What is conciousness? what causes it? is it an external processs or an internal process? (sorry this is a weighty question, and I know there are no concrete answers, but are there any interesting theories out there?) What are your thoughts? Is conciousness a part of the environment as well as a "bodily" process? where does the trigger start? I find this subject matter very confusing, Thanks so much for your help!

I believe that this is about as basic a question as asking, "What is being?" There is plenty of discussion about the causes of consciousness and different forms of consciousness but what is 'it' ? Awareness? But what is awareness? Consciousness is often thought of as a kind of light. Seems to have some connection with attention. Phenomenologists long ago pointed out that consciousness is intentional - that is, always refers to something beyond itself. Heidegger limned it as a kind of opening in being. I can't even imagine what a definition of consciousness would amount to. The great William james described it in terms of our ability to introspect - as in we are conscious of what we can introspect upon. But that is about as far as I can go in making myself conscious of the nature of consciousness. Thanks for a great question.

I am a humanities teacher teaching Philosophy around the question of what does it mean to be human? I am hoping to find some age appropriate readings/ videos that discuss the basics of the philosophical movement. Can anyone help me? Thanks

I teach existentialism and find Sartre 's essay Existentialism to be helpful with the question that you are dealing with but also Tolstoy's DEATH OF IVAN ILYICH. Kierkegaard's SICKNESS UNTO DEATH is also responsive to this issue but it is very challenging.

My (now-ex) girlfriend recently took up heroin use, which led to the end of the relationship, mainly because of the deception she practised about it and the emotionally manipulative/aggressive reactions when it turns out she was actually lying, but also because I just don't find it intelligible as a life decision to make and lost all respect for her. However, when she asks a me to justify WHY I think it's dumb, why it bothers me, why it hurts me to see her do this, and why I'm against it, I find it hard to come up with a logical reason. She can just say that 'well, there's nothing else to do, so why shouldn't I, and why should you care?', and all I can come up with 'Look, it's just how I feel, it's what I believe and if it's not obvious to you then I can't explain it.' This feels less than satisfactory. She has said, and there is some evidence for this, that alcohol is worse than heroin. However I think the studies that show this are more related to frequency and wide-spread abuse of alcohol, compared...

I think you are over thinking this one a lot--- it might be an argument against philosophy if the practice of philosophy encouraged you to think that maybe heroin isn't so bad... I don't know about the rights language here but if this is someone you care deeply about you have good reason to feel extremely upset, hurt, disappointed, sad, etc. I was deeply involved with a woman on heroin once. She got off the drug for a few years but then decided that she would never really experience anything like that happiness again-- and back on it she went--- and there was nothing and no one that she cared about more than that drug. If you need an argument that might be it--- that the drug is so powerful that the user soon comes to make procuring it a higher priority than anything else- and often hating themselves for it - which of course can lead to even more heroin use. But deal with the issues at an emotional and personal level - not the abstract. I hope it goes well and I hope she quits the drug - the...

Is the purpose of ethics to seek out a universal code of right and wrong? or is it's purpose merely to justify or criticize actions based on subjective beliefs about right and wrong? or perhaps some third purpose?

Ethics is concerned with relations, our relations to others, ourselves, and the enviornment. I don't believe there is any purpose to ethics per se. Those who study ethics do it with different ends in mind. For Aristotle, the study of ethics was intended to improve your moral life -- make you a better and for him "happier" individual. Others are more concerned with how to decide right from wrong in particular cases- and so to be able to give some justification for their choices and actions.

I'm just getting into philosophy, thanks in no small part to this site! I was discussing it with a friend recently - a friend I admire as hard-working, intelligent and someone who challenges himself - and found out that he was actually a philosophy major in college (now he's a businessman). Naturally I was excited, but I was quickly discouraged as he explained that he had given up doing philosophy long ago and had no interest in it. When I asked him why, I received the following explanation, which confused me and I'm hoping to gain some clarity on it from this site. I hope it's not offensive to any of the professional philosophers who read this site, though it is of course anti-philosophy, since it was his reason for abandoning it. In any case, he said that he gave up reading/doing/thinking about philosophy - and he specified "analytic philosophy" as the culprit - saying that, although he found that the material he read was highly intelligent, he was nagged by a persistent feeling (one he ultimately...

