Hello. I'd like to ask about proof of miracles and of God -- and, in particular, what the standard of proof is. Arthur C Clarke said something like, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Well, if a voice booms down from the heavens, tells you that it's God, parts the Red Sea and gives prophecies that come true, are there no other explanations for these events except "miracles", and would the unusualness of these events be strong enough to establish that the voice in fact is God?

Interesting! The way you frame the question, it appears you may be assuming that explaining an event in terms of God is only feasible if all other explanations (that we know about or can imagine) are exhausted / untenable. I suggest that a lower standard of evidence may be fitting --for the record, contemporary philosophers rarely appeal to proofs, and thus "standard of proof"; the concern, rather, is with good or bad arguments. Allow me to change your example slightly: let's imagine that many of the contemporary theistic arguments establish good grounds to believe that there is a maximally excellent, omnipresent, omnipresent Creator and sustainer of the cosmos (imagine, for example, that some version of the ontological, cosmological, teleological arguments, the argument from fine-tuning and arguments from the emergence of consciousness are credible) and that vast numbers of persons (maybe even over half the world's population) report having experiences in which they feel called to be just and...

When we explains darkness to a blind, he will fail to recognize it even If he is experiencing it. May be contrasts and differences in sensations are the basic things in understanding a sensation and applying consciousness to it. If we are hearing the same sound since our birth we will fail to apply consciousness to it. What do you think about it philosophers? I'm too young forgive me if its fallacious.

Always great to hear from a young philosopher! I take it that you are wondering if a person has only experienced some state (darkness, for example) and not experienced a contrary state (light), whether or not they would know the state itself / the state they are in. Great question. It may have a practical application: if persons have never experienced moral maturity or enlightenment of some kind, they may not know what it is (for them or for anyone) to be immature or unenlightened. Identifying states of ourselves and of the world often depend on our capacity to differentiate them (to grasp X, we often need to be able to distinguish X from not-X). The only modest suggestion I am led to make is that someone who has never seen (someone "born blind") may not experience the world as dark. They may, instead, experience the world as a matter of sounds, sensory feelings, smells, but not in visual terms. Although English usage might not entirely back me up on this, but it seems to me that for someone to...

If determinism cannot be proven to be true or false is it rational to believe it is true on the grounds it is likely to be true and I am reasonably justified to do so? Or would the rational position be to withold believe one way or the other until stronger evidence is presented. Is it even possible to have evidence in favor of determinism?

Interesting question! On the first question, many of us think that, yes, even if some philosophical thesis cannot be proven or is not proven at the time to be true of false, it can be reasonable to justifiably believe the thesis is true. I suggest that this is true in most matters of substantial philosophical concerns. For example, belief that some form of naturalism or idealism or theism is true might well be justified even if this is a matter that is very far from (if ever) justified, as are competing philosophical accounts of space and time, values, externalism or internalism in epistemology, and so on. Although the book is now 7 years old, I still highly recommend Gary Cuttings's What Philosophers Know (published in 2009 by Cambridge University Press) which recounts multiple cases of when philosophers in the 20th century claimed to *know* with certainty that theory X is true, but yet it only too often becomes apparent on further reflection that the arguments are far, far less than decisive. So,...

I'd like to ask about the morality of homewrecking: if two people, say B and J, are married, is there anything wrong with a third person, A, actively pursuing B? It seems to me that A could say: it takes two to tango; everyone has a right to maximise their happiness; one should respect B's autonomy; and I'm not responsible for the consequences of B's actions. J could reply: but you cause foreseeable suffering by your actions. To which A could respond: I think autonomy and the morality of what actions are permitted should trump the morality of thinking about consequences, but even when applying the morality of consequences: if B stays, then both he and I will be unhappy; if B goes, then it is only you who are unhappy. What do you think? Is homewrecking clearly morally wrong?

The way you set up the question is quite interesting. While you are right (as J points out), one reason to think that the "home wrecking" is wrong would be foreseeable suffering, but this would seem to be not the strongest reason because (as you point out) the "home wrecking" might actually produce a net gain in happiness even if J suffers quite a bit from the loss. I suggest that the stronger reason for A not to pursue the breakdown of the marriage is that marriage itself consists of mutual promises (vows) between two persons to be steadfast in their loyalty / faith to each other. In most cases, this is probably a vow for life-long fidelity in terms of sexuality -- but also in terms of the primacy of allegiance in a couple constituting a family, even if only two are the family with no children. Assuming that the marriage vow is for life-long fidelity, the third party "A" really is the outsider and is launching an external (intentional?) challenge (J would probably see it as an assault) on the vow...

Does philosophy have anything interesting to say about the problem of terrorism?

