How can one acquire knowledge through emotions only?

"Knowledge" might be divided into four types: (1) theoretical knowledge (knowing that X); (2) practical knowledge (know how); (3) familiarity (knowing someone); and (4) moral knowledge (knowing what's right). 1. Emotion alone doesn't seem able to produce theoretical knowledge. In fact, emotion often obstructs it. 2. Emotion alone can't make it possible for us to know how to do something--e.g. drive a car or play the violin. But it can be a necessary condition for us knowing how, for example, to play music well or for knowing how to manage people psychologically (as an effective manager, parent, or politician might know how to do). 3. Emotion might be the result of familiarity, but knowing someone isn't made possible by emotion alone. 4. The very idea of moral "knowledge" is a strange one, but one might say that knowing what the right thing to do in a given situation might be said to be determined through feeling. But I doubt it would make sense to say that emotion alone yields moral...

In the larger epistemological sense, what role does the law of witnesses, e.g. Federal Rules of Evidence (http://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/fre/index.html#article_vi), play in our search for knowledge (and truth)? So much of our day-to-day life in modern society is based upon the law or rule of witnesses, e.g. the rule of law, scientific investigations, journalism (print and television news reports), to name just a few. And yet if we take the view of the skeptics -- and to a larger degree, much of philosophy -- nothing is really knowable (with respect to certainty). So how can so much of our daily life rest upon (be founded upon) a principle -- the law or rule of witnesses -- which may be without epistemological foundation? If there are any texts that specifically address this subject, I would appreciate references. Thanks in advance for any and all replies!

The reliability of witnesses is a terribly interesting issue. You may find it surprising to learn that according to the directors of the Innocence Project at Northwestern University (a project that investigates cases of erroneous criminal conviction) the false testimony of eye witnesses is the single biggest reason for false convictions. How is it that so much of our life rests upon something so unreliable, something with no foundation? Well, perhaps we have no other choice. That is to say, we find ourselves subject to belief because it's our human nature or human condition to believe, not because we have what Descartes called a fundamentum inconcussum , an unshakeable foundation. (Hume would agree.) And perhaps there's a positive side to the skeptical insight. Perhaps we're better off acknoweldging that our beliefs may be (or are) without ultimate foundations. Why? Because those who believe that they have apprehended ultimate foundations tend to be dogmatists, and on the basis of absolute...

What is music? I can recognise music from cultures other than my own as being music, even if I don't enjoy it; but what makes a series of sounds 'music'? Similarly (I assume), when does human vocalising become song?

What a fascinating question. I hope that some of my co-panelists can give you the answer this question deserves. For myself, I would briefly and cautiously answer this way: What makes a series of sounds (or even a single sound or even a silence) music is our agreement to consider it as music. Just as John Cage invites people to consider the silence and random sounds that occur during a 4 minute and 33 second period music (his piece is called, 4' 33" ) and Marcel Duchamp invites people to consider a urinal as sculpture (he called the piece Fountain ), we make something music when we interpret it as music.

On the morality of the death penalty: I live in a country (Australia) where the death penalty has long been abolished and is unpopular; particularly mandatory death penalties, say, for example, for people trafficking in illegal drugs over certain quantities. I bring up this example because an Australian citizen was executed in Singapore for exactly that activity. Certainly, I find such laws difficult to justify as consistent, on utilitarian grounds at least. If a person caught in an airport with 0.5 kg of heroin strapped to his body ought to die because that is less-bad than the reasonably presumed consequences to many people would be, were he allowed to live, then surely there is a case for the death penalty for tobacconists or sellers of alcohol. I have no statistics at hand, but I am guessing that the tobacco sold by one tobacconist over several decades would lead to comparable illnesses or numbers of deaths as would the total amount of heroin carried by this particular Australian 'drug mule'. ...

When I find myself considering individual cases like the BTK killer and Reinhard Heydrich, I find myself sympathetic to just the sort of argument you present and animated by the feeling that there's really no compelling reason against executing them. But when I think things through more soberly and consider the death penalty as a policy or institution, I find a number of objections compelling. First, let's look at your principle. You present three necessary conditions that must be met for the death penalty to be morally permissible (which I take you to mean when you say "there is a reasonable argument for"). In other words: (A) THE DEATH PENALTY IS PERMISSIBLE ONLY IF THE THREE CONDITIONS CAN BE MET. [DP-->3 CONDITIONS ] I take it that this implies the following: if any one of the three conditions can't be met in a particular instance, then (by modus tollens) the death...

Rawls defines justice as fairness. But it is not clear to me how justice differs from fairness in the first place. Dictionaries do not help because they all indicate both terms as synonyms of each other. Could anyone point me out how the two are distinct? THANKS!!!

Dictionaries can be philosophically disappointing, indeed. But of course one has to remember that they provide only very, very, very brief definitions. Moreover, they're aim is often to capture the common and historical usage, rather than the philosophical theory standing behind the concept. A furniture manufacturer (dictionary) is likely to answer the question, "What's my desk made of?", differently from the way a physicist or chemist (philosopher) would answer. So, I think one reason dictionaries disappoint us philosophically is that often when we go to them to answer a philosophical question we go looking with the wrong expectations. Anyway, to answer your question directly. Justice can carry meanings that go a bit beyond fairness, though fairness may still be related to them. For one thing, justice is often related explicitly to lawfulness. While all laws ought to be fair, not all fairness is lawfulness. In this regard courts and the institutions of imprisonment, law enforcement, and civil...

