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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 April 21, 2006 (changed April 21, 2006) Permalink 'All statements are false' is necessarily false, so there is at least one true statement. Log in to post comments

I just picked up the book "What does it all mean? - a very short introduction to philosophy" by Thomas Nagel... In the third chapter - Other Minds - the author brings up the thought that we should assume our consciousness is the only thing that exists. If we make this assumption, then how can we explain this? How can we explain exactly what our thoughts are? Furthermore, how can we explain the fact that other people will assume the same thing (that theirs are the only existing thoughts, and I am some sort of non-existing thought form)? If I assume that I have the only existing thought in my universe, then shouldn't the man who wrote this book - who agrees with the same assumption - have the same assumption: that HIS is the only existing thought ... which should prove that we both exist in relation with the same assumption. (This can get really confusing to me as I am only 17 and don't know too much about philosophy yet, but can you please shed some light...) Steve

Peter Lipton April 20, 2006 (changed April 20, 2006) Permalink You are right. If you and I each assumes that our own thoughts are all the thoughts there are, then we are both wrong. Of course if I am really the only thinker, then my assumption would be correct, but it does not look like I could justify that assumption, since if you were out there too, you... 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 April 23, 2006 (changed April 23, 2006) 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... Read more

If you don't love yourself, can you love others?

Thomas Pogge April 19, 2006 (changed April 19, 2006) Permalink In this question, the words "can" and "love" are difficult. Take a simple understanding of what it means to love someone: to admire (at least some features of) this person and also to care greatly about his/her flourishing (eudaimonia, the quality of a human live comprehensively conceived). And... Read more

Can you recommend an introduction to the philosophy of mathematics?

Richard Heck April 18, 2006 (changed April 18, 2006) Permalink Stewart Shapiro's Thinking About Mathematics. (On Amazon.) It's a well-written textbook that covers most of the basics. Log in to post comments

I often find myself to be impatient, often frustrated, when people claim something to be 'obvious', and never more than when I think that they are using it incorrectly. An example of this might be "obviously, Hitler was an evil man", or "obviously, it's better to be poor and happy than rich and sad" - this is because I wish justification for their claim, and do not want to simply accept it (in these cases because of popular opinion). I realise that both of these examples are ethical, but is there anything that is understood by philosophers to be obvious (and by obvious I mean without need of qualification or justification)?

Luciano Floridi April 17, 2006 (changed April 17, 2006) Permalink If I may reply in terms of personal experience: when students start"doing philosophy", one of the first thing they (need to) learn isthat what seems obvious to x may be much less so to y. As soon as things become interesting, they stop being obvious. Yet I have noticed that this is not the... Read more

Are sensations real? That is, do they continue to exist when unperceived? It seems to me that objects that I perceive around me are both real (because outside my head) and composed of sensations: that is, they are structures of colours, tactile qualities, etc.; in which case these sensatations, as parts of real objects, are real. But it also seems obvious that sensations exist only while perceived, in which case they are not real.

Peter Lipton April 17, 2006 (changed April 17, 2006) Permalink Sensations are real in my book while I am having them, but you are right that it is not easy to use them to build a table. The trouble is that the table has a continuous existence, while it is only intermittently observed. One standard way around this problem is to fill in the apparently unobs... Read more

I have a theory, or at least a concept I wish to propose on the laws of time. It is my belief that time is unalterable, and that the "future" does not exist. I see timeline as a sort of recorder, and we live on the point of recording, the exact present point. It is impossible to go into the future by any means, because there is nothing before the exact present point, merely "unwritten" time, and because time only records in one "direction" at one point in time constantly, it is also impossible to alter previously recorded time. If time travel to the past was possible, the most we'd be able to do is view the past, and not interact with it in anyway, because time does not "rerecord". My question is does my theory on time hold water? I know that time is a man-made concept, but I'd like to know if it's possible my concept of time is plausible.

Peter Lipton April 17, 2006 (changed April 17, 2006) Permalink You won't be suprised to hear that philosophers disagree a lot about the reality of times. Some say that time is a lot like space, and that all times are equally real at all times. On this view, the present is where we happen to be at the moment, but right now the past and the future are also... Read more

What is the philosophical take on the subconscious and who came up with the idea? It seems highly problematic to me in that its existence can never be established because of its very nature. It is rather like positing Pluto to account for wobbles in other known planets' orbits except that Pluto can be demonstrably found! This is different from the unconscious mind which keeps you breathing, etc. which works rather like the programmes running in the background on your PC. No mystery here. And where do dreams enter into this debate? I can't ever recall having had a 'symbolic' dream, just ones dramatising traits and memories I am well aware of. A statement like 'I hated her but I now realise I subconsciously loved her' is surely just hindsight. Knowing and not knowing something at the same time has to be impossible?

Gabriel Segal April 16, 2006 (changed April 16, 2006) Permalink I concur with Richard. The idea of positing the subconscious was first taken seriously by Freud. It was a theoretical posit, posited to explain a large number of phenomena, including slips of the tongue, dreams and a whole variety of psychological conditions such as obsessional neurosis. Freu... Read more

How malleable is meaning? Example: can we take a word that is commonly understood to mean/refer to a specific thing and give it an entirely new meaning (or at least one that, despite its slight similarity is still significantly removed from the original)? Example: referring to a traffic light as 'autistic' (given that it operates in one way, without change) without meaning this metaphorically.

Gabriel Segal April 16, 2006 (changed April 16, 2006) Permalink Or, just following up on Amy's response, maybe the right answer is 'both'. Rather than thinking of the meaning of 'glory' in Humpty's mouth, we might think of what the word meant in Humpty's idiolect and what the word meant in English. Many linguists and philosophers (including Noam Chomksy)... Read more