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These are answers that Jon1667 has provided in Philosophy

Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 02/10/08 - Is there genuine academic freedom in the US?

"SCIENCE NOW KNOWS THAT MANY OF THE PILLARS OF DARWINIAN THEORY ARE EITHER FALSE OR MISLEADING. YET BIOLOGY TEXTS CONTINUE TO PRESENT THEM AS FACTUAL EVIDENCE OF EVOLUTION. WHAT DOES THIS IMPLY ABOUT THEIR SCIENTIFIC STANDARDS? -- JONATHAN WELLS."

"In 2001, biochemist Franklin Harold admitted in an Oxford University Press monograph that "there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.”[9] Other scientists have gone much further.

Over 700 doctoral scientists have signed a public statement asserting their agreement that they "are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life."[10] But what are these scientists to do when the top scientific organization in the U.S. proclaims that evolution is as unquestionable as the existence of atoms or the heliocentric model of the solar system? Clearly the NAS’s statements threaten the academic freedom of scientists to dissent from Neo-Darwinian evolution."

http://www.discovery.org/a/4405

Jon1667 answered on 02/16/08:

Not a lot, since conservative speakers are effectively banned from speaking in university forums, and (except in the hard sciences) the faculty is dominated by liberal to left instructors who tend to indoctrinate rather than teach, and use the pretext of free speech to preach about ideological issues that have little or nothing to do with the subject matter of the topic they are supposed to be teaching. There are also recorded cases of grade bias against students who are conservatives.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 02/03/08 - How reasonable are we?

..............................."Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them." (David Hume)

Jon1667 answered on 02/08/08:

Hume seems to have meant that reasons place in ethics is to determine the facts of the particular case, and then, discover alternative courses of action, and the likely consequences of each course. But, when it comes to the actual choice of the course of action to be followed, reason is impotent. Then, the appetitive faculty must be in charge. No choice is more reasonable than another. The companion quote from Hume is, 'Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger. 'Tis not contrary to reason for me to chuse my total ruin, to prevent the least uneasiness of... [a] person unknown to me.' In other words, as Aristotle also held, "thought by itself cannot motivate". We need to WANT to do what we do.



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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 01/30/08 - What of Duty?....................

In all its forms.

Jon1667 answered on 02/08/08:

I thought that duty was something that came along with particular commitments that a person makes. There are the duties of a policeman, of a parent, of a teacher, of a lawyer. In general, your station in life entails certain duties. See the famous essay by F.H. Bradley, called, "My Station and its Duties". (Does you just being a person entail certain duties? I doubt it).

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 01/13/08 - Does Myth serve a useful purpose in society?

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Jon1667 answered on 01/13/08:

Entertainment

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/27/07 - What are your views on dualism?

...............(The theory that mind and matter exist
independently)............

Jon1667 answered on 10/27/07:

It seems right to me, and I wish it were right, but, unhappily, most of the evidence is that it is wrong. Alas!

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 10/06/07 - What is freedom?

Is slavery or employment the path to freedom?

Are Aethics and morals are against freedom? Do they hinder pure freedom from being realized?

Is Freedom is the absense of unfair restrictions created by other people.


Jon1667 answered on 10/09/07:

Freedom is the absence of compulsion, isn't it?
So, if I can do what I choose, or if I don't have to do what I do not choose, then I am free. So, slavery is the very opposite of freedom. And employment restricts freedom, but we choose to be employed because we are willing to give up some freedom for other goods.

Restrictions (fair or unfair) by others compel us to refrain from doing as we choose. So, they restrict freedom.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 09/15/07 - To what extent is selfishness self-destructive?

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Jon1667 answered on 09/15/07:

I suppose you mean by "selfishness" desiring and taking from others what you are not entitled to,for your own benefit, at the expense of others. I am just noting that, because I want sharply to distinguish between selfishness and self-interest. And act of self-interestedness is not a selfish act unless it adversely affects others, and does so illegitimately. My taking a glass of water to quench my thirst is thus self-interested, but not, in the normal run of things, selfish.

I don't think there is any general answer to your question. I have known selfish people who flourish like the green bay tree, and others who do not, but not necessarily on account of their selfishness. Unfortunately, I think that Socrates-Plato was wrong when he (they) argued that immoral actions was always inimical to the agent. It would be fine if the world did work that way. But is doesn't.

Incidentally, Ayn Rand's "The Virtue of Selfishness" has a paradoxical title not merely because selfishness is immoral by definition, but the title confuses "self-interest" with "selfish". Self-interest is what Rand is really talking about. I suppose that if Rand was not confused (and I cannot vouch for that) that the title was created to sell the book.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 09/11/07 - What could be done to end child poverty?

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Jon1667 answered on 09/11/07:

Tony:

I like children, and am sorry that any child is in want. And, I don't want to seem narrow. But how is this a philosophy question?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 09/07/07 - Where does genuine democracy exist?

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Jon1667 answered on 09/09/07:

Ah yes, "genuine". How high are your standards? Does genuine mean, "ideal"? The answer is Erewhon. But if you mean it in any ordinary sense of the term, by which to call something, anything, "genuine" is only to deny that it is spurious, or counterfeit, I imagine that a number our countries would fill the bill. Yours certainly, most of the Western Democracies, Israel, Japan, and, of course, The United States. Just as to call a diamond, genuine is to DENY that it deviates from the standard diamond, so that it is not paste, or counterfeit, or a zircon. So, to say of a democracy that it is genuine is to say it the the standard kind of government we count as a democracy. What calling a diamond genuine is NOT is to say that it is an ideal diamond which meet an exalted standard. And, when we call a democracy genuine, we would ordinarily mean that it isn't a faked government which perhaps has the trappings of a democracy (the title of "president" with a show of voting, and the rest) As for instance the unlamented "peoples's democracies" What it does not mean, although I bet some will take it to mean, is that the genuine democracy meets an exalted standard that no existing government meets.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 09/05/07 - Do you agree with Jefferson about honesty?

"The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest."

Jon1667 answered on 09/05/07:

Seems exaggerated to me. Doesn't it to you?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 09/01/07 - What are the merits and demerits of democracy?

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Jon1667 answered on 09/02/07:

One glaring demerit is that it can democratically abolish itself (one man, one vote, one time). As it did in Germany in 1933, and as it did in Gaza about a year ago. Which shows that one should be careful about what one wishes for. One might get it.

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Question/Answer
Mary_Susan asked on 08/28/07 - Science and the Problem of Evil

I don't think that religion(monotheism) helps humanity address, clarify or answer the problem of evil in the world. In fact, I think religion HINDERS that understanding.

In what ways does science help us address, clarify and answer problems of evil?

In what way does religion fail?


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
[I'm reading a book about anti-social personality disorder(psychopathology, sociopathology)hence the interest.

Thanks, Mary Sue

Jon1667 answered on 08/28/07:

Pain and suffering are examples of evils as they have been discussed in the context of the problem. The classic answer to the problem was provided by Leibniz's theodicy, and it was that all evils are logically necessary evils, necessary to produce a greater good. According to Leibniz, God could have created a world with no evil, but such a world would not be as good as this world with evil. For Leibniz, the problem of evil was a minimax problem (he invented the calculus- and so did Newton). God, in creating this world calculated that this world would contain the maximum amount of good consistent with the minimum amount of evil, and thus would be the best of all possible worlds.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 08/26/07 - What is the difference between a quarrel and an argument?

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Jon1667 answered on 08/26/07:

An argument (in the sense in which logicians and philosophers mean it) is a set of statements, one of which is the conclusion, the others of which are the premises, and the arguer claims that the latter support the former so that they establish the truth of the conclusion.

