Science theorises by proposing ideal types and deducing ideal relationships between them. In nature there is no ideal sphere touching an ideal frictionless plane in an ideal single point. Instead of these ideals, nature gives us avalanches. Yet to study real avalanches the theory derived from the unreal ideal is required. Presumably, reality is too chaotic to theorise directly. Does all useful theory depend on ideal types? It does seem usual. Economics creates idealised relational theories from idealised constructs such as homo economicus, market clearing, perfect information and other things which do not and cannot exist in reality. Presumably, this idealisation approach is one reason for the relative success of economics compared with other social sciences. In the natural sciences measurement is also ideal. For example, a temperature noted as 23.59 degrees is not real: the reality will be plus or minus some small amount. The recorded value, like any exact number, is a mathematical...

Your question is excellent. Though I am afraid your proposal is not completely novel insofar as Plato initiated a philosophy of ideal forms in all areas of life (the good, the true, the beautiful, the just, and so on), though of course he was working long before we began carving up inquiry into the different natural and social sciences. At many points in the history of ideas, philosophers have worked with ideal or what has come to be called paradigm cases. So, in the theory of knowledge, a philosopher might describe an ideal or paradigm case of what it is to know some internal state (the feeling of pain) or see a remote object and then use that paradigm to assess different, more controversial knowledge-claims. So, one might entertain an ideal case of what it is to see a person, and then ask whether claims to see or perceive a sacred reality (God) in religious experience is similar or too remote to count as evidence. And in ethics we often use thought experiments to try to capture the different values...

In one hundred years, will an accomplished philosopher also have to be an accomplished neurologist, or does the subject have something to say independent of advances in brain science (posed another way, if we become ultra intelligent humans/machines with thinking capacities far in excess of our current brain, will we still partake in philosophy)?

I suggest that no matter how developed our brain sciences become, we will still have philosophy because the sciences themselves rest on philosophy, a scientific worldview. Without a concept of ourselves, causation and explanation, concepts of observation, and so on, we would not have any science. As for whether philosophers will have to be accomplished neurologists, I think that those philosophers working on human nature will at least need to have a general understanding of the methods and findings of the brain sciences and the general state of play in physics, chemistry, biology and psychology, but not to the point of actually being a scientist in any one of these domains. There are many issues that cannot be settled within the brain sciences themselves, including the nature of thought, emotion, desire, sensation, and so on. I suggest that whether or not machines can think or that human thinking is identical with brain processes is a philosophical matter that cannot be determined scientifically.

Can any one give an insightful analysis of statements such as God exists, There is only one God etc. What does "exist" mean ? Are there so many differnt types of existence- existence of the chair, the God, the concept of numbers, the existence of the electron, the wave-particle's dual existence, the existence of beauty, existence of UFO, existence of angels, existence of strings in the string theory, existence of mathematical objects such as N dimensional space, existence of dark matter, etc. Is this all a matter of linguistic naivety in the sense of some observations of Wittgenstein?

The medieval philosophers used to think of existence in terms of degrees, and some in modern philosophy entertained such an idea (Kant, for example, described God as the most real being). but usually existence is not treated as something that comes in kinds or degrees or in different senses. Actually, some philosophers seek to avoid the term 'exists' unless really pressed upon. So, for example, a philosopher might think it less misleading to say that Dumbledor is a character in Rowlings' novels rather than to say that Dumbledor exists in Rowlings' novels. There are, however, two areas when 'existence' as a term / concept gets a bit tricky: some theologians believe that to claim 'God exists' is to treat God as simply one of any number of things that exist. Some of them, therefore, prefer simply to refer to God without the word 'exist' or 'existence' (e.g. affirming there is a God of love rather than claiming there exists a God of love). One philosopher in the last century speculated about whether...

At 57, I have spent much of my life feeling a little superior to others. I have never stolen anything. I am pained whenever I say something that is even close to a lie. I am dedicated to fairness. And so on. I have long considered myself to be a highly ethical person. In recent years, though, not so much. I no longer feel compelled to tell the truth on my tax return if I think I won't get caught. I am less likely to stop for a stop sign in the middle of the night. I am willing to turn a deaf ear to a bill collector when I can't pay or even when competing priorities make me feel overburdened by the prospect. What's happened is that I have come to realize that I am embedded in a culture that is so pervasively unfair, among powerful entities devoted to ripping me off, subject to laws that I not only disagree with but find counterproductive and stupid, often evil. Despite a cheerful attitude, reasonable skill and good work ethic, this society has not allowed me even minimal prosperity. And so, I find...

