Working as a scientist one encounters very similar pressures to those encountered by members of religious groups or political parties (pressure to conform, interpersonal relationships being used as leverage etc.), as well as somewhat similar reasoning (appeals to authority, ad hominem attacks etc.). What advice would you give to a junior scientist who wishes to pursue the 'truth', but finds that doing so can lead to personal criticism, isolation and ultimately loneliness (which is not good for his health)? Is it better to be accepted by one's peers or is personal integrity of important when the two clash? Are charges of naivety and quixoticism relevant here? I know these are all somewhat different questions, but an answer to any or just one of them would be most helpful. Thank you in advance.

The best piece of advice I ever heard on this issue came in a talk I heard years ago about Darwin. Darwin wanted to convince us of something that wasn't at all obvious when he introduced it. But more to the point, he wanted to be taken seriously by the scientific community. How did he do it? By spending the early part of his career demonstrating that he could do what his fellow scientists did -- that he could do credible, solid research that his colleagues would recognize as such. That made it possible for him to be taken seriously when he introduced his novel ideas. If someone is going to invest the time and energy needed to explore and evaluate ideas that are far from the mainstream, they need good reason to think that the effort might pay off. For every brilliant maverick in any field, there are at least 10 cranks. We might put it this way: if you want to persuade your peers, you need to be accepted by them as an able worker in your field. And doing that has an advantage from your own...

Are animals self aware?

I am an animal, and I am at least intermittently self-aware, so yes. But I'm guessing you wanted to know whether non-human animals are self-aware. We could spend some time trying to sort out exactly what counts as self-awareness, and that would be a lengthy though worthwhile exercise. But the short and plausible answer is that some are and some (perhaps most) aren't. One reason to think that some are comes from research with mirrors. Some elephants and some chimps, at least, seem to be able to figure out that what they're seeing in a mirror is their own reflection. You can read a short account of some of the research here .

Does the phrase "Go Jayhawks!" express a proposition?

Does the phrase "Does the phrase 'Go Jayhawks!' express a proposition?" express a proposition? No. Lots of bits of language don't express propositions. Questions don't express propositions, though answers to them usually do. Commands (like "Get out of my office!") don't express propositions either. We use words to do lots of things besides trying to say what's what. Someone who says "Go Jayhawks!" isn't trying to tell us that something is true (the usual mark of expressing a proposition.) Of course, it may be that this person is enthusiastic about the Jayhawks, and that may be why he yells "Go Jayhawks!" But the obvious thing to say is that his words express his enthusiasm rather than ascribe it to himself.

Hume showed that belief in induction has no rational basis, yet everyone believes it and in fact one can't help believing it. How then can one criticize religious belief, the person who says "I know my belief in God has no rational basis, but I believe it anyway"?

At least part of the answer to your question is hidden in the way you phrased it. Suppose that I'm wired so that there's really nothing I can do about the fact that I think inductively. As soon as I put my copy of Hume down, I revert straightaway and irresistibly to making inductive inferences. We usually 't think it doesn't make sense to criticize people for things they have no control over. If we can't help making inductions, then criticism is pointless. But we don't think that all non-rational beliefs are like this. On at least some matters, we're capable of slowly, gradually changing the way we think until the grip of the irrational belief weakens to the point where we can resist it. For example: someone might realize that they're prejudiced against some group. They might come to see that this prejudice is simply irrational. That might lead them to think they should try to change the way they think and react, and they might well succeed . Or to take a different example, when cognitive...

When did secular philosophy departments, as opposed to theology faculties, first appear in universities?

I don't know (and my guess is that my co-panelists don't either.) That, I'm assuming is why it's taken so long for anyone to respond even with such a useless answer. But in defense of myself and my colleagues, most people who belong to a profession, I'd guess, have a relatively scant knowledge of the institutional history of the profession. For example: most physicists probably don't know when or where the first university physics department was established, most dentists probably don't know where the first dental school was, most insurance brokers probably don't know what the first insurance company was, and so on.

In a democratic society, should felons retain the right to vote?

In the United States, the answer varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. A few states allow felons to vote even while in prison; many allow felons who have served their sentences to vote. There is a chart in this essay from the Sentencing Project . We might look at the issue from two points of view: justice, and broader pragmatic considerations. At least in the case of convicted felons who have served their sentences, it's hard to see the argument for denying them the vote. That's especially true if we're moved by the idea that by spending time in prison, they "paid their debt to society." But some people also point out that it's generally better for people to see themselves as part of the poltical process. If extending the vote to felons who have served their time makes it more likely that they will see themselves as stakeholders who have an interest in an orderly, democratic society, that's one more reason in favor of the practice.

