Recent Responses

Dear philosophers: In my reading of Descartes's Discourse on Method, I am fascinated by his project of universal doubt and the promise it seems to give to eliminate the many presuppositions we have. However, it seems that Descartes meant whatever belief one has is not justified if it can be subjected to any doubt, including skepticism. Therefore it would seem that answering skepticism should be among the priority in philosophical research. But this is a very strict requirement - is it the case in current philosophy research? If not, how do philosophers justify not making it the priority?

Three points: Stephen Maitzen April 19, 2018 (changed April 20, 2018) Permalink Three points: 1. It's not clear that the project of eliminating all of our presuppositions even makes sense. For instance: Could we coherently try to eliminate our presupposition that eliminating a given presupposition is inconsistent with keeping that presupposition? I can't se... Read more

It's been said that the lottery is a "stupidity tax," and that people only buy tickets who fundamentally misunderstand the odds against them. However, I've seen people reply that, although they understand full well the infinitesimally small chance of winning, they view the lottery as a form of entertainment, and buy tickets with this in mind. Is this a sound rationalization for playing the lottery? Or is it just a way of laundering the same old irrationality?

Well, either it's not a way Allen Stairs April 19, 2018 (changed April 19, 2018) Permalink Well, either it's not a way of laundering the same old irrationality or I'm irrational in this respect. I don't buy lottery tickets often, and even when I do, I don't spend much, but I do occasionally buy them, and it's for exactly the reason you suggest: it has a... Read more

Hello! I have a question about a particular line of reasoning in a debate that, to me, only leads to a "do I care" conclusion. I have now encountered this reasoning in several debates and can't think of a better conclusion. There must be a name for this that I am not aware of. Most recently this happened in a debate about cults. We were chugging along on the topic of cults and what gets something labeled as a cult vs say a religion or a tribe or, more universally, just humanity. The conclusion, again to me, was that when you expand the definition of "cult" so far out, yes, the entire human race can be labeled a cult. That is to say that under that definition of the word "cult" everything can be labeled a cult and the only conclusion is "do I care". This did not help my friend who wishes to avoid all cults but seemingly proved they were in a cult called the human race. Is there a name for this type of semantic bloating? Is this perhaps a long established logical fallacy I'm not aware of?? Regards.

I don't know the name, though Allen Stairs April 16, 2018 (changed April 16, 2018) Permalink I don't know the name, though I like "semantic bloating." In any case, a couple of observations. First, words mean what people use them to mean. Words in English mean what competent speakers use them to mean—or, at least, that's close enough for our purposes. Co... Read more

Is consequentialism utilitarianism?

The usual way of Michael Cholbi April 12, 2018 (changed April 12, 2018) Permalink The usual way of understanding their relation is that utilitarianism is a version of consequentialism. Consequentialism holds that the only facts about an action that matter to whether the act is morally permissible, etc., are facts about the acts' consequences — roughly, how g... Read more

Is there any point in listening to sad music?

The best answer, surely, is Allen Stairs April 12, 2018 (changed May 3, 2018) Permalink The best answer, surely, is yes. Whether we can say why the answer is yes may be another matter. Here's an external reason: untold millions of sane, healthy people listen to sad music and find it rewarding. It's possible, I suppose, that this is a kind of pathology, but... Read more

What is the purpose of a college degree? If I teach myself a subject from reading books about it, how is it any different from paying expensive tuition to learn the exact same information?

There's not just one answer Allen Stairs April 5, 2018 (changed April 5, 2018) Permalink There's not just one answer and others may add their own. But your question equates getting an education with acquiring information, and that's not a good way to think of it. I'll use philosophy as an example, but some version of what I'm about to say would apply t... Read more

Hi, wanted to know if Order & Reason are a part of Nature. or if this is simply how humans view things and try to make sense of things. Cheers

For myself, I think the Peter S. Fosl April 5, 2018 (changed April 5, 2018) Permalink For myself, I think the traditions of philosophical skepticism have raised serious doubts about whether or not this question can be finally answered. It seems, given the apparent lessons of those traditions, that it wisest to suspend judgment on the question but nevertheles... Read more

Would it be best for Earth if we all died right now? We are destroying her; or do you think our selfish race should stick around to fix our mistakes (as if)? At this rate, it's only getting worse and barely beneficial. So perhaps we should all drop dead?

Given the qualification “best Peter S. Fosl April 5, 2018 (changed April 5, 2018) Permalink Restricting consideration only to the qualification “best for the Earth,” where that means something like best for the well being of current eco-systems and current non-human populations, I think the answer is yes, it would be better if we all dropped dead, especially... Read more

I generally believe to give birth to a child or not is completely a woman's own decision. Personally I never want to have a child. However someone recently said to me that to insist on that belief would be a little selfish when a woman is in a country threatened by rapid aging and declining population, which could in turn lead to far worse consequences like economic collapse. What do philosophers think?

A fascinating question. Let’s Peter S. Fosl April 5, 2018 (changed April 5, 2018) Permalink A fascinating question. Let’s first examine the question of whether one might have an obligation to reproduce. Under normal circumstances, we honor the autonomy of individuals in such matters, largely as an extension of the principle that one should have ultimate con... Read more

Hello. A roll of dice is supposed to be the perfect example of randomness, but it's easy to see how you might go about explaining why someone got a 1 instead of 6. The die was this way up when it hit the table at this angle, it had this amount of force, there were certain weight imbalances that caused it to spin this way rather than that, etc. So is there really such a thing as chance, or is that just the word we use for when something is too complex for us to disentangle all the cause and effect that goes into it?

Good question. Allen Stairs March 30, 2018 (changed March 30, 2018) Permalink Good question. In fact, most people who work on these matters wouldn't agree that a roll of a die is a perfect example of randomness. And you are quite right: we believe that if we knew enough about the prevailing conditions when the die was rolled (and if we could do the calculati... Read more

Pages