Wow. I am also 57 and I admire your candor and your question(s), but I am troubled by your situation. Your mention of the social contract brings to mind one of the problems with political and ethical contractarian theories. They are usually based on some form of psychological or ethical egoism or at least self-interest (Hobbes assumes we all wish to avoid premature violent death and the best way to avoid this is to form a community of mutual restraint). But once the culture or community ceases to serve our self-interest or, worse, it actively undermines our welfare, the motivation for conforming to laws, etc, seems to vanish. From the standpoint of Hobbesian contract theory, you are not being a bad person, but acting in accord with rational self-interest. Some forms of natural law might also cut you some slack: unjust contracts are not inforceable. If you are currently being preyed upon by unjust institutions, they may have waived some of their rights --just as if you are held up by a thief and you...

Is it better to adopt children or to create them?

Great question, though "create" may not be the best term when you might refer to giving birth to a child. It seems that without considerable details, it would be very difficult indeed to answer your question. Still, one can identify some of the values that are in play. In adopting a child, it seems that you are exercising your voluntary will (it would be odd or unusual to adopt a child by accident or be compelled to do so) whereas in some cases getting pregnant may not be a choice or a voluntary one. In adoption you also may be acting to prevent harm (e.g. if the child is not adopted, perhaps she would remain in an orphanage until she comes of age) and bring about good to someone who (in most cases) already exists, whereas the child you have would not exist unless you and your partner had intercourse and the pregnancy came to term. In some respects, I suggest that giving birth to a child is the primary good. Every person, whether they will be adopted or remain with their birth family, has been, is...

I would like to take liberty on discussing an issue which is taxing my mind for the last many decades, which is "Vulgarism and Other Errors of Speech." I am proud to say that I have been brought up by my moralist father on universal ethics and moral grounds without any streak of religious thought or teaching. His education and moral guidance inculcated in me not to speak a single vulgar word ever in my life. I have never spoken a vulgar or indecent word from the day I learned to speak up till today. But it has been bothering me, why people use vulgar and indecent words in their speech when it has no pragmatic role. It is all over the world in every culture and in every society. Highly educated people have a vulgar explitive or a 'F' and 'S' word needlessly and habitually used in speech which they will spit out whether sitting in the drawing rooms or in the company of family members. I was almost stunned when the Vice President excitedly said to President Obama that this 'Fucking Bill of Health is finally...

Very interesting! Your specific interest seems to be vulgarity as opposed to blasphemy (e.g. using 'God' or 'Jesus' in cursing) or insults in general. I am not acquainted with much philosophical work on vulgarity per se, but there is some literature on politeness and respect that may be relevant. Some have argued that politeness is a virtue itself (what Hobbes called small morals) while others have contended that politeness is a reflection of greater virtues (the shadow of great virtues, to use G.K. Chesterton's expression). I suggest that vulgarity may be used for a host of reasons: to insure familiarity with someone, to use as an insult, to simply get attention, and so on. There was an important Supreme Court case in the USA --I believe it was Cohen versus California-- in which it was argued that a person had a right to wear a shirt that had the words "Fuck the Draft" on it because only using the explicative was the person able to fully express his convictions and thus it was protected under our...

When choosing between two paths, isn't it rational to choose the path where you are most wanted? If I am choosing between two partners, would it make sense to choose the path where I am more needed rather than where I would rather be? The argument goes like this: 1. More needed = more wanted 2. More wanted = more useful 3. Life = using your time to be the most useful you can be 4. Life should be made with choices that allow you to be where you are most needed If someone hears this argument and argues that I should choose where I WANT to be, wouldn't it suffice to say that I will want to make the choice that is most rational?

