If thoughts depend on memories and memories are unreliable then how can we trust any thought? I assume thoughts require memories because thoughts seem to require at least some time to compute, even with very simple thoughts we think thing one at a time - if it's not quite like that I think it's very close to something like that, maybe my whole doubt depends on a dubious connection between thought and memory, I don't know. I think the unreliability of memory is more obvious, memory seems to be something just given to us and we simply have to "trust" it but the possibility of doubt is still there. I recognize that there is some not inconsiderable paradox in doubting the very idea of being able to form a thought and using thought to achieve that doubt but alas... I wonder if this suggests that thought in its truest form is something more intuitive and directly related to a grasp of the present moment than reason as it is generally understand as a discursive process.

" I recognize that there is some not inconsiderable paradox in doubting the very idea of being able to form a thought and using thought to achieve that doubt". Well spotted! Suppose that your doubts about memory lead you this: "I cannot trust any thought, including this one". Where do you go from there? It doesn't look as though the paradoxical nature the thought undermines it in such a way that you can conclude that it is false, and proceed to trust some thoughts. It sort of leaves you with nowhere to go. I agree with Stephen. Memory is not that unreliable. It is much less reliable than we think. When we seem to remember things our brains seem to do a lot of construction and interpretation, and present to us a partly made-up image of some past even as if it were a perfectly accurate representation. This can get us into trouble. But our short-term memory is pretty good and serves its purpose. It is not hard to keep track of the thoughts involved in a short line of reasoning. It also gets a...

There are some strong arguments that if a computer appears to possess intelligence similar to a human's, that we must assume it too has self-awareness. Additionally, one could make a strong case that lesser animals have self-awareness, because they have the same type of brain as humans (just in a less sophisticated form.) My question is this: if we assume that a) computers of seemingly human intelligence are self-aware, and b) that animals of lesser brains are self-aware, must we logically conclude that computers of lesser "intelligence" are also self-aware? In other words, are all computers self aware? Is my toaster self-aware?

If a computer appears to possess intelligence, then we need to consider why it appears so. One reason might be that it is intelligent. Another might be that has been constructed to appear intelligent and is a good fake. There are in fact a lot of programs that seem to be like that: good fakes - in particular, ELIZA, designed by Joseph Weizenbaum in the 1960s, and others inspired by it. These are basically tin-pot little boxes of tricks that are very effective at giving answers that appear to be intelligent. Lesser animals have brains that resemble ours in some ways, but not others. We don't yet know which aspects of our neurology give us self awareness. So we are not in a position to tell whether lesser animals are self-aware by comparing their brains to ours. Do you think that it is programming or neurology that gives rise to self-awareness? If it's the former, then do you think that a very very very simple program would give rise to self awareness? If its the latter, then do you think...

Are animals self aware?

It is true that a number of psychologists treat intelligent use of mirrors as evidence of self awareness. But I am not convinced. Animals can gather information about their own bodies via various forms of perception, including, of course, vision. Some can also use a mirror - extending the range of their vision - to get information about their own bodies. But I don't see how that implies that they have any concept of self. My guess is that lots of animals do have something that we might reasonably call 'self awareness'. But I don't know of any serious evidence for this.

Could you please tell me about the origin of the phrase "conceptual role semantics"? Thank you very much!

Have a look at Ned Block's article 'Semantics, Conceptual Role' in The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy . You can find this by Googling 'Conceptual Role Semantics', or going here http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/philo/faculty/block/papers/ConceptualRoleSemantics.html.

This question is partly inspired by Question 2170. There are obviously a great many specific arguments against theistic belief, but in general, most (as far as I can tell) boil down to the claim that there is not enough, or perhaps any at all, rational evidence for the existence of God, and since a rational person should only admit to those things for which he has an adequate amount of rational evidence, a rational person should not believe in God. Specifically, the claim seems to be that we should only "believe" in something if we first have rationally convincing evidence for it to be true. But, even if I acknowledge that there is little to no rational evidence for God's existence, does it necessarily follow that to believe in a deity is irrational? Put another way, is it possible to have a logically consistent theistic belief system against which the only argument is that there is not enough evidence to prove it to be true? Does the simple act of believing in something for which you don't have...

I think that the best argument against the existence of God is the standard one: if he as great as the leading religions make out, he would not have created a world like this one. Of course it is not a demonstrative argument. But I haven't come across a plausible response to it. But accepting your premise, I'd say: in order rationally to believe in something you need some evidence or argument for it. After all, it's easy to come up with endlessly many ludicrous hypotheses that are consistent with the evidence available to us: e.g. the world is densely populated by very small, very clever, very fast little green men who take care to remain undetected. Why believe in God and not believe in them? You need a reason.

The act of dealing arms is not morally wrong - it is argued. What is wrong is the use these arms are put to once traded. Can the same argument be applied to drug dealing?

I am not sure who argues that the act of dealing arms is not morally wrong. It looks like a bad argument to me. If you sell someone arms, then you have no guarantee that they won't use them to kill people illegitimately. In fact, often, that is just what happens. So it is imoral to deal arms. A parallel argument applies to drug dealing.

What's your take on the idea that there are "laws" of the universe? Calling something a law implies that there is an enforcer. Isn't this just another anthropocentric paradigm that uses the concept of God in order to place human beings at the center of meaning? I'm agnostic, but even if there is a God hasn't all the revision and tweaking of these so called laws over the ages been evidence that they should be considered as, at best, merely "suggestions"?

Are you talking of scientific laws? If so .... Calling something a scientific law doesn't imply that there is an enforcer. It just requires that there be some kind of regularity - constancy - in the universe. Philosophers dispute what kind of regularity. But they don't typically go for a regularity enforced by God. Nor do philosophers or scientists typically want to place humans at the center of meaning. I'd call the claims of scientists 'hypotheses' rather than 'suggestions' and add that they are hypotheses backed by arguments. The extent to which the arguments are convicing varies from case to case.

One can create axioms that make statements like "all bachelors are married" true. What is wrong with calling these truths analytic as a shorthand for the type of truth it is based on the type of axiom it is derived from, much in the way we use the adjectives arithmetic, set-theoretic, or logical to denote those types of formal truths? I feel like one could decide whether a truth is analytic by seeing which (kinds of) axioms need to involved in making it true.

I don't know what you mean by: "One can create axioms that make statements like 'all bachelors are married' true". I assume that by 'married' you mean 'unmarried'. But I still don't understand. Perhaps you mean that one can write down obviously true principles from which the truth of every analytic sentence, and no other sentence, follows. But we can't. Not yet anyway.

If I am an atheist, should I try (while remaining civil) to convince religious people that they are wrong?

Quite so. I think it depends in part on who the religious person is. If there is almost no chance that you will change their views then there is no reason why you should spend your time and energy on the matter. And I expect this applies to a lot of people. If there is a decent chance that you will change their views, then a good question is: would it benefit them? I expect that the answer will often be 'yes'. If I had once been religious and someone had convinced me that I was wrong, I'd be grateful. Lots of us want to know the truth.