Recent Responses

Recent Responses

Response by Allen Stairs on November 26, 2020

Funny you should ask. It's grading season and I've spent a chunk of my day reading essays by freshmen. Some are pretty well-written; others not so much. I'm with your prof.

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Response by Jonathan Westphal on November 26, 2020

There is an interesting and much-discussed piece by Richard Hare called "Nothing Matters", in R. M. Hare, Applications of Moral Philosophy (London: Macmillan, 1972), pp. 32–47). Hare develops the point that 'My wife matters' does not have the same sort of logical grammar as 'My wife chatters.' The idea is that chattering is something that my wife does to or at me, whereas mattering is not, in spite of the fact that 'My wife chatters' might be said when my wife chatters to me....more

Response by Stephen Maitzen on November 19, 2020

There is a finite number of arrangements of letters; thus there is a finite number of definitions.

Is that true if we're allowed to use each letter an increasing number of times? If our stock of letter tokens increases without limit, then can't the number (and length) of our definitions also increase without limit? Certainly the names of the numbers will tend to get longer as the numbers they name increase, and those names will reuse letters to an ever-increasing degree.

Response by Stephen Maitzen on November 19, 2020

I assume that there's some nonzero minimum time, however brief, that you require to perform each step of addition. In that case, you will never produce an infinite sequence of numbers: that is, there is no finite time at which you will have produced an infinite sequence of numbers. That fact doesn't imply that the positive integers aren't an infinite sequence of numbers -- only that you can't produce them in the described way in a finite amount of time.

Response by Allen Stairs on November 19, 2020

I've come to the conclusion that you may be confusing "has their own opinion" with "has their own truth."

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Response by Peter S. Fosl on October 30, 2020

One needn't know who first coined a word or even how it was originally used for that word to be meaningful, and similarly the fact that the origins of ancient artworks are murky doesn't entail that they are without meaning. The original meaning may be lost, but new meanings are generated, often retaining traces (often more) of earlier meanings. Now, of course, some words are more commonly understood than others, and there are lots of artworks that hold generally shared meanings for people....more

Response by Peter S. Fosl on October 29, 2020

In cases where the celebrity has intentionally established a false perception that was consciously used to leverage considerable benefits, especially financial benefits, the celebrity owes an apology, at least, to the public (perhaps also resigning from a position, perhaps returning goods). There's a kind of fraud in that. But the responsibility is limited for two reasons: (1) most people commonly try to present themselves in an optimal way and (2) everyone understands that....more

Response by Allen Stairs on October 23, 2020

According to a recent survey of philosophers, a majority —but not a large majority—would tend to agree that there are objective moral truths. But the minority who don't is not small. So yes: there are "many" philosophers who don't believe in objective moral truths.

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Keep in mind I'm a complete novice in philosophy, especially when it comes to the literature. I might misrepresent some positions completely. Please call me out. In short: The determinist states: Our decisions are bound to causation, and thus we are not truly free. This statement implies that the only way for free will to exist would be to detach an agent from causation; as long as some factors affect out motivation to do something, we are not truly free. The determinist thus claims that the only way for a choice to be free is that there would be some force acting above the physical reality, especially when it comes to cognition and decisionmaking. Thus only in a dualistic reality is free will possible. I have a few problems with this: 1. This method of defining free will seems to consequentally destroy the agent. If we were to be able to decide what we want, we'd, at least apparently, fundamentally be nothing. How would it be possible to even assign a different "want" to ourselves without that want coming from another, fundamental source? 2. This method of defining free will seems to also bind itself to the same constraints it tries to release itself from. To clarify: this sort of causation free agent would just bind itself to wants momentarily, thus polluting the "pure free will" that determinists define it as. 3. This method of defining free will is completely detached from practice. This is only a personal constraint, as the point might not be to be practical, but to be accurate and correct. Still, by determinist logic we seem to be unable to assign personal responsibility to any extent. If free will is absolutely non-existent, then it should be a non-factor in moral dilemmas. I'd like commentary and insight to my opening question as is, and further ideas relating to the body of the text if you're interested. Thank you for reading this!

Response by Stephen Maitzen on October 22, 2020

You wrote, "The determinist states: Our decisions are bound to causation, and thus we are not truly free." In the context of free will, what you say describes not determinists in general but only hard determinists, i.e., those determinists who also say that determinism rules out free will. The other kind of determinists -- soft determinists -- accept determinism but say that it doesn't rule out free will and may indeed be essential to acting freely....more

Response by Stephen Maitzen on October 22, 2020

In this context, it sounds as though "qua" is being used to mean "considered as." So, for example, qua sentient being (i.e., considered as a sentient being) you have particular rights, while qua adult citizen (i.e., considered as an adult citizen) you have those rights plus additional rights, such as the right to vote. I see no contradiction here.