Is understanding a person (what a person does) necessarily interrelated to approving of it, and is approving of it necessarily interrelated to sympathizing with it, and is sympathizing with it necessarily interrelated to identifying oneself with this person? Thanks, Susanne

Dear Susanne, I think that you have an interesting slippery slope here. In my opinion, we should not start down it at all. We need to try to understand people and the conditions that make them the kind of people that they are. But that need not (and should not) lead to approving much less to identifying with them. We would be much better off if we tried to understand suicide bombers and pedophilic priests and the social and psychological factors that shaped them. Sympathy of a sort may be in order as well. But, approval? Not at all. Indeed, in the cases that I mentioned, part of the motivation for understanding is to try to prevent the behavior. Lynne Baker

This is a question about Hilary Putnam's twin earth thought experiment. After I read this thought experiment I was not convinced that Oscar's and twin-Oscar's "water" concept have different meanings. But most of the philosophers' intuitions are similar to Putnam (i.e., they think that Oscar's and twin-Oscar's "water" concept have different meanings). I thought that there might be something wrong with me. So I told this thought experiment to different people with different origins but without exception all of them responded that both Oscar's and twin-Oscar's "water" concept have the same meaning. So I still do not understand, why do so many philosophers' intuitions work like Putnam's? Thank you, Deniz

'Water' is a natural-kind term, and the natural-kind that 'water' refers to turned out to be H2O. In every possible situation, 'water' refers only to quantities of H2O. Twin-water is of a different natural kind, say, XYZ. The idea is that physical natural-kinds are defined by what they are made up of. So, the stuff made up of XYZ (and not H2O) is not water. The intuition that the XYZ-stuff on twin earth really is water may come from considerations like these: The XYZ-stuff on twin-earth looks and tastes just like water; it is used in the same way that we use water (brush teeth with it, wash clothes in it, etc.). But what determines the meaning of a physical natural-kind term (it is thought) is its physical make-up, not how it looks or what it's used for. How it looks and what it's used for "fix the reference" of 'water:' The stuff that looks like *that* (pointing on earth to H2O) and is used for teeth-brushing, etc. is water. It turned out (centuries later) that that stuff is H2O-...