I have a question about causality solely when it comes to human behavior. Suppose I argue that the presence of oxygen on Earth was the cause of an office building on fire. It is certainly true that if there had been no oxygen on Earth there would have been no fire. It is also true that if there had been no arsonists or negligent persons, nor any flammable material, there would have been no fire. So is it true that when it is assumed that one of several necessary conditions was the sole and exclusive cause of an effect, then the reasoning is fallacious due to the possibility that humans might have free will which somehow shifts responsibility away from nature or scientific processes?

Assuming I understand it, the reasoning you described is fallacious regardless of anything having to do with human free will. True, the presence of something combustible is a necessary (but fortunately not sufficient!) condition for the occurrence of a fire. But if I were to infer from that fact alone that the presence of something combustible was the sole cause of the fire , my inference would be laughably bad: indeed, onlookers would probably construe it as a joke. In any case, it would be evidence that I don't really possess the concept of causation. I think that a related but different fallacy is often committed by those who say that the physical necessitation of a human action always makes the action unfree. It's the fallacy of assuming that the physical necessitation of an agent's action always bypasses the agent's deliberations. If causal determinism is true, then my decision to respond to your question was physically necessitated by events that predated my birth. But that doesn't imply...

Do non-human animals have self awareness?

I presume you're asking about animals on Earth. Otherwise I'd be inclined to answer "Almost certainly!" given the vastness of the universe and the mind-boggling number of planets that astronomers estimate are out there. You've asked a question that's at least partly empirical, so as a philosopher I'm not especially well-equipped to answer it. But some who are better-equipped have answered "yes": see this link .

If we have no free will, then is the entire legal system redundant since no one can be held accountable for anything since no one has control over their own actions?

Those like me who are compatibilists take the view that the truth of determinism would have no consequences for law and morals. Like Jonathan, I too am a compatibilist, and I agree with what he says in the italicized statement above. However, the questioner asked about the effect on the legal system of (1) the total absence of free will, not (2) the truth of determinism. I agree with Jonathan that (2) has no consequences for law and morals. But (1) does. One consequence of (1) for morals is that no actions are morally right or wrong. Furthermore, our current legal system routinely assumes that defendants are morally responsible for their actions and able to conform their conduct to standards of right and wrong. If that assumption is false, then our current legal system is corrupt, or at least unfair, assuming that it's unfair to hold people morally responsible when in fact they're not morally responsible. Is hard determinism supposed to imply that nothing is unfair? If hard determinism...

If no one can legitimately be held accountable for anything, then I think the Anglo-American legal system (the only legal system I know at all well) is worse than redundant (and strictly speaking not even redundant): it's fundamentally corrupt. Indeed, it's hard for me to imagine any legal system that doesn't presume that we have control over at least some of our actions. Even a system that punishes solely for the sake of deterrence or rehabilitation needs to presume that we can control our actions, at least sometimes, in response to examples that are meant to deter us, or as a result of programs that are meant to rehabilitate us.

Since the theory of evolution presents a kind of meaning to existence or at least, a logical structural pattern to it, is Camus' Absurdism necessarily in conflict with it?

I don't think that the theory of evolution (which I accept) provides anything like the kind of meaning that existentialists such as Camus have in mind. What is the meaning of existence according to evolutionary theory? The only remotely plausible answer I can think of is this: "To pass on one's genes to posterity, since that's what counts as success from the perspective of natural selection." But, of course, natural selection has no perspective, point of view, intentions, or goals. It's a mindless process. So that answer depends on a false presupposition. Even if that weren't true, it's highly implausible anyway that passing on one's genes could really be the meaning (or purpose) of existence. If it were, then anyone would be missing the point of existence who didn't make it his/her top priority to reproduce as often as possible, to clone his/her genome again and again, etc. But, on the contrary, someone who tried to live such a life would be pathetic. Evolutionary theory explains how species arise...

Why are there so many different theories of truth in philosophy and does the concept of "truth" have a different meaning compared to how it is generally used by non-philosophers? "Truth" for us non-philosophers seems to denote that which is absolutely incontrovertible and not open to debate. As an example, for non-philosophers, it is the truth that JFK was shot on November 22, 1963; it is debatable as to exactly WHO shot him and HOW but there is no denying he was shot that day. So do philosophers agree that it is the truth that JFK was shot on that day or is even that open to interpretation using the multiple theories of truth out there and what does that even mean?