I'd have to say that I'm sympathetic to your friend's view. Kierkegaard was too. I would distinguish between philosophy professors and philosophers. Philosophers have a love of wisdom and some success in accruing it. One can indulge in the puzzles that are the fare of academic philosophy and be devoid of that love of wisdom which is to say an urgent need for a knowledge about how to live. There are people who make their living doing philosophy who are really into it because they enjoy unlocking intellectual puzzles and building models. There is nothing necessarily wrong with that but your friend (and maybe you) are right about some people in the field living more or less entirely in their heads, who don't really worry too much about how their lives connect to their theories about life. But abuse is not argument against use- don't let the abuse or misuse of philosophy put you off from the real thing.

What is it about neurological pain, as opposed to other forms of suffering, that makes the pain experienced by humans and many animals morally relevant? Imagine an intelligent, autonomous robot that reacts to damage the way a human reacts to pain - fear, cries, complaints, etc. Why wouldn't the "pain" of the robot be morally relevant? Similarly, why isn't the suffering of plants considered to be morally relevant?

I suspect that if people could be convinced that a robot felt pain they would consider it morally relevant. Convincing people or other robots would require more than mimicking the actions of humans in pain. As for plants, most people do not believe they have the sensory apparatus to suffer. Some -- Jains-- do worry about plants suffering but this seldom persuades anyone to refrain from eating tomatoes or whatever, perhaps simply because eating is necessary for living. As for vegetarians, the belief would be that lettuce suffers much less than cows.

Why are wisdom and truth important? How does one defend their importance over the superficial like wealth and popularity? What is wrong with the superficial anyway? I like to think that I pursue wisdom and scorn worldly goods, but I can never justify to others why I live this way.

If by superficial you mean something like material wealth, then it is clear that there are many who are possessed of and perhaps by the superficial but who do not lead good/happy lives. Wisdom is a knowledge of how best to live and without that knowledge your Maserati may not mean much. Suppose for instance that the best life involves deep and lasting relationships. Devotion to the superficial can make those relationships and a sense of humanity very hard to develop. I suppose we could put it this way, if the contest is which leads to a better life cool things or wisdom, then I guess it would all depend on what you understood to be the good life. I don't think even Donald Trump would disagree with Aristotle that if the good life is the goal then it would be good to know something about that goal-- and that will require wisdom. Of course, Aristotle comes to the conclusion that some of the things that you might judge to be shallow-- also have an important place -- but he never puts those things...

Is it possible for an action or an event to be beautiful? If so, what does this descriptor mean? Are we appealing to the same aesthetics we are when judging works of art, or objects?

I hope it is possible, otherwise I am in trouble. As a boxing trainer and writer, I have found a number of bouts to be of staggering beauty. I don't believe that I use the same criterion of beauty for boxing as I do for, say, sunsets or for that matter poetry. I'm not sure what would follow if there were indeed something like harmony that was present in all things that we judged to be beautiful, but it doesn't seem to me as if there is any such thing. Thanks.

Billions of dollars are spent each year to get people to think in ways that benefit people with billions to spend. This much seems uncontroversial. Most of the money is spent on advertisements designed to circumvent a person's reason and appeal directly to people's unreflected faculties. For those who have read anything about this history of public relations this is also perfectly understood. So how does a reasonable person deal with this knowledge? Is it reasonable to resist, to cloister oneself in defense of the ability to think somewhat more freely? It seems like you could go crazy trying to do so. On the other hand it seems like sanity has more to do these days with resembling sitcom families and having Burger King jingles running through our heads. Okay, so obviously you can tell I'm a paranoid nutjob with a tenuous grip on reality. Am I right to be overwhelmed by what seems like a ubiquitous attack against rationality in the culture at large? Is it paranoid to suggest that it's systematic?

I think you have every right to be perturbed by the pr bombardment. If you watch just an hour of tv a day you are hit with flocks of lies in the forms of advertisements and then you add all the ads on the net and it is more lies-- eat this and you'll have 33.7 percent less chance of a stroke, lose 50 lbs in mth with this diet aid. All the deception is enough to cause nausea of the noggin. I think we should take in as little of the Abilify and Burger King ads as possible.