Recent Responses

Do you believe that freedom is just being able to do what one wants without constraint? If so, why and how?

Peter Lipton October 7, 2005 (changed October 7, 2005) Permalink Sean Greenberg rightly says that the absence of physical constraint does not guarantee freedom. Moreover, as Harry Frankfurt has plausibly claimed, absence of physical constraint isn't even necessary for free will, though it is necessary for freedom. If I start out with free will, you don't... Read more

Why should I believe you?

Jyl Gentzler October 11, 2005 (changed October 11, 2005) Permalink Fair enough, Alan. Based on my experience of human beings, the more sociableand cheerful attitude that you suggest seems appropriate as ageneral day-to-day attitude toward others. I’m generally not worriedthat people are lying to me. But I understood the question differently– not as direc... Read more

How should we view architects and their work? If we think of buildings as purely functional, then we seem to be thinking of architects as means to ends only, forgetting their concern for aesthetics. Conversely, if we see buildings purely as aesthetic objects, we are underplaying the technical - scientific - expertise of architects. Is there a middle ground of judgement here?

Aaron Meskin October 7, 2005 (changed October 7, 2005) Permalink I’dlike to add a few points to Roger’s very reasonable remarks. First, thefact that works of architecture can be seen both functionally (i.e., interms of broadly utilitarian purposes) and aesthetically does notdistinguish them from many other works of art. Consider stained glasswindows, Native... Read more

It has always struck me that philosophy is not a subject that has made any real progress. A lot of elaborate constructs of when we perceive certain things to be piles and so forth seem to be problems that can be dealt with (eventually) by sciences such as psychology and neurology. Why waste time constructing elaborate theories that are not scientifically provable? Things like inconsistencies in how people act may be a result of people just not being perfectly logical creatures. Why waste so much time pondering questions where 1. progress is hard to judge 2. the resulting ideas do not really change the world in any significant manner.

Peter Lipton October 7, 2005 (changed October 7, 2005) Permalink I share Richard Heck's sentiments on this matter, and I would add that there is an additional sense in which a lot of philosophy is 'before science'. I'm thinking primarily about epistemology and metaphysics in the philosophy of science, where we are trying to work out how science works and w... Read more

Should we philosophize about philosophy? Why?

Peter Lipton October 7, 2005 (changed October 7, 2005) Permalink Here is one reason. A central task of philosophy is to figure out how our knowledge-seeking activities work and what they achieve. That is epistemology and it is, for example, a big part of the philosophy of science. So if you think that philosophy is in the knowledge-seeking business, then... Read more

We are often told time is like a river. Are there other useful analogies for time? For example: Time is like a bowl of jello with fruit: time is the jello and events are the fruit stuck in it. I guess what I'm really asking is does time have to flow? Is there another way of thinking about time?

Jay L. Garfield October 7, 2005 (changed October 7, 2005) Permalink Thinking of time as flowing obscures far more than it clarifies, on my view, and I think that the river analogy is dangerous. Anything that flows flows at some rate. How fast does time flow? Sixty minutes per hour? The image raises the prospect of a supertime against which the flow of t... Read more

I am a postgraduate linguistics student engaged in a programme of research in which much of the theoretical apparatus proposed by the majority of language scientists ("Words and Rules" - <i>à la</i> Pinker) is dismissed as epiphenomena of exemplar-based cultural learning. Lately, however, I have been struggling with the definition of the word "epiphenomenon". Any thoughts?

Peter Lipton October 7, 2005 (changed October 7, 2005) Permalink An epiphenomenon is something that is real and has a cause, but does not in turn go on to cause other things. A common simile is that it is like the smoke coming out of the locomotive. Thus in the philosophy of mind epiphenomenalism is the view that experiences are caused by physical states... Read more

Is faith in something intangible ultimately delusional?

Alexander George October 6, 2005 (changed October 6, 2005) Permalink Is this another way of asking whether belief in the existence of Godmust be irrational in light of God's intangibility? If so, I wouldanswer No. There are many things that I cannot touch in whoseexistence I believe. For instance, I believe in the existence of Mars,but I'll never touch it.... Read more

Being a non-religious person I do not believe in 'Intelligent design', I am a strong adherent to evolution. Yet I still wonder 'What is the meaning of life'. After much thought and some reading/learning I have come to the conclusion that the meaning of life is to pass one's ('one' being anything alive, plant or animal) genes or DNA along to the next generation thereby renewing the cycle of life. What are your thoughts on this subject? Another question - If my meaning of life is true, do you think that man, with his science, can surpass this meaning and redefine the meaning of life? David D.

Richard Heck October 6, 2005 (changed October 6, 2005) Permalink Frankly, I've never understood what "the meaning of life" issupposed to mean. It's an odd phrase. I take it that the question issupposed to be what the purpose or point of life is, but that's an oddway to ask the question, and I'm not sure I really understand it then,either. Why think that lif... Read more

Recently I was debating with others the proposition that solving social problems in games enhances one's ability to solve real-world problems (my view was the negative: many excellent strategic gamers consistently make spectacularly foolish personal decisions in real life). This seems to generate the question: "Do philosophers have a better track record of making successful personal decisions than the average minimally-thinking individual?"

Alexander George October 6, 2005 (changed October 6, 2005) Permalink Jyl's response (in addition to reminding me why I could neveridentify with Socrates) suggests that philosophers are pretty good atworking out what they ought to do, or what is best, in daily life, butthen get over-powered by their appetites, to use Plato's term. I'm surethat happens someti... Read more

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