemed to suppose.

When did it come to the point where science and philosophy were not the same thing, or at least in search for the same goal. An experiment here, a theory there, both being created by the thought of how to complete the experiment, or checking the pros and cons of a theory until it is as sound as one mind can allow. Are they not both in search for truth, thus intertwined for a singular outcome?

When? I think it was June 15, 1412 at 5:22 in the laboratory of... (just kidding!)

I don't think such questions have very definite answers. "Philosophy" means "love of wisdom," and originally, any thoughtful example of truth-seeking counted as "philosophia"--the Greek word for philosophy. As you say, both are examples of our search for truth, and in that sense, both continue to interact, at various levels.

However, one thing that distinguishes science is that it has a methodology tied to observations and experimentation, whereas much of what philosophers debate has not (yet, at any rate) lent itself to empirical resolution through observation and experimentation. We do "thought experiments" a lot of the time, but these results are not as reliable, as universal, or always replicable, in the ways that actual empirical experiments (which can be performed by anyone anywhere, with suitable equipment) are.

This seem like an odd question and perhaps misplaced on this site but I am interested none the less. I was thinking about the definition of a car. You see, I've brought this up in conversation before and people are usually arrogantly dismissive of it, and say something like “it has 4 wheels and an engine!”; then I inform them that they've just described cars, forklifts, tractors, some planes etc... Then they realize that any true definition would require much more eloquence. But this is where I am stuck, as any definition I can think of does not omit other non-car vehicles or does not include the myriad of car forms. The fact that what is a car is obvious to the observer is testimony to the fact that there is a working definition of it, and if we fail to find one then, to me at least, it suggests that there is some uniquely car trait that we have yet to quantify. I suppose the broader question this raises is are definitions meaningful anyway?

Most historians of philosophy agree that definitional questions were introduced as the special province of philosophy by Socrates, who asked them about virtue-terms, and thus invariably exposed the ignorance of his interlocutors. Socrates is also sometimes said to have committed "the Socratic fallacy," which is (roughly) the claim that unless you have knowledge of the definition, you can't know anything else about the thing to be defined, including that any instance of it really is an instance. Some very prominent scholars continue to think that Socrates believed in this kind of epistemological priority of definition, which your car example shows well would be a fallacy (if indeed Socrates held such a view, though I have argued in my published work that he did not).

Anyway, of course you can know that a certain Chevy Impala is a car, even if you don't know how to define "car." So definitional knowledge is plainly not epistemologically prior to our ability to know instances.

I am not going to try to help you to define "car" (hate to disappoint!), but want to raise a couple of issues that do pertain to your question. One such issue is whether there really is such a thing as "Car-ness" or the "uniquely car trait" you mention. Some philosophers (called nominalists) deny that there are such things as "essences"--such as the car-ness of cars, or the humanity of human beings (or, for that matter, the Nick-Smith-ness of me!). Others (called essentialists) think that at least some of the things in the world do have essences, but most essentialists would limit essences to things that naturally occur in the world ("natural kinds") and are more wary when it comes to artifacts (things made by human beings, mostly), such as cars. So it is possible that it would turn out that "car" cannot be absolutely defined, so as to include all and only instances (all past, present, and future ones) of cars. That would make the search for a definition, in this case, futile.

But if we grant that at least some things have essences, then the search for definitions can be useful as a mode of inquiry--a kind of research project. As the Socratic dialogues often show (have a look at Plato's Euthyphro, for one excellent example of this), such a search can not only reveal to us the inadequacy of our present understandings, it can also allow us, as we learn from our mistakes, do do better and better jobs of providing the relevant sort of analysis. I am not so sure this will be all that useful for "car" (though I can imagine the problem arising in a legal circumstance, where "cars" are required to pass certain emissions standards that are more exacting than those applying to other sorts of vehicles, and some manufacturer decides to by-pass the legislation by producing something very car-like, but which they argue is not really a car, and so should not be held to the same emissions standards as those that apply to cars.

But when it comes to ethical terms, such as those Socrates was most interested in, it seems that the search for adequate definitions really is helpful--because in ethics (and unlike most car-identification cases), it can sometimes be very difficult to judge whether something really is an example of "goodness" or "rightness," and if we could provide better and better definitions (or, as some would say, analyses) of such terms, we would be better and better able to make judgments in the tough cases.

I've been reading Schopenhauer for the first time, and he claims to have developed metaphysics and ethics into one. Does anyone agree with this claim? I'm just a little perplexed, and I wonder if he really accomplished this.

It's a neat view: the world-in-itself is an undifferentiated "will" that we individuate through categories such as space, time, and causation which (following Kant) Schopenhauer thought that we bring to our experience of the world. These differentiated parts of the world-as-experienced include different people with conflicting desires and interests (i.e., conflicting bits of will). The metaphysical realization that in the realm beyond appearances there is only an undifferentiated will motivates the fundamental Schopenhauerian ethical attitude of compassion: to take on another's perspective as one's own is appropriate since the world beyond appearances is inter-subjectively undifferentiated.