A quarrel is not a set of statements. And it is not an attempt to establish anything. According to my dictionary, it is:

1. an angry dispute or altercation; a disagreement marked by a temporary or permanent break in friendly relations.
2. a cause of dispute, complaint, or hostile feeling: She has no quarrel with her present salary.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 08/23/07 - How does truth fit into your view of reality?

... Does the fact that it is intangible mean it exists only in the mind?

Jon1667 answered on 08/25/07:

Truth is a (two-term)relation between a sentence, or statement, or belief, and some state of affairs in the world. In the old schema, the sentence, "the cat is on the mat" is true, if, and only if, the cat is on the mat. Which is to say that there is a cat, there is a mat, and the cat has the relationship of being on the mat.

I don't know whether that relationship between the sentence (etc/) and some state of affairs is intangible or not, since I really don't know how to tell whether it is.

We should not, I think, mix up what it is for a sentence to be true, with how it is determined that it is true (i.e. whether the relation obtains). A statement may be true, no one know how to determine whether it is true.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 07/03/07 - Like a ship in a storm........................

Possess a central belief and like the backbone of a ship, you will have something on which to attach other beliefs.

Like a ship in a storm, what is attached to the backbone cannot be torn away; so that the ship may weather the storm, and again experience calm seas.

A ship with-out a backbone, in fair weather slips from one side, and then to the other, this is easily corrected; but in foul weather, the same ship is broken with high seas.

But where to discover this magical central belief, and are there more than one?

The answer to this question continues to evade me like a ghost in a fog.

Who can answer this question for me?



Jon1667 answered on 07/03/07:

I have never heard of a ship with a backbone. Ships are invertebrates like oysters. Or like worms. What is the belief (magical and central) you are asking about? Is it whether ships have spines? The answer is no.

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Question/Answer
MarySusan asked on 04/06/07 - Philosophy

Is secular humanism considered "philosophy"?

I understand that various religions can be discussed under the heading of "philosophy or religion", and since there is a word called 'religion', Catholicism is not strictly philosophy...it is religion.

Thanks in advance for intelligent answers.

Mary Sue

Jon1667 answered on 04/07/07:

Secular Humanism seems to be a "philosophy" in some broad sense in which a "philosophy" is a view or doctrine that has broad and general implications about the nature of the world. Secular Humanism certainly implies that morality is not based on divine command, and that moral issues ought to be settled by their effects for people (and, perhaps, all sentient beings). Christianity is, I think, both a religion and a philosophy in this broad sense.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 04/07/07 - What is the factual basis of the Problem of Evil?

If evil is subjective and exists only in the mind of man how can it be used as an objection to the existence of God?

Jon1667 answered on 04/07/07:

That reminds me of a kind of wisecrack: "Pain is only mental, so why worry about it?" I am not clear what you (or anyone, for that matter) would mean by "subjective" (mind-dependent?) but why would it be that because it is subjective it does not exist? (Or is the what you are implying?) Pain is subjective, but would not an all-good, all-powerful God rid the world of pain? Now, moral evil is, of course, a different matter, and would require more discussion.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 03/30/07 - What are your views on the "biocentric universe"?

"The whole evolutionary process, both cosmic and organic, is one, and the biologist may now rightly regard the universe in its very essence as biocentric". (Henderson)

Jon1667 answered on 03/30/07:

I suppose he means the universe as we know it. Not just everything. For we do not know anything much about everything. And, of course, even the universe as we know it, has had a biology for only a moment of its time. And unless living creatures are going to outlast the death of the sun, only for a longer moment of its time. It seems to me just a bit of a hasty generalization from a very small sample.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 12/21/06 - What are your views on the rights of robots?

Research compiled by the Outsights-Ipsos Mori partnership and the US-based Institute for the Future suggests that at some point in the next 20 to 50 years robots could be granted rights. If this happened, the report says, the robots would have certain responsibilities such as voting, the obligation to pay taxes, and perhaps serving compulsory military service. Conversely, society would also have a duty of care to their new digital citizens...

Jon1667 answered on 12/23/06:

Have you ever read a play by Karol Capek who, in 1920 wrote, "RUR" ( Rossum's Universal Robots)?

It is a science-fiction fantasy about Rossum who has a factory which manufactures robots. The robots actually manufacture themselves after a while, and begin to have emotions and thoughts. At the end, the robots go on strike to achieve their rights.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 12/20/06 - How likely is divine revelation under any circumstances, aside from delusion?

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Jon1667 answered on 12/21/06:

A hell of a lot less likely if there is no one to do any revealing than if there is someone to do the revealing.

Delusive revelation is no more revelation, than an apparent heart attack is a heart attack. "Delusive X" is no more a kind of X, than a fake diamond is a kind of diamond.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/09/06 - How would you explain "collective wisdom"?

In winter a certain number of the birds in a particular area hibernate, a certain number migrate to a warmer climate and a certain number feed on food available through the winter. Birds rarely freeze to death. Somehow they know how many should stay, how many should go, and how many should sleep. What is the explanation?

Jon1667 answered on 11/09/06:

Instinct? (Based on chemical and hormonal changes). That's just an educated guess. But since it is an empirical question, I am pretty sure it could be "googled" easily.

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Question/Answer
Choux... asked on 10/30/06 - Metaphysical Naturalism

Sense and Goodness without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism

Richard Carrier


Excerpt:

Metaphysical Naturalism is the only worldview that is supported by all the evidence of all the sciences, the only one consistent with all human experience, the established truths of history, and reason itself. No other worldview, including theism generally or Evangelical Christianity in particular, is supported by any evidence of any of the sciences. The only remotely plausible exception, 'fine tuning,' is not very convincing evidence for the divine, and supports no doctrine of salvation. Science doesn't necessarily contradict alternative worldviews, for one can adjust most of them to be compatible with almost any evidence, but no other worldview is directly and substantially supported by any scientific evidence, whereas all scientific evidence so far does support Metaphysical Naturalism, often directly, sometimes substantially. Though naturalism has not yet been proved, it is the best bet going.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Is "Metaphysical Naturalism" a relatively new worldview? How does it relate to Naturalism, if at all? What is Naturalism?

Any information appreciated!

Jon1667 answered on 10/30/06:

Philosophy. The system of thought holding that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws.

The American Heritage Dictionary. Dictionaries are good places to go to, as least to start with, if you want to learn the meaning of a word.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 10/25/06 - possibilities.....................................

Do you most often base your decisions on, probabilities, or possibilities? Have you sometimes found that you had made an assumplion that was based on possibilities.

Jon1667 answered on 10/26/06:

David Hume wrote that probability is the guide to life, not that possibility is the guide to life. To invest my money into AZN because it is possible that the stock will rise seems to me a foolish thing to do, and is what Oscar Wilde said about a second marriage, "the triumph of hope over experience". But to invest my money into AZN because I think it is probable that it will rise is a wise thing to do, and especially if it is highly probable that AZN will go up. Doing so tries to follow David Hume's other companion dictum, that a wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.

Of course, we all behave foolishly at times, so that I, like everyone, have sometimes based my beliefs on mere possibilities which were not merely not probabilities, but actually, improbabilities. Often doing so was the result of wishful thinking: the fallacy of, it would be nice if this were true, therefore, it is true. Sometimes I have been lucky. Most of the time I have regretted it.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/16/06 - What rights do animals have?

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Jon1667 answered on 10/16/06:

The very idea that animals have rights other than those accorded by the law seems to me to strike what Hume used to call "the killing blow" to the idea of natural rights.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/13/06 - What are the merits and demerits of pantheism?

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Jon1667 answered on 10/13/06:

Demerit: Lack of the comfort of a personal Deity.
Merit: Lack of the comfort of a personal Deity.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/07/06 - Can there be science without evidence?

