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Is the Sorites paradox really a paradox, or is it more properly considered to be a logical fallacy? By definition, the term "heap" is indeterminate. Yet the Sorites paradox tries to force a specific definition on what is by design an indeterminate concept: the very idea of defining the term "heap" as a specific number of grains of sand is fallacious, is it not? I don't see a paradox here as much as I see confusion about how terms are defined. How many grapes are in a bunch of grapes? How many leaves are in a head of lettuce? How many grains are in an ear of corn? How many chips are in a bag of potato chips? in each of the above questions, the answer will vary from one example to the next, the exact number is not particularly germane to the concept. So what makes a heap different from a bunch or any of the other examples?

I see the sorites paradox as Stephen Maitzen August 23, 2018 (changed August 24, 2018) Permalink I see the sorites paradox as a very serious problem, not a logical fallacy that's easy to diagnose and fix. The paradox arises whenever we have clear cases at the extremes but no known line separating the cases where a concept applies from the cases where the con... Read more

Do people owe a debt for investments made in them which they never had an option to refuse? Some examples might be: Debt to society for paying for your childhood education Debt to parents for raising you Should it be considered ungrateful for someone to discontinue their affiliation with the investor if they feel that the relationship isn't beneficial to them?

You pose the question twice: Allen Stairs August 12, 2018 (changed August 12, 2018) Permalink You pose the question twice: first by asking if people owe a debt and second by asking if behaving in certain ways would be ungrateful. I think the difference matters. I don't know whether a child owes a debt to her parents—at least not in a certain strict sense. Th... Read more

Is it ethical to favour one soccer team over another?

The answer is surely no: it's Allen Stairs August 11, 2018 (changed October 5, 2018) Permalink The answer is surely that it's not unethical or wrong or immoral to favor one team over another. But there's an interesting issue in the background. At least some views of what morality calls for say that we should be impartial. If I'm a utilitarian, then ever... Read more

My understanding is that philosophers like Wittgenstein held that thought without language is impossible. I've seen many people reply that they have non-linguistic thoughts all the time, and my guess is that what they mean is that they often "think" in imagery rather than words. For example, rather than saying with their inner voice, "I should advance my pawn," they picture a chess board with a pawn moving forward. Does this demonstrate non-linguistic thought?

I'm no expert on Wittgenstein Stephen Maitzen August 9, 2018 (changed August 10, 2018) Permalink I'm no expert on Wittgenstein, and I don't know the particular argument of his that you're alluding to. He does give a famous argument that anything properly regarded as a language must be usable (if not also used) by more than one person. But your question... Read more

If the unconscious exists as part of our working brains, how can we tell what is in it? Can we find out what is in specifically our own unconscious by ourselves?

There are different theories Gordon Marino August 9, 2018 (changed August 9, 2018) Permalink There are different theories about that but one prominent theory, namely, Freud's - that repression and resistance are the reasons why much of our mental life is unconscious and save for himself -- he thought ordinary human beings could not break through that resista... Read more

did socrates really say "I know that I know nothing."?

It seems not. In any case, Allen Stairs August 4, 2018 (changed August 4, 2018) Permalink It seems not. In any case, the discussion of this saying in Wikipedia is actually pretty good: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_know_that_I_know_nothing Log in to post comments

My wife wants to retire to a gated community. I find the phrase to be an oxymoron, and believe that the whole gated project is morally flawed; for example, it can lead to us vs. them thinking, social stratification, etc. Is there an argument here, or just a personal preference?

Nice question - I wish Michael Cholbi July 26, 2018 (changed July 26, 2018) Permalink Nice question - I wish philosophers thought more about questions related to domestic choices like this one! No doubt the disagreement between you and your wife could reflect variations in personal preferences that are morally defensible. Some can tolerate noisy environments... Read more

Dear Sir or Madame, As you now there are names for nearly every ideology, liberalism, positivism etc. But I cant find the name of one ideology, and I was wondering if you can help me with that. For the record, I do not believe in the way of thought I am about to discribe, I am just curious if there is a name for it. Here it goes: What do you call it when someone believes so much in science, that it values scientific progress above all else, even human rights? This person will for example think human experimentation is okay, if it benefits scientific progress. The reason I ask this, is because I came across articles about bioconservatism. And was wondering if there was something like extreme anti-bioconservatism, but wikipedia didnt satisfy me. Thank you for your time and with kind regards, Bram

You could call this science Jonathan Westphal July 26, 2018 (changed July 26, 2018) Permalink You could call this science worship, I think. There is also the word "scientism", meaning a sort of extreme and exaggerated regard for science, so maybe "scientism" is the best fit for what you describe. You add in the idea of sacrificing human beings for science, a... Read more

For some reason, the sorites paradox seems quite a bit like the supposed paradox of Achilles and the turtle with a head start: every time Achilles reaches where the turtle had been, the turtle moves a little bit forward, and so by that line of reasoning, Achilles will never be able to reach the turtle. Yet, when we watch Achilles chase the turtle in real life, he catches it and passes it with ease. By shifting the level of perspective from the molecular to the macro level, so to speak, we move beyond the paradox into a practical solution. If we try to define "heap" by specifying the exact number of grains of sand it takes to differentiate between "x grains of sand" and "a heap of sand," aren't we merely perpetuating the same fallacy, albeit in a different way, by saying that every time Achilles reaches where the turtle had been, the turtle has moved on from there? If not, how are the two situations qualitatively different? Thanks.

In my opinion, the reasoning Stephen Maitzen July 26, 2018 (changed July 27, 2018) Permalink In my opinion, the reasoning that generates the paradox of Achilles and the tortoise isn't nearly as compelling as the reasoning that generates the sorites paradox. The Achilles reasoning overlooks the simple fact that Achilles and the tortoise are travelling at diff... Read more

My wife wants to retire to a gated community. I find the phrase to be an oxymoron, and believe that the whole gated project is morally flawed; for example, it can lead to us vs. them thinking, social stratification, etc. Is there an argument here, or just a personal preference?

Nice question - I wish Michael Cholbi July 26, 2018 (changed July 26, 2018) Permalink Nice question - I wish philosophers thought more about questions related to domestic choices like this one! No doubt the disagreement between you and your wife could reflect variations in personal preferences that are morally defensible. Some can tolerate noisy environments... Read more

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