Recent Responses

Recent Responses

Response by Peter S. Fosl on March 12, 2020

Like your friend, the German Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant in “On a Supposed Right to Lie from Philanthropy” argued that it's categorically wrong to lie, even to a murderer at the door looking for someone inside. Like you, however, I think he's obviously mistaken. It would to my mind obviously be permissible to lie to Nazis at the door looking for Anne Frank, and similarly lying to slave catchers hunting people who had escaped enslavement....more

Response by Allen Stairs on February 20, 2020

The argument is valid. That's because in logic, we say that an argument is valid if it's impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false at the same time. If two statements A and If A then B really are true, then so is B. If both A and If A then B are false (or better, if at least one of them is), then the conclusion might be true or might be false, but the argument is still valid; the conclusion still follows.

...more
Response by Allen Stairs on February 20, 2020

We have apples and Martian oranges here. Whatever exactly biology means by "species" (and there's a debate about that), it's about what the actual science of biology, with its particular set of concepts, theories and empirical claims, uses the term "species" to mean. And so to imagine the word "human" defined only in terms of psychological and mental properties is to imagine a use of the word "human" that has nothing to do with what biologists mean when they talk about species. Once we get to uploading and matrix-style scenarios, we're not even in the same intellectual universe as biology....more

Response by Stephen Maitzen on February 20, 2020

If there is a paradox here, I don't think it will have anything to do with a conflict in the conditions for set membership. Let's leave aside that there may be sorites-style paradoxes arising from the vagueness of the predicates "young girl" and even "female human." I suspect that those paradoxes can be solved in the "epistemicist" way (see this link).

...more
Response by Stephen Maitzen on January 23, 2020

It's a good idea to distinguish between epistemic uses of modal language (which have to do with our knowledge) and alethic uses (which have to do with truth independently of our knowledge). When you say, "It is possible that this page is white," you might be wearing tinted glasses and simply admitting that, for all you know, the page that looks amber to you is in fact white (i.e., it looks white to normal observers in normal conditions). That use of "possible" would be epistemic....more

Response by Allen Stairs on January 21, 2020

The fallacy of composition is drawing conclusions about the whole from facts about the parts when the facts about the parts don't support the conclusion. Obvious case: every cell in my body weighs less than a pound. But that doesn't support the conclusion that I weigh less than a pound. The fallacy of composition is an informal fallacy: you can't tell whether it's been committed just by looking at the form of the inference while ignoring the content.

...more

When I was a child, I started asking myself: Why am I me? Why do I exist instead of not existing? Now as an adult, this question started bothering me again as I started trying for a baby. With each cycle, I wondered, what if I conceive a baby today and not tomorrow? If a baby was to be conceived in any case, they would be a different person depending on if we have sex today or tomorrow. What if my own parent had had sex on another day? They might have had another child that wouldn't have been me, hence I would have never existed. Of course then I would not have been there to ask the question. But why am I there to ask? What if I didn't exist at all? It's like I'm feeling my own consciousness looking at itself in the mirror for the first time and realizing it exists! Then it brings me to the idea that if I didn't exist (or when I'll cease to exist when I die), my entire perception of the world will cease to exist too. Then it will be as if the world didn't exist at all, at least from my own point of view (which will be no more!). The/my entire world will just cease to exist. The real world might as well cease to exist too. This really makes my brain hurt. It just really freaks my out that I exist instead of not existing. I can't imagine stopping to exist. This fills me with incredible anxiety. My question actually is: Are there any philosophers who wrote about this? I would very much like to read them and find a bit of comfort in knowing I am not alone with my existential anxiety. I would also like to know more about this kind of double-sided perception of the world, for instance the idea that popped into my head that if I stop existing then the world will stop too (because I won't be there to be conscious of it). I know it's not how reality works but now that I've seen it from this point of view I cannot un-see it. Thanks in advance!

Response by Allen Stairs on January 16, 2020

I don't have anything insightful to offer here, but I can say for certain that you're not the first person to be puzzled by the sorts of things you're puzzled by. It's also very hard to articulate your question in a way that would make sense to someone who didn't "get" it.

...more
Response by Stephen Maitzen on January 9, 2020

Humans comprise a naturally occurring species, so I would ask, "What purpose could any naturally occurring species serve?" We humans use some naturally occurring species, such as Oncorhynchus nerka (sockeye salmon), as food, but it doesn't follow that the purpose of that species is to be our food. Unless there is a god who created species for this or that purpose, naturally occurring species -- qua species -- have no purposes....more

Response by Charles Taliaferro on December 30, 2019

While there are some philosophers today, known as "animalists," who identify the human person as their whole body (brain and all). many more philosophers hold that personal identity is a function of brain continuity. On this view, if your brain were transplanted into a different body, you would then be re-embodied in that new body. The way you phrase your question is interesting as you refer to "the body by its name" and refer to "the brain's name." This is rare, as (to take my own case) few would think that "Charles" refers to my brain or my body....more

Response by Charles Taliaferro on December 30, 2019

This has been a major concern for many philosophers. Few think that "equality" as an abstract term is ipso facto (by itself) something good; it would not be good, for example, for all people to have the same sickness or ingest equal amounts of poison. But with respect to some domains like moral and legal rights, equality has often been seen as a virtue (you and I should have the same -or an equal-- right to vote, etc). Probably one of the most vexing issues of inequality today --globally but certainly in the USA and Europe-- is the inequality of pay due to gender....more