Recent Responses

What do you think is a satisfactory response to external world skepticism? I'm having a hard time finding one I can accept.

The external-world skeptic Stephen Maitzen 3/22/18 (changed 9/29/18) Permalink The external-world skeptic purports to show that I can't know any external-world proposition P. How about this response? 1. Conceptual analysis reveals that knowledge is nothing more than reliably produced true belief, where reliability falls far short of logical infallibility. 2.... Read more

Most questions I see asked about the death penalty seem to center on whether it is wrong because of the harm it does to the person who is executed. What about the harm done to others by keeping a dangerous sociopath alive? Let's posit that we have a person who is so depraved that a prison sentence is no deterrence; and this person will gleefully cause pain, suffering, even death to prison guards and other inmates whenever he has a chance. Is it reasonable for all these other people to have to be exposed to such danger? Granted this scenario is an extreme case, that prison guards (let alone other prisoners) never anticipated such a danger to themselves when they first signed up for the job.

When people argue for capital Allen Stairs 3/15/18 (changed 3/15/18) Permalink When people argue for capital punishment, one of the considerations they sometimes raise is deterrence. We can ask about general deterrence: does the death penalty tend to lower the murder rate? That's not your question. But we can also ask about specific deterrence: do we need th... Read more

Is one immoral just by virtue of having immoral thoughts? So for example if Joe really wants to steal from his neighbor, or in his heart he approves of the act of steaing for no reason, but didn't put that into action because he forgot or didn't have the chance. Is joe still "sinning"? He won't be punished for just having such thoughts but I don't see why in this case he is morally any better than an actual thief.

There's a strong case for Allen Stairs 3/11/18 (changed 3/11/18) Permalink There's a strong case for saying that Joe really isn't any morally better than an actual thief. It's just fluke luck that separates Joe from Moe, who actually stole the neighbor's wallet a little later that day. Among others, you certainly have Kant on your side; Joe lacks what K... Read more

It is believed that space is infinite, therefore containing an infinite number of universes. Since there is an infinite number of universes, then there are an infinite amount of Earth's exactly like ours, an infinite number of Earth's with subtle changes, etc. However, if this is true, then there is also an infinite amount of universes in which this is not true, creating a sort of paradox. How would you solve this?

It doesn't seem difficult to Stephen Maitzen 3/8/18 (changed 3/8/18) Permalink It doesn't seem difficult to solve, if we're willing to accept more than one universe. Analogy: There are infinitely many numbers that are even, infinitely many numbers that are odd, and infinitely many numbers that are neither even nor odd (because they aren't integers). The... Read more

In the Stanford Encyclopedia the predicate "is on Mt. Everest" is given as an example of the sorites paradox applied to a physical object--where does Everest end and another geological formation begin? It seems to me that people who climb Mt. Everest (including Sherpas who live in the area) know that the base camp is where Everest begins. The millimeter objection in the article seems arbitrary. Why not an operational definition of "being on Everest is at or higher than the base camp used to reach the summit"? I have no problem accepting that as fact. Likewise, if I describe something as a "heap", and the person I'm communicating with recognizes it as such, what difference does it make how many units are in it?

The problem simply recurs Stephen Maitzen 3/8/18 (changed 3/9/18) Permalink The problem simply recurs with the phrase "at the base camp" in your definition: Which millimeters of terrain belong to the base camp, and which do not? At the limit, nobody knows. But unless there is a sharp cutoff between those millimeters that belong to the base camp and those tha... Read more

Is it consistent to oppose the death penalty on moral grounds, and also believe that life in prison is actually worse anyway?

I’m not sure I fully grasp Michael Cholbi 2/24/18 (changed 2/24/18) Permalink I’m not sure I fully grasp the motivation behind your question, but here’s a guess as to how you may be reasoning: A punishment can be ethically indefensible if it is too severe, either in its own right (50 years of continuous physical torture, say) or in proportion to the seriousn... Read more

Is suicide immoral?

This is a question with a Michael Cholbi 2/17/18 (changed 2/17/18) Permalink This is a question with a long and disputed history. My own article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy outlines some of the main moral arguments surrounding the permissibility of suicide: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/suicide/ There's a long of history of religious an... Read more

Now it’s true the Eagles won the super bowl. Is the following statement true.?The team had always a winning chance of 100 percent regardless of their preparation , and there was absolutely no power in the world that could have changed the outcome .

Let's focus on one bit of Allen Stairs 2/15/18 (changed 2/15/18) Permalink Let's focus on one bit of your question. You ask if this is true:           The team had always a winning chance of 100 percent regardless of their preparation. Now compare that to something more mundane. As I write this, it's 3: 45 here in College Park. The light in my office i... Read more

Hi. I have been struggling lately. I was just wanting to confirm that determinism is a THEORY,correct, as to ask if it has been proven? Has there been any 100% consensus as to say we don't have free will? Will we ever really know for sure? I'm sorry I'm just going through many questions right now. Determinism (in any form) has not been proven 100% correct? And all of those theories on determinism, and indeterminism, are all not confirmed correct? They're just perspectives correct? Thank you so much for any relief/ information you can give me.

Determinism is neither as Stephen Maitzen 2/15/18 (changed 2/15/18) Permalink Determinism is neither as well-established as (say) the sun-centered model of the planets nor as well-refuted as (say) the earth-centered model of the planets. The truth or falsity of determinism is an open empirical question. But perhaps I can provide some relief from the threat t... Read more

Is there any way to define coincidences so as to make their existence possible in a deterministic world?

I think so. Suppose you Stephen Maitzen 2/15/18 (changed 2/16/18) Permalink I think so. Suppose you encounter an old acquaintance, whom you haven't thought about in years, on a street corner in a foreign city. That unexpected encounter sounds to me like a paradigm case of a coincidence, precisely because it was (as we say) "the last thing you were expecting... Read more

Pages