I've had many discussions with religious people and they seem to be very fond of some kind of ''optimistic'' reinterpretation. For example, they will use the morals, knowledge and science of today to argue the veracity of their scriptures, when it seems likely that the morals, knowledge and science of today were, I presume, alien to the people who lived back then. They will try to make ''modern'' common sense compatible with their scriptures, when these scriptures seem static and fixed in time. A never ending series of reinterpretations. I think it resembles Popper's so-called ''immunizing stratagems''. Is this a real phenomenon? Does it have a (philosophical) name?

You might have already identified the term you are looking for: a theory or position that is immune to falsification might simply be referred to as unfalsifiable. There is an informal term that is sometimes used to refer to a philosophy that does not allow for any (conceivable) challenge: all the wells are poisoned. In other words, there is no access to untainted counter-evidence or arguments. I suggest that a plausible case of this is the thesis that all human action is self-interested (directly or indirectly). This position is sometimes advanced with a definition of "self-interest" that makes it virtually impossible to describe a counter-example (people sacrificing their lives for others that seem profoundly non-self-interested can be readily re-described as even selfish). On sacred scripture, however, I think we are exploring a somewhat different matter. First, in most world religions that have sacred scripture, their meaning is often understood as living (this is the term Christians use) and...

Is it morally justified to steal a thing from someone who also stole it?

Great question about a paradoxical matter. In ordinary cases, if I stole something it does not become my property in the sense that I have rightful ownership of it; I may have it as a possession (something I possess) but I lack possessory rights to exclude others from taking it or being compensated if someone takes it without my consent. So, when someone sets out to take it from me, they are not involved in a classic case of robbery --they are, instead, perpetuating the alienation of the thing stolen from the (presumably) proper, original ownership. So, if I steal your boat, and someone (Jones) then takes the boat from me I do not have a right to claim damages and compel Jones (legally or morally) to return it to me, but you retain the right to blame both myself and Jones for the original and then perpetuation of the theft. There might be an odd case to consider: what if I stole your boat and you (as it were) stole it back? I would say that was not a case of your stealing from me; it was, rather, ...

What is a 'local community'? In the UK, the media will often use the word(s) 'community' or 'local community'. I struggle to see how this term can be defined. Is a community a purely defined by geographical location? If so, is the person who lives 10cm outside this zone not part of the community? Do we have to share the same beliefs, customs or rituals? Is the definition subjective or objective? Am I massively over thinking the matter? I would appreciate any help or comments. Many thanks

I think you rightly put your finger on a problem. In the USA, we use the term 'community' to refer to groups of people who are not at all (necessarily) living in proximity, e.g. the gay community or the LGBT community, the Muslim community, etc. I could take a shot at offering an analysis of the concept of "community" but I suspect this would be quite an uphill battle. Maybe the point to focus on is what-do-we-hope-to-do-with-the-concept of "community." I imagine that the way the terms "the gay community" is used today is that it is designed to promote solidarity among homosexuals and the term "community" is better than, say, terms like "club," "group," "class"... You mention how beliefs, customs or rituals might come into play in defining a "community": I would think all three would enter into unpacking what would be meant by the "Muslim community." While I have lived in the UK, I am in the dark by a particular British usage of "local community," but I wager it is intended to be geographical and...

Is Science born from Philosophy? And so, what about Quine's anti-foundationalism? Is it correct?

Interesting! Originally, what we might call "science" was done by those referred to as "philosophers." So, the preSocratics (like Thales) investigated the structure of nature / reality and, in doing so, he would have found it very odd if asked whether his "science" stemmed from philosophy --as there would not have been a possible separation. If we move toward the late 20th century and we come to Quine, he contended that science did not require a philosophical foundation. In fact, he rather wanted to subordinate philosophy to science (the natural or physical sciences in particular; in terms of psychology he was, like his friend B.F. Skinner, a radical behaviorist). Quine came to concede that philosophy of science might be prior to (conceptually antecedent to) the natural sciences, and this was (in my view) on the right track but needed to go further. I do not think you can have science without making all sorts of assumptions (that are properly considered philosophical) about the nature of the world,...

If what makes something immoral is any act that harms someone, would deliberately harming oneself count as an immoral act? And if some other person who is harmed agreed to be harmed, would that be immoral?

Excellent and highly relevant to some contemporary debates. A very minor first point, something might be immoral (for example, kicking dogs) even if dogs are not persons (though I admit that I think of my dog Pip as a "someone). Those in what is traditionally described as liberal political theory (e.g. John Stuart Mill) give more latitude for self-harm than what is traditionally thought of as conservative (e.g. Edmund Burke). When liberals seek to interfere with persons involved with self-harm (those who seek to commit suicide or engage in high risk acts), they sometimes appeal the ways in which the self-harm might be motivated by mental illness or some other impairment (e.g. Johny does not *really* want to harm himself, he just wants attention). I suggest that many of the reasons why we think we should not harm others, applies to our own case. I should not lie to others, for example, and, similarly, I should also not lie to myself (except under outrageous conditions). Your second question goes...

