Recent Responses

Was MLK a philosopher? History doesn't really consider him one, but he did have a lot of views regarding fairness and justice, and his ideas were very influential upon the development of civil rights and equality.

It's an interesting question, Allen Stairs June 25, 2018 (changed June 25, 2018) Permalink It's an interesting question, but especially at the meta-level. I've been thinking about how it should be answered and here's my tentative theory. One way someone can count as a philosopher is if people who count uncontroversially as philosophers by and large coun... Read more

I am interested in the slippery slope. Must I accept that the first instance or "slope event" that gives rise to the argument is in itself without much consequence? Or, can I argue slippery slope AND insist that the first instance (developing a parcel of public land, for example, that will result eventually in all the virgin land's demise) is a mistake?

A slippery slope argument in Michael Cholbi June 16, 2018 (changed June 16, 2018) Permalink A slippery slope argument in ethics typically has the following form: If we were to deviate from the status quo in which X is disallowed and instead allow for X, allowing for X (which need not itself be morally objectionable or worrisome) will lead to Y, which is mora... Read more

Is there a clear-cut distinction between something that is "immoral" and something that is "impolite"? After all, aren't both categories about violating a society's norms?

Quick example: in this Allen Stairs June 14, 2018 (changed June 20, 2018) Permalink Quick example: in this country, it's impolite to slurp your soup; not so in some other countries. That's just a matter of differing social norms Killing innocent people is immoral; it's immoral regardless of where you are, and not just because we happen to have a social norm... Read more

Is there any reason to think that happiness is of any importance?

There are different things Allen Stairs June 14, 2018 (changed June 16, 2018) Permalink There are different things you might mean, and the answer will depend on which ones you do mean. Since I'm particularly unsure what you mean by "importance," I'm going to look at a nearby question: is there any reason to think that happiness is a good thing? That raises... Read more

Hi there. I've recently become depressed over the fact, said by some philosophers, that everything we do and enjoy is merely a distraction. I really don't want to think this as I love my passions dearly. But my anxiety keeps making me believe what they said. Is it true? Or are what we enjoy in life more than just distractions? Thanks.

Distraction from what? Allen Stairs June 10, 2018 (changed June 10, 2018) Permalink Distraction from what? Perhaps these people think there's something else we should be paying attention to, to the exclusion of all else. What? Even if what it is is a Very Good Thing, there are lots of good things, and if we ignore all the others, the world will be the poore... Read more

Can one have delusional knowledge?

Depends on what you mean. Allen Stairs May 31, 2018 (changed May 31, 2018) Permalink Depends on what you mean. If "delusional knowledge" is supposed to mean that what the person "knows" isn't true, then the usual answer (with which I would agree) is no. We can't know what isn't so. If "delusional knowledge" means beliefs produced by the person's delusion, bu... Read more

Why can’t I argue that God exists noncontingently and is an abstract object? Some say it is because abstract objects lack causal power, and thus to argue as such would deny God at least one essential characteristic which any interesting concept of God cannot lack—omnipotence. But why can’t abstract object possess causal power?

Interesting question. Some Charles Taliaferro May 31, 2018 (changed May 31, 2018) Permalink Interesting question. Some philosophers have attributed to abstract objects divine attributes like being eternal and timeless. Perhaps some abstract objects (like the properties of justice and beauty) might be worthy of worship. I have actually argued that abstract o... Read more

Music is considered an art so can we consider the sound of the wind an art?

Great question. It might be Charles Taliaferro May 31, 2018 (changed May 31, 2018) Permalink Great question. It might be made even more vexing if we compare the sound of wind with a musical piece in which musicians play instrumental music that resembles almost exactly the sound of wind. The chief reason why most of us would distinguish the two is because it... Read more

Most bathroom sprays don't destroy bad odours so much as overpower them with a more pleasant odour. In such cases, can people really be said to be smelling the bad odour if they have no conscious awareness of it?

Philosophers will divide over Jonathan Westphal May 31, 2018 (changed May 31, 2018) Permalink Philosophers will divide over the question whether tastes, colours, sounds, smells and so on are by nature physical or phenomenal. If these so-called "secondary qualities" are physical, then it makes sense to think of one smell covering up another, which is still th... Read more

Given a particular conclusion, we can, normally, trace it back to the very basic premises that constitute it. The entire process of reaching such a conclusion(or stripping it to its basic constituents) is based on logic(reason). So, however primitive a premise may be, we don't seem to reach the "root" of a conclusion. Do you believe that goes on to show that we are not to ever acquire "pure knowledge"? That is, do you think there is a way around perceiving truths through a, so to say, prism of reasoning, in which case, nothing is to be trusted?

It's not clear to me what you Stephen Maitzen May 24, 2018 (changed May 24, 2018) Permalink It's not clear to me what you're asking, but I'll do my best. Given a particular conclusion, we can, normally, trace it back to the very basic premises that constitute it. I doubt we can do that without seeing the conclusion in the context of the actual premises... Read more