With respect to the nature of consciousness, do you agree with the phrase 'You cannot be that which you observe', or can you point at yourself and say ‘this is ME’?

What am I missing here? I look in the mirror as I'm knotting my tie: surely I am observing myself knot the tie. That's the whole point of looking in the mirror! It is admittedly rather odd for me to point to myself, say with my index finger, and exclaim "That's Alex". This isn't a case of self-observation, but rather one in which I use the demonstrative expression "that" to pick myself out. But which deep puzzles does this raise? What makes it odd isn't that I'm using language to talk about myself: I could have happily said "I'm Alex". What makes it odd is the peculiar choice of demonstrative, "that" versus "I". It would likewise be odd for me to say, pointing at myself, "He's Alex". How precisely to characterize the use/meaning of "that", "he", etc. so as to account for these reactions, I don't know, but I doubt that the answer will have anything to do with the nature of consciousness.

Even at the lowest levels of proof does not the existence of something in one's imagination give it at the very least a semblance of actuality?

OK, so I'm now imagining the winning lottery ticket in my wallet. Let me check my wallet. [Pause.] Damn. Not even the slightestsemblance of a winner. In fact, not even a lottery ticket. We do speak of a thing's "existing inone's imagination". But this doesn't mean that the thing in questiondoes actually reside in some very wispy way in your mind. If anythingdoes exist in your mind, it's the thought of the thing's existing, orperhaps an image of the thing. But not the thing itself. We are very close to a Grand Philosophical Headache: trying to understand what makes that thought or that image about the thing it's about. This is especially puzzling when the thing it's about doesn't actually exist at all.

Hello philosophers, If it's acceptable for believers to try to convert people to their religion, is it equally acceptable for an atheist to try and convince people to give up their religious beliefs? Charlie Dunmore

I see no relevant difference. In both cases, it all depends on howpersistent, intrusive, and manipulative the trying is. In so far as theconverting/convincing is none of these, they sound like just the kindof fascinating conversations that contribute to life's interest.

How can I ever know my wife loves me when there is no one definition for love?

I expect that you think that there are things you know to be true. Presumably the terms that figure in those claims are ones for which you lack definitions as well. So it doesn't seem as if the possession of definitions is necessary for knowledge. Of course, you have to know what the terms in the claim mean ; you might say, you have to know how to use them properly. But that doesn't require having explicit definitions of them at your fingertips. (Perhaps, you will want to respond, "Well, why doesn't it!?")

I believe that it is assumed that the 'laws of physics', as we know them, apply throughout the universe. Is this a reasonable assumption or is our concept of cosmic reality an error?

On one interpretation of what you say, I don't think your belief is correct. I would wager that most scientists believe rather that the laws of physics, as they are presently formulated, are not quite (or in some cases, not even close to being) correct. Our experience of trying to know what the laws of physics are and then finding ourselves surprised to learn that they aren't quite what we thought gives us some reason to believe that our best theories now don't quite get things right either. But perhaps your question is rather about the scope of the laws of physics. Perhaps you're wondering whether certain laws hold in this corner of the universe and other laws hold in other areas of the universe. That's an empirical question, of course, and we'd have to ask the physicists. But there is something about inquiry that would make it hard for us to accept this, I think. One goal that regulates inquiry is to find an account that unifies a vast range of phenomena. The more a scientific...

"If I know I am right, I am probably wrong." Is this a true statement?

No, at least not when taken literally. A necessarycondition for knowing some proposition is that one have good evidencefor that proposition. (What exactly that condition amounts to issomething you could spend the rest of your life inquiring into.) But ifone has good evidence for a proposition then it can't be that one'sprobably wrong, if what that means is that according to all theevidence at one's disposal the proposition's truth is unlikely. Ofcourse, someone who says this is more likely simply trying to warn us against being overly confident about our judgments. So understood, pointtaken.

Is astrology really a science that can be proven? Can the alignment of the planets of when and where someone was born make them who they are?

And just to pick up on one word from your question, one reason astrology cannot be proven is that no claim about the natural world can be proven. Justifications in natural science are always such that we can accept their assumptions and yet intelligibly question the truth of their conclusions; the truth of the ultimate assumptions don't force the truth of their conclusions. (This "forcing" is what's distinctive about proof.) This does not characterize arguments in mathematics, but it does those in the natural sciences. So, in point of being capable of being proved , there is no real distinction between astrology and astronomy. That doesn't mean that there isn't an important difference between the two. There is: we have very impressive evidence for many claims in astronomy and no good evidence for believing any astrological claims.

How can the universe always be said to have existed, when there is nothing in the universe that always existed? People, plants, planets - all these things come into existence and then decay and disappear. In other words, every thing in the universe needs a cause for its existence. God, on the other hand, needs no such cause. This is not because he is "causa sui" or "self-caused"(an absurd notion, for how can something that has no being produce it own being?), but rather, he is "sine causa" or "WITHOUT a cause". Something, after all, always had to have existed. This is the Uncaused (call it God), not the Caused (Universe), which is inherently unstable and subject to flux. Scott from Ireland.

Shades of St. Thomas! Is this your thought (in your first twosentences): if everything failed to exist at some time, then at sometime everything failed to exist? (And, the argument might continue,that's impossible, because if at some time there was nothing, there'dbe nothing now, since nothing comes from nothing. Therefore, ourassumption must be mistaken: it must be that not everything fails toexist at some time. That is, there must be at least one thing thatalways exists.) But that's incorrect. Everyone at the United Nationsspeaks some language, but it's not true that there's some language that everyone at the U.N.speaks.

Can we prove anything, or is the best that we can hope to achieve an invitation to compare the plausibility of the premises of an argument with the plausibility of the negation of the conclusion of that argument?

To prove Y from X is to show that if X is true then Y must be. We could say that to prove Y, period, is to prove Y from assumptions that are true. (Should those assumptions turn out to be false, we might say "We thought we had proved Y, but it turns out we were wrong: we had proved Y from assumptions we now know to be false.") So, can we prove anything? Sure. Why not? We may well have already. If in fact we've correctly derived propositions from true assumptions, then we've proved them. Perhaps you're worried by the fact that the bare derivation of Y from X doesn't tell us whether we should accept X and, therefore, Y -- or whether we should reject Y and, therefore, reject X. That's true: the bare derivation doesn't tell us whether we've proved Y (in the above sense). The derivation only gives us grounds for accepting Y if its premises are true. In judging that Y is true, we express our confidence that the truth of X is far more likely than the truth of not-Y. Perhaps your worry...

The rapid growth of scientific research has resulted in, and is probably also the result of, the impressive solution of successive scientific problems. Do the panelists think that the rapid growth of philosophical research in Universities can be explained correspondingly in terms of impressive solution of philosophical problems? If not, then by what?

Has there been "rapid growth in philosophical research in"universities? How should we measure that? Perhaps by looking at theincrease in the number of philosophical journals? And in terms of thenumbers of articles and books published per year? I would expect that,judged by such measures, philosophical research is booming. I think themost obvious explanation for this is the tying of promotion through theacademic ranks to publication. The search for "objective" standards forpromotion (to abet the abdication of judgment, to avoid lawsuits, toprovide a measure of an institution's standing vis-à-vis its competitors),this search seized with relief upon the spurious quantifiability ofarticles and books. Academic presses understood the need and stepped into supply the demand. No mysteries here. Only a situation to regret, andresist.