Why is the socratic paradox called a paradox?

I presume this phrase refers to the "The one thing I know is that I know nothing" remark attributed to Socrates? Well, one form of paradox occurs when you are simultaneously motivated to endorse a contradiction -- i.e. both accept and reject a given proposition, or assign the truth values of both true and false to it. And that seems applicable in this case. On the one hand what Socrates is asserting is that he knows nothing (after all, if he KNOWS that he knows nothing, then since knowledge usually implies truth, it follows that he knows nothing). But then again on the other hand the very assertion seems to disprove it, since he KNOWS it, and therefore knows not nothing, but something. So he simultaneously seems to be asserting that he knows something and that he does not know something. Now you may not find this particularly paradoxical -- you might be tempted to resolve it directly (by rejecting one of the two propositions). But I suppose it's called a paradox because reasonably good cases can be made...

I'm curious what moral distinctions (if any) exist between, for example, the Venus de Milo or the Birth of Venus and "soft" pornography like Playboy?

Well I'm definitely no expert here, but often in our moral evaluations we take into account intention/motive (as perhaps one factor among others). And if one might arguably hold that "art" aims for some kind of "higher" purposes beyond merely sexual stimulation/titillation, then at least those works of art have some kind of additional value beyond their attractiveness (while, perhaps, the "soft porn" aims only for the stimulation....)

My question is about Rigid Designators. I enjoyed reading Kripke a lot, but I find this concept hard to understand. According to Kripke, a rigid designator refers to, or picks up, the same thing in every possible world. But this way of defining, if it is defining at all, rigid designators is too vague for me to understand. Take 'pain' as an example. Since there are many debates over what pain is (that is, is it a illusion, is it purely physical, it is purely mental, or it is mental and physical etc.), how can it still be a rigid designator if we do not even know what it picks up in our actual world? It could be argue that even though we do not know what it picks up in this world as long as it picks up the same thing in every possible world it is still a rigid designator. But indeed, what would guarantee that it could pick up the same thing?

I'm no expert here, but my recollection is that Kripke reminds us/warns us to avoid the following picture: that we somehow glance into all the many possible worlds and have the task of figuring out which items, in those worlds, are designated by our terms. That would be impossible (for more reasons than one!), not least of all for this reason: suppose there's a possible world where Fred (a dark-haired man in the actual world) is a red-haired woman (and differs in many other traits from actual Fred too). How could we possible look at that red-haired woman (etc) and say, "Oh look there's possible Fred!" The whole point of these "possible variations" on Fred would obscure the possibility of identifying Fred by any of his (her) properties in those other worlds ... Rather, Kripke says, we stipulate possible worlds: we have whatever intuitions we have re: what's possible and we get to stipulate that we are speaking of that world which varies from this world in such and such respects. So if we believe it...

Is it morally wrong to eat my pet dog? Why is it right to eat beef and pork, but our pets?

Who thinks that is right to eat beef/pork but not dog? Certainly many cultures do. No doubt our culture is squeamish about it -- dogs being so cute, and all, and enjoying such intimate personal relationships with them -- well that would suggest that if we cuten up pigs and cows and get to know them better we'd be opposed to eating them too! But anyway, what does cuteness and intimacy have to do with the permissibility of slaughter and consumption? there are plenty of non-cute humans with which I am not intimate, but that hardly seems a grounds for eating them; but then lack of those things is not be a grounds for eating them either. What I'm getting at is that whatever grounds you choose to be a vegetarian almost surely apply equally to all non-human animals (or at least those with advanced enough sentience to be worthy of earning 'rights' or 'interests)' -- so the disintcitno between the dog and beef/pork cases one is not likely to withstand scrutiny .... hope that helps ap

Should we as humans actively try to maintain the existence of other species (like we do now due to their cuteness/rarity)?

Hm; who would think we shouldn't, all else being equal? Although I suppose some might question whether "all else is equal." After all, "maintaining" has various costs (devotion of time, money, resources etc) that might better be spent elsewhere (for example, helping suffering human beings). But then again, not too many people think that we should each devote all of our resources to helping other human beings. (If you did then you probably should not be doing almost anything you are doing -- including spending time on the computer asking philosophers questions -- because that time could have been more directly spent helping someone in immediate need!) So as long as one agrees we are not obligated to spend all/most of our time helping other human beings in need then I suppose there are many things it is perfectly all right to do, including maintaining other species just because we like them. (One very useful resource here might be Peter Singer's recent book, The Life You Can Save, which focuses deeply on...

Russell says, “The man who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual belief of his age or his nation, and from conviction which have grown up in his mind without the cooperation or consent of his deliberate reason.” What prejudices, habitual beliefs, and unreasoned convictions do you think Russell is referring to here? Do you see these things in people around you?

Yes -- I've just written a book on this theme, and wish I hd the Russell quote handy as an epigram: Uncommon Sense: the strangest ideas from the smartest phiosophers (available website: www.andrewpessin.com!) he has in mind, perhaps, religious beliefs, but also moral beliefs, and also common sense beliefs about ideology -- basically believing that religion is false, that our metaphysic might take the structure of a sense-data one out of which physical objects are contstructed , and so on (depends on what time frame of R you're discussing). So much of what people ordinarily belief does not match well with the results of his philosophical analysis -- and what favors his results over common sense, of course, s the passage you quote -- and which clearly is alive and well today, as philosophers develop views very far removed from common sense and thus develop Uncommon Sense to replace them .... hope that helps! ap

Frequently, I see the statment: "logical truths are trivial". But, what is meant by the word *trivial*?

Perhaps this: true by definition, v. true by means of some correpondence between their meanings and the world. "Bachelors are unmarried" is logically true, ie true by meaning, because that is how we use the definitions involved; it's a matter of convention and meaning that that sentence is true, and thus one doesn't need to go investigate the world whether it's true -- indeed it's not making a claim primarily about the world at all, if it's truth matter is a function of definition. Contrast with "bachelors live longer on average than average man." Ths is NOT merely logically true, true by definition -- we must go do a study to find out fi it's true, and thus to learn something substantive, some fact, about the world.. Logical truths are trivial because we learn from them no new facts about the world, beyond the meanings of the words involved. hope that helps-- ap

Is logic "universal"? For example, when we say that X is logically impossible, we mean to say that in no possible world is X actually possible. But doesn't this mean that we have to prove that in all possible worlds logic actually applies? In other words, don't we have to demonstrate that no world can exist in which the laws of logic don't apply or in which some other logic applies? If logic is not "universal" in this sense, that it applies in all possible words, and we've not shown that it absolutely does apply in all worlds, how can we justify saying that what is logically impossible means the not possible in any possible world, including our actual world?

This is a great question, which deserves a book-length answer. (And in some possible world, perhaps, I would give such an answer.) For many philosophers the 'logically possible' means something like the 'non-contradictory', which (for many) also yields something like the 'limits of intelligibility.' That is, you may imagine the possibility of a world in which logic does not apply, but that is not a world we can grasp, make sense of, in any way. (I can imagine a 'round square' or a 'married bachelor,' I can say those words, but as soon as I try to make sense of such a thing I pretty much have to give up.) So it's not really apparent that we can even meaningfully entertain the notion you're working with, that there are/might be 'possible worlds' in which logic doesn't apply. In light of that it seems plausible to hold, instead, that by 'possible world' we mean 'logically possible world,' i.e. worlds the description of which does not involve any contradicitons (and worlds in which logic is applicable)....