Where can I read about objections to the validity of a question such as "the purpose of life" where the question baselessly presupposes that life HAS a purpose. And more broadly, even if it claimed that EVERYTHING has a purpose, how can such a claim be justified? It seems that many metaphysical questions suffer from this lack of validity due to unfounded presuppositions or assertions. Where can I read about this as applied to philosophical questions in general? Thank you.

I recommend the essays in Part Three ("Questioning the Question") of E.D. Klemke's collection The Meaning of Life (Second Edition). If I may also mention my own short article on one aspect of this topic, you can find it at this link . The literature on whether philosophical questions in general rest on false presuppositions is enormous. You might start with this SEP article (especially section 4.1). There's also a growing literature on whether metaphysics in particular (and ontology more particularly) concerns mostly pseudo-questions; see, for example, this collection .

Does strict materialism imply there is no such thing as intrinsic value? If we say something has intrinsic value, I take it we mean that it is 'good' in itself, for its own sake. I'm not using 'good' to mean 'morally good' - but just "good from at least someone's point of view" in the sense that the experience of of eating an ice cream seems good to me. I think conscious experiences, in general, have intrinsic value - at least in this personal-point-of-view way. I also think this aspect of my experience is crucial to rational decision-making; without it, I'd have no clear basis for deciding between, say, eating an ice cream and setting myself on fire. I also think that if we go a bit further and say that that experiences have intrinsic value, period (i.e., objectively, from everyone's point of view), then we might have the basis of a theory of morality. Now, I gather that some philosophers might object to such a theory, on the grounds that ideas like "ought", "should" or "morally bad" cannot be...

I don't see how materialism as such bears on the existence of intrinsic value. The issue of whether anything has intrinsic value, and if so which things have it, seems independent of whether the world contains any immaterial substances (such as immaterial minds or souls). I think of values as abstract objects (non-physical non-substances), so if there are no abstract objects then there are no values, but there can be abstract objects without immaterial substances. You're right that we haven't yet found a satisfying explanation of conscious experience in wholly materialistic terms, but even if we never find such an explanation, our failure to explain something wouldn't imply the logical or ontological claim that materialism is incompatible with intrinsic value. You suggest that "conscious experiences, in general, have intrinsic value," at least from the first-person perspective. I'm not sure what the qualifier "in general" is doing in that clause, since the intrinsic value of...

I don't drink alcohol. I have a few reasons - I rarely enjoy the taste, it's expensive, it's not really healthy, and I don't like letting my behavior be influenced by the substances I drink - but mainly I've just never felt any kind of desire to drink. Yet when I am out with people I don't know particularly well, they tend to be insistent that I drink alcohol with them - remarkably insistent. I've even had people get frustrated with me because I won't drink, frowning and telling me "Stop making a big deal about it, just have a drink!". I've had to make up excuses such as "I used to be an alcoholic," "I'm taking medication" or (if I am desperate) "My religion forbids me from drinking alcohol" - only then will people finally, grudgingly, leave me to my tea. Is it wrong of me to insist not to drink alcohol, or should I, for the sake of not offending my colleagues, suck it up and drink? Is it acceptable for others to insist so strongly that I do so? Why does it even matter? I've occasionally had to...

I think these questions are as easily answered as you seem to think they are. You're clearly within your rights -- to put it mildly! -- when you decline alcohol despite being pressured. Is it acceptable for others to pressure you? Morally acceptable, yes, in that it's not morally impermissible. But I'd say it's unfriendly and rude, at a minimum, when you've made it clear you don't drink. If drinking is an important social norm among a particular group of people, I'd suggest you socialize with different people -- and I'd say that even to someone who does drink occasionally. Given the enormous harm caused by alcohol abuse, the moral presumption is, if anything, against anyone who pressures people to drink.

It's absurd to say "If I were him I would have behaved differently" right? I mean, if you were him you would BE him, all his atoms and neurons and flesh, etcetera, and you would have the same thoughts, desires, impulses, everything. (Unless there's some transference of my Cartesian Ego or soul or something that can rise above the fact that I'm simply just him now, but at this point that seems ridiculous unless there's a god, although I know some dualists might disagree). We so often speak as if we can judge other people's actions by just inserting ourselves into "their shoes", but can we really do that and make any sense? Thanks a lot!

You're right to detect absurdity in the literally construed antecedent "If I were him." (It's also ungrammatical: "If I were he .") There's good reason to think that statements of identity and distinctness (i.e., non-identity) are noncontingent: they never just happen to be true. So, given that you're not identical to him, you couldn't have been identical to him, regardless of the existence of God or a Cartesian ego. In that case, "If I were he" is an impossible antecedent, which (on the standard semantics for conditionals) makes the entire conditional "If I were he, then p " trivially true no matter what statement p is: "If I were he, I wouldn't be he" comes out true, for example. But that's all metaphysics and semantics. As you say, the real point of statements beginning "If I were him [or he, or you]" is to offer advice or to pass judgment on someone's actions. It assumes that you can imagine being in his circumstances in all the relevant respects and that the...

My supposition is; can an abstract possess an abstract? That is, a person (tangible) can possess morality or happiness, but "time" can not possess either. Or, a "society" can be said to be moral (or immoral) but is it the "society" that possesses that morality, or just the tangible members of that society?

In my opinion, the best way to think of properties (attributes, characteristics, traits) is to think of them as abstract objects. On this way of thinking of them, anything at all that possesses a property possesses (or, maybe better, instantiates ) an abstract object. You possess the property of being human: you instantiate the abstract object humanity . But abstract objects themselves can also possess properties -- most obviously, the property of abstractness . On this view, society (construed as an abstract object) can be (say) immoral provided it makes sense to describe an entire society that way: any obstacle to a society's counting as immoral wouldn't stem from the abstractness of society or the abstractness of immorality. Much more to be found here .

