Recent Responses

Recent Responses

Response by Jonathan Westphal on August 27, 2020

Someone might reasonably think that the question what personal identity consists of is to be answered by psychology. So we can imagine looking at the formation of individuality over time, through childhood and on, and think we were answering the philosophical question what identity consists of. Clearly psychology cannot pre-empt the answer to the question whether, for example, the bodily criterion of identity is correct. There are a lot of other examples to choose from. The one I am most interested in at the moment is perception....more

Response by Allen Stairs on August 20, 2020

Philosophers are usually not the right people to ask for fallacy names. Most of us don't remember many of them, and aside from a handful (begging the question, for instance) seldom mention them by name. You mention the red herring fallacy here. That's probably good enough, but it's not any better than just noting that the response misses the point....more

Response by Allen Stairs on August 13, 2020

If your question was whether there are some unethical landlords, the answer would surely be yes. But you asked if renting living space is a "fundamentally unethical practice." Your implicit argument that it might be is that "at this point" (at which point?) a landlord puts at risk the most inelastic needs of human beings, placing them behind more or less arbitrary paywalls."


Do philosophers generally reject that philosophical reasoning relies on axioms? The way I've always thought that philosophy worked is that philosophers have a certain set of tools (deduction, laws of thought, [basic sources of knowledge]( which they use to come to reasoned answers to questions. Most importantly, these tools are taken as axiomatic. That is, they are seen as starting points from which all reasoning must proceed. To question these axioms wouldn't be possible. However, I've recently seen an attitude that has puzzled me. Many philosophers state that very rarely does reasoning in philosophy rely on axioms. Axioms are things to be avoided and go against the spirit of philosophy. What am I misunderstanding here? If philosophers don't take their tools of reasoning as axiomatic, how do they go about doing philosophy? More importantly, if philosophical reasoning is so pervasive that it questions its own tools, from what framework does the questioning occur? What tools does the philosopher use to question their own tools? When this question was posed to a philosophy student, they responded that: "Philosophers don't tend to think of human thought or reasoning in terms of strict "axioms". Axioms are part of a formal logical system and it's not clear that a lot of our reasoning is like that. We hold *many* beliefs that we might typically think of as taken for granted. Philosophy is really about trying to understand what those are, whether they really fit together properly, and what properties of those beliefs we might want to look at to determine whether we can trust them or we ought to abandon them . . . [philosphers] generally share the idea that we take seriously our basic intuitions about cases of reasoning and we determine general rules and principles from them". Is this the case? Is this how professional philosophers typically go about doing philosophy I've simply held a naive view?

Response by Allen Stairs on July 9, 2020

I'm a bit puzzled about where you got the impression that philosophy works this way, Looking at the work of Spinoza, perhaps, might give this impression, but who else? Certainly not Plato. Certainly not Aristotle. Not Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, Russell, not a single philosopher active in the last 50 years that I can think of.

Response by Allen Stairs on June 25, 2020

I recommend that you don't think about it this way.

Response by Allen Stairs on June 18, 2020

Suppose S is the set of all things that are blue or green. Then my mug is in S because it's green and therefore satisfies "x is blue or x is green," and my pen is in the set S because it's blue and therefore satisfies "x is blue or x is green." Now it's true: satisfying "x is blue or x is green" picks out only one set: the set of all things that satisfy "x is blue or x is green." But the condition "x is green" is a different condition, and so is "x is blue."

Response by Jonathan Westphal on May 3, 2020

This is a good question, and it is easy to answer. "Coercion" here is something like arm-twisting. It is a use of force or the threat of force to cause someone to do something. It takes this kind of force to prevent freewill doing its stuff. Ordinary causation won't do it, according to compatibilism. If my mother tells me to eat my nice soup, and I do it because I am hungry, that is ordinary causation. If my mother tells me to eat my nice soup, because if I don't she will whack me round the ear with her wooden spoon if I don't, that is coercion. It involves force or the threat of force....more

Response by Allen Stairs on April 27, 2020

If I really believed that you really believed that these are the only two alternatives, then I'd probably believe that you're stupid. But I don't believe any such thing. I'd be willing to bet a tidy sum that if someone else asked you the very same question, you wouldn't have any trouble pointing out a whole bunch of alternatives that they're overlooking.

Response by Yuval Avnur on April 16, 2020


Response by Allen Stairs on April 9, 2020

There are several questions here, and we need to distinguish them.