Recent Responses

Defenders of animals' rights argue that other people are "speciesists" (like some people are racists). I would like to ask if speciesism is always wrong. Suppose healthy adult people have some features that make them important (say, they can speak and they can reason in complicated ways) and that no non-human animals have. Suppose those features give adult healthy humans some rights. Is it necessarily wrong to assign those rights also to human babies and mentally handicapped humans, but not to non-human animals? We would recognize those rights in babies and the mentally impaired because we like them more than we like other animals (as a matter of fact, most of us are speciesists), but animals couldn't complain about that, could they? Anyway, they wouldn't be offended. I also think this argument would not make racism acceptable.

I was with you about 2/3 of Allen Stairs December 27, 2018 (changed December 28, 2018) Permalink I was with you about 2/3 of the way through what you wrote. Yes: it might be that some features humans have give them rights beyond those of non-human animals. And yes, in light of that, it might be acceptable to grant the relevant rights to people who don't have... Read more

Panpsychism seems to posit that consciousness is a fundamental property of matter. If so, it would then need to be able to explain how discrete chunks of matter, presumably with their own consciousness, combine to create the unified sense of conscious experience that humans enjoy. Would it not make more sense, (or are their philosophers who make this point), to think that consciousness is a fundamental aspect of reality and that the property that matter has is the ability to interface with consciousness as opposed to having its own? Such that, the more complex a system is the more access it has to consciousnesses, (and vice versa?). Roughly speaking, does it make more sense and fit with our intuitions as well as our empirical evidence to think of matter has being able to receive consciousness rather than create it? I call this the "capacity answer" to "combination problem". Increased complexity allows for greater access to/processing of the raw conscious "stuff" that is then colored by our interaction with the physical world.

I think that the reason your Allen Stairs December 23, 2018 (changed December 23, 2018) Permalink I think that the reason your question has been left unanswered for a while is that it's not clear what you're asking. You ask if it might be that "consciousness is a fundamental aspect of reality and that the property that matter has is the ability to interface... Read more

I talked with a 78 y.o. woman whose ears were pierced (for earrings) when she was 1 y.o. or so. I asked her if she didn't think her parents were wrong in having her ears pierced, because they caused her intense pain without need and without her consent. She looked very surprised with my question and told me that her parents did the right thing, since she would always have wanted to use earrings AND (this is the point) it would have been much WORSE if she would have her ears pierced when she was 7 or 12. She told me that she doesn't remember the pain inflicted on her when she was 1 year old, and so that pain "was nothing", it was "worth nothing" (the conversation was not in English....). I wonder if this makes sense. Is pain that one will absolutely forget within an hour much less important than pain that we will remember?

That's what we'd generally Allen Stairs December 20, 2018 (changed December 20, 2018) Permalink That's what we'd generally expect. Pain you remember can have consequences beyond the painful experience itself. It may give you unpleasant memories. It may intrude on your thoughts unbidden. It may make you phobic, avoidant, fearful. In extreme cases it... Read more

Hello! My question is simple. How do philosophy of time and the philosophy of history distinguish themselves from one another?

The difference is simple. The Jonathan Westphal December 16, 2018 (changed December 16, 2018) Permalink The answer is equally simple. The philosophy of history is about actual human history, and things such as what constitutes a proper historical explanation, whether there are historical laws, the role of the individual in determining historical events, and... Read more

How can we deal with decision making under ignorance of probabilities when all possible negative or positive outcomes of one alternative are equal to that of the other(s)? I put forth the following example: Let's say that I can choose either to deal with a current personal security matter, which might otherwise bring about death, or to deal with a health issue that, if left untreated, might have the same consequence; and let's suppose that I have no access to the probability of mortality from any problem, nor to the probability of mortality provided that I assess either of them. As I see it, normative accounts for these instances, such as the maximin, minimax, maximax, and Laplace criteria would hold the alternatives to be equally good, as they have the same expected utility. But I am sincerely dissatisfied with the idea of making choices at random, so I want to know what you think. I also see the possibility of the decision making process being tainted by an "anything goes" type of mentality, as coming from the notion that most often than not, we ultimately don't know what the consequences of our actions can be, which, under ignorance, becomes even a bigger concern. I would also like to know this: How would Decision Theory (or even consequentialism) deal with the notion that we often can't ultimately know what the outcomes of any given choice can be, and that thismay make the decision making process be tainted with an "anything goes" mentality?

