Do you really believe that the entire universe was made by a "big bang?" Doesn't it seem like there must be some type of higher being something? It just doesn't seem like all the pieces of the puzzle come together from a few dust particles...

I believe that your question is a good one, and that there is a further one that it suggests. The further question is where the dust particles might have come from. Or if we mean by "the universe" absolutely everything, including dust particles, then the universe did not come from a few dust particles or anything else, as, if it did, then the universe came from a part of itself, which is clearly impossible.

I really don't understand what the big deal is with the apparent 'fine tuning' of the constants of the universe, or even if 'fine tuning' is even apparent! The conditions have to be just right for life to emerge, sure, but so what? Conditions have to be just right for many things in the universe to occur, but we don't always suspect an outside agent as responsible for setting them up that way just so they'll happen. Is this the final refuge of the 'god of the gaps' habit the humans tend to fall in to? I also don't get the need for a multiverse theory either. To me it's a bit like saying, because I rolled a six on a die there must be five others each rolling the other possible numbers in order to explain it. Okay, much bigger die....

Right on the money! It is extremely improbable that with say four dice I shall roll four sixes (1/1296 against, if my arithmetic is right, and there are no biases.). But I have done it, with dice that otherwise showed no evidence of being biased. What does this show? Nothing at all! In particular, it does not show the existence of a dice controller who favours me - assuming more sixes are better than fewer. Suppose human life is extremely improbable. What does that show? Alas, again the answer is, absolutely nothing at all. The improbable sometimes happens, although, of course, not very often! We should thank heaven that it did!

My question is straight forward and people rarely have trouble answering. What is life or what makes life to be life? Is it simply just living or is there more to its definitin that we haven't explored. What is life?

There are several sense to the word "life", which derives from a Norse word having to do with the body; in German we have Leib , body. (1) There is a biological sense, which used to be taken to say that things possess life only if they possess respiration, excretion, reproduction, growth, irritability - I like this one - and cells. Locomotion is also characteristic of animal living things. Physiological life is life in this sense. (2) Life can also be taken to be consciousness or psychological life, so that only conscious beings have life; but I think that this should be taken to mean that only conscious beings have a life. Grass is alive, practically eternal, but it does not have a life, and we do not say that the different kinds of grasses lead separate lives because they don't lead lives at all. A derivative sense here is a life, meaning a biography, as in "A life of Churchill". A life in this sense is a book. (3) "Life" can also mean "way of life", so habits, customs and attitudes,...

Is time an independent physical dimension or a human construct designed to compare events to each other ? If it is a physical entity why can we move only in one direction and at an inexorable pace? Is it theoretically possible for a time machine (Hot Tub or any other sort) could exist?

Time is a physical dimension. The dimension in which something exists is just the minimum number of co-ordinates that are needed to locate the point at which it exists. So three co-ordinates are needed to specify a point in Euclidean space, and accordingly Euclidean space has a dimension of 3. In the physics of relativity theory space and time are not 'independent', as you put it. On a relational or Leibnizian view, such as relativity theory, a space is merely the order of the space occupants. Time, on the other hand time, is one-dimensional. All we need to do to locate an event is to specify one time, say Tuesday: 'The murder happened on Tuesday.' (Some philosophers have discussed the question whether time itself could fork, and whether there could be disjoint times, as distinct from distinct possibilities within time.) Psychological events are also scaled in time. The horrified reaction to Tuesday's murder might take place on Wednesday, say, as one reads the morning newspaper. Accordingly...

I would like to continue the discussion by saying something about Allen's response. I agree that there might be a question about why position coordinates get bigger and bigger. Answer: we are heading North. But then we are moving. My concern is that if we think in this way, we are already thinking of time as something in which we move and travel. So why not backwards as well as forwards? My orthodox and perhaps crude belief is that time travel is impossible because of the grandmother paradox: if a time machine is possible, then I could use it to travel back two generations, and then kill my maternal grandmother. In that case, my mother would not have existed. But then nor would I. So then I couldn't go back in a time machine and kill my grandmother. So I both would go back in time and kill my grandmother and I would not go back in time and kill my grandmother. This is impossible. The logician Kurt Gödel has a nice version of one response to this paradox. A time machine is possible, but as a matter of...

I agree with everything that Allen writes in his last comment. Some time travel scenarios are ruled out a priori : these are the inconsistent ones, and there may be others, for all I know. Are the consistent ones ruled out by anything? I can't see that they are, as the only reason I am clear about for thinking time travel is possible is the grandfather paradox. But it may only rule out the inconsistent cases. So I am in agreement with Allen here too, and in the dark as to whether anything in physics allows or rules out non-contradictory time travel. Time is a dimension, and dimensions are things that allow you to scale. A direction in the structure of the dimension itself seems a slightly incoherent idea to me, as opposed to the direction of the thing moving in the dimension, e.g. a place moving through colour space, such as the sky going from blue to red, or a bullet moving from there to here.

