I am reading Neitzsch's "Human, All Too Human", in one of his aphorisms he states that logic is optimistic. Does he mean that it would be foolishly optimistic to trust logic or in its truth? Or does he mean something else I just can't seem to understand?

Thank you for your question. I'm guessing you are referring to aphorism 6 in the first volume. You are certainly right to call Nietzsche up here -- the reference to the concept of optimism is not at all clear. In fact, it goes back to an earlier book of Nietzsche's, The Birth of Tragedy . (If you want to look, the clearest -- which isn't saying much in this case -- treatment of this idea is found in chapter 18.) There Nietzsche argues that an important change took place around the time of Socrates, and that what we now think of as science, broadly speaking, was 'invented'. What characterises this Socratic science? Well, logic, first of all, broadly understood in its Greek sense as a rational enquiry into the nature of things. But also, Nietzsche says, a certain optimism. Science only makes sense if the world CAN be understood and that, once it is understood, it can be CHANGED for the better. Science, he says, is intrinsically optimistic about its own utility. Now, here in Human, All Too...

As a professional philosopher; which philosophical idea brings you the greatest joy whenever you think about it?

What a lovely question! Thank you! I'm going to punt for Kant's account of the beautiful as that which brings harmony among the cognitive faculties and 'enlivens' their mutual functioning. Now, why does this bring me joy? First of all, because I have found the idea enormously philosophically fertile (for example, it is important to my and Ole Martin Skilleas' work on the aesthetics of wine, and also to my way of interpreting the concept of affirmation in Nietzsche). Second, it still maps onto my experience of art and nature, despite my having subjected both the idea and my experiences to relentless self criticism. Third, as an idea, it is itself about beauty, pleasure and life. What more do you want?

What are some books for a beginner to learn about Kant's critique of judgement?

Well, I'm sure you can do BETTER than my book (with Edinburgh, 2000), but that's not going to stop me recommending it. More recent is a fine introductory commentary by Fiona Hughes (Continuum 2009).

More people are familiar with the ideas of Camus and Sartre, two examples of continental philosophers who wrote of the need of philosophy to be applied to the human condition, than are aware who Quine and Wittgenstein were. Does it bother analytic philosophers that most people consider analytic philosophy to have zero relevance in their lives yet regard many continental philosophers as public intellectuals?

I suppose I count as a'continental' philosopher. It is worth pointing out that thisanalytic/ continental distinction, however you want to draw it, andfor whatever it is worth, is mainly internal to philosophy. 'Mostpeople' would not be aware of the distinction. Heck, there are signsin businesses that say 'Our philosophy is to provide an excellentcustomer experience'. So, I fully support the need for publiceducation and some kind of large-scale PR exercise. However, thereare hopeful signs. The book market is virtually flooded withintroductions to this or that philosophy, theme or topic, most aimedat a general audience. Experts at judging their markets, publishers clearly see a wide interest in philosophy. This is not an entirely new phenomenon, ofcourse, but its scale is unprecedented. Also there are a very fineset of materials for doing philosophy with children (indeed, even mydaughter's school uses them), and this could be encouraged much more.

According to Kant intuitions without concepts are blind. I'm not sure I understand this but suppose the color red is an intuition and the awareness of the color as red or a more rudimentary awareness of the color red is the the concept. Couldn't it be argued that Kant is wrong because without a rudimentary awareness of the color red there would no red at all? Or was that Kants point? It seems to me that the "concept" of red is a precondition of red as much as the intuition and that Kant seems to suppose that they are at least theoretically seperable.

It seems to me that your interpretation of Kant is spot on. By 'blind' he means that we would have eyes (or ears or noses) but cannot see (or hear or smell), unless concepts were operative. However, this 'would have' is quite hypothetical. Kant certainly does not mean to imply that there is ever mere sensory input without a concept. (There certainly may be pure concepts without any associated sensory input, or even any possible sensory input -- Kant analyses the problems that this raises in the Dialectic.) If I see a colour, I see the colour red, or lemon, or ochre. And if I don't recognise the particular colour, I still know it is a colour, so a concept is still operative. Likewise, if I hear a sound, I hear the sound of traffic, or of a violin, or of a creaking floorboard. If I don't recognise the sound, then I still know it is a sound. Nevertheless, you are right that he is asserting some kind of difference between intuition and concept. But this difference is not one that I experience. Rather,...

This quote, "It is harder to give rightly than to receive rightly" hit me in the face with awe but I have no idea what the meaning entails. I have not read Thus Spoke Zarathustra and so I do not know the context it was used in. I keep thinking about this quote because it makes me feel something...something I must hold on to. Can anyone please help me understand the breadth of this greatness? I appreciate it immensely.