...........Even if there were no actual evidence in favor of the Darwinian theory, we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories.

(Richard Dawkins - The Blind Watchmaker)

Jon1667 answered on 10/08/06:

The key term in the quote from Dawkins is the term "actual" in the phrase "actual evidence". He isn't saying "no evidence" just "actual evidence".

I might say, "well, I have no ACTUAL evidence that Smith shot Jones, but Smith was standing there over Jones' body, with a smoking gun in his hand, after he rushed into the room announcing he was going to kill Jones, and he has confessed to killing Jones." I suppose that "actual" here just means that I did not have "ocular proof" that Smith killed Jones. But, I suggest, that I have excellent reasons for thinking that Smith killed Jones.

So, what Dawkins is saying is that the general considerations for evolution are so strong, that it would be rational to believe it is true even if we did not "actually" see evolution occurring right before our eyes. I don't know what Dawkins has in mind by "actual evidence" and what he counts as "inactual evidence" but it must be something like what I have just said, that he is saying. It was the same with molecules. Even before the electron microscope was invented so that we could see large molecules under the microscope, we had adequate reason to think that there were molecules. Just as the existence of molecules was, by far, the best explanation there was for all kinds of phenomena (e.g. the phenomena of temperature) so, evolution is by far the best explanation we have for how life developed and even occurred. Just as "actually" seeing molecules under the electron microscope was gratifying, and further confirmation of molecular theory, it wasn't all that necessary, since other considerations made molecular theory the best bet, and, Dawkins seems to be saying the same about Darwinism.

So, to interpret him as saying that "science can be without evidence" is just a gross distortion of what Dawkins is saying, and is a strawman in the heighest.

P.S. In fact, there is ocular proof of natural selection. For example the resistance of bacteria to anti-biotics.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 10/03/06 - objective truth..................................

How is it that one might reach an objective truth, from a subjective experience?

Jon1667 answered on 10/03/06:

But, for instance, if someone asks me during a job interview whether I have had computer experience, if I say I have, that can be tested objectively. Insofar as I know I have certain feelings, my experience with computers is "subjective". But insofar as these feelings are referred to external causes "outside of the mind" they are objective. If I claim to have had "computer experience" then, no matter what I think, unless I have been in touch with computers, my statement is false, and can be shown to be false. So, you are supposing that experience must be subjective. But that is not true, since experience refers to external causes. No matter how I insist that I have experienced sea-sickness, if I have never been on the water in any kind of boat, what I insist on is untrue. So experience can very well be objective. And, if it is, then there is no such problem as you have posed.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 09/27/06 - How would you evaluate cumulative arguments?

Interpretations of reality such as materialism, idealism and dualism seem unfalsifiable but they are not all equally convincing. Solipsism - the view that only oneself exists - is generally regarded as false for a variety of reasons, none of which is conclusive by itself. This suggests that several arguments taken together are sufficient to establish the most rational conclusion. What is your opinion?

Jon1667 answered on 09/27/06:

We have to beware of the "leaky bucket fallacy". A bucket with many small holes in it may seem to hold water, better than a bucket with just one large hole. but only for a time. Both will eventually be empty. Similarly, the fact that there are a number of different bad arguments for the the same conclusion is no better than just one bad argument for that conclusion.A famous example of the leaky bucket fallacy goes by arguing that although each of the arguments for God is unsound, that taken together, they lend credence to the conclusion.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 09/24/06 - Where is cultural superiority to be found?

"In his book Late Victorian Holocausts, published in 2001, Mike Davis tells the story of the famines which killed between 12 and 29 million Indians(1). These people were, he demonstrates, murdered by British state policy. When an El Nino drought destituted the farmers of the Deccan plateau in 1876 there was a net surplus of rice and wheat in India. But the viceroy, Lord Lytton, insisted that nothing should prevent its export to England. In 1877 and 1878, at height of the famine, grain merchants exported a record 6.4 million hundredweight of wheat. As the peasants began to starve, government officials were ordered to discourage relief works in every possible way(2). The Anti-Charitable Contributions Act of 1877 prohibited at the pain of imprisonment private relief donations that potentially interfered with the market fixing of grain prices. The only relief permitted in most districts was hard labour, from which anyone in an advanced state of starvation was turned away. Within the labour camps, the workers were given less food than the inmates of Buchenwald. In 1877, monthly mortality in the camps equated to an annual death rate of 94%.

As millions died, the imperial government launched a militarized campaign to collect the tax arrears accumulated during the drought. The money, which ruined those who might otherwise have survived the famine, was used by Lytton to fund his war in Afghanistan. Even in places which had produced a crop surplus, the governments export policies, like Stalins in the Ukraine, manufactured hunger. In the North-western provinces, Oud and the Punjab, which had brought in record harvests in the preceding three years, at least 1.25m died."

http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2005/12/27/how-britain-denies-its-holocausts/

"The Lewis and Clark expedition marked the beginning of a vast genocide of the native peoples of the West, one of the worst atrocities in human history. An entire continent of people were slaughtered and wiped out, or very nearly so. Land was grabbed, and the exploitation of both people and land became systematically formalized. That is the American story. While the United States today has museums dedicated to the Nazi holocaust, it still unapologetically celebrates its own holocaust..."

an American, Colorado, USA

Jon1667 answered on 09/24/06:

As I mentioned before, and in keeping with my principle that terms are not confetti, and so, ought not to be tossed around, the term "genocide" like "holocaust" should not substitute for "massacre" or "mass murder". In the case of "genocide", for instance, there should be a conscious policy by an authority to destroy an entire people. The fact that large numbers of a people are slaughtered does not mean that was the effect of a conscious policy to destroy the entire people. It may be the effect of the wish by others to conquer a land, and the slaughter of the people on that land is a horrible effect of that wish.

"The holocaust" is a name given to a systematic and regimented effort by the Nazi's to destroy the Jewish people. It is a proper name of that effort, and not a general term. If such a systematic and regimented effort were to be made again against another people, that might also be called a "holocaust". The Lewis and Clarke expedition was organized to find a Northwest passage. It was not intended as a means of killling the people in that area, although it unfortunately had that effect.

The use of terms like "genocide" and "holocaust" for what are clearly not genocide or holocaust, rather than increasing the negative emotional response to those faux "genocides" and "holocausts" as is intended by those who use those terms in that way, seem to have the opposite effect of draining the meaning from those terms. As W.S. Gilbert shrewdly observed, "If everybody is somebody, then nobody is anybody".

And, as Joseph Butler also sagely observed, "Everything is what it is, and not another thing".

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 09/20/06 - A question of fact?...........................................

I have done something of which I am ashamed; could I, by an effort of the will, have resisted the temptation, and done otherwise?

Jon1667 answered on 09/20/06:

Oscar Wilde said, "I can resist anything except temptation"

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 09/18/06 - never get interested in words...........................

Karl Popper wrote:
"One should never get involved in verbal questions or questions of meaning, and never get interested in words. If challenged by the question of whether a word one uses really means this or that, then one should say: 'I don't know, and I am not interested in meanings; and if you wish, I will gladly accept your terminology.' This never does any harm. One should never quarrel about words, and never get involved in questions of terminology. One should always keep away from discussing concepts. What we are really interested in, our real problems, are factual problems, or in other words, problems of theories and their truth. We are interested in theories and how they stand up to critical discussion; and our critical discussion is controlled by our interest in truth."

Do you agree or disagree, and most of all why?

