If someone had a definitive proof that God did not exist (an argument so powerful it became universally accepted, like when Copernicus proved that the sun did not orbit the Earth), which of these scenarios would be most likely: 1) Most people would run out to have drunken orgies, and in general, live lives of utter debauchery; or,2) we'd enjoy an age of unprecedented enlightenment because mental energy would no longer be wasted on the distortion of a grand delusion; or, 3) A combiation of both A and B. Thanks, Jeff

This is a bit more of a sociological or psychological than a philosophical question. My personal experience provides virtually no basis for knowing the answer. My guess is that, as with Copernicus, the proof would take some time to catch on. During that period we'd see a lot of people, particularly those heavily invested in religion, attacking the proof, attacking the person who invented it, and attacking those who accept it. There'd be fatwas against purveyors of the satanic proof; somehow it would be found to manifest the mark of the beast or correspond to some dreary prophecy in Revelation . Well scrubbed suburban homeschoolers would recite its flaws in between trips to the mall. A formerly unknown Danish newspaper would be catapulted to the center of the world's attention for publishing it and then be charged with racism for employing Arabic numerals in doing so. Pat Robertson would condemn the proof as another effort by the homosexual, secular left to undermine religion, morality, and...

Is it irrational to fear one’s own death?

There's a funny old remark that goes something like this: "I don't fear my own death, because it's not something that will happen in my lifetime." The Epicureans held something of this view. Death isn't something that happens to us, the argument goes, because when dead we no longer exist. As he was dying, David Hume is recorded as having remarked along these lines when someone asked him whether he feared death: no more so than I regret not having been born earlier. The time before we were born was nothing to us; the time after we die will be nothing, too. It's irrational to fear nothing. But, of course, it's not irrational to fear dying. The process that results in death is certainly something, and it's hardly irrational to fear the sorts of torments that afflict many in the course of that process. Then again, some hold that there's some sort of afterlife during which we might be subjected to indescibable horrors. If when dead we don't cease to exist, then maybe there is something to fear in it...

How are we sure that anything is true because our whole world is based off of the circular logic that we assume our logic is right?

It's a great question, and the way you pose it raises a number of fascinating issues. About the concern whether "anything" is true, I assume you mean any truth claim. Things can be said to be "true" in certain contexts ("That's a true Rembrandt"; "That way is true north"; "Mine is true love"), but typically in philosophical contexts it's statements that are either true or false. Here I'm inclined to say that it's not unwise to withold some measure of judgment on virtually any truth claim. If by "sure" you mean, impossible to doubt, then I think we might be better off not trying to achieve it. Skeptical philosophers like Sextus Empiricus, Hume, and Montaigne have in various ways advanced ideas like this. On the other hand, Ludwig Wittgenstein and other philosophers have held that in many contexts it's simply senseless to raise doubts our to try to raise doubts. I must say, I've not been persuaded yet by this strategy. But, as Hume reminds us, we must be as diffident of our doubts as of our...

I have stumbled across the “Guidelines for Non-Sexist Use of Language” in the American Philosophical Association. It recommends changing, “For Aristotle, man is, above all, Political Man." to “Aristotle regarded human beings as inherently political.” Now, I could be convinced that many texts are sexually biased, but is it important to change the formulation of such propositions? In the first quote, "Man" is a metonym, standing for all humanity in a manner similar to how the word "bread" stands for Jesus' flesh when it appears in parts of the New Testament, whereas in the second, the term with the same referent, "human beings" is used. If one were translating a book into English, and it featured a similar use of a metonym, an important question then would be whether to maintain that formulation, even though it contravenes these guidlines, or to change it. Is it important to replace "Man" with "Humanity" even though they have both been used to stand for the same thing for a long time?

This is a question with which I've struggled for some time. The answer depends upon one's interpretation of Aristotle, one's view of the meaning of the relevant terms, and the proper way to approach historical texts. I've come down on the side of the APA on this one, but in a qualified sense. Here's why: 1. While interpreting the conventional use of "man" as a metonymic figure is not wrong, it is incomplete. I've become convinced on both empirical grounds and on my reading through the history of philosophy that the term is something of what Hilda Smith calls "false universals." That is, while it poses as representing humanity and in a sense does, it's burdened with masculinist connotations. 2. Aristotle, of course, doesn't use the term, "man," but rather mostly variations of anthropos . Anthropos , however, is in my view also a false universal; but it's closer to "humanity"--which, by the way, isn't always used in a neutral way, either, but is I think less inflected than "man." ...

I know many philosophical positions today are often similar to Greek philosophical positions. Is there any Ancient Greek Philosophy that seems to correspond or relate to postmodernism?

This is an interesting question which could arguably yield a booklength study, or even a series of them. I should caution you at the outset, however, that in a sense there is no such thing as "postmodernism." The term largely stems from usages in architecture and from Jean-François Lyotard's 1979 book, The Postmodern Condition . But there's not really a "postmodern" philosophical movement or a definable "ism" in the way that there's a Marxism or a Platonism. Neither Derrida nor Foucault called themselves postmodernists, and you might be surprised to learn that the term is largely used in Anglo-American circles; the French hardly use it at all. Postmodernism is rather a family of texts, thinkers, and techniques that have been gathered together for various purposes. Post-structuralism you might coonsider as a more precise term. Having said that, one can't really find an ancient school that "corresponds" to post-modernism. Different interepreters, however, will point to different moments in either...