Can there be such a thing as 'progress' in human history? Does time and circumsance have a more than superficial bearing on our beings? Or are we essentially the same regardless of historical epoch or geographical conditioning? I refer to the so-called 'birth of reason' in 17th century Europe, and its so-said 'dawn of modernity'.

There can be no simple, unqualified, unequivocal "progress" in human history because what is to count as progress or regress must be determined as such by some measure, some set of criteria for progress. But, so far as I can seen, anyway, there is no unqualified set of criteria to measure by. One can, however, speak meaningfully about specific kinds of progress. For example, one can speak of technological progress in processor speed, or progress in understanding black holes, or in eliminating poverty, or in curing lung cancer, or in reaching the end of a journey, or in gaining financial independence. Mere "progress" itself, however, seems to have little meaning. About whether or not we remain "essentially the same" across space and time, I think the answer depends upon what you mean by "essentially." For myself, I think of people as plastic but not infinitely plastic. Just as one can make many different kinds of things with clay (even an infinite number of different things), one can't make anything....

Can literature "tell the truth" better than other Arts or Areas of Knowledge?

It's an interesting question. I note that you don't ask whether literature can "establish" the truth, or "discover" the truth, or "distinguish" the truth. It's also interesting that you ask about "truth" and not "knowledge" or "wisdom"--though you do seem to suggest that literature is one among a number of other areas of "knowledge." And what of "tell"? What does it mean exactly to "tell" a truth? And what of "better"? What can it mean to "tell better" or "tell worse"? Of course, one question I'd have at the outset would be what you consider literature to be. I take it that you mean fiction and poetry. But of course some also would speak of biography, journalistic writing, history, film, song, and what has become known as "creative non-fiction" as literature, too. Philosophers like Stanley Cavell have explored the question of whether or not philosophy might be read as a kind of literature, whether it might even come to regard itself as literature. So far as it goes, I am inclined to say that...

During a heated argument about social placement resulting from speech, a close friend of mine asked me "WHY should I speak correctly?" The question was an inclination that he wanted to be persuaded by my answer, more so that just asking for a fact on the matter. As I answered him, he started to dismiss my opinions, question everything I posed with a simple phrase: "But if I CHOOSE to speak improperly, and I know I can switch back to proper speach (he tried to make it seem to me he had prior knowledge of more enhanced words that he could use when I know he did not (he is pretty dull)), then shouldn't it not be held against me to do so?" I disagree with him. If one knows how to speak properly, they should not need to be persuaded into doing so, they should just do so, knowing it is correct and proper to do so. Can one of you please afford an opinion on this argument.

Yes, issues of speech, morality (and politics) can be rather agitating. Perhaps one way of getting at the issue here is to ask what you mean by "should" when you say "should just do so" and what your friend means by "shouldn't" (and "held against") when he asks with regard to speaking improperly, "shouldn't it not be held against me"? The reason I ask is that philosophers distinguish between what might be called (1) "instrumental" uses of the word "should" and (2) "moral" uses of the word. So, for example, one might say, "To support the load presented by the trucks and cars that drive over it, you should use materials of such and such strength when building the bridge." Or, similarly, "In order to secure your investments, you shouldn't invest in that firm." Or, "In order to cure that disease, you should prescribe this medicine." All these are instrumental uses of the word "should." They're instrumental because they talk about the means that ought to be employed to achieve a certain end. ...

A question regarding the non-feasibility of political separation of church and State: Remarkably often, philosophers, politicians, and amateur debaters make the statement that a group "must not be permitted to force its religious beliefs upon others" in a nation with separation of church and state. However, for instance, in the United States of America, wouldn't this stance be in direct violation to the concept of majority-rule politics? E.G., In "Democratic government X with church-state seperation": 1.) 51% of voting citizens are "Religion Y" 2.) This group is spiritually opposed to "Concept Z" 3.) The no-or-other-spirituality community is pro-"Concept Z" Doesn't this violate support of separation of church and state? Through majority rule, the agreed system of government, laws would most certainly pass forbidding excercise of Concept Z. However, this clearly violates the legal/spiritual disparity implied in Church/State arguments. How can the ideal of separate church and state be balanced...

A really excellent question about some especially thorny issues. I'm not an expert in constitutional law, and so I would advise searching US supreme court and federal court decisions relevant to these issues. For myself, I would at present answer thus: Yes, the doctrine of "separation of church and state" does violate the principle of majority-rule. (The phrase was first used by Thomas Jefferson in an 1802 letter to Danbury, CT, Baptists: "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.") But that this separation limits majority rule is a good thing and something necessary for the realization of a democratic society. Democracy is not simply a matter of majority rule. If it were, the majority would be able to abuse minorities. Majority rule...

Many elderly people I've met are extremely lonely yet somehow extremely strong emotionally. They often say that friendship today isn't the same as when they were young. Can we be too old for friendship? When the years fall and maturity reaches its ultimate heights does our heart turn into a shell?

Loneliness does seem to be an affliction common among the aged in modern industrial/consumerist societies, but I'm not sure empirically that it's greater or less than that suffered by other segments of the population or the elderly of other sorts of societies. If it is, I suspect it may be caused by factors such as: isolation, the deaths of friends and spouses, the loss of meaningful work, and the loss of time with children to mobility and to the concerns of their own lives. In many ways, in our society the elderly seem to be left out and left behind. I doesn't strike me as accurate, however, that among the elderly hearts commonly "turn into shell[s]." On the contrary, I find that many among the elderly possess relatively open, warm, and giving personalities. Factors contributing to this seem to include being unburdened of the demands of work and freed from the business produced by modern life so that one possesses more free time to spend socializing and talking. Friendship often arises through the...

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