Perhaps so many philosophical theories of truth exist because the concept of truth is central and fundamental and because philosophers have been discussing it for such a long time. See the SEP entry on truth for a survey of various theories. As for non-philosophers, I doubt that they're as united in their view of truth as you suggest, and I doubt that they're united around the conception of truth that you proposed: "that which is absolutely incontrovertible and not open to debate." I've met many non-philosophers who claim that both sides in a debate can have the true answer to the precise issue being debated: my side of the debate can be true (for me), while your side can be true (for you). I don't accept their claim, but it certainly seems to be popular. And given how strange human beings often are, few if any statements are going to be "absolutely incontrovertible" if that means "beyond any possible controversy." If, instead, it means "not rationally deniable," then the controversy will...

When solving a philosophical question, do you have a preconceived notion of the answer and work backwards to justify or do you start from scratch with absolutely no psychological bias? Is the former method intellectually dishonest and how prevalent is it amongst the profession?

I can't imagine that anyone sets out to solve a philosophical problem with "absolutely no psychological bias" concerning what the correct solution will look like. The degree to which I think I've already surmised "the answer" to a problem before getting down to the hard work of solving it depends on the particular problem. But I doubt I ever embark on finding a solution with no preconceived notion at all about the right answer. I don't think this method counts as intellectually dishonest in general, and especially not in philosophy, where the success of one's solution depends entirely on the quality of one's argumentation, which is open for all to judge. Unlike empirical scientists, philosophical problem-solvers can't fake data. If a philosopher's proposed solution to a problem isn't clearly supported by the argumentation that he/she provides, anyone who reads the proposal is in a position to see that. This bracingly high intellectual standard is one of the main virtues of philosophy when it's done...

If there could be a counter-argument against a premise, does that make the premise false and the argument unsound?

No. The mere possibility of a counter-argument (i.e., "there could be a counter-argument") doesn't imply that the premise is false or that an argument containing the premise is unsound. The counter-argument itself must have a true conclusion in order to guarantee that the premise against which it's a counter-argument is false. Every sound argument has a true conclusion (although the converse doesn't hold), so if there exists a sound argument against a particular premise, then the particular premise is false. Often, however, the very soundness of that counter-argument will be a matter of controversy.

If someone were presented the option to permanently undo a major aspect of their own life, and "rewrite history", would it be morally wrong to do this? Consider the following scenario: a person dedicates their life to an ideal such as justice or peace or any morally sound ideal such as those. They sacrifice so much of their time, energy, life, and sanity to the fulfillment of this ideal. However, due to unforeseen circumstances their actions lead to an outcome they were unsatisfied with. Would it be wrong for this hypothetical person to change their entire life to avert this terrible fate?

Before I could consider the ethics of this scenario, I'd have to satisfy myself that it's a coherent scenario. Let's call the person in question "Jane." The scenario seems to require that something like the following be true: "Jane sacrificed much of her time and energy to achieve justice, but because her sacrificial actions led to an unsatisfying outcome Jane didn't sacrifice much of her time and energy to achieve justice." I can't see how such a scenario is comprehensible enough to be assessed ethically. The question also arises whether Jane's sacrificial actions contributed so much to Jane's identity -- to who she now is -- that it's incoherent to ask what Jane's life would be like now had she not made those sacrifices: we wouldn't be asking about Jane but about a numerically different person.

How compatible is a double major between philosophy and one of the natural sciences?

Entirely! Philosophical training is an excellent complement to scientific training. Indeed, I wish more scientists had received it (see this response ). The sciences abound with interesting questions for the philosopher. A philosophy/science double major can be logistically challenging because of all the lab hours required by many science programs. But if you can make it work, I highly recommend it.

Why do scientists seem to dislike philosophy so much? (For example Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss). Even Dawkins seems to have joined the club (which is odd given he now seems to spend most of his time making what seem to me to be fairly clearly philosophical arguments). Is it simply that they are using different definitions of the word than philosophy professors? Are they generally attacking just bad philosophy and taking that unrepresentative sample? Do they mean philosophy as in "that thing taught in philosophy departments" or some more abstract notion about the relations of ideas? I really don't understand what their problem is with philosophy (and why they don't define their terms)...

I'm not sure why Tyson, Hawking, Krauss, Dawkins, Coyne, Feynman, et al. , express so much contempt for philosophy. But my best guess is that they're ignorant -- unaware -- of what philosophy is when it's done well, perhaps because they received little or no academic training in philosophy when they were undergraduate students. (By the time they reached graduate school in the sciences, it may have been too late for them to get that training even if they had been interested in getting it.) I don't think they're using different definitions, at least not systematically. Krauss does claim that physics has redefined the words "something" and "nothing," but I think he's deeply mistaken (see Question 4759 ). In general, I find that when non-philosophers, including scientists, reason about philosophical issues, they do so sloppily: making elementary mistakes in inference, conflating concepts that ought to be kept distinct, and so on. That's unfortunate but not surprising, since reasoning well about...

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