You have alighted on an idea that also fascinates me. The quotation is from Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Part IV, section 8. This section is part of a series of fictionalised portraits of exceptional human types (or in some cases, individual persons). Nietzsche is interested in the philosophical significance of certain types of human being. Section 8 is in part a portrait of Jesus. The basic idea is that the the one who has something to give (wealth, assistance, knowledge, whatever) is in a position of power over the one who receives; and the gift itself can serve to reinforce and draw attention to that difference of power. In other words, gifts demean the receiver, perhaps even setting in motion a cycle of revenge. So, how is it possible to be a giver who does not exacerbate the situation of the receiver? How, for example, does the master give to the disciple without forcing the disciple to remain always only a disciple? Please see also Part I, section 22.

According to Heidegger philosophy has never really asked what we mean by "Being". According to him we ask what the essence of this or that form of being is but we never concern ourselves with being proper. Perhaps what Heidegger means or alludes to in this question is the idea that the very fact of being is in some way the very essence of being. This reminds me of Fichte's idea of the fact of consciousness rather than a principle of consciousness as the starting point of philosophy. And yet this fact of being just like the fact of consciousness is mysterious and elusive, while paradoxically present, and hence suppressed by a reductive urge within philosophy. Yet, I'm kind of skeptical about Heidegger claim of a suppression within philosophy of the question of being. It seems as if the question of being was first made problematic far further in the German tradition than Heidegger, as early as Kant, if its not something that has always been with philosophy. Kant argued very much like Heidegger, I think,...

Well, you raise a whole series of fascinating issues in your question. I'll just focus on the claim Heidegger makes, and not direct myself to either Fichte or Kant. What does Heidegger mean in claiming that the question of the meaning of Being has rarely if every been asked? I wouldn't say that he means that the question has been 'supressed' -- in the way free speech is supressed in a totalitarian regime. Rather, he means that the question has always been raised only with respect to some limited frame of reference, where that frame is determined by other philosophical commitments. A theological frame of reference understands Being only as either creator or created; the frame of reference of mathematics yields a conception of Being as substance; a technological frame of reference understands Being (including the human) only as the availability or otherwise of resources; and so forth. The other point worth making is that although the above discussion makes Heidegger sound as though he is...

When a philosopher describes his or her work as a "critique" of something, what exactly do they mean? Is there a general consensus among philosophers or are there different possibilities? I assume it means something different or more specific than what we ordinarily mean by "criticism", right? Thanks!

Indeed: the ordinary use of the term 'critique' ('criticism') means to evaluate something. So, a film critic doesn't just tell us how bad a film is, but also how good -- and thus whether certain types of viewers might wish to see it. The philosophical use of the term to analyse something so as to determine its grounds, implications or merit. Thus, a classic type of essay or examination question at University philosophy departments is to 'critically analyse' some idea or argument. Kant's use is slightly different. A critique of pure reason, of practical reason, or of judgement is not a discussion of an idea or argument, so much as of a whole 'faculty' or 'ability' of the human mind. The three faculties I just listed come from the titles of Kant's three chief critical works, but arguably at least Kant should be understood as also offering critiques of many other 'faculties' such as imagination, understanding, sensibility, or will. In effect, by a 'critique of pure reason', Kant is asking 'what is...

What is the difference between philosophical idealism, such as the idealism of Kant, and the meaning generally given to being an "idealist?"

It is perhaps worth pointing out, belatedly, that Kant's idealism (in the first sense) also includes idealism (in the second sense). For example, the ideas of pure reason (the topic of the 'Dialectic' chapters of the Critique of Pure Reason ) have a role in our thoughts concerning the nature of reality. This is idealism in the first sense. However, that role functions by being something akin to an 'ideal' in the second sense. Specifically, the ideas of pure reason function 'regulatively', by guiding our thought towards something that is strictly speaking impossible, but the being guided is never-the-less important for us.

What's the difference between post-modernism and critiques of modernity?

Not an easy question to answer since(i) both terms are used in a variety of different ways, and not veryoften by the various philosophers who are categorised in these ways;and (ii) these terms cross boundaries (and peryhaps even originate there) well beyond philosophy(literary studies, music, visual arts, cultural theory, etc.). Anyway, try this out as a startingpoint: let us define a 'critique' as an analysis of X (presumably inthis case a negative evaluation, but it needn't be) but in terms thatX would recognise. A critique of a argument in economics, forexample, would employ economic concepts that are also the horizon ofthe original argument. 'Critique', then, is an operation that one canperform WITHIN a certain type of intellectual milieu, an ordinaryform of debate. In this sense, a critique of modernism (whatever thatis) is still modernism. 'Post-modernism' (whatever that is) would bean attempt (perhaps successful) to move beyond the horizon ofconcepts, forms of analysis or what-have-you that...