Jon1667 answered on 09/18/06:

I agree with Tony. Except that sometimes it is impossible to tell whether the issue is verbal or not. There is a bitter controversy which has been going on for some time. Was what Turkey did to the Armenians during and after the First World War, genocide or not? A new book has just been published about this. There is general agreement about the facts. Namely that the Turks massacred hundreds of thousands of Armenians. But was that genocide is the issue. And it is an important issue. For example one of the things that is holding up Turkey's admittance to the European Union is the EU's insistence that Turkey admit to the attempt to commit genocide. This is a complex issue involving Turkish intentions, and also the behavior of the Armenians in allying themselves with Turkey's enemies during the war.

Is that a verbal issue or not? Popper seems to assume that the distinction between verbal and non-verbal issue is a clear one, and that one can easily make it. But it is not, as my example (I hope) shows. Is whether Turkey committed genocide a "factual problem" or is it just a "verbal problem". And what is supposed to be the difference, anyway? And, by the way, is the question of whether some problem is factual or verbal itself verbal or factual. If it is verbal (conceptual?) (and are they not different) then why on earth is Popper discussing something he thinks he ought to stay away from? So, DC. I ask you (or anyone else, of course) is whether an issue is factual or verbal a factual or verbal problem?

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 09/16/06 - The connection between relativism and religion.

Can any of you experts explain to me the connection between relativism and religion.

Jon1667 answered on 09/16/06:

Hard to know what you have in mind. Clearly, what religion (if any) you have, is relative to your place of birth, the religion of your parents and family, and subsequent education and training. But is that what you mean>

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 09/15/06 - Why distinguish between "right" and "wrong"?

... If all our mental activity has physical causes does it make sense to discuss what we should or should not do? If all our thoughts and decisions were derived from electrical currents in the brain surely our behaviour would be predetermined and the power of self-control would be an illusion. How could we choose what to think if our minds were no more than biological machines?

Jon1667 answered on 09/15/06:

Of course it would, since our discussion of what we ought to do would be a part of the causes of what we decide to do, and do.

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Question/Answer
HANK1 asked on 09/14/06 - SOCRATES:



Socrates is often called the father of Western philosophy!

Why?

HANK

Jon1667 answered on 09/14/06:

He was there?

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 09/12/06 - false philosophy.....................................

I think an almost unbelievable amount of false philosophy
has arisen through not realizing what 'existence' means.
Bertrand Russell - Logic and Knowledge - p. 234.
Can anyone tell me what he meant by this; it appears to me such a simple matter whether my cat exists, or the keyboard and monitor in front of me.

Jon1667 answered on 09/13/06:

I may know pretty well how to determine whether something exists or not, without being able to give an analysis of the concept or the term "exist". Just as I may pretty well be able to determine whether I know that Quito is the capital of Ecuador, and whether I don't know what the capital of Finland is, without being able to give an analysis of the concept or term, "know". (In you read a Platonic dialogue, especially one of the earlier one's, you always find Socrates pretty skeptical about whether one of his interlocuters knows the meaning of some term like "piety" or "courage", although it is clear that since his interlocuter speak ancient Greek fluently, he knows how to use those terms).

In one sense, of course, I know the meaning of a term if I am able to use it competently. So every fluent speaker of English knows how to use the term, "exist" or its more usual synonym "there is". But, of course, I may not be able to give a competent explanation of its meaning (even to the extent that a dictionary does) and in that sense I do not know the meaning of the term.

It is analagous to knowing how to tie your shoelaces, and explaining how to tie shoelaces. The former is easy and automatic. The second is hard if your teacher (as did mine) ever assigned you the task of writing a paper explaining how to tie your shoelaces. If you don't think it is, try it.

I don't believe the issue has very much to do with Zen, though.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 09/09/06 - To what extent is Islam a threat to peace?

"Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present. Its success can only lead to a world of domination: man's domination of woman, the Islamists' domination of all the others. To counter this, we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people.

We reject cultural relativism , which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions. We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of "Islamophobia", an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers."

http://tundratabloid.blogspot.com/2006/03/anti-islamism-manifesto

Jon1667 answered on 09/09/06:

To begin with, since it will not accept a two-state solution in Palestine, that is a threat to peace. As we have just seen. How do you think this latest unpleasantness began? Next, the man with the unpronouncible name who heads Iran has several times announced that Israel should be wiped off the map. Next, bin Laden, and his henchman, have made it clear that the choice for non-moslems is conversion or death. So, how is it even controversial that Islam is a threat to peace?

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Question/Answer
HANK1 asked on 08/27/06 - RATIONALE:



Epictetus, a Roman Stoic, relates, " In order to live in a manner befitting our rational nature, we must make the best of what is in our power, and take the rest as it occurs."

Any comments about the penniless, the indigent, the destitute? Is my post a senseless evaluation of want and dearth that don't require reasoning?

HANK

Jon1667 answered on 08/28/06:

Epictetus begins his "Enchiridion" with the words,

"Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.

The things in our control are by nature free, unrestrained, unhindered; but those not in our control are weak, slavish, restrained, belonging to others."

Epistetus was a strict determinist about the external, non-mental world. What happens there, he thought, are not in our control. So he is not merely a determinist, he is also a fatalist. But, he (paradoxically, perhaps) believe that we can control our attitudes toward what happens, and, consequently, our actions (or rather, reaction) to external events. And that is the essence of stoicism of which Epictetus was (with Marcus Aurelius) the two most prominent adherents. Interestingly, Epictetus was a Greek slave, and Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor. But as stoics, they both accepted that they had fixed roles in life, about which they could do nothing but perform what these roles required of them. Epictetus performed the role of being a slave to perfection, and Aurelius, his role of being Emperor to perfection. Aurelius crucified a lot of Christians since he thought it his duty to do so, and the story is told of Epictetus who when informed by a cruel master that his arm would be broken for some some minor infraction replied, "Very well. It is my role as a slave to have my arm broken, and it is your role as a master to break it". Of course, stoicism depends on the metaphysics of fatalism. And fatalism seems to me demonstrably false. It is wisdom to know the difference between what you can change, and what you cannot, and act on that wisdom. Only you have to know it, and not only believe you know it.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 08/24/06 - How did we ever get the notion of the mind as something distinct from the body?

Is metaphysics and epistemology a waste of time; for instance, isn't knowledge a social skill?

Jon1667 answered on 08/24/06:

In the West it started with Plato, and went on to Christianity. The main motive was survival of bodily dissolution. Aristotle did his best to counter it. His famous analogy was: if the eye were the body, the mind would be the seeing. In other words, the mind is a function of the the body. That line of argument also appears in Plato's "Phaedrus" where the analogy is the mind is like the music played on the lyre. But it is dismissed by Socrates.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 08/19/06 - What is our best hope for a final explanation?

"Perhaps our best hope for a final explanation is to discover a set of final laws of nature and show that this is the only logically consistent rich theory, rich enough for example to allow for the existence of ourselves."

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/14263

Jon1667 answered on 08/19/06:

An explanation of what? And what kind of explanation would you envisage. Have you anything in particular in mind which, if it occurred, would be a final explanation. I mean, aside from the traditional one, which you may already believe. But, if you already believe there is one, and if you already think you know what it is, it seems to be unlikely that even if someone came up with a different one, you would be likely to give it much credence. (I have in mind something like what Einstein is supposed to have been looking for, namely a unified field theory).

So the question is:

1. Why do you think there is such a thing as a final explanation (especially when it is not clear to me what it would be an explanation of)?

2. How would you recognize it, if someone came up with a candidate, which wasn't the traditional one?

As you know, I think that especially in philosophy, we ought to think about the questions, rather than going on to give the answer.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 08/17/06 - What would be your reaction to the following?

"I cannot refute your argument but I know you are mistaken." In what circumstances do you think this defence would be justified?

