Recent Responses

Is there any test in philosophy to verify or refute the philosophers' guesses/hypotheses?

Mark Sprevak 4/27/06 (changed 4/27/06) Permalink There are data that philosophers aim to respect, and their guesses/hypotheses may either fail to fit, or succeed in fitting, this data.Unfortunately, there is not a great deal of consensus in the philosophical community on exactly what this data consists in. However, many philosophers would like to count (i)... Read more

Is there any test in philosophy to verify or refute the philosophers' guesses/hypotheses?

Mark Sprevak 4/27/06 (changed 4/27/06) Permalink There are data that philosophers aim to respect, and their guesses/hypotheses may either fail to fit, or succeed in fitting, this data.Unfortunately, there is not a great deal of consensus in the philosophical community on exactly what this data consists in. However, many philosophers would like to count (i)... Read more

Dear philosophers, this is a question from a fresh mother who has a teenage kid. Every time she asks some questions about the truth of life and world, I feel cornered. I hope she could grow up into a person who has her own judgements and ability to reflect independently. I don't want her to be influenced by her mother's words as I was. What should I do?

Jyl Gentzler 4/28/06 (changed 4/28/06) Permalink When I first read our interlocutor’s question, I too was tempted torespond that mothers have no choice but to influence their children’svalues and beliefs. Every action, statement, and gesture of a belovedand respected parent signifies to young children who are desperate tomake sense of their world what it is... Read more

I desire to produce a Great Work - the term I will use to avoid a lengthy, linguistically-bound dissertation on its specifics - but I find that, while I long to produce and offer a work (a work of art - writing, animation, film, or a combination) of Content (something with meaning and value beyond surface value; also, thought-provoking, e.g. the animated series <i>Neon Genesis Evangelion</i> or Franz Kafka's <i>Metamorphosis</i>,) I hate the thought of ignorant persons maiming the work, or enjoying it in a puerile manner for superficial reasons alone (e.g., thinking <i>Metamorphosis</i> was just some cool story because the guy turns into a bug, or <i>Evangelion</i> because it has giant robots.) This makes me reticent to create anything. Is this purely some sort of narcissistic elitism, or is it a legitimate concern? How have prior artists worked through misanthropy towards the ignorant to continue to create? Is there an established explanation of why myself or others feel this way about the full value of a work being discarded in favor of a small piece of it?

Nicholas D. Smith 4/27/06 (changed 4/27/06) Permalink Great works--and also not-so-great works--are a bit like children to us. We bring them into being as a result of our desire, we do our best to nurture and to preserve them, and to advantage them in the world as best we can...and then we turn them loose into a world that may love or hate, may celebrate o... Read more

When philosophers try to answer a question like 'is it right to do X?', or 'do I have a soul?', they are asking the same questions which we all ask, and answer for ourselves, in everyday life. If philosophers research these questions intensively (perhaps for many years) before publishing their findings, and if even then there will be some counterarguments, how can we ever hope to find approximately true answers in our less formal, everyday musings? Thank you.

Nicholas D. Smith 4/27/06 (changed 4/27/06) Permalink I very much like your expression, "approximately true answers." That, it seems to me, is all that any of us can realistically hope to achieve in our thoughts about many things. So, perhaps, the only difference between the musings of the best philosophers and the most ordinary of people would be the deg... Read more

Does free will fare any better under a Dualistic or Deistic system than it does under materialism?

Joseph G. Moore 4/27/06 (changed 4/27/06) Permalink I don't think so. The central puzzle is to understand how, in the presence of impersonal and seemingly comprehensive causal processes, we humans can really make the free choices we think we do about largely (if not entirely) physical matters--whether to pick up the phone that's ringing, or where to go to l... Read more

Is a poem about nature beautiful because of its form, or is it beautiful because it reminds us of the beauty inherent in nature? Philosophers tend to equate aesthetic beauty with the form of a work of art and our 'interests' get in the way of appreciating the form. However if this is the case why is there not more beautiful poems about rubbish dumps and oil spills.

Douglas Burnham 4/27/06 (changed 4/27/06) Permalink A great question! There may be a middle ground to the answer. Beautiful natural objects, and beautiful poetic objects, might both be considered beautiful because of complex or harmonious formal properties that evoke certain responses (this is, roughly, Kant). If this is the case, the a beautiful poem about... Read more

Dear philosophers, this is a question from a fresh mother who has a teenage kid. Every time she asks some questions about the truth of life and world, I feel cornered. I hope she could grow up into a person who has her own judgements and ability to reflect independently. I don't want her to be influenced by her mother's words as I was. What should I do?

Jyl Gentzler 4/28/06 (changed 4/28/06) Permalink When I first read our interlocutor’s question, I too was tempted torespond that mothers have no choice but to influence their children’svalues and beliefs. Every action, statement, and gesture of a belovedand respected parent signifies to young children who are desperate tomake sense of their world what it is... Read more

How can speciesism, be immoral for people, but moral for the animals that clearly prefer their own species? If animals are morally culpable for speciesism, can animals be held morally responsible for other things like murder?

Peter S. Fosl 8/6/06 (changed 8/6/06) Permalink I agree with John Moore's response. I'd add these two additional considerations. First, it might be a bit strained to say that non-human animals are guilty of "speciesism" insofar as it may not really make sense to say that those animals possess the concept of "species," much less act upon it. To be a speci... Read more

In a code of intellectual conduct in a truth-seeking argument between A and B for positions X and NOT X respectively, starting a new thread of attacking the person A either by B or by the some members of the audience is definitely a fallacious argument (Argumentum ad Hominem) for the context under discussion. What about glorifying tributes to person A by some members of the audience as a part of the SAME thread of discussion? It obviously is irrelevent to the argument or the issue under discussion. How far is it inappropriate, sinister, or otherwise in the code of conduct in an intellectual truth-seeking debate between two participants A and B in front of the gallery of audience? My strong gut sense is the behaviour is inappropriate because it does not contribute to the strengthening or weakening of arguments in favor or against X. What do the panel of distinquished philosophers have to say on this (not so much the irrelevance but the inappropriateness as an intellectual conduct)?

Mark Crimmins 4/23/06 (changed 4/23/06) Permalink If you're after truth, it's often a big win to trust people. And in deciding whom to trust, the reports and evalutions of others can be of great value. So there's nothing specifically about truth-seeking that makes it inappropriate to support, or indeed to attack, the reliability of someone who claims to k... Read more

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