Before a computer is assembled, it's a pile of useless wires and hardware. Put it all together and the whole is much greater than its parts, in that it can do things like beat the best chess player in the world. Conversely with the human brain, severe enough head injuries can cause profound changes in personality. Doesn't this "whole much greater than the sum of parts" not prove that dualism fails Occam's razor? I mean, if there was a soul independent of brain matter, where does it go after severe head injuries? By all accounts, people are not who they used to be after such unfortunate losses. Thanks Jeff

You are right that it is no argument for dualism that brains can do things that single neurons can't. The most powerful case for dualism is probably the enormous difficulty in seeing how facts about conscious experience could be purely physical facts, however complex. There is no fundamental conceptual difficulty in seeing how bits of silicon and wire could be put together in a way that yields a computer that can beat humans at chess; but it's much harder to see how those bits could be put together to generate conscious experience. Even that, however, is not the big problem, because many dualists would hold that mental states are caused by physical states. The big problem is seeing how the conscious state could itself be (not just be caused by) something entirely physical. This is the basis for the controversial and stimulating Knowledge Argument for dualism, due to Frank Jackson. No matter how much a deaf person knows about the physical properties of the sensation of sound, indeed even if he...

Dear Sir I would like you to ask you that what is the definition of and duration of the present? The harder I try to figure out the answer the more clear it becomes that the present is just the most recent imprint of our senses on our consciousness. In a moment this imprint is transferred to our memories and it fades away. This gradual fading away of imprints from our senses gives us a feeling that time is passing. I think that the feel of time is a function of the fading process of our imprint on our memory. That is why in different situations we feel differently about the passage of time. I think there is no duration of present. Future is directly converted into past. Some part of our consciousness is in future and some of it is in past. Please comment on my thought thanks and regards Omar Javaid

These are interesting and difficult questions about time. First of all, it's helpful to distinguish our sensation of time from time itself. Time would exist even if there was no consciousness in the universe. It is less clear whether would be any interesting notion of past, present and future. Acording to a 'spacial' view of time, time is very much like space. In particular, just as 'over there' is just as real is 'over here', so on this view all times are equally real at all times. But on other views of time, the present is a priviledged moment, and would be even if there were no creatures to enjoy it. (I'm afraid I'm going to pass on the duration question.) As for our sense of the passage of time, I don't think this can just be a result of fading impressions. For it would seem that an impression that we are having now, say while half-asleep, could be just as 'dim' as an impression we have of a past experience, yet we still would judge the former to be about the present and the latter to...

What is the relation between law and morality? Do they always go hand in hand, or is there such things as immoral laws or illegal morality? Jean

Racist laws and laws concerning slaves provide examples of how legality and morality come apart. A law could make it legal to keep slaves, even if that is immoral; a law could prohibit one from helping someone of another race, even if that is morally obligatory. You can fail to do what is right without breaking any law, and breaking a law may not be immoral.

I was walking down my school hall today and was thinking about just some random things, such as how this hallway smells, who that person looks like, etc. Then, about 2 minutes later I began to think the same basic thoughts, just in a seperate location and at a later time. Since nobody else heard these thoughts the first time, maybe my mind did not really think of them 2 minutes ago but was just telling myself that 2 minutes ago I thought those things. What I mean to say is, how can I be sure that I thought of something earlier if my mind may have just fabricated its own memories?

You're right: the fact that you seem to remember something doesn't mean it really happened, even if what you seem to remember is your own past thought. And it is not as if you can go back to check. But you can still at least sometimes evaluate the reliability of a particular memory. How plausible is it that the sort of thing I seem to be remembering would happen? How does it fit with other things I believe (even if almost all of those other beliefs are also based on memory)? These are the sorts of checks we run regularly, to decide when to trust our memory and when not to trust it. But it is difficult to see how to block the extraordinary doubt that pretty much all our memories might be wrong. As Betrand Russell pointed out, there seems to be nothing impossible about the idea that we and the rest of the world only came into existence five minutes ago, with our minds pre-stocked with a full set of false memories. That's skepticism for you.

If we were to assume that human beings have free-will, then should we also assume that other animals have free-will? If not then at what point in the evolutionary process can we reasonably place the development of free-will?