Jon1667 answered on 08/18/06:

If someone argued that I did not exist, I might reply that way (although it is not likely that I would be able to stop laughing long enough to do so).

An argument might be valid (i.e. the premises follow necessarily from the conclusion) but if the conclusion were a self-contradiction, we would know that the conclusion was false, and therefore, at least one of the premises was false. But surely, if the conclusion of an argument is a self-contradiction, then we know that there is something the matter with the argument, since a sound argument cannot have a false conclusion, and a self-contradiction is a false conclusion.

For instance:

1. John was is Chicago at time T.
2, John was in San Francisco at time T.

Therefore, John was both in Chicago and San Francisco at the same time. And, therefore, John was in two places at the same time.

So, premise 1, or premise 2 (or both) is false.

And we know that since the argument has a false conclusion.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 08/14/06 - To what extent is the public brainwashed?

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Jon1667 answered on 08/14/06:

And to what extent are all Liberal traitors?
And, by the way, when did you stop beating your wife?

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 08/11/06 - I don't care what my Daddy did, no one in the right to hold me responsible.

Do you agree or disagree?

Jon1667 answered on 08/11/06:

If Y is responsible for E, then Y caused E. Thus, if Y did not cause E, then Y is not responsible for E.
Since I did not cause what my father did, I am not responsible for what my father did.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 08/10/06 - What the devil is similarity?! Where is it???

If two things have exactly the same shape they are similar. So their similarity is not imaginary. But where is similarity located? In both things? How can it be in two places at once? And if it is not in the things where the devil is it?!

Jon1667 answered on 08/10/06:

Why must everything have a location. Similarity is a relation among objects, but relations have no locations. Why should they have? (By the way, "in the mind" is not a location. It is a locution.)

The most familiar kind of similarity for a lot of us is that of similar triangles (as contrasted with congruent triangles)

"Triangles are similar if their corresponding (matching) angles are equal and the ratio of their corresponding sides are in proportion."

To ask for the location of a relation like similarity, is a category mistake, like asking for the time of the weather. (Or the location of Saturday. "Where is Saturday"?)

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 08/08/06 - Why is it normally wrong to kill a person?

Would killing a person in normal circumstances cease to be wrong if the majority decided it is not wrong? If not why not?

Jon1667 answered on 08/08/06:

Normal? But to answer your question directly, obviously not. The reason is that the majority does not decide truth.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 08/07/06 - Do you categorize large segments of people as being evil, or idiots, or traitors?

If a person does this are they necessarily wrong.

Jon1667 answered on 08/08/06:

The Hizbolla are a group of evil people. That seems right to me. They invented (in modern times) suicide-bombing, to kill innocent people; they hide among civilians and ensure the death of those civilians. They began this terrible war in the Mid-East. So what is wrong with characterizing them as a evil disgusting group? It seems to me obviously true.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 08/06/06 - Why bother to discuss moral issues?

If goodness and justice exist only in the mind why bother to discuss whether a war is justified?

Jon1667 answered on 08/06/06:

Goodness and justice do not "exist only in the mind". They represent social issues about the interactions of people and our attitudes toward them. As such, they are of great importance. I suppose that in your meaning of the phrase "exists only in the mind", cricket and chess also "exist only in the mind", but there are objective things we can say about them, e.g. that so-and-so was checkmated.

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Dark_Crow asked on 08/05/06 - U.S. and France Reach Deal on Mideast Resolution.......

"Under its terms, there will be an immediate full cessation by the Hezbollah militia of all attacks"

This should be interesting, "lay out the procedure for disarming Hezbollah".

By WARREN HOGE
Published: August 5, 2006 in the New York Times

Jon1667 answered on 08/05/06:

As usual. the "world community" in engaged in appeasement. Of course, in part, this is Israel's fault this time. It has been only in the last week that it has been doing what it should have been doing since the inception of this war. If Ariel Sharon had been in charge, and in full possession of his powers, things would have been different. Unhappily, Israel thought this could be done on the cheap, and was fearful of the reaction of the "world community" when it is obvious that the "world community" would react in the same way whatever Israel did.

I hope Olmert loses his job over this, and that Netanyahu becomes premier.

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Question/Answer
jackreade asked on 08/04/06 - Limits

What are the limits of reason? Are their any?

Jon1667 answered on 08/05/06:

There may be such limits, but, then again, it may be beyond such limits to say what the limits are, or even to determine that such limit exist.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 08/02/06 - What is racism? Is it ever justified?

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Jon1667 answered on 08/02/06:

If you mean by racism, just that some people do not like other groups of people, or even feel enmity toward them, then that is a just a fact of life, and is neither justifiable nor unjustifible. On the other hand, if you mean that some people treat others in ways that are harmful to those others, actions of that sort are punishable by law in this country (at any rate) and are illegal.

I don't find this a moral issue.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 08/01/06 - What is a Palestinian?.............

What makes a Palestinian a Palestinian and not a Syrian, Iranian or Hezbollahian?

Jon1667 answered on 08/01/06:

There is no, and never has been, a Palestinian state. "Palestine" is what is called a "geographical expression" much like, "Asia Minor"

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Question/Answer
MicroGlyphics asked on 07/31/06 - White House Fears U.S. Officials Could Be Tried Under War Crimes Act

"Concern is growing within the White House that top members of the administration could be tried under the 1996 War Crimes Act. The law criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions and threatens the death penalty if U.S.-held detainees die in custody from abusive treatment. The Washington Post is reporting that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has spoken privately with Republican lawmakers about the need to protect administration officials and soldiers from being tried for war crimes."

Comments?

Ref: http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/07/31/1435210

Jon1667 answered on 07/31/06:

Accusations and proof are two different things. Even you know that.

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Question/Answer
MicroGlyphics asked on 07/31/06 - Why justify war?

It seems to me that as much energy is expended justifying war as waging it. It also seems to me that for some people simply calling the opposition "bad" is sufficient enough justification. If as much effort was exerted to justify and wage peace, the world would be a better place.

People attempt to justify war because they know they are wrong. This is a defensive mechanism. In psychology, this is attempting to assuage cognitive dissonance. Tell yourself enough times that something is just, and you might start to believe it. As the axiom goes, "Nothing is such that thinking doesn't make it so."

Jon1667 answered on 07/31/06:

No one I know of (except perhaps the Nazis or Nietzsche) has ever justified war as such. However, many have held that there are just wars. For instance, that is official Catholic doctrine. Namely the doctrine of just war, in for instance, self-defense. Which is exactly the kind of war that Israel is indisputably fighting. A war in self-defense.

There is however the additional issue of fighting a just war justly. For there are the rules and conventions of war, agreed on by most civilized peoples and nations. One thing is clear: it a war crime recognized by the Geneva Conventions for combatants to use civilians as shields, as the Hizbolla have been doing. But, of course, no one claims that the Hizbolla are a civilized people.

It is much better to think about the matter, than to obscure it with a lot of psychobabble like "defense mechanism" and "cognitive dissonance".

I don't know that maxim. But of course, only P.R. agents, and propagandists believe that they can produce reality by thinking that something is so.

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Question/Answer
jackreade asked on 07/29/06 - Degrees of Truth

How many logics?

If we think about logic at all, we probably think of it as one and indivisible - truth is truth and an argument is either valid or it isn't. But perhaps we need a logic that is more subtle than that, one that allows for degrees or truth. Adapted from another philosophy site.


Do you agree that there are degrees of truth?

Jon1667 answered on 07/30/06:

I don't see what the question, are there degrees of truth? has to do with logic (or with logics). Logic is the science of inference, and its study tells us about the internal relationships among propositions, so that, logic tells us that if we correctly infer Q from P, then if P is true, then necessarily Q is true. But it doesn't tell us whether either P or Q are, in fact, true. Truth, on the other hand, concerns the external relation between propositions and the world. A proposition is true if, and only if, it corresponds to some fact in the world.

