This question has confused me for some time. No offense to any Christian. What makes QAnon (or any other cult you name) a cult but Christianity a religion? Much bloodier wars used to be started in Christianity’s name. In its history, pagans and witches have been persecuted. Christianity is also closely intertwined with colonialism. Its core beliefs are not scientifically corroborated either - you believe them because you believe them. Why should Christianity have a much better standing in popular opinion?

We could say a lot or a little about this; a little is best, I think. The word "cult" has a pretty fuzzy meaning, but my read is that it tends to be used for relatively fringe-y religious groups with highly uniform beliefs well outside the mainstream, and with high accompanying demands for group-think. QAnon isn't really a religious group, though its adherents do have a sort of religious zeal. Their beliefs are shockingly more popular than they deserve to be, though they're still (I hope!) not mainstream. And there certainly appears to be near-monolithic agreement about many of these beliefs. Christianity is a lot more complicated. Some parts of it are cultish in the worst possible senses. But the differences between some fundamentalist Christian sects and, say, liberal Episcopalians is a chasm so vast that members of the two groups are likely to find each other more or less incomprehensible. Put it another way: there seems to be a great deal in the way of generalizations that one can make about...

I've come across what appears intersecting and incompatible logic systems within academia (and society). System one is what I call analytic logic: the merit of your argument or opinion is completely independent of your immutable characteristics. (Like MJ says, it doesn't matter if you're black or white). If you dismiss the merit of an argument by attacking the person who made it, you've committed a logical fallacy. The peer review process in academia avoids this potential by hiding the author's identity from reviewers. The argument or study is judged on its own merit. I call system two Identitarianism (some call it Neo-Marxism or Intersectionalism). With these rules, your ethnicity(ies), gender, and sexual orientation (etc.) are in play. Some people have more (and others less) merit because of their immutable characteristics. System two seems backwards but the rationale goes as follows: "Oppressed" groups (POC, women, trans people, gay/lesbian, poor people, etc) have access to ... (1) the norms,...

There's way too much to be said here for one short post, but a handful of points. First, As a straight, white male I'm pretty confident that there's a lot that I don't understand about what it's like to live in the country I live in (the US) as a woman, or as a Black person, or as a gay man, or transgender person, or as a lesbian or... This seems both unremarkable and important. It's unremarkable because we all are familiar with the fact that one's circumstances can sometimes make it easier to see or understand certain things. Lived experience does make a difference, and the difference it makes can be important. For example: I suspect that a great many of the people who put in place the "separate but equal" regime that finally began to crumble with Brown v. Board of Education were pretty clueless about what "separate but equal" was like for Black Americans and therefore, about whether "separate but equal" was even a serious possibility. That's hardly a shocking thing to say. ...

This is a follow up to a question answered by Dr. Maitzen on December 31 2020. The statement really was “Only if A, then B”. It came up on a test question that asked the following: “If A, then B” and “Only if A, then B” are logically equivalent. True or false? The answer is ‘false’, apparently. I reasoned that “Only if A, then B” is maybe like saying “Necessarily: if A, then B”, and this is clearly different from saying simply “If A, then B”. But I’m not sure. Any chance you might be able to help me see why “If A, then B” and “Only if A, then B” aren’t equivalent? Clearly they say different things, but I’m just not sure how to put my finger on the difference. I really appreciate the help. Thank you again.

I agree with my colleague that "Only if A, then B" is not idiomatic English, and so it's hard to know what your teacher meant. In teaching logic over the years, I've seen many examples that take this form: "Only if A, B" — leaving the word "then" out. An English example might be the somewhat stilted but acceptable "Only if you're at least 18 are you eligible to vote." That's the same as saying "You are eligible to vote only if you're at least 18." And that's different from saying "If you're at least 18, you're eligible to vote." Saying "If you're at least 18, you're eligible to vote" means that there are no other qualifications needed; being 18 or older is enough. Saying "You're eligible to vote only if you're at least 18" allows that there may be other requirements as well, such as being a citizen. So if what your teacher meant was "Only if A, B," then perhaps my example shows that this isn't the same as "If A then B."

I am personally a determinist but one thing that has confused me is how can determinism and morality co-exist? If determinism is true, then how can we possibly judge the morality of a choice that someone was destined to make?

When you say you are a determinist, that could mean various things. It might mean that the world is governed by deterministic laws, but by itself that doesn't answer the question of whether we are free or morally responsible. Incompatibilists say that determinism in this sense rules out freedom; compatibilists disagree. There are interesting arguments on both sides. I suspect that what you're actually saying is that you think determinism is true and you are an incompatibilist. You think that if determinism is true, we aren't free, and you worry that if we aren't free, we can't be responsible for what we do. But there's a lot packed in here. Though I'm not interested in making a fuss about it, I'm intrigued that you are "personally a determinist." There's a difficult and interesting debate about whether quantum mechanics is deterministic or indeterministic. Once again, there are interesting arguments on both sides. My own view is agnostic. If I had to pick, I'm inclined to the side that sees the quantum...

Hey, I've come to the conclusion that every person has their own truth. At the same time, the fact that 2+2=4 is quite obviously a truth. But if someone was to say that 2+2=3, and they believed it to be true, it is their own truth. Does that mean, that whatever we might think is true, no matter our conviction, we can never be sure of it's validity. Or maybe that everything is true, which in turn would make nothing true. Or might it be something else entirely?

