What was before the beginning of time? Or perhaps I am asking the wrong question because "before" is a measurement of time, and what I want to know is what was there when there was no time. So I should be asking: What is time? Right?

Can't do much better here than to quote from St. Augustine: My answer to those who ask 'What was God doing before he made heaven and earth?' is not 'He was preparing Hell for people who pry into mysteries.' This frivolous retort has been made before now, so we are told in order to evade the point of the question. But it is one thing to make fun of the questioner and another to find the answer. * So I shall refrain from giving this reply. For in matters of which I am ignorant I would rather admit the fact than gain credit by giving the wrong answer and making a laughing-stock of a man who asks a serious question. ... A fickle-minded man, whose thoughts were all astray because of his conception of time past, might wonder why you, who are God almighty, Creator of all, Sustainer of all, and Maker of heaven and earth, should have been idle and allowed countless ages to elapse before you finally undertook the vast work of creation. My advice to such people is to shake off their dreams...

If enough people believe in something, will it be true? For example, does reality conform to the laws that we, as a group, choose to believe in?

Isn't this obviously false? If everyone believes that jumping off a tall building will feel good, that will not save them, will it? There was a time when most every, perhaps every, human being believed that the sun rotated about the earth. We know they were wrong. So, we can appreciate that what we believe (even what all of us believe) is one thing, what's true is another.

Can we be right in viewing ourselves -- our lives, our decisions, our contributions to social issues -- as important, if that means important, period, not just important *to* someone? I mean, I'd feel meaningless if what mattered to me mattered only to me, or to any particular people...but is there a sensible way to view ourselves as important, with a capital 'I', to no-one in particular?

The thought that one is important to X won't endow our lives with value unless X itself has some value. (That I'm important to the tiny organisms living on my skin just doesn't make me feel all that important.) If X's value in turn consists in X's being important to Y, then we'd want to know in what Y's value consists. So it seems that nothing will really be important unless we can find something whose value doesn't consist in its being important to something else, that is, unless we can find something that is, as you say, "important, period". God? God's value goes without saying. And so perhaps we're important in virtue of being important to God. (I believe many people feel this.) But this is unsatisfying for two reasons. First, God's judgment is not arbitrary. If God deems us to be important, then that is because we are important . God doesn't make something important by judging it to be important — that would be to view God's judgments of importance as capricious and without...

Why is it that adults preach about democracy and how great it is when really if you're under 18 your parents are like dictators?

This might be taking your question too narrowly, but how about this: democracy is a form of government that places political power in the hands of citizens through their right to vote. But not all citizens are given a vote: five-year olds aren't, the mentally deranged aren't. In particular, if you haven't reached what used to be called "the age of reason", you are denied a vote. So, if your parents are all gung-ho for democracy, but insist on grounding your 15-year-old self on a Saturday night, well, that might be really irritating, but it's not inconsistent. Parental rights over children usually lapse at the same time that their child acquires the right to vote. Coincidence? No. Parents have a right and a duty to make decisions for their children until they have reached a level of maturity and intelligence at which they can be held responsible for their decisions — and once a person has reached that level, democracies should extend him/her the vote.

Hi, I am an aspiring philosopher and I would like to become a professor one of these days. But I don't know how to go about it. I am still an undergrad student and I don't what steps to take. The advice will be much appreciated. Thanx.

A first step is to take philosophy courses! You'll learn about philosophy and you'll learn more whether that's what really interests you. It's probably a good idea to major in philosophy (though it's not impossible to enter a graduate program in philosophy having majored in something else). And then, if you find you're still interested and would like to pursue your studies further, you should eventually talk to philosophers in your college's/university's philosophy department about the process of applying to graduate schools.

Is philosophy above politics?

There is a branch of philosophy called "political philosophy" (questions pertaining to it are in the category Justice ). I take politics most broadly to be the practice or process of managing groups of people. Political philosophy is rather a branch of inquiry that seeks to determine whether political power (the force used by those who manage groups of people) can be justified and, if it can be, what conditions or arrangements need to be in place before it can be.

If everything came from nothing, then where did nothing come from? Also if everything came from something, then where did the something come from? If you believe that everything has always just existed then how did it start to just exist?

Your first question misunderstands the meaning of "nothing": if I come from dust, then there's something I've come from (namely, dust). But if I come from nothing, then there's nothing I come from — not the something that nothing is! See Question 49 for more on this. (You might also look at the reference given in the responses to Question 40 .) The more difficult question you raise is how something could have come from nothing, as physicists tell us is the case.

First of all I want to say I'm sorry for my bad English. For I am Icelandic, I don't get a lot of English classes. ok My friend is always talking about "everything is a goat"; it makes a little sense to me but it is ridiculous. The opposite to everything is nothing. The statement "nothing is a goat" is not right. Isn't there some gap between everything and nothing? Can't we say "something is a goat"? I hope you answer :)

The negation of "Everything is a goat" is not "Nothing is a goat". Asentence and its negation must have opposite truth values; that is, ifone is true, the other is false. A sentence and its negation cannotboth be true and they cannot both be false. But, as I think yourealize, "Everything is a goat" and "Nothing is a goat" can both be false: if there are some things that aren't goats and somethings that are, then the two claims will be false. So this shows that"Nothing is a goat" is not the negation of "Everything is a goat".Might the negation of "Everything is a goat" be "Something is a goat"?No, for both these claims could be true: imagine that there is at least onegoat and furthermore that everything is a goat. (All these errors are facilitated by the false assumption that nouns like "nothing" and "everyone" function like "Harry" or "the animal in the shed" do. For more on this error, see Question 49 .) What then isthe negation of "Everything is a goat"? It's "Something is not a goat....