I used to think that I was an atheist when I was young. After a few years, I decided that I was agnostic, since I disliked the dogmatic denial of atheism. On reading some of the answers on this site, I am no longer sure what I am! I find the firm denial of atheism unscientific - there is always doubt.... there could conceivably be a God. To take such an uncompromising approach is to be as rigid in opinion as a believer. On the other hand, I don't BELIEVE in a God. What am I?!

It sounds to me like you're a something of a skeptic--resistant to dogmatism of any kind, whether theist, atheist, or agnostic. (Yes, agnostics can be dogmatic, too, holding dogmatically that religious questions can't be answered.) It also sounds like you remain, however, troubled by a persisting need to be dogmatic about something. Perhaps you can let go of that. Perhaps you might consider the possibility that there's something inherently unstable about religious dogmatics, or anti-religious dogmatics for that matter. Theistic/atheistic/agnostic alternatives seem to come and go in a kind of natural way to people (in a way that beliefs about ordinary, middle-sized, middle-distanced objects like tables and chairs don't). I find something of this in Hume, for example. You might try reading some of Hume' Dialogues concerning Natural Religion , as well as Montaigne's Essays related to religion, and Erasmus's In Praise of Folly .

A friend of mine claims that the Iraq war was not 'illegal' as there are (and were) no laws in place that could allow it to be defined as such. Regardless of whether or not this is the case, is there an agreed set of philosophical principles that allow for war to be defined as 'legal/illegal' (and not just moral/immoral)? How might we go about discussing the legalities of war on an international scale? Alastair

One of the criteria philosophers generally agree upon for just war is "legitimate authority"--that is, a just war must be authorized in legitimate (usually meaning lawful) ways. The United Nations charter and the U.S. Constitution, for example, set out procedures for properly authorizing war, as will the legal codes of most nations. To evaluate the legality of this war, one must extablish whether those procedures were followed in proper ways. In particular, here you should look at whether the U.S. Congress authorized the war and whether the U.N. Security Council authorized the war. (See Articles 39, 42, 51 of the UN Charter; also see Security Council Resolution 1441; see the U.S. Congress's Joint resolution on the war of October 2002.) Another issue to consider is whether or not, even if authorization was given, the authorization was rendered illegitimate or void since it was predicated on deceitful claims about the nature of the threat posed by Iraq. You may also consider whether any ...

I'm currently studying the indirect approach to philosophical scepticism, and I'm struggling as to how you can say anything useful in this particular area of philosophy without dragging yourself into solipsism? For example, the philosophical sceptic may argue 'How can we know there are other people that have minds?'. It seems impossible to go anywhere with this point - what conclusion could you possibly arrive from it? I find it very difficult to understand because of two conflicting notions - whilst it seems impossible to prove that there are people that have minds, it would seem an absurd and ridiculous life to lead assuming that there are no other minds except my own. So what is one to do?

Let's assume that one can't "know" that there are other minds. Does solipsism follow? It may be possible, but remember that from ignorance only ignorance follows. From not knowing whether there are other minds it follows only that we don't know whether or not there are other minds. There may not be, but on the other hand there may. Perhaps the sceptic points out that we must accept our finitude, that while we may go on to develop sciences, theories, truth claims, instiutions of various kinds, etc., we must remember that it's possible that we might be wrong, that things might not be as they seem, that our claims may not be fully grounded. Perhaps our relationship with others and the world isn't best understood in terms of "knowledge." Perhaps that's just the human condition. Keeping this possiblity in the back of one's mind vaccinates against hubris.

As a response to question 758 Nicholas D. Smith said, "Even the atheist grants that God is that being than which no greater can be conceived. Hence, even for the atheist, God exists at least in the imagination (indeed, the atheist claims that God exists only in the imagination). But things that exist in reality are greater than things that exist only in the imagination. So, if God existed only in the imagination, then God would not be that being than which no greater can be conceived--for we can conceive a greater being: one that existed in reality as well as in the imagination). Hence, as God is that being than which no greater can be conceived, God must exist in reality." However, in question 26, Mitch Green says, "Many contemporary philosophers infer from the so-called Paradox of the Stone that omnipotence is not a matter of being able to do anything, but only a matter of *being able to do anything it is possible to do*. That observation suggests another possible insight. Consider the Problem...

This is an interesting claim. The tension, however, seems to rest on being able to "conceive" or "imagine" things that are impossible, such as breaking the stone paradox. But is it reallly possible to do that? Can one even conceive of forgiveness without things to forgive? If not, the "greatest being that can be conceived" is consistent with a being "limited" to being able to do only what is possible. Perhaps the misleading thing here is calling such a being "limited." Isn't being able to do everything logically possible just the same thing as being able to do everything?

Can cardiac rescusitation of an individual with an inoperable brain tumor be justified? Who benefits? Glen.

Hey Glen, An interesting question, indeed. It reminds me, too, about why medical care is provided to people who've been sentenced to death. Look at it this way, though, all of us are going to die at some point. You might say that those with inoperable brain tumors just have a clearer picture than most about when and how they'll die. Knowing when and how one's going to die doesn't seem to be a good reason to deny that person medical care. And notice that even for those with inoperable tumors the picture isn't perfectly clear: Probability not necessity: Typically, people face some probability of death from the tumor, not certainty. Even one tenth of a percent chance of recovery is a chance and therefore a reason to administer rescusitation. Time: even if it were certain, a tumor takes time to kill. That time to live is likely to provide grounds for rescusitation. One of my uncles died of a brain tumor. While it was killing him he spent his time visiting family and friends, getting his...

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