Recent Responses

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

Why are Picasso paintings so important? How can I appreciate the importance of Picasso paintings? Honestly, when I look at them I think that they are interesting but I never get the impression that they are produced by a genius. If understanding Picasso's paintings (and art in general) needs training (knowing Picasso's life, knowing the context in which the paintings are created, knowing Picasso's intentions, knowing the traditions in painting, etc.) why are they exhibiting art works to the public? Quine's "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" is one of the best and most influential articles in the history of analytic philosophy but nobody expects non-philosophers to appreciate its importance. There are no Quine exhibitions. Thanks.

Richard Heck April 15, 2006 (changed April 15, 2006) Permalink I'm no expert on art, just someone who enjoys it, but I certainly would agree with you that Picasso can be hard to understand. Most of his painting (and sculpture) isn't what one would describe as "beautiful", though there are paintings of his that are beautiful: For example, "Child with a Dove"... Read more

Is there anything existing within or beyond the human body/mind that can be called "I"? If so, exactly where is "I" located?

Peter Lipton April 15, 2006 (changed April 15, 2006) Permalink We naturally think of the world as made up of things with properties. Take my black pen: the pen is the thing and being black is the property. But metaphysicians disagree about whether at the end of the day there are things entirely distinct from properties. Some say you need some kind of sub... Read more

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

To which philosopher it may concern, I recently been perplexed by the following logical puzzle (or what seems to be, anyway): Working at a used bookstore, I and the rest of the staff are constantly asked about where to find books. One of my co-workers had the following exchange with a customer and couldn't make anything of it: Customer: "I am looking for a particular book." Co-worker: "Well is it fiction or non-fiction?" Customer: "Neither." So far, this is what I've come up with: (1) The customer is looking for a book that is neither fiction nor non-fiction, which would mean that it can't be both fiction and non fiction (which is quite common, e.g., historical fiction). (2) If non-fiction is the opposite of fiction (and not considered as a separate entity), then was the customer contradicting himself and as a result saying absolutely nothing? (3) If fiction is defined as something that isn't true, and non-fiction defined as something that IS true, then the customer was asking for something that was neither true nor false. Can that happen? Can something not be true or false? And further more, what would that mean? (4) This whole problem is irrelevant because there ARE books that are not fiction or non-fiction--which I am unaware of. I think the big issue here is how you define fiction and especially non-fiction, then again, I don't know and would greatly appreciate your response. Thankyou, Haley

Thomas Pogge April 14, 2006 (changed April 14, 2006) Permalink Your definition of fiction and non-fiction (your point (3)) seems flawed. For one thing, a lot of what commonly goes under the non-fiction heading is false, at least in part. Think of an book about the bombing of Pearl Harbor which, although marketed as an accurate historical account, is full of... Read more

How do we know that modern mathematics is correct? Thanks, Ryan.

Alexander George April 14, 2006 (changed April 14, 2006) Permalink See also the response to Question 773. Log in to post comments

How do we know that modern mathematics is correct? Thanks, Ryan.

Alexander George April 14, 2006 (changed April 14, 2006) Permalink See also the response to Question 773. Log in to post comments

How do we know that modern mathematics is correct? Thanks, Ryan.

Alexander George April 14, 2006 (changed April 14, 2006) Permalink See also the response to Question 773. Log in to post comments

Why are Picasso paintings so important? How can I appreciate the importance of Picasso paintings? Honestly, when I look at them I think that they are interesting but I never get the impression that they are produced by a genius. If understanding Picasso's paintings (and art in general) needs training (knowing Picasso's life, knowing the context in which the paintings are created, knowing Picasso's intentions, knowing the traditions in painting, etc.) why are they exhibiting art works to the public? Quine's "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" is one of the best and most influential articles in the history of analytic philosophy but nobody expects non-philosophers to appreciate its importance. There are no Quine exhibitions. Thanks.

Richard Heck April 15, 2006 (changed April 15, 2006) Permalink I'm no expert on art, just someone who enjoys it, but I certainly would agree with you that Picasso can be hard to understand. Most of his painting (and sculpture) isn't what one would describe as "beautiful", though there are paintings of his that are beautiful: For example, "Child with a Dove"... Read more

A couple of years ago I read an article about an experiment where the genes of a jellyfish were spliced into a rabbit - the result: a rabbit that glowed in the dark. My question is, science aside, is this a rabbit?

Marc Lange April 14, 2006 (changed April 14, 2006) Permalink Good question. I'm not sure that there's any answer "science aside", since the notion of being a member of a given biological species (in this case, some sort of rabbit) is a scientific concept. It is up to science to tell us what species are, whether there are any such things, why they arise and... Read more

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