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A man has a full grain silo and he refuses to feed the starving village people who the starve to death. I know he’ll be absolved in a court of law but, isn’t it wrong to let people die when you have the means to save them?

Great question. You are right Charles Taliaferro January 17, 2019 (changed January 17, 2019) Permalink Great question. You are right that, very often and in many places through history, there has been some reluctance to compel persons (through law) to save others when they are in a position to do so. This has included not just a reluctance to compel persons... Read more

By what definition, and extent, and to what purpose do we as humans classify the idea and act of murder as evil? To most people I ask this question seems ludicrous and the answer alarmingly obvious, but I have yet to understand why we identify this occurrence as ‘evil.’ I can understand that the intent of murder and its outcome can result in a way that selfishly benefits the murderer at such a terrible cost, and I can understand that the action of taking someone’s life is just as cruel to the deceased as it is to the people that knew and loved that victim, but it seems hypocritical to me that we as a society generalize the idea of killing as evil when relatively many of us favor capital punishment, strong military, and, at least in fiction, vigilante justice. We send men and women to violent battlefields yet, before they leave, indoctrinate the poor souls into thinking that the very act of murder is evil just by itself. They come back scarred because of this. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ This doctrine assumes that everyone, or at least others, innately both self-preserve and love themselves. To me, this idealized world is instantly refuted the second one realizes that the occurrence of murder exists at all. Otherwise, why act in such a needlessly violent manner? Why do as a society define murder as ‘evil’ and ignore the intent of it when the intent clearly outlines the motive and the scope of its effect?

Unless you think that all Allen Stairs January 10, 2019 (changed January 10, 2019) Permalink Well, we think that murder is wrong, and that it's often (usually?) not just wrong but very wrong—wrong enough to count as evil. Robbing someone of their purse is bad; robbing them of the life is worse. What you say you don't understand is why we count murder as (typ... Read more

What is it to know what a thing is? Suppose I can identify a laurel tree by its smell, but not by the shape and colour of its leaves. Or the other way around. Do I know what a laurel tree is in each of these cases? Or suppose I am a scientist and can identify it by analysing its genome, but not by its smell nor by the shape and colour of the leaves... Suppose I know only or, on the contrary, do not know the uses people give to laurel leaves. How many properties of laurel must I know so that I can know what laurel is? I think I must know something, otherwise I wouldn't even know what the word"laurel" means. But what? It can't be just one small thing: I wouldn't say that I know what laurel is if I can identify it only by its smell.

Great question(s). I suggest Charles Taliaferro January 10, 2019 (changed January 10, 2019) Permalink Great question(s). I suggest that "the bottom line" philosophically in such matters involves whether your concept of a "laurel" enables you to identify the plant as distinct from other plants and things in general (including minerals, animals, computers,..... Read more

Defenders of animals' rights argue that other people are "speciesists" (like some people are racists). I would like to ask if speciesism is always wrong. Suppose healthy adult people have some features that make them important (say, they can speak and they can reason in complicated ways) and that no non-human animals have. Suppose those features give adult healthy humans some rights. Is it necessarily wrong to assign those rights also to human babies and mentally handicapped humans, but not to non-human animals? We would recognize those rights in babies and the mentally impaired because we like them more than we like other animals (as a matter of fact, most of us are speciesists), but animals couldn't complain about that, could they? Anyway, they wouldn't be offended. I also think this argument would not make racism acceptable.

I was with you about 2/3 of Allen Stairs December 27, 2018 (changed December 28, 2018) Permalink I was with you about 2/3 of the way through what you wrote. Yes: it might be that some features humans have give them rights beyond those of non-human animals. And yes, in light of that, it might be acceptable to grant the relevant rights to people who don't have... Read more

Panpsychism seems to posit that consciousness is a fundamental property of matter. If so, it would then need to be able to explain how discrete chunks of matter, presumably with their own consciousness, combine to create the unified sense of conscious experience that humans enjoy. Would it not make more sense, (or are their philosophers who make this point), to think that consciousness is a fundamental aspect of reality and that the property that matter has is the ability to interface with consciousness as opposed to having its own? Such that, the more complex a system is the more access it has to consciousnesses, (and vice versa?). Roughly speaking, does it make more sense and fit with our intuitions as well as our empirical evidence to think of matter has being able to receive consciousness rather than create it? I call this the "capacity answer" to "combination problem". Increased complexity allows for greater access to/processing of the raw conscious "stuff" that is then colored by our interaction with the physical world.

