Frege said 'a fact is a thought that is true’. Does that mean truth is factual thoughts?

Frege's views about truth are complex, and there is a great deal of controversy concerning their proper interpretation. (Robert May and I have recently written a paper trying to outline Frege's views .) So I won't try to go into this in detail. But the first point to remember is that, for Frege, a "thought" is not any kind of mental episode. Frege means by a a "thought" roughly what other philosophers mean by a "proposition". So "truth is factual thoughts" would have to mean something like "truth is factual propositions", which probably sounds rather less exciting.

Why do so many philosophers seem to have a left-wing political view?

It's been shown in several studies that political views vary with how much education you have had. People who have a post-graduate degree of any kind tend to be to the left of people who have only a high school or college degree. In the 2004 US presidential election, for example, people with only a high school or college degree voted about 53-46 for Bush, the Republican, whereas people with a post-graduate degree voted 55-44 for Kerry, the Democrat. Indeed, I do not have access to the numbers, but if you focus on people with PhDs, as opposed to doctors (MDs, DDs, etc), lawyers (JDs), and business school types (MBAs), then the difference is even more dramatic. Since philosophers do tend to have PhDs, then, of course they trend with that group. Does education make you more leftist? Or do people inclined to be more leftist just seek more education? These are interesting questions, but, obviously, they are empirical questions, so I will not try to answer them.

Does Hegel really reject the Law of Non-Contradiction or is that just something analytic philosophers like to say because they dislike him so much?

I don't know anything about Hegel, but I have several friends who reject the Law of Non-contradiction, and they're all perfectly respectable analytic philosophers, with lots of friends who are also analytic philosophers. So I doubt that the claim that Hegel rejects the Law of Non-contradiction, in so far as it is made by analytic philosophers, is one they make because they don't like Hegel. Most of them don't know any more about Hegel than I do, I'll wager. Personally, I'm a big fan of the Law of Non-contradiction, and I think there are good reasons not to reject it. But doing so, as I've indicated, isn't completely nuts. If you want to know about this approach to logic, read the article on dialetheism at the Stanford Encyclopedia.

Does Quine's argument that there is no real boundary between analytic and synthetic statements include purely mathematical statements such as 1 + 2 = 3? Granted, sentences in everyday languages contain both analytic and synthetic elements, but cannot formal languages support purely analytical statements? Or does mathematics, being a human creation, inextricably model the natural world around us, and thus contain synthetic information? I'm trying to understand the short and (very difficult for me) book "Knowledge and Reality: A Comparative Study of Quine & Some Buddhist Logicians" by Kaisa Puhakka, which seems to represent Quine's thinking faithfully, but my training as a scientist leaves me ill-prepared for much of it. Thank you.

Quine's views on this matter vary over the years. Early (meaning in "Two Dogmas" and related works of that period), he was prepared to deny that there are any analytic statements. Later, especially in Philosophy of Logic , Quine's view mellows a bit, and he is prepared to recognize a very limited class of such statements, namely, truths of sentential logic, such as "It is raining or it is not raining" and the like. That's still a pretty limited set, as Quine seems unprepared to regard even what one would normally regard as truths of predicate logic as analytic (e.g., "If someone loves everyone, then everyone is loved by someone"). But mostly this is because Quine thinks there's no clear sense in which that sentence is properly analyzed as a truth of predicate logic. This is connected with the doctrine of ontological relativity. In so far as it is properly so analyzed, I think Quine would regard it as analytic. So mathematics, for Quine, is quite definitely out as analytic. There are going to...

A famous philosopher is coming to visit my university. Would it be inappropriate to ask for his autograph?

I thought about the article idea. And, back in the day, one might have had an off-print for someone to sign. (I once saw an off-print that had apparently belonged to Henry Sheffer, he of the Sheffer stroke, signed by Gottlob Frege!) But it does seem odd to ask someone to sign a photocopy of an article. Anyway, it's nonetheless true that some people like to collect autographs, and that a blank card is often the format of choice, and there's nothing wrong with that. But don't do the napkin. ;-)

Let me just register my agreement with Eddy. It is very common to ask an author to sign a book, and so it's not likely to be shocking or even entirely unexpected. Asking a philosopher to sign a napkin, on the other hand, or a baseball (!) might make the requester seem kind of silly. So if the person hasn't written a book, you might want to skip it.

I have been reading Robert Nozick’s Philosophical Explanations (a difficult text indeed) and have a question about his theory of knowledge; specifically, Nozick concedes to the knowledge skeptic that we cannot know, say, if we are a brain in a vat on Alpha Centauri (our experience of the world would be identical, says the skeptic, to what it is now, so we cannot know); but he then also notes that it does not follow that I cannot know, say, that I am typing on my computer. If I understand correctly, Nozick holds that my belief that I am typing tracks the fact that I am typing; I would not have the belief that I am typing if I were not typing. This, however, seems problematic to me; it seems to beg the question, i.e. assume the “fact” that I am typing is indeed a fact. Isn’t this what we precisely do not know according to the skeptic? What if I see a perceptual distortion, for example, a pencil wobbling like rubber when I place it between my thumb and index finger and quickly move it back and forth? My...

This doesn't seem at all clear. First of all, the argument assumes that, to know whether we know, on Nozick's account, we would have to know whether a certain counterfactual is true. But this isn't obvious. Water is H2O, but it doesn't follow that, to know whether something is water, you have to know whether it is H2O. Similarly, even if knowledge is (say) Nozick-style tracking, it does not follow that, to know whether you know, you have to know whether you track Nozick-style. That might follow if Nozick's account is construed as providing some kind of conceptual analysis, but even then there are issues that tend to go under the heading "The Paradox of Analysis". Second, even if the foregoing is waived, I don't see why we can't know "whether the subjunctive condition Nozick deems necessary for knowledge is fulfilled". Surely we do have lots of knowledge about possibility, necessity, and counterfactuals. Of course, the epistemology of modal knowledge is a vexed issue, but so is the epistemology of...

Are philosophers generally less religious than the general population? I'm not talking about the old-school ones, just the ones that are still alive.

This is a thorny topic, and I doubt there is any detail concerning philosophers per se. But for some data, see the Harris Poll on Americans' Religious Beliefs , which found that people with post-graduate degress are somewhat less likely to believe in God. But the difference isn't very impressive: 85%, as opposed to 90% for the general population. There are larger gaps concerning belief in miracles, which is perhaps not so surprising, either.

Considering Descartes' malicious demon idea, is it possible that we could be manipulated in such a way so as all our beliefs are false? I'm thinking that we'd already need some true beliefs in order to have false ones. To be fooled into thinking that pig beards are shorter on Tuesdays I'd have to have true beliefs about pigs, beards, length, and Tuesdays for example. Can I infer then that the overwhelming majority of our beliefs must be true?

This kind of argument has been made by many different philosophers. Two that come immediately to mind are Ludwig Wittgenstein and Donald Davidson. Their considerations are broadly along the lines of: To have any beliefs at all about pigs, beards, etc, I must have some (mostly?) true beliefs about them. For Davidson, the argument involves considerations about what he calls"radical interpretation", the process of making sense of anotherthinker. But that just seems to me to answer the wrong question. The issue isn't about what's involved in making sense of someone. Maybe you do have to agree with the person about a lot of things to do that. The issue concerns what it is to have beliefs. Jerry Fodor has written at length about a great conflict between broadly "pragmatist" theories about the contents of beliefs and, uhh, non-pragmatist theories. According to Fodor's view, for example, being able to have beliefs about pigs involves being in the right kind of causal relation with pigs, and there isn't any...