Recent Responses

I have a rather simple question. I am majoring in biology right now and am thinking of switching to philosophy. The thing is the advisor told me that there really aren't any jobs for that field. He said I would basically have to go to a prestigious school to get one of the few jobs out there. Is this true? Are there really not many jobs in the philosophy field? Thanks.

Thomas Pogge 4/23/06 (changed 4/23/06) Permalink The answer depends a bit on the country you're in. I answer on the assumption that you are an undergraduate student in the US. Finding a job as a professional philosopher after completing a PhD in this field is a good bit harder than the average for all careers. Still, the odds are not against success. There... Read more

What is virtuous about a partnership in marriage (not necessarily the legal construct - the idea of committing to a life together)? What characterizes what is virtuous in leaving such a partnership (even) when the partners love each other and want one another to flourish but one partner doesn't see the partnership as a whole flourishing? To put it another way: How is it that most of the parts of such a partnership can individually appear to be so esteemable, and even to outweigh the less esteemable parts, and yet the whole be judged lacking?

Nalini Bhushan 4/23/06 (changed 4/23/06) Permalink This is tough to answer in the abstract, but I'll give it a shot bysupplying a bit of hypothetical context. First, I think it matters agreat deal which specific parts of the partnership are esteemed, andwhich not, in the calculation of the value of the partnership as whole.For instance, it may be that both... Read more

I am stuck on a decision that I hope one of you can help me with. I am graduating in June (2006) and everyone is telling me to go to college. I am currently protesting college - thinking that if I self-teach myself (by reading many books), then I could possibly gain more knowledge than if I am sitting in a classroom with many other students. I am stubborn with this idea. I assume that with a teacher in a classroom full of students, (s)he is teaching the subject, not the people. (I hope that makes sense.) I am not too sure if my thinking is something I should go by, or if I should just grow up and go to college. Any opinion would be great.

Nalini Bhushan 4/23/06 (changed 4/23/06) Permalink When college works as it should, it allows you to imagine alternate possible ways of living your life in the "real" world, as you experiment with different disciplines, and are thrust into the orbits of sometimes unlikely people who might serve as mentors and role models. These could be your teachers, or,... Read more

Why do people say that some things mankind does are unnatural? Isn't every human development natural because we are part of nature?

Peter Lipton 4/29/06 (changed 4/29/06) Permalink I agree with Nicholas that where we can take natural to mean 'conducive to human flourishing', in Aristotle's sense, there will be a connection between being natural and being good. But there are natural functions that do not carry this meaning. In biological cases, functions often correspond to 'selected e... Read more

Was the discovery of fire, by humans, a scientific discovery?

Peter Lipton 4/22/06 (changed 4/22/06) Permalink The discovery of ways to reliably produce fire was a great achievement in technology and engineering. The first observation of fire is not what I would call science (and presumably predates the existence of humans). But there is no sharp border between ordinary observation, inference and explanation and sc... Read more

Dear philosophers, why should we respect the dead?

Thomas Pogge 4/22/06 (changed 4/22/06) Permalink Here are three reasons to consider. First, because they want to be respected. Sure, being dead, they do not want this now. But they did want it when they were alive -- just as you now want to be respected after your death. Imagine you have a certain deeply embarrassing secret that only your best friend knows.... Read more

Is it better to have a criminal justice system that runs the risk of, in every 100 people being acquitted, that 1 will go on to commit a terrible future crime; or one that runs the risk of, in every 100 people being convicted, there being 1 who was innocent? Sorry about the tortured phrasing of my question...

Thomas Pogge 4/21/06 (changed 4/21/06) Permalink Any realistic criminal justice system will make both types of error: T-errors (terrible future crime committed by one wrongly acquitted) and I-errors (innocent person wrongly convicted). It seems morally more appropriate here to compare alternative systems feasible for the same society in terms of the total n... Read more

Consider the statement, "There exists at least one true statement." Is a demonstration of the truth of this statement possible, which does not assume the statement's truth? If so, what is that demonstration? If not, does it then follow that certain knowledge - that is, knowledge that is conscious of itself as knowledge - is impossible?

Peter Lipton 4/21/06 (changed 4/21/06) Permalink 'All statements are false' is necessarily false, so there is at least one true statement. Log in to post comments

Aristotle began studies at Plato's Academy at the age of 17. I have a few questions. 1) How smart was Plato compared to Aristotle? 2) Who would you say is as intelligent as Plato or Aristotle (preferably someone who is still alive)? 3) I am 17. Who can I go to in order to gain the same education that Aristotle did from Plato? 4) How did Aristotle go about becoming Plato's student? Did he have to pay to be his student in the same way people pay to become a student at a college? I pretty much got myself into philosophy, and upon finding out about the greater of ancient philosophers, I have been wondering how I might be able to gain knowledge compared to that of the aforementioned. Is this possible in today's society? Thank you, Steve

Nicholas D. Smith 4/27/06 (changed 4/27/06) Permalink Your questions seem to focus on how smart people were (or are), and thus on how you can become that smart. Maybe you mean something different than I do, when you use the word "smart," but I think the only honest answer one can give to many of your questions is "no one knows, and no one can know." But... Read more

Is understanding a person (what a person does) necessarily interrelated to approving of it, and is approving of it necessarily interrelated to sympathizing with it, and is sympathizing with it necessarily interrelated to identifying oneself with this person? Thanks, Susanne

Lynne Rudder Baker 4/21/06 (changed 4/21/06) Permalink Dear Susanne, I think that you have an interesting slippery slope here. In my opinion, we should not start down it at all. We need to try to understand people and the conditions that make them the kind of people that they are. But that need not (and should not) lead to approving much less to identi... Read more