I think that the reason your Allen Stairs December 23, 2018 (changed December 23, 2018) Permalink I think that the reason your question has been left unanswered for a while is that it's not clear what you're asking. You ask if it might be that "consciousness is a fundamental aspect of reality and that the property that matter has is the ability to interface... Read more

I talked with a 78 y.o. woman whose ears were pierced (for earrings) when she was 1 y.o. or so. I asked her if she didn't think her parents were wrong in having her ears pierced, because they caused her intense pain without need and without her consent. She looked very surprised with my question and told me that her parents did the right thing, since she would always have wanted to use earrings AND (this is the point) it would have been much WORSE if she would have her ears pierced when she was 7 or 12. She told me that she doesn't remember the pain inflicted on her when she was 1 year old, and so that pain "was nothing", it was "worth nothing" (the conversation was not in English....). I wonder if this makes sense. Is pain that one will absolutely forget within an hour much less important than pain that we will remember?

That's what we'd generally Allen Stairs December 20, 2018 (changed December 20, 2018) Permalink That's what we'd generally expect. Pain you remember can have consequences beyond the painful experience itself. It may give you unpleasant memories. It may intrude on your thoughts unbidden. It may make you phobic, avoidant, fearful. In extreme cases it... Read more

Hello! My question is simple. How do philosophy of time and the philosophy of history distinguish themselves from one another?

The difference is simple. The Jonathan Westphal December 16, 2018 (changed December 16, 2018) Permalink The answer is equally simple. The philosophy of history is about actual human history, and things such as what constitutes a proper historical explanation, whether there are historical laws, the role of the individual in determining historical events, and... Read more

How can we deal with decision making under ignorance of probabilities when all possible negative or positive outcomes of one alternative are equal to that of the other(s)? I put forth the following example: Let's say that I can choose either to deal with a current personal security matter, which might otherwise bring about death, or to deal with a health issue that, if left untreated, might have the same consequence; and let's suppose that I have no access to the probability of mortality from any problem, nor to the probability of mortality provided that I assess either of them. As I see it, normative accounts for these instances, such as the maximin, minimax, maximax, and Laplace criteria would hold the alternatives to be equally good, as they have the same expected utility. But I am sincerely dissatisfied with the idea of making choices at random, so I want to know what you think. I also see the possibility of the decision making process being tainted by an "anything goes" type of mentality, as coming from the notion that most often than not, we ultimately don't know what the consequences of our actions can be, which, under ignorance, becomes even a bigger concern. I would also like to know this: How would Decision Theory (or even consequentialism) deal with the notion that we often can't ultimately know what the outcomes of any given choice can be, and that thismay make the decision making process be tainted with an "anything goes" mentality?

If I understand your question Allen Stairs December 6, 2018 (changed December 13, 2018) Permalink If I understand your question correctly, it's this: in a case where the available considerations don't favor one alternative over another, how can we choose rationally what to do, where "rational" entails that anyone in the same situation (same preferences, valu... Read more

I recently thought something unsettling about claims of objectivity. It is customary to think that for a view to be objective is for it to be true independent of human opinions. My question then is this: isn't it the case that any view we have, even if we take it to be objective, will still have to pass through the human lens so that there is no view that can be completely independent of human perspectives? Is this a good argument? As an objectivist, I find this argument hard to refute so any help from you would be much appreciated. Thanks!

I think the wording of your Stephen Maitzen November 29, 2018 (changed November 29, 2018) Permalink I think the wording of your question contains the answer. You define an objective view as a view that is true independently of human opinions. A view can satisfy that definition even if every view is someone's view. The fact that no view can be held without be... Read more

Can something become nothing? In an absolute sense. It seems impossible intuitively speaking, but I have hard time figuring out a logically strict arguments. Thanks!

Merriam-Webster Online Stephen Maitzen November 29, 2018 (changed November 29, 2018) Permalink Merriam-Webster defines the relevant senses of the verb "become" as "come into existence"; "come to be"; and "undergo change or development." Given that definition, how about this argument? (1) Necessarily, whatever comes into existence, comes to be, or undergoes (... Read more