Someone told me that there are nothing like table or chair because what there actually are is arrangement of matter and energy and label attached to it, which only exist in our minds. He thought if we accept nominalism, then we must accept this. I think he confused abstract objects with concrete objects. It seems to me that it's possible to believe things like table and chair exist while believe those concepts exist only in mind. Am I wrong?

Judging from your descriptions of them, your position seems to me more plausible than the other person's position. If tables actually are arrangements of matter and energy to which some label (say, "table") attaches, how does that imply that tables don't exist? On the contrary, it seems to imply that tables do exist, because it implies that tables are things (namely, arrangements of matter and energy) to which that label attaches, i.e., things referred to by that label. Someone who denies the existence of tables ought not to identify tables as anything, including as particular arrangements of matter and energy. It's true that tables wouldn't exist unless human beings (or some other species) made them: tables are artifacts. But of course it's not true that tables wouldn't exist unless human beings (or some other species) attached the label "table" to particular arrangements of matter and energy. Indeed, the very first tables probably weren't called "tables," and in most of the world tables still...

I'm 16 and have been studying philosophy for awhile. My question is when does a statement reach the point of 'absurdity'. For example, of the two statements, 1) My dog ran around the yard. And 2) My dog ran around the block with a big purple hat and green trousers. Number 2 seems the most likely not to have happened or seems 'ridiculous' by those who hear it. At what point does a statement cross the line of making logicalls sense to pure ridiculousness?

All else being equal, "My dog ran around the block wearing a big purple hat and green trousers" is far-fetched and unlikely to be true. But I wouldn't classify it as absurd in the logical sense, i.e., as making no logical sense. On the contrary, I think I can imagine (i.e., mentally picture) that amusing scenario. Now, if you were to claim that your dog ran around the block wearing colorless, entirely green trousers, I would classify your statement as logically absurd in the sense that it's logically self-inconsistent: it's logically impossible for anything, including trousers, to be both colorless and entirely green. So I'd say that something like logical self-inconsistency is the mark of a statement that has crossed the line into genuine absurdity. It's great to hear that, at 16, you've already been studying philosophy. I hope you'll keep doing so!

I have been duscussing lately with my friend about thinking. We both agree on what thinking can lead to. But, we disagree on wether or not you should think. Our theory is that thinking will often/most cases lead to unhappiness or depression because most question/problems are for the most part hard to solve. For example, what is the meaning of life? Not an easy question to answer, and the answer you do get may be sad. Therefore, I think not thinking will be good for a person so hin won't get to a stage where hin gets sad. However, my friend see this as fake happiness because you only hide sadness away instead of dealing with the problems. The problems are philosophical and not physical or physiological. So the question is, should people asks "why" questions more often and seek answers to find true happiness? Or is not thinking at all about philosophically questions just fine?

I belong firmly to the camp that advocates more thinking rather than less, especially when the issue is philosophical. Take your sample question: What is the meaning of life? I would answer it this way: In the sense in which the question is probably intended, there isn't and couldn't possibly be any such thing as the meaning of life. (See this link for details.) Should that answer make someone sad? I don't think so. When we come to see that the notion of the meaning (i.e., ultimate purpose) of life makes no sense, we can recognize that seeking the meaning of life is a logically misguided quest, like seeking the largest integer. I hope no one feels sad that there's no largest integer. Really it's an empirical question whether thinking about philosophical issues makes people, in general, happier or sadder than they would otherwise be. I don't know the answer to that question, but in my own case I believe that philosophical thinking has greatly contributed to my overall contentment. But even if it...

If living creatures, such as ourselves, are evolved biochemical mechanisms, and should free will exist, what natural neurophysiologic phenomenon could possibly give rise to it (that would not be as deterministic as, say, any other chemical process)? And if we are indeed biochemical structures (as biologists in general believe), why might not appropriately designed future machines (advanced AI) likewise have the capacity to exercise free will (should free will exist)?

Don't forget the compatibilist account of free will (see the entry here ), which says that we can make free choices -- i.e., choices for which we're responsible (including morally responsible) and properly subject to praise or blame -- even if our choices result from totally deterministic processes. In other words, free will doesn't require the falsity of determinism. I know of no cogent arguments against the compatibilist account of free will. According to compatibilism, then, we can make free choices without needing any mysterious, non-causal, or indeterministic neurological goings-on. By the same token, an advanced AI machine could also make a free choice, provided it's advanced enough to be able to entertain, appreciate, and evaluate reasons for and against making (in its own right) some particular choice and able to choose in accordance with that evaluation. As far as I know, such machines are a long way off, but I see nothing in the concept of free choice that rules out, in principle, their...

I'm told it's arguable that when people say, "Water is H20", what they mean is, "The stuff from around here that we call water has the molecular structure H2O." Well, what about ethical claims? When people say "Killing is wrong", do they really mean "Killing is wrong in all circumstances, times and places"? Or are they saying something more like, "According to the normal values from around here, killing is wrong"?