Yes, please go to the free, online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and see the entry: TERRORISM. There is a good survey of the terms, concepts and work that philosophers have contributed to. Because that will give you a full overview and guide plus recommended reading, I think it would be redundant of me to offer a great deal of material here. But I offer just a few thoughts as a preface to your looking at the Stanford entry: Philosophers have done a great deal of work on justice, law, and the use of force. You will find a great deal of this in simply pursuing the domains of political philosophy and philosophy of law, but also in the context of Just War Theory. Contemporary acts of terror / terrorism are not unprecedented historically, but as you will see in the Stanford entry, there are vexing issues in addressing terrorism within and without state sponsorship, and great differences between ostensible justifications of terrorism (e.g. nationalism, utilitarian rationale, theological warrants)...

John needs money to buy the farm he has always dreamed of. If his aunt dies this week, John will inherit the needed money from her, although John does not know that. He does not like his aunt very much. Miles away, his aunt is stuck in her home, which is in flames. Mary breaks into the house and saves the aunt, who would have died otherwise. My question is: did Mary (unknowingly) harm John? (I am a lawyer.)

Great question! I suggest that Mary did not (unknowingly) harm John, given the case as described. One reason for thinking this is not a harm is a kind of slippery slope line of reasoning. If John is harmed by the rescue of his aunt, many, many people are being harmed right now when their benefactors are enabled to live. You have singled out John as facing a timely opportunity (without the money this week, the farm of his dreams slips through his fingers), but I suspect that my nephews and nieces would really like their inheritance from me right now for all kinds of reasons and, while I hope they actually love me and would prefer I lived a while longer, I think it would be (at least) odd for them to believe they were harmed when I narrowly escaped death from a drunk driver car accident. Actually, come to think of it, I can imagine my nephew and niece thinking "if only that bloke had driven a little faster, we would have the funds we want from Uncle Charles's estate' so maybe this is not so odd. But ...

How is it clear that religious thought and philosophy were totally intertwined during the Middle Ages? Why was it this way?

Interesting question. Many of the seminal figures in medieval philosophy (from Augustine to Anselm to Aquinas) were members of the Christian church. The earliest universities where philosophy was practiced were centers of theological practices (the art of disputation, for example) and were also sites where persons trained for the priesthood. Actually, in pre-Christian philosophy, many of the philosophers engaged in work that touched on matters that we would today describe as religiously significant (the existence of God or gods, the soul, an afterlife, etc). So, in a sense, in over 2,400 years of philosophy in the west, a majority of that time involved philosophers engaging in themes of religious significance. Even philosophers one might read in a secular light such as Hume and Kant spent enormous time and energy in the philosophical assessment of religious beliefs and practices.

Can a society exist without a concept of time? If a society was forced underground, cut off from cycles like day and night, without any time-keeping technology, would one be invented at some point or would people simply dictate everything by the "now," eating when they are hungry and sleeping when they are sleepy etc.

What an inventive thought experiment, though a bit scary (it is hard to imagine that a society would undergo this transition due to creative, peace-time reasons). I take it that you are suggesting that we often measure time in terms of the sun, moon, and other above-ground factors (tides, stars...), tempered by various forms of technology. Without daylight and machines (no clocks of any kind or devices that would offer us a reliable metric system), "telling time" might be difficult indeed, but it is difficult to imagine any society without a grasp of the past, present, and future. None of us can live in the (or an) instant --that infinitesimally small "knife-edge" present in which there is no past or future. One may put the point technically as the claim that we live in intervals or events, not instants. I actually think that "instants" (like points in space) are more theoretical entities as opposed to concrete individual objects. So, I would say that an instant is the end or beginning of an event....

If science, robotics, and society progressed to the point where all human basic needs were provided for (food, clothing, shelter, health care, daily chores) at no cost and therefore nobody was required to labor, what would be of value?

Interesting! I may be misunderstanding the question, but you seem to suggest (or want to explore whether) labor is an essential measure or determinant of value, for the way you put matters is that if food, clothing, shelter, health care, daily chores, were not the result of labor, their value would be in question. I suggest, initially, that food, clothing, shelter, health care, daily chores, etc, are valuable whether or not they are the outcome of labor. It may be that we ourselves (psychologically) may not appreciate such values without them being tied into labor, but I propose that our lack of appreciation would then be the result of simply taking this satisfaction of basic needs for granted. As you did not specify the security or reliability of such non-labor satisfaction of basic goods, it might be added that our appreciation for their value may be quite vivid when we realize our vulnerability to theft, warfare, malicious destruction. Another matter to consider: What kind of environment are...

Can something with attributes not have a definition?

It is natural to think of definitions as something that we formulate, whereas attributes are usually thought of as something that we might formulate or construct (the attribute of being a human invention, for example), but also something that we do not invent or create. On this later view, there may be indefinitely many objects with attributes that we have yet to define and we might be incapable of defining. Even our brains, for example, might have attributes we might never discover. It may even be that everything we observe and is observable has an attribute that we may not know and hence be able to competently define (e.g. the attribute or property of being created by God or Brahman). So, I suggest that some things do have attributes that lack definitions. For further thought, I suggest that some attributes may only be conceivable in cases of when we have definitions. So, in asserting that triangles have three sides, conceiving of the attribute of *being three sided* (or, in more detail: *being a...

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