Why are philosophers these days so concerned with fleshing out possible rules for concepts (e.g., Crispin Wright's analysis of intentions)? Do they believe that people actually follow these rules? But how can that be if most (if not all) people can't even say what these rules are precisely? And wouldn't a more plausible answer be found in our being conditioned to behave in certain (imprecise) manners with certain words or phrases, much like, e.g., learning to use our legs to walk? If so, shouldn't this be more a matter of empirical investigation (on the level of science) than this sort of conceptual analysis?

I'm with Mitch and Peter, so far as what they've said goes. But neither of them answered your first question: Why do philosophers go in for this kind of thing in the first place? The answer is that philosophers who do go in for this kind of thing think that, if we could articulate the rules we tacitly follow in using the concept of intention, say, then that would be a way of saying what the concept of intention is , that is, of characterizing that concept. It is a much debated question whether this way of proceeding is best. Jerry Fodor, for example, has been arguing for some time that concepts simply don't have "rules" associated with them in the way Wright's project presumes. See his book Concepts for his most complete presentation of this idea.

I've been away from academia since I dropped out of philosophy grad school in 1997, so I'm out of touch with recent developments in philosophy. What are the most significant philosophical books or papers of the past eight or so years? (My main areas of interest in grad school were metaphysics and philosophy of language, but I'd be interested in your answer whatever your specialty.)

Philosophy tends not to move terribly quickly, and it's always difficult to tell, from "up close", what will prove to have been important. That said, however, there have been some important developments in philosophy of language (one area you mentioned over the last decade). It's less a matter of individual pieces of work and more a matter of orientation and general progress. As a result of several forces, the question how the meaning of an utterance depends upon the circumstances in which that utterance is made has become very hot, and it seems that enough has been learned in surrounding areas to make this exceedingly difficult question discussable at this point. Ernie Lepore and Herman Cappelen recently published a book, Insensitive Semantics , that discusses this issue. I don't find their view convincing, but they do a very nice job of laying out the options, so it would make a good introduction to the state of the art.

It seems ever since Wittgenstein there has not been much of a stir in the philosophical world (not to undermine the work of any contemporary philosophers). Some say that his work marked the "end of philosophy." In what sense did he put an end to the discourse? Do you expect there to be a future philosopher who will have an impact quite like that of Wittgenstein, or say, Nietzsche, Kant, or even Aristotle? Moreover, are there any contemporary philosophers who are on this path? In which field(s) do you think a paradigm shift of this sort will occur?

It's certainly true that people have said this kind of thing about Wittgenstein. But if his work did mark the "end of philosophy", not very many people seem to have paid that fact much attention. I suppose someone might say that, if only we understood Wittgenstein's work properly and appreciated it sufficiently well, then we would be inclined not to continue doing this stuff. But I don't myself see any plausibility in that claim. Perhaps that is because my conception of what philosophy is is so distant from Wittgenstein's. Wittgenstein repeatedly expresses the view that there is a sharp divide between "scientific" questions, on the one hand, and "philosophical" questions, on the other hand. But I see no reason to believe there is any such principled division. The idea that there is such a division appears to be a very recent one, born (it would seem) some time in the 19th century. And much of the best philosophy done since the end of World War II has hewn very close to scientific questions. Perhaps one...

What would be the generalized philosophical view on the use of drugs and alcohol? Would it depend on the school of philosophy one finds himself in or do most schools have a similar opinion?

I'm not sure that any particular philosophical orientation would dictate a position on the use of drugs and alcohol. Philosophical theories, especially in ethics, tend to operate at a high level of abstraction, and their impications for such practical questions tend to be very difficult to determine.

Are "we" our brains controlling a "shell"? Or are our brains more like independent beings, and we ourselves are the shells?

Even the Great Dualist, Descartes, who regarded mind and body as two completely different kinds of substances, did not want to regard the relation between the mind and the body as like that (his analogy) between a captain and a ship. A person, according to Descartes, is a "union" of mind and body, where a "union" is supposed to be something more than just a body and a mind. In what way precisely the "union" is more than a body and a mind, in what way the mind and body are "bound together" in the union, is a question with which Descartes struggled throughout his career, and I don't know that anyone thinks they really understand what he meant or, for that matter, that Descartes really understood what he meant. Nowadays, dualism isn't very popular, but your question shows that similar questions can arise about the relationship between a brain and a person. It doesn't seem happy to identify a person with his or her brain and then to regard the relation between the brain and the body as like that between...

Does the human mind perceive sight in 3 dimensions, or do we actually see in 2 dimensions, where depth perception and distance really don't exist in our mind? For example, I am looking at a bridge 100 yards away, I place my finger directly in front of the bridge. Now in the external world there exists a finger an arm's length away from my eyes, and a bridge 100 yards away. If the picture that occurs in my mind is a 2 dimensional picture then my finger and the bridge are located on the same plane in my mind, and distance would not truly exist in my perception. But if the mind's perception of sight occurs in 3 dimensions, like a hologram, then the picture I receive through sight must occur in a three dimensional space in my mind, where distances must be in the same but smaller ratios as exist in the external world. Here occurs a problem. If our perception of vision occurs in smaller but equal ratios of three dimensions, then the same object would have two sizes: That which exists in my mind (extremely...

We need to keep some things straight here. The "picture" that occurs in your mind, if there is such a thing, is a representation . You don't have a single object, the bridge say, which has two sizes. The bridge isn't both in the external world and in your mind. It's just in the external world. If there is a "picture" of the bridge in your mind, then it is a picture of the bridge, not the bridge, and the fact that it has a different size from the bridge is hardly surprising. More generally, whether the representation is three-dimensional or not (and there is some empirical evidence that it is, actually) has nothing particular to do with whether it is capable of representing three dimensions. Think of a map. On the map, dots represent towns and the relative distances between little dots represent distances. If it's a topographic map, then there may be lines that represent height. The map represents three dimensions even though it is essentially two dimensional. It's important to be...

Why does anyone consider gambling unethical?

I doubt many people would consider low-level gambling unethical in itself, say, entering an office pool. There are stronger objections to state-sponsored gambling and to the extent to which states have become addicted to revenue so generated. The objection derives from the extremely regressive form of taxation such an addiction constitutes. One can then imagine an objection to participation in such a system grounded on its unfairness. There are, of course, people who do object to any form of gambling on moral grounds. I expect that objection derives from some kind of "slippery slope" concern. Larger scale gambling has been a serious problem in some communities, and so one can understand why someone might think it better simply not to go there.