So far as I can tell, to talk about "degrees of truth" would be to talk about whether one proposition is "truer" than another. What that means I am sure I don't know.

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Question/Answer
jackreade asked on 07/29/06 - Meaning of Life

"On the time scale of the history of the Earth an individual human lifetime is a mere blink of an eye. We're born, we live, and we die--and then we are "heard no more." Death is like a dreamless sleep from which we will never awake, our consciousness snuffed out forever [1]. If this life is all there is, what is the point of living? If we're all going to be dead in the end anyway, what difference does it make what we do with our lives? We may influence the lives of others, but they too are doomed to death. In a few generations most of our accomplishments will be totally forgotten, the memories of our lives reduced to a mere name etched on a tombstone or written on a genealogy chart. In a few centuries even our tombstones will be unreadable due to weathering; our skeletal remains will be all that is left of us. Barring fossilization, these too will be disintegrated into the earth and no trace of us will remain. The matter from which we were made will be absorbed into other organisms--plants, animals, even other human beings. New species will appear, flourish, and disappear, soon to be replaced by others filling in the niche left by their extinction. Human beings too will succumb to extinction. All life on Earth will be wiped out when our dying sun expands into a red giant, finally engulfing the Earth. Ultimately the universe will be incapable of supporting any life as it expands forever, leaving only residual heat and evaporating black holes, or contracts back on itself, fusing all matter and energy into a final Big Crunch. Either way, all life in the universe will disappear forever.

Such considerations once led Bertrand Russell to conclude that any philosophy worth taking seriously would have to be built upon a "firm foundation of unyielding despair" [2].

Does the finality of death make life meaningless......." Keith Augestine.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Changing the question, assuming an afterlife, does an afterlife give life meaning?


Any comments welcome...

Jon1667 answered on 07/30/06:

I would think that if Russell is right, it would make life even more precious and meaningful.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 07/27/06 - "War against Terrorism"...........................

It appears obvious that America, the UK and Israel are losing the "War against Terrorism". What, in your opinion must be done to accomplish this.

Jon1667 answered on 07/27/06:

We are no more in a war against terrorism now, than we were in a war against the blitskrieg in 1942. The blitzkrieg was a Nazi tactic, not Nazism, and terrorism is an Islamo-fascist tactic, not Islamo-fascism. There is a world wide movement, manifested in London, in Spain, in Russia, in Indonesia, in India, and in Toronto in Canada, which is Islamo-Fascism which is using terrorism as a means because the war between the civilized nations, and the Islamo-fascists is what is called an "asymmetric war".

The sooner we understand what is happening, the better off we'll be.

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MicroGlyphics asked on 07/27/06 - Media Bias and the Problem with Talk Show Hosts

I listen to both Right Wing and Left Wing radio talk shows during drive time. Both sides accuse the Mass Media, of which they are each components, of media bias. It happens that the Right insists the media is biased Left, and the Left insists the media is biased Right. Obviously, then, the media may well not be biased but rather is shoddy and diluted.

I read articles from both sides, too. Sure some so-called reporters might be biased. Just as sure some reporters are even competent, but on balance, reporting is like Swiss cheese, full of holes replete with omissions, intentionally and otherwise. Editors are complicit in this, too.

Talk show hosts on both sides, generally presumed to be preaching to their respective choirs, making all sorts of false and misleading statement as well as statements out of context with poorly research support (or lack thereof).

The way I attempt to get a fuller picture is to read and listen to both perspectives. Of course this is not an optimal approach because the world is not 2-dimensional. I know most people are guilty of Group Think and tend to flock like sheep to an ideological base. I also know that most people tend to single-source there news or severely restrict their input in an attempt to diminish cognitive dissonance, I suppose.

Do you feel the media is slanted or biased? If so, which way? How do you get your news?

Jon1667 answered on 07/27/06:

As far as I understand, talk show hosts are supposed to have strong opinions. They are not reporters of the news. They are commentators on the news. They are hired to have opinions, and not to do straight reporting. So, it is not much of a criticism to say that they are biased. That is what they are supposed to be, and it is why people listen to them. The question of whether the media is slanted or biased is a different question, and is independent of talk show hosts who (of course) are. Since that is what they are payed for.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 07/27/06 - The Insanity of War.

............................................Decisive military outcomes have become much less common in interstate wars since World War II. Why?

"The argument that fares best in these tests is that improved methods of maintaining peace, specifically the development of peacekeeping, help combatants bring an end to the war rather than fight to the finish."

http://64.233.183.104/search?q=cache:jZlfdleiz1AJ:
www.columbia.edu/~vpf4/apsa04.pap.pdf
+analysis+of+war+outcomes&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=6

Since indecisive wars usually lead to further fighting surely it is wiser to negotiate a settlement at the outset rather than cause so much unnecessary suffering and bloodshed?

Jon1667 answered on 07/27/06:

Indecisive wars often do lead to further fighting. I imagine that is one reason they are said to be "indecisive". Not all wars are indecisive. For, instance, the civil war in Nicaragua in the 80's turned out finally to be a decisive victory for the forces of democracy.

In the Middle East, the wars between Israel and the Arabs have mostly been quite decisive. Israel has clearly won. However, the peace created indecision because the European countries and the United States made sure to try to rescue the Arabs from the consequences of their defeats. The Europeans are trying to do the same now, for like the Boubons of old, they have never learned anything, and have never forgotten anything. But now, the United States, has changed its views, and is attempting, against the usual European hand-wringing about the "humanitarian costs" to make sure that, as Secretary Rice said, the circumstances do not return to the "status quo ante" when, indeed, the war will resume with even greater humanitarian costs.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 07/26/06 - Is Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki an "anti-Semite"?

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean thinks so. If so why is he being supported by the US?

Jon1667 answered on 07/27/06:

I supppose that he is not so anti-semitic as the other possibilities. We fight the war with the Iraqis we have.

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Question/Answer
MicroGlyphics asked on 07/26/06 - Would tensions in the Middle East be as high as it is now if the US hadn't invaded Iraq?

Now that the US has beaten the hornets' nest of the Middle East, the hornets are restless and stinging. The US is upset that it cannot seem to put the hornets back in the nest, and so continues to attack the nest directly and through proxy. While I agree that some hornets have been stirring for years and decades, would they be as agitated if the US hadn't bothered them?

The US has given as rationale WMD and 9/11 as provocations for having attacked the sovereign nation of Iraq, an impoverished and despotic yet secular state. None of this was proven true, so the rationale was shifted to Democracy, but the US does not respect a democracy when it isn't fashioned in a manner acceptable by the US, say, Iran, Lebanon, and Venezuela.

Soviet-style Communism was an abject failure in part by two large reasons: attempts to micro-manage the macro-economy (let's call this meddling), and offensive interference by Western powers (let's call this meddling). So, meddling appears to be at the root of failure. Why, then, have we not learnt our lessons and stopped meddling in the affairs of otherespecially sovereignnations?

Of course it should not be a secret that I am opposed to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, but that does not diminish the quality of the question: Would tensions in the Middle East be as high as it is now if the US hadn't invaded Iraq?

Jon1667 answered on 07/26/06:

Would there have been World War Two had we permitted Hitler to conquer Europe, and spread Nazism throughout the world? I guess not. Should we have permitted Hitler to do as he pleased? I guess not. What you call the "tensions of the Middle East" are an inevitable consequence of trying to change the face of the Middle East and bring it from the 10th century, into the 21st century. The invasion of Iraq was an important step in that that direction.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 07/25/06 - What can we learn from history about war?