What duties (if any) does a person have in rejecting a nomination to elected office if that person does not feel qualified for the requirements of the office? Or, in a democracy, is there no (strict) requirement for competence before holding office? Sure, the easy answer is that the voters will establish competence requirements, but this seems incomplete considering voters (in many cases) seem to be swayed by issues not relevant to the requirements of the office. I guess there is another question nested in the first: What sort of qualifications can be reasonably expected for officials in a democracy (i.e., age and nationality seem to be accepted, but what of education, experience, temperament, etc...)? Thank you.

It's hard to give a good general answer, but let's start with an analogy. I've been a faculty member for many years and I have some administrative experience. However, if someone came to me and said "Allen, the Dean is stepping down, and we need you to fill in as Interim Dean of Arts and Humanities," I would feel obliged to say no on the grounds that I understand my limitations and am quite sure that I am not well-qualified. (We'll leave the sorry catalog of my shortcomings to your imagination.) My becoming Interim Dean would be a bad thing for the faculty and students in my College. I would not be able to do the job well (reasons supplied on request!), and so I should refuse to be drafted -- even if Deans were elected by the faculty, and even if there was some reason to think that my colleagues might vote me in. The generalization is obvious: if someone really thinks s/he is ill-qualified for a certain office, and, let's add, if there are stateable reasons that go beyond possible false modesty, then...

Is telepathy possible or is this just a magician's trick? If the latter how do you account for apparent telepathic occurrences -- do you believe that these are just coincidences?

I suspect that it's not possible, but it's not a question that armchair reasoning will let us answer. There certainly are magician's tricks that simulate telepathy. There are also experiments that are suggestive of something more, though they hardly amount to full-blown proof. The most interesting experiments I know of have to do with the so-called "Ganzfeld" effect. Subjects ("receivers") are put into a mild state of sensory deprivation and talk about what is going through their minds while a "sender," in another location, looks at one member of a set of four images. Later, the "receiver" is shown the four images and asked to pick the one the "sender" had been looking at. On some readings of the evidence, receivers are able to pick the correct target at a rate significantly above chance. The Wikipedia account is a good summary of the experiments and the controversy. As you'll see, the results are hardly overwhelming, and there's plenty of room to argue, but there's at least some room to take...

Good morning, As a foreign PhD student in Philosophy, I need some technical hints about how to choose an Anglo-American magazine to send an article in analytic philosophy. First, I’d like to know, is the Impact Factor system as important in philosophic, as in scientific research? If so, where can I find evaluations about journals? Apart from that, I can imagine there are thematic criteria to choose a magazine: of course, you won’t send a paper in logic to a magazine that only publishes papers in ethics. That’s obvious. But is there anything else I should consider? Thank you to anybody who will reply. Stefano - Italy

Here are some good analytic/Anglo-American journals, in no particular order. (And the fact that some journal isn't on the list doesn't mean it's not good; this is off the top of my head). Mind Journal of Philosophy Analysis Nous Synthese British Journal for the Philosophy of Science Philosophy of Science Philosophical Review Philosophical Studies Philosophical Quarterly Utilitas Philosophy and Public Affairs Ethics I know little or nothing about the Impact Factor system. But have a look at some of these journals and see what might fit your needs. Needless to say, some are quite difficult to get into. But they're a fair sample, I think, of journals that analytic philosophers tend to read.

Is the statement "it is wrong to torture innocent people for fun", logically necessary in the same sense as "2+4=6"? Or could there (in principle) be a universe that functions according to completely different moral laws?

I'd like to suggest a rather different take. Your question makes most sense on the assumption that there can be objective moral truths; if there can't, then no universe "functions" in accord with any moral laws. So let's assume, at least for the moment, that there are such things as objective moral truths. And now let's make a bit of a distinction. Let's agree that as things stand, it's wrong to use taser guns on babies. Could there be a universe where it was perfectly acceptable to taser a baby? If we suppose that babies are wired differently in that universe, the answer could well be yes. Perhaps the nervous systems of babies in this distant universe are set up so that applying the taser provides some sort of painless and beneficial stimulation. And so somthing that's wrong in our circumstances would be right in that far-off world, but only because some background non-moral facts differ. Now it may be that background facts about our social arrangements and our ways of understanding our own...