If I understand your question Allen Stairs December 6, 2018 (changed December 13, 2018) Permalink If I understand your question correctly, it's this: in a case where the available considerations don't favor one alternative over another, how can we choose rationally what to do, where "rational" entails that anyone in the same situation (same preferences, valu... Read more

I recently thought something unsettling about claims of objectivity. It is customary to think that for a view to be objective is for it to be true independent of human opinions. My question then is this: isn't it the case that any view we have, even if we take it to be objective, will still have to pass through the human lens so that there is no view that can be completely independent of human perspectives? Is this a good argument? As an objectivist, I find this argument hard to refute so any help from you would be much appreciated. Thanks!

I think the wording of your Stephen Maitzen November 29, 2018 (changed November 29, 2018) Permalink I think the wording of your question contains the answer. You define an objective view as a view that is true independently of human opinions. A view can satisfy that definition even if every view is someone's view. The fact that no view can be held without be... Read more

Can something become nothing? In an absolute sense. It seems impossible intuitively speaking, but I have hard time figuring out a logically strict arguments. Thanks!

Merriam-Webster Online Stephen Maitzen November 29, 2018 (changed November 29, 2018) Permalink Merriam-Webster defines the relevant senses of the verb "become" as "come into existence"; "come to be"; and "undergo change or development." Given that definition, how about this argument? (1) Necessarily, whatever comes into existence, comes to be, or undergoes (... Read more

Hey so I'm actually writing a paper on the biological basis of morality and am taking an evolutionary standpoint on it. So my premise is based upon the fact that all living beings have the intrinsic need to survive and reproduce, which is what natural selection is based upon. Also, it has been researched that species (using the definition of organisms that can breed with each other and produce viable offspring) care for each other and co-operate with each other to ensure the survival of their own species. Now I believe that this would lead to one objective moral truth that we ought to care for the well being of our species. I know this commits the is ought fallacy but I believe it can be overlooked in this case since this behavior of survival and reproduction can be observed in all species that we know of to date. Do you think this Is a fairly viable standpoint to take or am I missing something essential?

When you say that "species.. Stephen Maitzen November 8, 2018 (changed November 8, 2018) Permalink When you say that " for each other and co-operate with each other to ensure the survival of their own species," I take it you're referring not to all species (including all plants, all microbes, all invertebrates, etc.) but only to those spec... Read more

Many theists appeal to certain facts about the world (objectivity of morality, laws of nature, existence of the universe) and infer that these facts must be grounded in God. One response that I found common to atheists is to argue that these facts are rather brute and need no explanation beyond themselves. My question then is this: What makes a particular fact a brute fact? To put it more specifically, are there any criteria for what would make a certain fact brute and also for what would make a certain fact necessarily grounded on something else?

As I understand it, the Stephen Maitzen November 4, 2018 (changed November 4, 2018) Permalink As I understand it, the distinction between brute facts and other facts is that a brute fact has no explanation (not simply an explanation we fail to know) whereas any other fact has an explanation (even if we don't know the explanation). Contingent facts could have... Read more

Hi! My friend tells me that our purpose in life can't be to be happy. Either one of the religions has got it right, and there is a deity or deities, in which case our purpose is to serve them, or there is no God, in which case we have no purpose other than one we arbitrarily decide for ourselves to follow. Does that claim hold water? Thanks in advance for your help!

I think your friend's Stephen Maitzen November 1, 2018 (changed November 1, 2018) Permalink I think your friend's argument by dilemma leaves out this possibility: we were made by a deity (or deities) principally in order to lead happy lives rather than principally in order to serve it (or them). Even so, our having been made for the purpose of being hap... Read more