I've come to the conclusion that you may be confusing "has their own opinion" with "has their own truth." 2 plus two is 4, whether someone believes it's 5 or not. If they believe that it's 5, this is their (very confused) belief , but what in the world do we gain by saying that it's their truth ? If you talk that way, you blur the useful distinction between being right and being wrong. It gets worse. If I take you seriously, then I could respond by saying "well it may be your truth that everybody has their own truth, but it's my truth that they don't. And so if you want me to take you seriously, you've given me a perfect reason not to take you seriously. Of course people have different beliefs. We usually take that to be a matter of people disagreeing. But if you and I genuinely disagree, and aren't just play-acting or using words for fun, we can't both be right. And if either or both of us is wrong, then at least one of us doesn't have the truth of the matter; we have a mistaken ...

Hi, I'm a college freshman taking my first philosophy class. My professor takes points off my essay for grammatical mistakes I made. I disagree with this approach. Isn't the idea the most important, more so for philosophy?

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. If I sent a paper full of bad grammar to a philosophy journal, it would either be rejected or, if it was otherwise worth considering, would be sent back for revision. You can think of either of these as the professional equivalent of getting points knocked off. But aside from what happens in the profession, I don't see my role as narrowly as you think I should. Part of the point of my essay assignments is to improve their strictly philosophical skills. But I take it to be part of my job to help students learn to write better essays in general. I don't think that this falls only to the writing teachers in the English department; I don't have that sort of siloed view of a university education. I'd add: experience suggests that ungrammatical prose often goes with careless or even muddled thinking. And it makes it more likely that the...

Are there many philosophers who seriously try to argue that there are no objective moral truths? If so, how would they refute the proposition that "it is always wrong to torture people purely for pleasure." ? Thank you for your consideration!

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. Now these philosophers would say it's not true that it's always wrong to torture people purely for pleasure. Of course, this doesn't mean that they think it's okay to torture. They think that moral claims aren't the sorts of things that can be true. But why? The easiest way to get a feel for this is by appeal to the old chestnut that "is" doesn't imply "ought." No statement of non-moral facts ever entails a moral claim. We might be revolted by what torture amounts to, but "torturing people for pleasure revolts me" doesn't add up to "torturing people for pleasure is wrong"; there's a logical gap between "X revolts me" and "X is wrong." This isn't enough by itself. After all, there's a gap between biological truths and...

If we assume that relativism isn't true, how can we explain the fact that people behave differently?

First, let's ask what relativism means. The usual understanding is that it says what's right and wrong is not universal, but relative to some non-universal reference point—the predominant opinions in one's culture, typically. Your question appears to assume that relativism is the only good explanation for differences in behavior, but it's not clear why we should believe that. After all, many differences in behavior are matters of preference. I prefer to eat chocolate ice cream; you like rum and raisin. Neither of us is wrong, and relativism is neither relevant nor useful in explaining the difference between us. I like swing dancing; you don't. I don't like playing basketball; you do. We'll behave differently on that account. But neither of us is "right" or "wrong," and once again, relativism doesn't provide any additional insight. Wh do our taste in ice cream differ? Why do we prefer different leisure activities? Who knows? The answer is probably a complicated mixture of a lot of things,...

Is there a specific label or name for the rhetorical tool of using a little bit of truth to try and disprove another claim. For example, if Person A says something like "philanthropy is less effective as a means to maximize well-being than if we just taxed everyone more" and in response Person B says "but philanthropy does some good". Even assuming Person B's response is truthful, it seems they are avoiding addressing the true question. I know this is similar to a red herring fallacy, but I was wondering if there is a more precise name (or set of work) looking at the use of a nugget of truth to try and distract from or disprove a larger issue. Thank you.

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. If A says that taxing would be more effective than philanthropy and B says that philanthropy does some good, all A need say is "I agree: philanthropy does some good, but my point is that it's less effective than simply taxing people." A might be right or might be wrong, but what B says is irrelevant to the claim at issue, since A 's claim is entirely consistent with B 's reply. I notice this a lot on Quora. There's a whole sub-genre of questions in which people people describe a bit of reasoning gone wrong, and then ask for the name of the fallacy. Often the person has already done a good job of saying what's wrong. Sometimes...

Is landlording—understood as “fulfilling on one’s own property the housing needs of, and receiving rent from, another person/party”—a fundamentally unethical practice? I ask because it seems to me, at this point, that a landlord puts at risk the most inelastic needs of human beings, placing them behind more-or-less arbitrary paywalls. Sure, there is no shortage of “ethical landlording” articles/podcasts, and I am willing to do research (look for disconfirmation of the above hunch) myself. But asking philosophers never hurts! Thank you.

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." Let's agree: people need shelter. They also need food. And clothing. And in very many cases, transportation. And medical care. And many other things. And let's agree, at least for present purposes, that a society that doesn't have a reasonable way of providing such things isn't doing what it should. We can even put it more strongly: insofar as we can talk about obligations that a society has, let's agree, at least for present purposes, that societies are obliged to devise reasonable ways for providing these things. The word "reasonable" is covering a lot of territory, but I don't think that will affect the point I'd like to...

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