How do you determine the panel? How do you determine who is and who is not a philosopher, more importantly? Isn't there such thing as a philosopher without a PhD and tenure, or whatever else holds this group of panelists together?

Yes, of course - degrees, tenure, etc. are not necessary conditions for being a philosopher. There is no set of defining conditions for being a philosopher, any more than there is such a set for being a carpenter. Here, we look for people who know a bit about philosophy's history, its great works, its perennial themes, who can write clearly and helpfully for an untutored audience, and who are keen to contribute. Of course, you might complain that this pushes the question back to "How do you determine what is philosophy?" - and you'd be right, and perhaps puzzled. I can't relieve that puzzlement, but I can suggest it's nothing special about the notion philosopher or philosophy . For after all, can you say how you determine who's a funny person? Or what's a messy room?

Can the mind "feel" things even though nothing has happened? If so how does this work? For example, someone swung a textbook at my head playfully, and even though he did not hit me, I still felt something where he would have hit.

Funny, if someone took a (missed) swat at me, I don't think I'd feel anything where he might have hit me! There is something known as the "phantom limb" phenomenon: people who have lost one of their legs, for instance, often report feeling pain in a very particular part of their (now missing) limb -- they can even point to where in their "leg" the pain is. As for how that works, I have no idea. But I likewise have no idea how pain in my real leg works.

I have a question in a very sorely neglected area of philosophy: that of chess! What does it mean for a move to be the "best"? Does it mean 1) It is the move that leads to the most winning variations? 2) It is the move that will most likely cause one's specific opponent to collapse? 3) The move that initiates or executes a plan of action that the player is most comfortable with? Or something else entirely?

You're right to observe that the evaluative word "best" as applied to a chess move appears to be used in many different ways. In some circumstances, the best move will be the one that ineluctably leads to checkmate of one's opponent. (Though if that move demands subsequent overwhelming calculations, there is another sense in which it's not the best. It's the best move from God's point of view -- or Deep Blue's -- but not from ours.) Often, we can't find tactical maneuvers that will promote a win and so must make a strategic move, and now the best move will be one that clearly satisfies a range of strategic goals (e.g., developing one's pieces, controlling the center, etc.). One cannot even say that "best" always involves a move that promotes a win: for instance, if one is on the ropes, the best move will be the one that increases one's prospects for a draw. A philosophical issue is broached if one asks whether there is something in common to all these uses of the word "best". Some philosophers...

Tautology is popularly defined two main ways: 1) An argument that derives its conclusion from one of its premises, or 2) logical statements that are necessarily true, as in (A∨~A). How are these two definitions reconciled? The second definition is only a statement; it has no premises or conclusions.

There is a connection between (1) and (2) in that there is a connection between an argument's being a good one and some statement's being logically true. It can be stated somewhat generally like this: The argument whose premises are X 1 , X 2 , ..., X n , and whose conclusion is Y is logically correct (or valid) if and only if the statement "If X 1 and X 2 and ... and X n , then Y" is logically true (or a tautology). For instance, the argument whose two premises are "Either A or B" and "not-B" and whose conclusion is "A" is logically correct. And this amounts to saying that the statement "If it is both the case that A or B and the case that not-B, then A" is logically true.

This question might not be appropriate, but I'll try anyway. How is it that the precise meaning of the Waverly passage in Russell's "On Denoting" remains notoriously unclear? Russell died in 1970; I'm incredulous that while he was alive no one simply asked him what he had meant. I am similarly amazed whenever there are exegetical questions about the work of any modern philosopher (e.g., Quine).

I used to share your puzzlement. I was a graduate student at Harvard and very interested in Quine's work. Early on, I thought to myself "This will be great: all I have to do is walk downstairs and just ask Quine what he meant by some puzzling or ambiguous passage." Well, I did that several times and, you know what, it didn't help me very much. One day, I reported this puzzling fact to Burton Dreben–who did not find it surprising at all. "What do you expect," he said, "if you ask Quine a question, what you will get back is more Quine !" Obviously true, yes, but nonetheless a very suggestive observation.

Is the following situation a logical and rational reason to believe in G-d?: Judaism, unlike any other known religion, claims that G-d gave the torah not to just one person but to an entire nation. The whole nation of Israel, which numbered over a million people witnessed Moses receiving the ten commandments and heard G-d tell them what the torah was. Unless the above really happened, there is no logical way to explain the tradition that over a million people heard G-d speak. The generation it was supposed to happen to would not be able to be convinced that they saw something they really didn't. And if the "lie" tried to be started a few generations later, the people would ask why they had never heard this claim before. Therefore, it must have really happened and the torah and all it contains is divine.

Are you looking for independent evidence for God's existence, as described in Judaism? If so, I don't think the argument you offered does the trick. I suppose if we really had over a million people testifying to Moses' receiving instruction from God, then perhaps that should make us pause. But as you've told it, the story of the million witnesses is itself a part of the tradition we are looking to find evidence for. Imagine yourself trying to convince someone who didn't already believe what the Torah reports, didn't already believe what's in the Jewish tradition. Now even if we did have independent evidence for the existence of a million witnesses, should we be convinced? Well, we might want to know a lot more about those witnesses. After all, we do know that people can make mistakes, can be misled, even very large numbers of people.

Does Rawls consider inborn abilities an important determinant of social status? I haven't read his entire text in A Theory of Justice, but when he mentions the veil of ignorance, is he considering social status more or less a matter of fate?

If by "fate" you mean out of your control, then I think Rawls would have answered your first question: "Yes and no". Your social status is determined by elements out of your control such as the aptitudes you are born with, the lucky or unlucky breaks that come your way, and the manner in which the society into which you are born values certain talents or activities over others. But it's also true that your social status is partly determined by your efforts: it's always up to you whether to give everything you own away. I agree with Allen that the reason those behind the veil of ignorance do not know their social status is that this knowledge would influence which principles of justice they would favor, and indeed "that misses the point of the veil." But what is its point? Well, one thing to say is that it's designed to make sure that those behind the veil do not make use of morally irrelevant information when selecting principles of justice. One's social status is morally irrelevant precisely...

Do moral philosophers work like this: 1. I have a Wish to see a certain form of society. 2. I must now think of a Reason why everybody should work to create this form of society. 3. Got it! 4. In order to make my Reason compelling, I will now claim that the Reason pre-dates my Wish. 5. My Wish is now the product of the pre-existing Reason. 6. All persons of Reason will share my Wish and work to create the form of society designed by my Wish.

Kalynne asks most pertinently, "Why would the moral philosopher have the Wish? If s/he's a philosopher at all, it will be for Reasons." But, will the philosopher have Reasons for taking these considerations, and not those others, to be Reasons? Will the philosopher have a Reason to be a philosopher (so understood)?

Mother Theresa accepted donations for her work from all sources - regardless of the background of the donors. She said that once the money was in her possession, she would put it to good use - its origin was irrelevant. The same argument has also been put forward by academic institutions who accept large sums of money for capital works from, e.g., donors with a known history of arms dealing. Was Mother Theresa wrong to accept this money? Should universities not accept such donations?

If you look through papers in linguistics from the 1960s and '70s, you'll find many that were supported by Defense Department grants -- these include many papers by Noam Chomsky, a formidable critic of much of U.S. foreign policy. (The military believed that this research might lead to breakthroughs in machine translation, something of great interest to them.) Was Chomsky bothered? Not in the least. He maintained that every dollar he took was one less dollar used to manufacture bombs.