One might ask why people would hedge the original claim, "Water is H2O," and intend to assert only the presumably weaker claim "The stuff from around here that we call 'water' has the molecular structure H2O." Is it that they don't want to identify water with the molecule H2O but merely want to assert that water is constituted by molecules of H2O? Or is it that they want to hedge against possibilities like Hilary Putnam's Twin Earth, where what the residents call "water" is macroscopically just like H2O but is in fact identical to (or constituted by) a different molecule that Putnam abbreviates "XYZ"? Either of those reasons for hedging the original claim seems to me to be too abstruse to explain the hedging (if any) done by ordinary speakers of the language. But I can't think of a third explanation. So I'm not sure how to compare this case to the assertion "Killing is wrong" or to the hedged version, "According to the normal values around here, killing is wrong." My hunch about ordinary...

If it's possible for a cat to be alive and dead at the same time, or for a particle to be in two places at the same time, would that show there are at least some things about which one couldn't rely on "Either P or not P" as a sound step in reasoning?

Your question concerns the classical law of excluded middle (LEM): For any proposition P, either P or not P. Because logic is absolutely fundamental, ceasing to rely on LEM will have ramifications that are both widespread and deep. In classical logic, we can derive LEM from the law of noncontradiction (LNC), so to give up LEM is to give up LNC or the equally obvious laws that allow us to derive LEM from LNC. We should be very reluctant to do that. In my view, the alleged possibilities that you cite from physics are not enough to overcome that reluctance. First, they are possibilities only according to some, not all, interpretations of quantum mechanics. Second, even if we accept them as possibilities, rejecting LEM or LNC is more costly than (1) reconceiving "being dead" and "being alive" so that they name logically compatible conditions and (2) reconceiving "being here at time t " and "being elsewhere at time t " so that they name logically compatible conditions. It's less costly to mess with the...

It seems to me that most theories involve postulated objects, and then various laws that describe how those objects must or can relate to each other. So, you might postulate an id, ego and superego, or genes, or electrons, protons and protons, etc. It also seems to me that there are at least two types of "simple" when talking about explanations. There's a brevity "simple" -- like a maths proof or a piece of computer coding with minimal steps. And there is also an ontological "simple" -- an explanation relying on as few postulated objects as possible. If it's true that there are at least these two types of "simple", well, does that render parsimony often difficult to apply, if you're committed to it as a good rule of thumb when deciding what to believe in? One candidate theory could be ontologically complex but brevity-simple, whereas the alternative theory might be ontologically simple but convoluted. Here are some things that worry me: (1) does appealing to deities lead to simpler explanations that...

Good questions. The philosopher David Lewis (1941-2001) rightly insisted on distinguishing two kinds of ontological simplicity or parsimony: quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative parsimony concerns the sheer number of postulated entities; qualitative parsimony concerns the number of different kinds of postulated entities. Lewis argued that only qualitative parsimony matters. It's not the sheer number of (say) electrons but the number of different kinds of subatomic particle posited by a theory that makes the theory parsimonious or not, compared to its rivals. (Maintaining this line required Lewis to treat "the actual world" as an indexical phrase and to hold that each of us has flesh-and-blood "counterparts" in nondenumerably many other universes.) All else being equal, then, theories that posit deities are qualitatively less parsimonious than theories that don't, because (I take it) deities are supposed to be of a different kind entirely from the phenomena that they're invoked to explain....

Why is the sorites problem a "paradox"? Isn't it fundamentally a problem of definition?

The sorites problem is a paradox for the reason that any problem is a paradox: it's an argument that leads from apparently true premises to an apparently false conclusion by means of apparently valid inferences. I don't think it's fundamentally a problem of definition, because the concepts that generate sorites paradoxes would be useless to us if they were redefined precisely enough to avoid sorites paradoxes. Take the concept tall man . In order to make that concept immune to the sorites, we'd have to define it in terms that are precise to no more than 1 millimeter of height, because a sorites argument for tall man exists that involves men who differ in height by only 1 millimeter. But defining a tall man as (say) a man at least 1850 millimeters in height would mean that in many cases we couldn't tell whether a man is tall without measuring his height in millimeters. Given the impracticality of taking such precise measurements in the typical case, we'd likely stop classifying men as "tall" and ...

Science claims that the cells in our bodies are alive, but the fundamental parts of the cell such as molecules and atoms are not alive. Does that mean our bodies are only partly alive?

Science also says that some of the cells in our bodies are dead. That already implies that our bodies are only partly alive, but only in the sense that not every part of our bodies is alive. If every part of a living thing must be alive, then the fact that atoms and molecules aren't alive implies that none of our cells are alive, and no bodies are ever alive. Both of those consequences are false. So we must reject the principle that every part of a living thing must be alive.

Recently, I noticed about sorites problem. I thought that problem is serious to all of philosophical endeavor, but my friend told me that is problematic when you assume some kind of platonism. Is he right? Or is it equally problematic when we assume nominalism?

I think that the sorites paradox is a problem even for nominalists. Suppose we line up 101 North American men by height, starting with the shortest man (who's 125 cm tall) and ending with the tallest man (who's 225 cm tall). Let's also suppose that each man except the shortest man is 1 cm taller than the man to his right. Clearly the shortest man is short. If 1 cm in height never makes the difference between a short man in the lineup and one who isn't short, then the tallest man is also short, which is clearly false. So there must be a tallest short man in the lineup. But who could that be? If we can't know who it is, then why not? I think I've managed to state the problem in terms that even a nominalist can accept. If nominalism, as such, evades the problem, then I'd love to know how it does.

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