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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

In a recent discussion with friends about the existence or nonexistence of God, it soon became apparent that there are very different definitions of "existence" being used, and that this seeming hair-splitting is unavoidable if one wants to make any meaningful statement about God's existence. For instance, the Eiffel Tower exists because it is made up of atoms, but no one claims God is made of atoms, so God clearly doesn't exist in the same way the Eiffel Tower does. France, on the other hand, exists as a collective understanding; that doesn't mean that France is a figment of people's imaginations, but it does mean that without people there would be no "France" in any meaningful sense. Many atheists would concede that God "exists" in this sense. But then in what sense does "information" exist? It seems to be a combination of material (which holds the information), and an intelligence (which interprets the information), but I'm not clear on this. I can't say with certainty in what sense concepts like "information", "order", or "truth" exist, or in what sense God is thought to "exist" by various theists. Can you shed any light on this, or can you point me to philosophers who have expounded on this theme?

Richard Heck October 6, 2005 (changed October 6, 2005) Permalink I wish I had something helpful to say about this, but I don't know if I do. We should, however, try to get a little clearer on what is at issue. Let's consider something a little simpler, like plays. I think A Comedy of Errors exists. That is, I think there is such a thing as A Comedy of Error... Read more

Hi, My roommate claims that it is impossible for an omnipotent being to exist. His logic is that if a being can create a rock so big it cannot lift it, then that being is not omnipotent because its lifting power is not infinite. But also, if it cannot create the rock so big it cannot lift, then it's creation power is not infinite. And because of this paradox, an omnipotent being cannot possibly exist. My boss was a philosophy major in school. He claims that this explanation is completely wrong. However, I do not understand his explanation as he said it very quickly and with many names of old philosophers and theorems and such that I cannot remember. So who is right? Regardless of whether or not an omnipotent being does exist or not, can one exist? Thanks.

Mitch Green October 21, 2005 (changed October 21, 2005) Permalink I'd like to add one further point to the two made so far. Many contemporary philosophers infer from the so-called Paradox of the Stone that omnipotence is not a matter of being able to do anything, but only a matter of *being able to do anything it is possible to do*. That observation sugg... Read more

Do you believe that freedom is just being able to do what one wants without constraint? If so, why and how?

Peter Lipton October 7, 2005 (changed October 7, 2005) Permalink Sean Greenberg rightly says that the absence of physical constraint does not guarantee freedom. Moreover, as Harry Frankfurt has plausibly claimed, absence of physical constraint isn't even necessary for free will, though it is necessary for freedom. If I start out with free will, you don't... Read more

Could there ever be any logical basis for the thought: "I am untrustworthy"?

Nicholas D. Smith October 6, 2005 (changed October 6, 2005) Permalink I assume your worry is not about whether you are untrustworthy in some areas, or in some sorts of enterprises. As Peter Lipton says, if you are dishonest as a general rule, then plainly you can know that about yourself. And all of us have excellent reason to think that we are not good a... Read more

I am a physician taking care of a woman with bad asthma who requires admission to the hospital. She happens to be six months pregnant, which is clinically relevant because low oxygen levels in the blood will affect the fetus. I inform her that if she refuses treatment, her unborn child will suffer oxygen deprivation, and will likely be mentally retarded. She says that "God will take care of us, I'm going home."

The situation that you Jyl Gentzler October 6, 2005 (changed April 5, 2016) Permalink The situation that you describes raises all sorts of interestingphilosophical questions,y, I’m not surewhich to address. I'll assume for the sake of this discussion that you’re not wondering whether yourpatient could possibly be right about God’s intentions. So, let’sassum... Read more

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