Recent Responses


Nicholas D. Smith May 18, 2006 (changed May 18, 2006) Permalink German chocolate cake is good! ;) Kidding aside, philosophers have identified several ways of trying to answer this question, and I will allow those whose views are different from mine to provide their own replies. As for me, I am inclined to follow the view of the ancient Greeks, who suppose... Read more

In Western culture, polygamy is generally considered immoral. Is there sufficient justification for this classification? Can it honestly be said that polygamy is wrong? I don't only mean one man/many wives but all the various possible arrangements of multiple partners, for instance one woman/multiple husbands, multiple husbands/multiple wives, etc.... There are some economic advantages to multiple adult partners living together. Take for example a situation where a man has two wives. The man works and so does one of the women. You now have a dual income household. The second woman does not work, but instead stays home and cares for any children and housekeeping duties. What would normally fall on one woman (working, housekeeping and child-rearing) is divided between two. It is assumed that all parties are consenting adults who consider themselves equal to one another. This has the added advantage of reducing the child day care costs so often frustrating for households with just two parents who both work.

Alan Soble May 19, 2006 (changed May 19, 2006) Permalink You might want to consult question #341 on this web site. There I wrote, in response to the obverse question, "Why monogamy?", the following wiseacre answer that, nevertheless, contains some truth [which answer I have mildly revised, since it was first written on November 3, 2005]: Here are some stand... Read more

I think most would agree that there are multiple forms of intelligence. However, is there one particular form - for example, logic - which is foundational to all others? -santana

Mark Sprevak May 15, 2006 (changed May 15, 2006) Permalink I think that the question that you ask is still an open one: it is not known to what extent our mental life is underwritten by logical reasoning. The question may eventually be resolved by cognitive science.However, one worry that might face someone in answering your question is how broadly 'intelli... Read more

Are there any arguments for the existence of an objective morality that are not religious?

Roger Crisp May 24, 2006 (changed May 24, 2006) Permalink The main argument is probably that it *feels* to most of us as if there are objective moral constraints on our actions. So the burden of proof lies on the person who says that we don't feel like that or that if we do then we're making some mistake. It may be that you think that religion can indeed pr... Read more

Is music a language? And if so what requirements should a language satisfy?

Mark Sprevak May 15, 2006 (changed May 15, 2006) Permalink There is no uncontroversial definition of a language. However, a requirement that is often cited is that there should be rules on how different elements of a language are composed together (syntax). Another requirement is that the elements of a language should have representational content (semantic... Read more

I have a question regarding destiny and free will. I have never been able to decide upon a solution to satisfy my search and stumbled upon this site and decided to see if a trained philosopher would be able to do the problem justice. Do we, in fact, have free will or do we not? There are two views I can think of that would both say that we do not have free will, while the general belief is that we do have free will and that what we do are products of that free will. Assuming belief in a higher all-knowing power exists, then doesn't it make sense that this being would know the future and therefore your actions are predestined simply by the knowledge this being contains and that there is no way of straying off the path that is known for you? The second belief is a more scientific belief in which no higher power is of existence, yet it is undeniable that quantum mechanics exist and that particles all have a set of laws they follow and that whatever started "everything" whether it was the big bang, or whatever else you may believe, that all the particles have simply been interacting with eachother in ways that these laws not only allow, but demand so that all of our thoughts are not of free will like we would like to believe, but are simply forced according to these laws and that even the belief in free will itself is a forced thought and perception? So I ask, is a certain destiny unavoidable, therefore leaving the idea of free will hopelessly lost and illogical?

Peter Lipton May 14, 2006 (changed May 14, 2006) Permalink It is very difficult to see how free will is possible. The problem your second view raises looks like the problem of determinism. If everything that happens in the world, including all human actions, are determined the laws of nature, then it is indeed difficult to see how we can have free will.... Read more

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?

Peter Lipton May 13, 2006 (changed May 13, 2006) Permalink 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... Read more

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)?

Nicholas D. Smith May 11, 2006 (changed May 11, 2006) Permalink 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... Read more

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?

Nicholas D. Smith May 11, 2006 (changed May 11, 2006) Permalink 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... Read more

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?

Nicholas D. Smith May 11, 2006 (changed May 11, 2006) Permalink 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... Read more