This raises a number of issues. Perhaps the categories you are identifying (most wanted, where you want to be, most useful, most needed, more rational) need to be subordinated to the concept what is good, irrespective of who wants what. So if you are choosing between two partners (to take your example) you might think first and foremost about whether the relatioship would be good (contribute to each other's flourishing, for example) for one or both of you and, once you have determined that, it will follow naturally (presumably) that you will want that which is mutually satisfying and fulfilling. Without identifying the context of a decision in terms of goods, just being needed by a person or thing would not itself be a good reasons for you to pursue or want that person or thing. I think the same is likely true in terms of wants. Merely wanting X (without any other information) may not be a sufficient reason to pursue X or to think it good for you to pursue X. If, however, you secure some concept of...

How might a person who does not subscribe to any organized religion and does not believe in an afterlife find meaning in his or her death—that is, the cessation of his or her personal existence? Or, perhaps another way to ask the same question: if there is no afterlife—no continuation as a soul, consciousness or personal identity upon the cessation of physical life—how might one’s life continue to have meaning after death? And if we only live on in the memories of friends and loved ones, or perhaps in some other concrete contribution to culture or society, are not these too ultimately ephemeral?

Good question(s)! I suggest the idea of a person living on in the memories of others is somewhat problematic, especially given that (assuming you are correct) death involves a person ceasing to be. But it may be that your life still has meaning in at least two ways: while you would not live on in others' memories, the significance of your life and the values you had might well live on with others. Of course if modern astronomy is correct all life on earth will end in about 4 billion years, so this bit about living on indefinitely will be a bit tricky. A second way to approach your question would be to refer to the point of view of the universe or the point of view of some ideal observer. This is also a little problematic, however, as it seems that the universe cannot (literally) have a point of view and if the ideal observer is merely hypothetical (viz. there is no God) and so this might also be a difficult foundation to secure meaning. Perhaps thre is a third option: four dimensionalism. According...
Art

On the subject of art - I have done only little research regarding different philosopher's opinions on the validity and place of art in society. It seemed some pre-Socratic philosophers believed art and tragedy were the only worthwhile endeavors in life, and contrariwise, that philosophers have since decided reason is the only valid way to approach life. Can you provide a more recent overview of the philosophical place of art in society, and/or classic/recent texts where I could read more?

Actually, art and tragedy in particular had an ambivalent role in some ancient Greek philosophy. In the Republic and the Ion, Plato presented a critique of art based on his imitation (mimetc) account of art. For Plato, art was merely imitatory and tragedy in particular involved the magnification of evil. Plato held that if X is evil, the imitation of X is evil. In the Republic he spoke of the warefare between poetry and philosophy. But art and tragedy had a major defender in Aristotle who thought imitation is itself the key to education and he further proposed that tragedy was an essential instrument in the purification of our moral judgments. In the history of philosophy, outside the ancients, probably the leading defender of Greek tragedy is Nietzsche. Among more recent philosophers, you might consult Gadamer on art.

My teacher claims that he is utterly emotionless; according to him, he isn’t clouded by emotions of any form, and has no emotional desire. He argues that any emotions he appears to possess are simply superficial occurrences, with the purpose of manipulating others. He argues that he is utterly objective and consequently, completely exclusive from any form of bias. My question is that surely somebody who objectively chooses to use logic over any form of emotional guidance and has “no emotional desire whatsoever”, is therefore exhibiting a desire in itself? Surely, if one assumes logic as their only form of reasoning, the logic must be based upon basic desires and principles, therefore denoting an emotional presence? I would be grateful if somebody could enlighten me!

Are you studying under Spock from Star Trek? You are on to what sometimes is called the paradox of desire. If one seeks to be rid of desire, one seems to be in the paradoxical position of desiring to be without desires, which is as hopeless as deliberately trying to go to sleep. Still, like going to sleep, it seems we can indirectly achieve this through relaxing and, arguably, someone may endeavor to be rid of desire by going into a state of what the stoics called apotheos (from which we get the English term apathy) a process of shedding desire rather than a state of desiring to be rid of desire. Richard Sorabji has a terrific book on the Stoics' project of taming and then either eradicating or simply moderating desire. If one is working with a general understanding of desire which would include wants and appetites it seems very hard to imagine a complete eradication of desire (can one really give up on the desire to breathe?)

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