...

Jon1667 answered on 07/25/06:

That question supposes that we learn anything from history, and even that is an issue. But what we learn from war is that some wars are good, and some are bad, and some are effective, and some are not. What else would you expect we would learn?

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 07/24/06 - Israeli response ................................

If you could make the decisions for Israeli response to Hezbollah and Palestine, what would you do in response to their actions and demands?

Jon1667 answered on 07/24/06:

Just what Israel is doing now, except more so.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 07/24/06 - How can nuclear conflict be prevented?

............

Jon1667 answered on 07/24/06:

Tony:

But she is not obliterating cities at all. She has been bombing the Hezbolla in the south quite heavily, and she has also been bombing Hezbolla strongholds in the southern suburbs of Beruit. She has used only a fraction of her air power. But, quite soon, she will be taking shipment of the "bunker-busting" bombs, and with luck, she will be able to weaken Hezbollah considerably more. Anyway, let's all hope so.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 07/24/06 - How can nuclear conflict be prevented?

............

Jon1667 answered on 07/24/06:

What makes you think it is impending? Of course, if we allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, then it will be very ominous. But I am sure that American (nor Israel) will allow that to happen, even while the Europeans are wringing their hands.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 07/24/06 - Who is benefiting from the Middle East conflict?

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Jon1667 answered on 07/24/06:

Yoour question suggests that the present conflict was staged for some hidden cause, and that behind it all lies some looming villain. I don't know whether that is what you intend. No one, that I can see, benefits from what is going on now. The conflict occurred because Syria and Iran are attempting to halt democritization in the Middle East. It is no coincidence that Abbas had scheduled a referendum to determine whether the Palestinians wanted to negotiate a two-state settlement with Israel, when Gaza erupted. Hamas was clearly trying to short-circuit that attempt at peace, was opposed to the referendum which it was afraid it would lose. And, then, Hezbolla, supported by Syria and Iran, both of whom want to wipe out Israel, thought to support Hamas by beginning a two-front war on Israel. So, if there was a conspiracy, as your question suggests there was, there it is. Of course, if the terrorists, and haters of the Jews, succeed, they will have benefited from this conflict. But, as a conspiracy, this was a rather open one. There are no secret puppet masters behind stage manipulating the puppets. It is all quite obvious.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 07/21/06 - fear a rational populace is unobtainable..............

Iranian scientist, and there are thousands-including one of the foremost in history surly do not follow in the precepts of the Koran. That is, surly they are no more religious that the scientific community at large. Why then do they support a theocracy? One reason is that perhaps they fear a rational populace is unobtainable and therefore, a populace needs religion as a controlling force in maintaining law and order.

There must be other reasons, mustn't there?

Jon1667 answered on 07/22/06:

How do you know that they all support the government?

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Question/Answer
jackreade asked on 07/19/06 - A Challenge from Dershowitz

My argument is that by hiding behind their own civilians, the Islamic radicals issue a challenge to democracies: either violate your own morality by coming after us and inevitably killing some innocent civilians, or maintain your morality and leave us with a free hand to target your innocent civilians. This challenge presents democracies such as Israel with a lose-lose option and the terrorists with a win-win option. I challenge the readers of this post to recommend to Israel better ways of responding to this challenge. What would you do? What would America do? What should a democracy do?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

How would you answer Prof. Dershowitz' challenge?

Jon1667 answered on 07/19/06:

The terrorists are launching rockets from private homes. They have to be killed.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 07/19/06 - Somehow, logic has flown out the window............

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi argued, "A nation that can provide more than $300 billion for a war in Iraq can provide the money to get its people out of Lebanon".

I would agree that America should foot the bill for evacuation of citizens for whom America sent to Lebanon, but what of citizens with duel citizenship and in Lebanon by there own means. Why should taxpayers foot the bill for the evacuation of those who are there on vacation? In the beginning, the State Department was going to charge regular airfare but then dropped the plan. Somehow, logic has flown out the window.

Jon1667 answered on 07/19/06:

Oh, it's one of those, if we can go to the moon, we can cure cancer, bits of nonsense, comparing oranges with bananas. Pelosi could drive a cat crazy.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 07/15/06 - At what stage does science become inadequate?

"Darwin's theory, without which nothing in biology is supposed to make sense, in fact offers no insight into how the flagellum arose. If the biological community had even an inkling of how such systems arose by naturalistic mechanisms, Miller would not -- a full six years after the publication of Darwin's Black Box by Michael Behe -- be lamely gesturing at the type three secretory system as a possible evolutionary precursor to the flagellum.

Also, even if all the protein parts were somehow available to make a flagellar motor during the evolution of life, the parts would need to be assembled in the correct temporal sequence similar to the way an automobile is assembled in factory. Yet, to choreograph the assembly of the parts of the flagellar motor, present-day bacteria need an elaborate system of genetic instructions as well as many other protein machines to time the expression of those assembly instructions. Arguably, this system is itself irreducibly complex. In any case, the co-option argument tacitly presupposes the need for the very thing it seeks to explain a functionally interdependent system of proteins.

The more we KNOW about the bacterial flagellum, the less and less it is anything the Darwininian mechanism could produce. Moreover, there are strongly affirmative grounds for inferring design from the presence of irreducibly complex machines and circuits. Every time we know the causal history of an irreducibly complex system (like the NASCAR racing engine or an electronic circuit), it always turns out to have been the product of an intelligent cause."

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2005/02/derbyshire_vi_behe_s_bacterial_flagellum_1.html

Jon1667 answered on 07/16/06:

Tony:

You keep asking questions like, does science explain truth, etc.

But you never tell us what it would be for science to explain such things. Do you mean, for instance, can science explain why people speak the truth, or are good? Or can science explain what it is for a proposition to be true? Well, that is not an empirical question, but it is a philosophical question, and the correspondence theory is an attempt to explain that.

By asking such questions, Tony, you are, with due respect, committing the fallacy which J.L. Austin called, "the fallacy of asking about nothing in particular".

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 07/15/06 - At what stage does science become inadequate?

"Darwin's theory, without which nothing in biology is supposed to make sense, in fact offers no insight into how the flagellum arose. If the biological community had even an inkling of how such systems arose by naturalistic mechanisms, Miller would not -- a full six years after the publication of Darwin's Black Box by Michael Behe -- be lamely gesturing at the type three secretory system as a possible evolutionary precursor to the flagellum.

Also, even if all the protein parts were somehow available to make a flagellar motor during the evolution of life, the parts would need to be assembled in the correct temporal sequence similar to the way an automobile is assembled in factory. Yet, to choreograph the assembly of the parts of the flagellar motor, present-day bacteria need an elaborate system of genetic instructions as well as many other protein machines to time the expression of those assembly instructions. Arguably, this system is itself irreducibly complex. In any case, the co-option argument tacitly presupposes the need for the very thing it seeks to explain a functionally interdependent system of proteins.

The more we KNOW about the bacterial flagellum, the less and less it is anything the Darwininian mechanism could produce. Moreover, there are strongly affirmative grounds for inferring design from the presence of irreducibly complex machines and circuits. Every time we know the causal history of an irreducibly complex system (like the NASCAR racing engine or an electronic circuit), it always turns out to have been the product of an intelligent cause."

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2005/02/derbyshire_vi_behe_s_bacterial_flagellum_1.html

Jon1667 answered on 07/15/06:

Inadequate for what? And if there were any such stage, how could we know such a thing?

"Do not block the path to inquiry" C.S. Peirce.

And to declare that "science stops here" would certainly be an attempt (which would not succeed) to block the path to inquiry.

