Recent Responses

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

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?

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

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.

Joseph G. Moore May 11, 2006 (changed May 11, 2006) Permalink 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 di... Read more

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?

Joseph G. Moore May 11, 2006 (changed May 11, 2006) Permalink 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... Read more

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?

Oliver Leaman May 11, 2006 (changed May 11, 2006) Permalink 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... Read more

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.

Richard Heck May 10, 2006 (changed May 10, 2006) Permalink 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... Read more

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.

Richard Heck May 10, 2006 (changed May 10, 2006) Permalink 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... Read more

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