Are equations like F=MA or e=mc squared metaphysical statements about energy and force or are they empirical observations about regularly occurring correlations?

I think you can safely take them either way. You could take them to be more or less definitional of the terms involved. In that case the empirical question would be whether the terms pick out real quantities in nature. Or you could take the terms to pick out independently identifiable quantities and then they would be empirical statements.

Is it true that no computer, no matter how sophisticated humans construct it in the future, will ever be able to solve philosophy problems because fundamentally a computer cannot function without initial human input programming? Even something as simple or mundane as an everyday moral dilemma?

I do no think it is true that a computer cannot function without initial human input programming. There is nothing in the nature of computation that implies this. I believe, along with most cognitive scientists, that human minds are, or include as components, computers... for example, the visual system is understood very well in computational terms. I also do not see why a computer that did require initial human input programming should automatically be unable to solve philosophical problems - such computers can, after all, solve other kinds of problem. What is so special about philosophy?

The word abstract generally connotes something which is general rather than particular and consisting in the mind or realm of ideas rather than a concrete and actual instance. Metaphysics is often described as an abstract inquiry into being. Yet being (or at least beings) are particular and actual. How do philosophers grapple with this seeming contradiction?

How about an enquiry into the general nature of particular actual things? For example on might ask: what, if anything, do all particular and actual things have in common? What distinguishes them from non-particular and/or non-actual things, if any such there be?

Why do so many atheists think that other atheists "ought" to be a humanist, or at least care about animal rights, environmental protection, left-wing politics, and so on? Isn't this both a psychological cognitive dissonance and a philosophical naturalistic fallacy? I think even David Hume would consider a religious person be more inclined to support those causes since they have sacred and textual norms to follow whereas the atheist has none.

I am far from convinced that a particularly large number of atheists think that other atheists "ought" to be a humanist, or at least care about animal rights, environmental protection, left-wing politics, and so on. Do you have any evidence for this idea? I am also puzzled by the suggestion of a naturalistic fallacy. You seem to be attributing to this possibly imaginary large number of atheists some kind of argument that they are supposed to put forward. But you do not say what it is. There are many religions and many religious people and many different sacred and textual norms saying or implying completely different things about animal rights etc., many inconsistent with others. And these are followed in many different ways by different people. Atheists do not tend to follow sacred texts. But there are large numbers of texts about about animal rights, environmental protection, left-wing politics, and so on that have nothing whatever to do with religion.

Is Searle's 'chinese room' internally consistent? Does it not presuppose an agent who can understand the manipulation of symbols? If so, why not conceptualize our consciousness analogously to a computer's more fundamental structures bestowing it the capacity to 'run' softwares?

If the article portrayed our consciousness analogously to a computer's more fundamental structures bestowing it the capacity to 'run' softwares then it probably would be internally inconsistent. But it doesn't.

Is the relation of the mind to the brain analogous in some way to the relationship between a magnetic field and a magnet? I have in mind the way in which a magnetic field clearly depends on the physical state of an object--the magnet--but is distinct, and quite different from this object. Thanks!

Yes. I like to think of the mind as being or being like a computer program or ensemble of programs. A program is a pattern. Programs... patterns ... clearly depend on the physical make-up of the patterned material, but are distinct, and quite different from this material. Of course the material itself is just made of more patterns of smaller things. Magnetic fields are patterns too.

Can a thing being distinct from something else be considered a property of that thing? (If my mind is distinct from my body can "being distinct from my body" be considered a property of my mind. It seems to me that if something is distinct from something else it is separate from it and therefore cannot somehow be considered a property of it. But I have a feeling I am missing something. Thank you Samantha R.

It depends what you mean by ‘property’. If a property of a thing cannot be separate from it, and ‘being distinct from a thing’ is not itself separate from the thing, then ‘being distinct from my body’ would not count as a property of my mind. But why use the term ‘property’ so restrictively? One might try to distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic properties. An intrinsic property of a thing would be one that is not separate from the thing – whatever that might mean. An extrinsic property of a thing would be one that is separate from the thing – whatever that might mean. Examples of extrinsic properties might be ‘being a daughter’, ‘being the daughter of a queen’, ‘being a princess’, ‘being outside France’, ‘being smaller than the garden of my uncle’. ‘Being distinct from my body’ could then be an extrinsic and not an intrinsic property of my mind. There is nothing wrong with extrinsic properties.

When I look at the room I'm sitting in, I am consciously aware of it as existing outside my body and head. So, for example, I can walk towards the opposite wall and I appear to get closer to it until I reach out and touch it. Now I understand that light is being reflected off a wall, travelling across a room, entering my eyes and this process creates nervous impulses. (In fact a physics would correctly point out that the photons that hit my retina are not even the same as the photons 'reflected' by any object). I understand that these impulses are processed in various parts of my brain, some unconsciously but eventually a mental "schema" representing the room is created. I also understand that there are other processes going on in my brain that create my awareness of different types of "self"s, that continually shift my awareness and that attempt to always produce a self-consistent view of myself and the world. However, my question is not about these (well not directly!). My question is simply how does...

Your answer may be in the question: "how does the representation of the room that my brain is creating, not appear within me but instead outside?" The representation itself is in your brain. But what it represents is the room outside your head, and that representational content is how the representation presents things to to you, how it makes things appear to you.

Are there any philosophers that affirm the substantiality of consciousness without either falling into dualism or property dualism? I personally think that mind is a genuine reality but I'm not so certain that it is a substance in the sense that it is a reality with purely mental properties that exists separately from anything else. But I personally don't think property dualism is a viable alternative either.

Yes. The pioneering physicalists of the 1950s and 1960s, Smart, Armstrong and Place thought that. See I think it is misleading to think in terms of dualism versus monism. Even familiar properties of middle-sized and large ‘physical’ objects, such as size, shape, colour, rigidity, tensile strength, fragility and hardness are not identical to any properties at the level of quantum mechanics. ‘Physical’ is a loose lay term of little real use, and what we call ‘physical’ comes in many forms. In my view, mental properties are just more properties of middle-sized objects that are made out of wavicles, but do not reduce to quantum-level properties any more than , say, fragility does. I recommend pluralism about properties, rather than dualism or monism.