Why might there be no category for metaphysics on the AskPhilosophers site? Has metaphysics as a subject been disregarded, disproved or abandoned by philosophy? If so or if not, what relevance does it have within contemporary philosophical discussion?

Metaphysics is indeed a central area of philosophy: you will rarely find a philosophy department that doesn't have a course (or many) in metaphysics. We've chosen not to use the name here because it probably doesn't mean anything to someone who doesn't know much about philosophy. If you'll notice, the category names at left are all everyday terms that have some significance even to those who've never encountered philosophy. There are plenty of questions/responses about metaphysics on the site: you'll find them in categories like Color, Existence, Identity, Science, Space, and Time.

What makes a person a Philosopher? I have to write a paper asking any Philosopher in history, dead or alive, two questions. I'm just curious as to what a Philosopher is. Is it a self-proclaimed title? Do you have to go to school and get a degree? Can I just find any random person who claims to be a Philosopher and assume they know what they are talking about? What about Jesus? Does he count?

Easier asked than answered. Philosophers are people who do philosophy, and so your question really amounts to what philosophy is. The problem is that what philosophy is is itself a philosophical question. Many grand disputes in the history of philosophy can be viewed as conflicts over how to proceed in philosophy, over what the rules of the game are, over what philosophy's method and central problems ought to be. So, I suppose one "definition" of philosophy might simply be the discipline which takes as its subject its own nature . Of course, that has a circular whiff about that as well. Philosophy is a little like pornography: hard to define, but one knows it when one sees it. But really, most concepts are like pornography in that respect: there's pretty widespread agreement about how they apply, but little hope of working out independently intelligible definitions. That fact itself is something of great philosophical interest. But don't ask me to define precisely what I mean...

I am curious: What are some questions of the philosophers? Alexander George, Noga Arikha, Amy Kind, Thomas Pogge, etc., we see your names, but we do not know your own inquiries. It would be novel to read and ponder the questions of those brave enough to answer our questions. And might one also learn by extrapolation, by thinking about a question new to them?--that is, the site can remain educational by shedding new light on a dim part of philosophy: the branch of asking questions. I would like to see a list of questions posed by the panelists.

I'm not so confident that perusing a panelist's publications will helpthe layperson see which questions animate the philosopher. Those publicationsusually begin far into a long conversation and it might be hard to find in themthe simple questions that kicked off the discussion in the first place. So I'll place one on the table. I'd love to have a satisfying answer to this question: "What are we saying when we claim that 5+3=8?" Ilike Thomas' suggestion though. I'll start: I'm not sure I understandwhy many colleagues are as convinced as they are that work in empiricalpsychology is relevant (if not central) to many long-standingquintessentially philosophical questions. It seems to me that the 20th Century saw a number of subtle criticisms of this conviction that have been more ignored than answered. (I'm not assuming its irrelevance. I'm just puzzled at times by the confident, or at least untroubled, assumption of relevance, especially in the face of powerful dissents.)

Dear Philosophers, When philosophers write about scientific method, are they proposing a description of the actual practices of scientists or are they attempting to produce a normative theory of what science should be like? If it's the former, then shouldn't this be answered by historical study and not philosophy? If the latter, why do philosophers talking about scientific method bother to look at the history of science at all if one cannot gurantee an 'ought' from an 'is'? BMW

Philosophers often think of the philosophy of science as being less of a descriptive enterprise than is either the history or the sociology of science. The philosophy of science, it is often said, concerns itself in part with an evaluation of scientific practice. For instance, a philosopher of science does not just want to know what scientists have, as a matter of fact, accepted as good explanations; scientists might, after all, have jointly succumbed to some widespread error. Rather, the philosopher of science wants to know what would really constitute a good explanation—where it is assumed that scientists might on some occasions have taken something to be an explanation which was not. The philosophical project is thus in some sense a normative one, namely to determine what the scientist should take an explanation to be. Likewise, to consider another example, the philosopher of science is not particularly interested in whether scientists do believe ...

Are there any great literary stylists in philosophy? Its analytical nature would seem to militate against this i.e., trying to express difficult ideas as intelligibly as possible. Some may have (but the only ones I can think of are in translation and far from what the panel go in for) and are usually aiming for a 'felt' response such as Nietzsche, Kierkergaard, Plato's account of the death of Socrates, and so on. Wittgenstein seemed to like portentous statements (again I only know him in translation and couldn't really understand him) such as 'The world is all that is the case' and 'Whereof we cannot speak thereof we must pass over in silence'. Was he trying to sound gnomic and literary while conducting philosophical analysis? I teach English and use Russell's lay writings as models of concision and eloquence in style. I also use extracts from Sartre's 'Being and Nothingness' to show how not to write! Someone told me Sartre had had no training in logic hence his tedious verbosity. I also consider Martin...

Two mention just two further wonderful writers in English: J.L. Austin has a very powerful voice. And W.V. Quine has an extraordinary style about which much could be said. (And I would not call Wittgenstein's style "portentous". Pitch perfectly resonant, yes.)

Why do philosophers become Philosophers, is it purely intellectual or is it because all they are good at is thinking, and why for that matter aren't they out, thinking up the answers to the world's problems?

I'm not sure why you think there's a general answer to your question any more than there is to the question of why people become doctors, or gardeners, or urban planners. Some people go into philosophy because they love reading and writing philosophy, some because they love to teach it, some because it's just the thing they've been doing since they were 17, some have no idea why they're doing it. And why aren't philosophers "thinking up the answers to the world's problems"? Well, one response is: they are. The problems of philosophy are as much a part of the world as any other. In fact, they've been part of the world for far longer than most problems. Perhaps by "world's problems" you mean something like "practical, pressing problems involving human suffering" -- that's often what people have in mind when they use expressions like "real" problems, or problems "out in the world". Again, I don't know why you expect a general answer to that question any more than there is one to the question...

How do you know the answers to all of these (what seems to me) difficult questions? Is there some sort of book you can read to learn about the questions asked on this site?

Do we have "the answers" to these questions? I don't think so. Seems rather like philosophers have many responses to them, most more or less tentative. For some suggested reading, you might look at the responses to Question 363 .