My question is about real vs. nominal definitions. It is generally, though not universally, held that to come up with a real definition, one needs to investigate the world to discover the properties of the entity denoted by the term. So for example, to provide a real definition of the term "tiger," one would need to look at tigers to determine their characteristics. My question is: does this characterization of real definitions imply that one can make assertions about real definitions that are true or false? Consider the following: I fix the denotation of the term "tiger" (pointing to several large cats), and then provide the following real definition of "tiger": an eight-legged invertebrate. Can I accurately say that the real definition I provided for "tiger" is false? Likewise, is the correct real definition of tiger: a large four-legged cat, true?

Great question! The idea of there being "real definitions" is linked to the idea that there are natural kinds or types of things and that we can discover these. So, we can discover what makes a tiger a tiger and come to know that those animals we recognize as tigers are vertebrates and thus know it would be wrong or misleading to define a tiger as "an eight-legged invertebrate." We can, however, take a well defined term like "tiger" and give it a different, perhaps analogous meaning as when Spider Man is hailed by Jane in their first meeting as "a tiger," evidently meaning something like he is a beautiful, exotic, perhaps wild creature.

Does insult in whatever context count as a moral wrong?

Insulting a person may be morally wrong --when, for example, the insult is based on racist or sexist stereotyping or the insult is designed to shame a perfectly innocent person into doing something awful or the insult is aimed at a fragile person such as a defenseless child. But we also sometimes think of insults as matters of rudeness and manners. Someone may act in an insulting manner at a restaurant by shouting at a waiter; often this seems a matter of simply being rude or insensitive rather than a matter of serious wrong-doing. Still, I am of the mind that how we treat each other in these social matters does reveal or reflect something of our character. It may be that an evil person can be quite polite at restaurants, but when a person is truly rude to others in social settings, I think we are all not surprised when we learn that they engage in wrongdoing when things really matter.

Is it consistent to be a libertarian while opposing suicide on moral grounds?

Typically, a libertarian (in the domain of politics; "libertarian" is also the label for someone who adopts a view in philosophy of mind or action theory involving free will) is someone who believes that societies should have a government that is the smallest possible in order to protect certain basis rights (perhaps a proper government should, on the grounds that persons have the right to life, prohibit murder and seek to prevent it). A libertarian might (on rare occasions) support some publicly funded health care, but he or she would (ideally) like such matters to be funded by individuals voluntarily by the individuals themselves. So, what about libertarians and suicide? If the libertarian believes that a minimal government should prohibit and prevent murder and she believes that suicide is wrong because it is a case of self-murder, then she may consistently support the government's prohibition and prevention of suicide. However, she may be "opposing suicide on" different moral grounds, e.g. she...

why is it difficult to define philosophy?

I am not trying to be difficult, but I am not sure philosophy is difficult to define, or at least I suggest it is not any more difficult to define than (for example) the sciences, the humanities, love or works of art, war and peace, and so on. I usually define "philosophy" as having two levels or dimensions. On the one had, and most generally, to have a view of reality and values is to have a philosophy. Given this general definition, every thoughtful person has a philosophy of some kind. Going further, it should be noted that philosophy involves critical reflection on one or more such views, inquiring into meaning and coherence and raising questions of justification (why accept one view rather than another? or why accept any view at all?) This definition (or maybe it should be thought of as a "characterization" or depiction or sketch) can then be enhanced by offering examples and then by noting how philosophy has a host of sub-fields from metaphysics, epistemology, ethical theory or, more broadly...

I don't know if this question falls as a scientific question but to my knowledge, this is more of a question on the nature and extent of science, so I think this is more philosophical than scientific. My question is: is it possible for scientists to create a well-functioning human brain, or is the nature of consciousness so intractable that creating a brain would be next to impossible?

If scientists were to create a well-functioning human brain, I suggest it probably would have to involve the brain being part of an anatomically well-functioning body, whether the body is human or humanoid or mechanical (in which case one would have a cyborg of some kind). Philosophers have entertained bizarre thought experiments in which human brains function in vats and are subject to systematic, misleading electro-chemical stimulation, but I suggest this would not be a case of a WELL-FUNCTIONING human brain. It would instead by in a profoundly dysfunctional situation. Are there good philosophical reasons for thinking that it is impossible for scientists to create something that is anatomically an exact replica of a human being such as you and me? Some might argue that "being human" essentially involves the reproductive and nurturing processes that we underwent (and so they would seek to rule out conceptually the idea that a human brain and body can be manufactured in a lab), but this would (in my...

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