I don't believe in a transcendental world beyond experience that has the properties Schopenhauer claimed for it. I believe in a real world that is (at least partly) mind-independent, but I don't think there are good reasons to hold that it is undifferentiated and will-full in Schopenhauer's sense. So, although I agree that compassion is fundamental to ethics, I don't think, alas, that the claim gets the metaphysical support Schopenhauer claimed for it. I suspect that most contemporary philosophers reject Schopenhauer's view for these or different reasons, but I don't know this with any certainty.

Music is often described as having something to do with emotion. But a song or a sonata can't literally feel happy or sad, so what is the connection to emotion?

You're right that a work of music can't literally feel sad. It's also true that we, the listeners, often (perhaps even typically) don't feel sad when we hear a sad piece of music. In fact, we might feel exhiliration or awe in the presence of a wonderful performance of a sad piece--a slow one in a minor key, for example. (If sad music typically made us sad we probably wouldn't choose to listen to as much of it as we do.) There's no reason to think that the composer or performer(s) of a sad piece of music need to feel sad. So who or what is the subject of the emotions we seem to perceive in music?

And come to think of it, unlike garden variety emotions, the emotions that we perceive in music don't have clear objects either. What is the sadness of the music about?

Even though the emotions we seem to hear in music have no clear subjects or objects, it often (though not always) seems right to describe music in emotional terms. Saying how this can be is one of the central problems--if not the central problem--in the philosophy of music. And there's still significant disagreement because sorting it out touches on broader issues such as the nature of artistic expression and interpretation, as well as the nature of emotions and moods. I won't sketch the options here, but instead recommend Peter Kivy's recent book An Introduction to a Philosophy of Music, which provides a nice account of these issues.

Is there anything morally problematic about health inequalities which correlate to inequalities in social-economic status? If so, what, if anything, should be done? How can our "modern ideals" (health care system - NHS) be applied to the teachings of Rawls and Nozick?

If there are moral problems with inequalities in general, then they should apply to health issues also. If there are not such moral problems, then they need not. That is, if we allow inequalities to exist then we should not be surprised or even shocked that they exist in health care also, indeed we should expect this. Poorer people tend to be less capable at acquiring public health resources, and have often adopted unhealthy life styles for reasons connected with their poverty, and so any general attack on social inequality should work towards improvement in general health levels among the deprived sector of society. But this is only if you value equality, it might well be that those thinkers who do not would see it as perfectly acceptable for such inequalities to persist given the general desirability of inequality as a social phenomenon.

Hello. Thank you for reading this. I'm in grave need of philosophical counsel please. I cannot 'get' the distinction between 'a priori' and 'a posteriori'. It seems to me that anything that is known must be, in some way, related to experience. I'm troubled by this thought experiment: If a baby was born with a terrible genetic condition which excluded all the human senses, what would the child 'know'? Without the 'experience' of the senses, what could the child ever know? Not even syllogism would be possible; without experience, language would not be available to the unfortunate child. And I imagine that this would be true of numbers too. Yours truly, Blunderov.

Here's Frege's way of making this point:

Now these distinctions between a prioir and a posteriori, synthetic and analytic, concern, as I see it, not the content of the judgement but the justification for making the judgement. ...When a proposition is called a posteriori or a priori in my sense, this is not a judgement about the conditions, psychological, physiological and physical, which have made it possible to form the content of the proposition in our consciousness; nor is it a judgement about the way in which some other man has come, perhaps erroneously, to believe it true; rather, it is a judgement about the ultimate ground upon which rests the justification for holding it to be true. (Foundations of Arithmetic, section 3)

Frege attaches a footnote in the middle of the first sentence in which he says that he means "only to state accurately what earlier writers, Kant in particular, have meant by" these terms.

Hello. Thank you for reading this. I'm in grave need of philosophical counsel please. I cannot 'get' the distinction between 'a priori' and 'a posteriori'. It seems to me that anything that is known must be, in some way, related to experience. I'm troubled by this thought experiment: If a baby was born with a terrible genetic condition which excluded all the human senses, what would the child 'know'? Without the 'experience' of the senses, what could the child ever know? Not even syllogism would be possible; without experience, language would not be available to the unfortunate child. And I imagine that this would be true of numbers too. Yours truly, Blunderov.

Here's Frege's way of making this point:

Now these distinctions between a prioir and a posteriori, synthetic and analytic, concern, as I see it, not the content of the judgement but the justification for making the judgement. ...When a proposition is called a posteriori or a priori in my sense, this is not a judgement about the conditions, psychological, physiological and physical, which have made it possible to form the content of the proposition in our consciousness; nor is it a judgement about the way in which some other man has come, perhaps erroneously, to believe it true; rather, it is a judgement about the ultimate ground upon which rests the justification for holding it to be true. (Foundations of Arithmetic, section 3)

Frege attaches a footnote in the middle of the first sentence in which he says that he means "only to state accurately what earlier writers, Kant in particular, have meant by" these terms.

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