Since philosophers disagree about what free will is, this is not a straightforward question to answer. But one attractive idea, due to Harry Frankfurt, is that free will requires that an animal have 'second order desires'. First order desires are desires concerning things, like food or a good book; second order desires are desires concerning desires, like the desire to desire to go to the opera, or the desire not to desire cigarettes. The idea is that having free will has to do with having a certain harmony between first order and second order desires: the animal wants to want what it wants. So if this is along the right lines, then only animals capable of these sophisticated second order desires can have free will. And maybe only humans are animals like that: other animals have first order desires, but maybe not second order desires.

I recently went to gamble at a casino. First timer that I was, I decided to stick with the roulette table. In particular, I decided to only bet on black and red (ALMOST 50% chance of success, as one must also factor the number 0, which is neither red nor black). After a while observing the results board (and not betting), I noticed that what appered to be a chaotic pattern of results, became a pretty steady and predictable 3-reds-3-blacks type of pattern. So I began betting, and, lo and behold, I began winning. Naturally, every now and then I would lose some (sometimes there would be 4 blacks in a row instead of 3)--but, overall, I was winning. Then this magical pattern vanished, giving way to the same chaotic (that is: to my eyes) pattern which I had observed at the beginning. After, say, 1 hour, the 3b-3r pattern was back in place. Days later, I returned to the same casino, and didn't even place one bet: my magical pattern just never manifested itself! Any explanations? I am no mathematician, but...

I'm no expert on probability, but I think you have to consider different types of pattern differently. In the case of the coin, a pattern of 50 heads and 50 tails (in any order) is much more likely than 99 heads and 1 tail. But a pattern of first 50 heads and then 50 tails is no more or less likely than a pattern that alternates heads and tails, or one that alternatives pairs of heads and tails, etc. Similarly, if you deal out 13 cards from a well-shuffled deck, you are very unlikely to get all 13 hearts, but that outcome is no less likely than any other specified hand.

Who gets to decide who is good and who is bad? From:Daniel.H

I think that 'decide' can mean two different things here. It can mean who creates the standard of good people and bad people. Or it can just mean who is a good judge of who is good and who is bad. My own view is that nobody creates the standard: what makes somebody good is what they do, not whether someone (even God) says they are good. But some people may be good at judging who is good and who is bad, though how we can tell who those people are is a tough question.

Child "A" is well behaved because he believes in Santa Clause. Child "B" is well behaved simply because he appreciates the concepts of courtesy and cooperation. Inherently, child B is more moral than child A because child A's behaviour is motivated by personal gain. Thus, isn't it logical to say that an adult who is well behaved without the belief in a god is more moral than someone who believes in heaven? Thanks, Jeff

I'm inclined to agree with you that someone who does the right thing because it is the right thing is morally more impressive than someone does the right thing for the sake of some reward. At the same time, you can believe in God (and even believe in heaven), do the right thing, yet not do it for the sake a reward, but just because it is the right thing.

I have read, recently, that it is better for a student of philosophy to have completely mastered the secondary literature before moving on to the primary. Is this really the best approach to a philosophical text?

Philosophy differs from physics in this respect. If you want to learn physics, you pretty much have to start with textbooks. Indeed you may well complete an undergraduate major in physics without ever reading a research paper. But philosophy is a deep-end-first subject. The text you are reading in your freshman course may be the same text your teacher is focusing on for her research. That is one of the neat things about the subject. Of course not just any primary source is a good place to start: Kant can wait. But anyone with decent reading skills could do a lot worse than start their philosophical career by reading Plato's Meno or Descartes' Meditations or Hume's Inquiry concerning Human Understanding.

Do games rest on an unresolvable contradiction? On the one hand, they are social affairs, designed to unite people. In chess clubs, for example, people of all ages, races, creeds, etc., come together and enjoy each other's company. On the other hand, games are competitive affairs, appealing to our most raw and neanderthalic impulses to clobber our enemies. To become good we must prey on and exploit every weakness of the opponent, and to do this we must make him the enemy, else we won't be motivated.

A knife may be used by one person for farming and another person for killing. There is no contradiction here, it's just that the same thing may serve different purposes at different times. Moreover, you may play a game both for the purpose of trying to win and as a social affair, at the same time. You can badly want to beat your opponent without disliking him. When I play squash with my regular partners, I try very hard to win (with more enthusiasm than skill, as it happens); at the same time, I find the match a bonding experience.