If everybody in the world thought blue was the best color, would it be a fact that blue is the best color? --Josh, age 11

In general, the fact that everyone agrees on something is not really enough to make it true. The fact that everyone believes that Brazil is the best team in the World Cup doesn't mean they will win the Cup, or be the best team. On the other hand, if I believe that Jennifer is my best girl, then she is my best girl. If we all thought that blue was the best colour, then it would be: "our best colour", so perhaps it could be said to be the best colour. So I think "the best" is used in two ways in your excellent question. (1) It just means "the best" by some external standard , goal-scoring perhaps, so that "Brazil is the best team" means that Brazil will win the Cup. (2) It means that blue is our best colour, the best colour of all of us, the one we all like the most, then it is the best colour - of all of us - though not in the first sense. I think perhaps it is a little difficult to know how to understand what the fact of being the best colour is. There is something good about each of...

Wittgenstein once said that the world is the totality of facts. It seems to me that at least in the case of color this theory doesn't apply. What facts can be said about the "redness" of a red object. Perhaps no facts can be said about "redness" precisely because what is being experienced in an encounter with red isn't a "fact". Do we apprehend that redness through a fact or through an experience of consciousness? It seems to me that the fact that red exists and the actuality of red are two different things since saying "red exists" doesn't say anything about what red is when it is experienced. So maybe Wittgenstein is wrong?

Why should the redness of a red object not be a fact? We say of this tomato here, "Look, it's red." We know this proposition is true because we can see that the tomato is red, just as we know that the tomato is heavy - heavy for a tomato, anyway - because we can weigh it in our hand. The same thing applies to shape, supposing that we come to know the shape of something by visual inspection rather than by measurement. Now if our red object is viewed in green light, it turns black, because the light with colours at the middle of the spectrum, the green light, is complementary to the red light that the tomato "reflects", if we can say this. (In what way is a tomato not like a mirror?) The red tomato "absorbs" the green light. I think that your question goes deeper, however. This redness of the tomato might be thought not to be a physical fact, if you believe those philosophers who are impressed by the existence of an "explanatory gap", as it has come to be called, between physical and phenomenal...

I'm really struggling to comprehend soft determinism/compatibilism. How can free will be compatible with determinism? Surely by definition, they both necessitate exclusivity to each other?

Here is a side note to your question. Soft determinism consists of two propositions: (1) the the thesis that determinism is true; (2) that it is compatible with freedom. Compatibilism on the other hand is merely (2). So soft determinism includes compatibilism, but there is more to it. I am a compatibilist but not a soft determinist (I am a compatibilist indeterminist), as I believe that there are some events that have no causes (denial of universal causation), and I also believe that the state of the universe plus the laws of nature do not determine the next state of the universe (determinism), and I also believe that some human actions are free. The only other compatibilist indeterminist I know of is David Lewis.

My question deals with consciousness. I believe I understand what it means for me to be conscious of what is occurring around me, but I have the feeling that a lot of this depends on what I believe to be the consciousness of what is occurring (perhaps in an abstract form) around me or a result of something that is or had been conscious in some manner at one time. As am example of what I am attempting to describe, would I even take note of a person in my line of sight if something about that person (could be a very simple thing such as a glance from that person in my direction, the shoes he or she is wearing, or the waves of the ocean) that was somewhere along the line a conscious act of that person or of nature. And then could this be projected to a building or a tree since the tree is a living thing and the building was constructed by people. I know there is a certain vagueness about this question but I do not know how to put it in a more definite form.

Louise Anthony's reply is absolutely right, though the problem of other minds will be always with us no doubt. I wonder whether there is something else in addition in your mind that lies behind the question. Are you suggesting that whenever I am conscious there is a very interesting cause in the external world - the consciousness of others? So, for example, when I catch someone's eye, or when I become aware of the intelligence embodied in the design of a building, I become conscious. I think that there is truth to this interesting empirical proposal, but I wonder whether what is happening is that I become more conscious than I was in these cases, or conscious in a new way. A certain amount of education involves this, and, as Nagel pointed out a long time ago, the consciousness of mutual desire does too. But presumably there has to be a basis of consciousness already, or I could not become aware of anything conscious tugging at me from the external world. There has to be a consciousness there to be...

Since I am doing a study about colors and how they relate to the natural world in ways that we perceive them, there is an obstacle for this research. What is the opposite color of Brown, a neutral color representing the balance of primary/secondary/tertiary (etc.) colors?

"Opposite" is not in this connection a very well-defined word. "Complementary" is more precise, but then we should inquire: physical additive complementary, i.e. such as to cancel the test colour in light superposition and produce neutral or white; physical subtractive complementary, i.e. such as to cancel the test colour in pigment mixing and produce neutral or black; psychologically complementary - it is unclear what this would mean, but it could have to do with the placing of the test in a colour space based on the psychologycal "unitary" hues, i.e. those that do not look as though they contain a "trace" of any other hue in the space. There are some interesting studies of brown, and one of them (I think) is my own, in Jonathan Westphal, Colour: A Philosophical Introduction, Blackwell, Oxford, 1991 - the chapter on "Brown". Are we allowed to sound our own trumpets on this website? I'm not sure, but anyway this might get you started. The thing to remember is that brown surfaces have roughly the same...

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