Recent Responses

Physically speaking, what is memory? What is a memory? If a memory is stored as a physical structure in the brain, is it possible that the human genome codes for the formation of one or more of these physical memory structures during brain development? In other words, could the genome, which we all share, include memories that are preloaded into the human brain during the brain's growth before birth? Could this be a physical manifestation of Jung's collective unconscious? EdHead

Richard Heck October 6, 2005 (changed October 6, 2005) Permalink Most of these questions seem like empirical ones, and I'm not a neuro-scientist, so I'll skip them. But let me ask a question back. Suppose Dr Jekyll performs an operation and, as a result, I seem to remember once sitting on a throne while some guy goes on about how, if I don't let his peopl... Read more

Recently a friend had an operation in which she was given medication to make her forget the operation (it was an eye operation done under local anaesthetic, and apparently the "scalpel coming at your eye" memory causes nightmare reactions). So, she must have had an instant of terror on seeing the scalpel cutting into her eye, but now has no recall. If so... was she ever terrified? If there is no memory of it whatsoever, can we call it terror? If so, how do any of us know that we haven't been similarly terrified?

Gabriel Segal October 9, 2005 (changed October 9, 2005) Permalink I concur with Amy. We suppose that the eye operation itself took place, even th0ugh the patient forgot about it afterwards. It is natural to suppose that normally, in these cases, the experience of terror takes place at a specific time during the operation. So it is natural to suppose that t... Read more

This is a question about Hilary Putnam's twin earth thought experiment. After I read this thought experiment I was not convinced that Oscar's and twin-Oscar's "water" concept have different meanings. But most of the philosophers' intuitions are similar to Putnam (i.e., they think that Oscar's and twin-Oscar's "water" concept have different meanings). I thought that there might be something wrong with me. So I told this thought experiment to different people with different origins but without exception all of them responded that both Oscar's and twin-Oscar's "water" concept have the same meaning. So I still do not understand, why do so many philosophers' intuitions work like Putnam's? Thank you, Deniz

Gabriel Segal October 9, 2005 (changed October 9, 2005) Permalink The intuitions about the 'water' example that philosophers focus on are, as explained above, about reference. They are also about truth. It takes a little work to connect reference and truth to meaning. One line of thought goes as follows. Suppose that Oscar lands on Twin Earth. Both Oscar a... Read more

Do philosophers really think that the problems they discuss are important in themselves, or does thinking about the problems merely serve as practice in analytical thinking? How does philosophy differ from puzzle solving (besides the fact that puzzles actually tend to get solved)?

Andrew N. Carpenter October 13, 2005 (changed October 13, 2005) Permalink As Richard states, there is considerable disagreement among philosophers about which philosophical questions are significant, and why. There is also considerable truth in your suggestion that studying the methods and texts of philosophy is itself a valuable way to develop one's analy... Read more

Recently I was debating with others the proposition that solving social problems in games enhances one's ability to solve real-world problems (my view was the negative: many excellent strategic gamers consistently make spectacularly foolish personal decisions in real life). This seems to generate the question: "Do philosophers have a better track record of making successful personal decisions than the average minimally-thinking individual?"

Alexander George October 6, 2005 (changed October 6, 2005) Permalink Jyl's response (in addition to reminding me why I could neveridentify with Socrates) suggests that philosophers are pretty good atworking out what they ought to do, or what is best, in daily life, butthen get over-powered by their appetites, to use Plato's term. I'm surethat happens someti... Read more

Hello, smart people! Okay, here's what I wonder about: why doesn't it seem to bother most philosophy types that all arguments eventually have to be based on unprovable premises? I mean, I liked the philosophy classes I took in college. I'm not just philosophy-bashing here. But I can't see how anyone writes philosophical works when the first requirement is to ignore something so fundamental. Yeah, I know this isn't an original question, but that's just the problem. Since there doesn't seem to be any good answer, why spend so much time thinking about all the questions that come after it? Oh, and if any of you has an extra minute, I'm also curious about the meaning of life and why time and space exist. :)

Richard Heck October 6, 2005 (changed October 6, 2005) Permalink Philosophers do spend a good deal of time worrying about this matter. Indeed, it is characteristic of many areas of philosophy to be particularly interested in the "unprovable assumptions" with which arguments begin. Two examples: Perceptually-based beliefs---such as that there is a window in... Read more

This is a question about Hilary Putnam's twin earth thought experiment. After I read this thought experiment I was not convinced that Oscar's and twin-Oscar's "water" concept have different meanings. But most of the philosophers' intuitions are similar to Putnam (i.e., they think that Oscar's and twin-Oscar's "water" concept have different meanings). I thought that there might be something wrong with me. So I told this thought experiment to different people with different origins but without exception all of them responded that both Oscar's and twin-Oscar's "water" concept have the same meaning. So I still do not understand, why do so many philosophers' intuitions work like Putnam's? Thank you, Deniz

Gabriel Segal October 9, 2005 (changed October 9, 2005) Permalink The intuitions about the 'water' example that philosophers focus on are, as explained above, about reference. They are also about truth. It takes a little work to connect reference and truth to meaning. One line of thought goes as follows. Suppose that Oscar lands on Twin Earth. Both Oscar a... Read more

If one believes that God is an abstract and unknowable concept, then what alternatives are there for guiding a person or society's moral values?

David Brink October 6, 2005 (changed October 6, 2005) Permalink Atheism and agnosticism are only two reasons not settle moral perplexity by trying to ascertain God's will (see below). Atheists and agnostics will try to find reflectively acceptable principles and rules to guide their actions. It makes sense to start with widely shared rules about nonmalefi... Read more

It has always struck me that philosophy is not a subject that has made any real progress. A lot of elaborate constructs of when we perceive certain things to be piles and so forth seem to be problems that can be dealt with (eventually) by sciences such as psychology and neurology. Why waste time constructing elaborate theories that are not scientifically provable? Things like inconsistencies in how people act may be a result of people just not being perfectly logical creatures. Why waste so much time pondering questions where 1. progress is hard to judge 2. the resulting ideas do not really change the world in any significant manner.

Peter Lipton October 7, 2005 (changed October 7, 2005) Permalink I share Richard Heck's sentiments on this matter, and I would add that there is an additional sense in which a lot of philosophy is 'before science'. I'm thinking primarily about epistemology and metaphysics in the philosophy of science, where we are trying to work out how science works and w... Read more

When something disastrous happens, like Katrina, "logic" says: so much the worse for a loving God. But for the believer, what comes out, instead, are things like "God never gives us more than we can handle" and "We have to praise the Lord, and thank him, that <i>we</i> are OK." Why? (Or is this just a psychological or sociological question? Or did I watch too much Fox news?)

Alan Soble November 11, 2006 (changed November 11, 2006) Permalink Plantinga writes, in the quoted passage, "what God sees as better is, of course, better. " Oh? Of course? Having solved to his own satisfaction the problem of evil, can Alvin also solve the Euthyphro-style dilemma that arises here? (1) A world is better because God sees it as better vs. (2)... Read more

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