Stephen Hawking, in his recent book entitled The Grand Design, states that philosophy is dead. Without going into the reasons behind his thinking, I'd like to know the response of current philosophers to Hawking's statement. He has laid down a gauntlet of sorts, a challenge to philosophers to make their work relevant to the recent advances and discoveries made by cosmologists, astrophysicists, and others on the cutting edge of scientific discovery and investigation. Are present-day philosophers up to Hawking's challenge?

Scientists who write obituaries for philosophy forget that science depends on philosophical assumptions. When some lab results or observations of the visible universe confirm or disconfirm a prediction in physics, Hawking and colleagues draw conclusions about the whole universe. But does any set of observations justify conclusions about unobserved cases? Is "elegance" an objective feature of a theory, and does it make a theory having it more likely to be true? And so on. Philosophers grapple with these questions; scientists just presume answers to them. Unless we ignore such questions, philosophizing is inescapable.

Struggling with Wittgenstein. "The World is all that is the case". Does this mean both positive facts ("Paris is the capitol of France") AND negative facts ("Lyon is not the capitol of France") I can say "It IS the case that Lyon is not the capitol of France". Or does Wittgenstein mean only the pos. facts, i.e what has been actualized? Thanks.

I don't know what Wittgenstein was up to, i.e., whether he'd include among the facts of the world the "negative" fact that Lyon isn't the capital of France. As the questioner says, it plainly "is the case" that Lyon isn't the capital of France, so the first line of the Tractatus suggests that this fact does help comprise the world. But that's just my conjecture. At least one questioner wanted to see more give-and-take on this site, so I thought I'd query Prof. George's answer. It seems to rely on the unstated premise that if we have to list facts in order to describe the world, then that implies (or gives us some reason to think) that the world is a collection of facts. But in order to describe the Eiffel Tower, we can't just list all of its parts; we'd have to list facts about the Eiffel Tower. I don't think that gives us any reason to conclude that the Eiffel Tower is a collection of facts rather than a concrete, physical object.

I know some philosophers think numbers exist, and some others think the opposite. Do some of you think that this question is or may be "undecidable"? I mean, perhaps both the idea that numbers exist and the idea that numbers don't exist are consistent with all other things that we believe (do not contradict any one of them). Do you think this might be right?

Not really my area, but until someone else responds... I can see why you'd be tempted to think so. If numbers -- standardly understood as abstract objects -- exist, they're causally inert, and so they can't affect the world in any way. But I'm not sure that implies that their existence is just as compatible as their non-existence is with everything else we believe. It's highly plausible that numbers are essentially noncontingent: they exist necessarily if they exist at all. The concept of number doesn't seem to be a concept that could be instantiated only contingently. So, given common modal assumptions, it's either necessarily true that numbers exist or else necessarily false that numbers exist. Whichever one of those it is, then, the other one is impossible and hence inconsistent with everything we believe. Now, we might never be able to discover that inconsistency, and so the question whether numbers exist might be undecidable in that sense. But I'd be surprised if it were...

For me the answer to the question of whether abortion is right or wrong depends on the ontological status of the fetus. Is a fetus the kind of being that has a right to live or is it not? I don't know. How on earth can I know that? If I knew then I wouldn't be an agnostic on this issue. Most people, if I am not mistaken, take it for granted that a new born baby has the kind of being that gives it the right to live. So what reason is there to think that a young baby has the kind of being that gives it the right to live? What about an older baby or an adult...if we can stretch this question to its limits.

Your questions raise a host of difficult issues. What gives anything a right to life? In other words, what in general (if anything) about an individual makes it morally wrong for others to end its life? I've never seen a satisfying answer to that basic question. Does an individual's right to life inhere in the individual, or does it instead depend on the individual's relations to others? Prof. Manter referred to "all the relational complexities that being persons entails." If by "persons" she meant "beings with a right to life" and if by "entails" she meant some kind of logical implication (and it's possible she meant neither), then she's implying that a right to life doesn't inhere in the individual. I'm not sure I'd accept that consequence. Suppose you become a hermit and totally disconnect because you're tired of other people. If you had a right to life before you chose total isolation, then I'd say you still have it, and it would be at least presumptively wrong for any of us to...

Who´s happiness is most important? My own or my family´s wich I have a responsible for as a mother and a wife? I´m used to, and it´s a part of my personality to always make sure that everybody around me is happy and content.But I suddenly realized that I forgotten all about me and what I want and need to be happy. I´m now facing the fact that in order to be happy and content, I need a divorce. Our marrige with two teenagers, is OK, but nothing more- we are like best friends. I suppose that my action will come as a complete surprise to everybody around us. And it will cause a lot of anger, tears and questions. And the only answer I have is- I have to do this for me. Do I really have the ethic right to hurt everybody around me in order for me to be happy.

Your questions are important and obviously deeply-felt. I hesitate to offer answers to them because I don't think I'm particularly qualified as a philosopher to do that. But there are philosophers who hold themselves out as qualified; they're known as "philosophical practitioners," and you can find out more at this website . I don't know enough to say whether they're any good. But a couple of responses do occur to me. You say that you're "responsible" for your family's happiness. If by that you mean "solely responsible" or "more responsible than any other member of the family," then I'd respectfully disagree. I don't see why one parent in the family has more responsibility for the collective happiness of the family than the other does. You also ask if it would be ethically OK for you to divorce if it hurts others. Unless you have reason to think that your divorce would be more hurtful to others than most divorces are, then really you're asking whether divorce, period, is...

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