It was not so long ago that someone confidently pronounced that we could never discover the constitution of the stars. And not long after, the spectroscope was invented that allows us to analyse the light from the stars, and, so, the constitution of the stars.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 07/12/06 - legitimate act of war?

Some people believe that the recent kidnapping of Israeli's, first by Hamas, and the other by the Hezbollah of Lebanon is a legitimate act of war. What say you?

Jon1667 answered on 07/12/06:

Legitimate how? Israel, against better judgement, gave Gaza up. Instead of attempting, with the help of Israel, and the rest of the world community, to try to make Gaza into a going concern, the Palestinians, in their customary way, did not miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, and returned to their self destructive ways, first by electing Hamas as the new government, and then firing rockets as Israel. and finally, kidnapping.

Now that the the return of Gaza to the Palestinians has been such a smashing success, I cannot wait to see what happens when the West Bank is also given up to these industrious and intelligent people.

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Question/Answer
Coup_de_Grace asked on 07/10/06 - Inventing an Emotion

I have been having a discussion with my wife, Susan, who insists that romantic love was an emotion invented and popularized by William Shakespeare. To bolster her argument, she quotes me Professor Harold Bloom. I have to admit, she makes a lot of sense.

Are there other invented emotions? Self-pity, is that one?


Ben

Banjamin and Susan Grace




Jon1667 answered on 07/11/06:

I think that the usual view is that romantic love was "invented" by the troubadours of the 11th century, well before Shakespeare.

See:
http://72.14.209.104/search?q=cache:N_Ra1OmlHUYJ:www.depaul.edu/~dsimpson/tlove/courtlylove.html+love+troubadours&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=1&ie=UTF-8

In any case, the fact that Bloom holds that view would make me immediately suspicious of it.

I am not clear what an "invented" emotion is. I suppose you might mean that it isn't one that comes naturally. But it might very well be that the emotion exists, and the conceptualization does not yet exist. I think that the ideas of an "invented" emotion needs more scrutiny. It, itself, might be invented.

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Question/Answer
NCohen asked on 07/10/06 - Quality of Philosophical Arguments

The following quotation is taken from Russell's "History of Western Philosophy":

"There is little of true philosophic spirit in Aquinas. He does not, like the Platonic Socrates, set out to follow wherever the argument may lead. He is not engaged in an inquiry, the result of which it is impossible to know in advance. Before he begins to philosophize, he already knows the truth; it is declared in the Catholic faith. If he can find apparently rational arguments for some parts of the faith, so much the better; if he cannot, he need only fall back on revelation. The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading. I cannot, therefore, feel that he deserves to be put on a level with the best philosophers either of Greece or modern times."

Why it's so difficult to have a genuine philosophical conversation with someone who firmly believes in God? The Catholic Philosophy section in Russell's book demonstrates how philosophy was largely dead in the dark ages, and was only revived after the reformation.

While there are a number of theologians who did make some significant philosophical contributions, their philosophy was still essentially guided by faith and thus significantly 'tainted'.

Aren't atheists and agnostics the only people in an intellectual positon to philosophize about the nature and possibility of God?


Many thanks,
Nigel

Jon1667 answered on 07/11/06:

The goal of argument is not to discover what is true, but to establish what is true. It doesn't seem to me to matter whether what you are attempting to establish true is something you already believe is true. Whether the argument is a cogent one depends on the worth of the argument, not on the motives of the arguer.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 07/10/06 - To what extent do we make ourselves what we are?

"Liberty, in other words, is not indeterminism, but self-determination; for "our choosing affects ourselves no less than the chosen or rejected objects, and ... it is up to each of us to decide for himself what he is to make of himself".

http://www.bu.edu/wcp/Papers/Acti/ActiSmit.htm

Jon1667 answered on 07/10/06:

But what of the decisions themselves? We decide what we are, perhaps (although that is clearly too simple since the world also has a hand in it) but who decides what we will decide?

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Question/Answer
Oldstillwild asked on 06/05/06 - basics

A true philosphical mind would be willing and able to answer any question.......

What dya think?

Jon1667 answered on 06/05/06:

I suppose that if someone doesn't have a "true" philosophical mind, then he cannot answer any question, and, if he can answer any question, then he has a "true" philosophical mind. Well, suppose that I am not able to answer the question, what did Oldstilwild have for breakfast this morning (which I cannot). Does that mean I do not have a true philosophical mind?

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 06/04/06 - What is your religion?..........................

Leo Tolstoy proposes that everyone has a religion because everyone stands in relation to the world, and whatever that relationship is, to that individual is their religion.

"The essence of any religion lies solely in the answer to the question: why do I exist, and what is my relationship to the infinite universe that surrounds me?
.. It is impossible for there to be a person with no religion (i.e. without any kind of relationship to the world) as it is for there to be a person without a heart. He may not know that he has a religion, just as a person may not know that he has a heart, but it is no more possible for a person to exist without a religion than without a heart".
~Leo Tolstoy

Jon1667 answered on 06/04/06:

Well, Tolstoy is just redefining the term "religion" so that he can say that everyone has a religion. I could easily do the same kind of thing by redefining "atheism" so that everyone becomes an atheist (according to that definition). For instance, since an atheist is someone who is an individual and not completely a part of the world, everyone is an atheist.

Nothing is accomplished by redefining terms in order to reach some conclusion you have decided on beforehand. Defining terms in that way is the kind of propaganda critical thinkers call, "persuasive definition" and is intellectually dishonest.

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Question/Answer
jackreade asked on 06/04/06 - German Philosophers

I ran across this quote on the internet. "Only the descent into the hell of self-knowledge can pave the way to godliness." -Kant

I felt a little confused because I thought the German philosophers(not counting Nietzsche) were only about rationality and logic; I was surpursed to see such a "personal" philosophical observation.

Just a general question. Are there comments or chapters in the German Philosopher's works that deal with this more personal type of philosophy?

Jon1667 answered on 06/04/06:

I wonder what it is about that quote (if it is a quote from Kant. I don't recognize it) that makes you think it is a "'personal philosophical observation". I don't suppose it is supposed to be directed only by Kant at himself, but is supposed to be true of everyone. It doesn't seem to me anymore "personal" than that when Descartes wrote his famous, "I think, therefore I am" he was addressing only himself, and saying that he could prove his own existence that way, but he didn't know about anyone else. As for Kant, he announced that he was ultimately "denying knowledge to make room for faith" in his greatest work, "The Critique of Pure Reason". Does that surprise you too?

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Question/Answer
jackreade asked on 06/04/06 - Philosophy Challenge

The following is a cut and paste from another Internet Site:

"One thing philosophy sorely lacks is holidays. That in mind, I have a suggestion: a day on which everyone argues for positions they disagree with (and against positions they agree with). In other words, you play devil's advocate. The arguments should be done honestly to make the viewpoint look as good as possible... anyone using a strawman argument would be held in violation of the spirit of the holiday." Paul, Anon.

For example, I would love to see Mr Crow argue against postmodern philosophy.

Ken argue for Nihilism.


And so on. Everyone pick a philosophy they disagree with and make a case for it. This is an easier and more flexible format than a debate.

How about starting on 6-6-06(666), the Board making a statement for rationality?


jack

Jon1667 answered on 06/04/06:

The trouble with that, as I see it, is that it implies that philosophy is a kind of game, or maybe, a large debating society, in which people are trying to score points, and argue for the sake of argument, rather than that that philosophy is an investigation to find out answer to philosophical problems. Plato distinguishes between dialectic and eristic. Dialectic is an honest cooperative search for truth, while eristic is the attempt to win an argument by scorring points off your opponent. It is what the Sophists (Plato's philosophical opponents) engaged it. Plato, of course, thought that philosophy should be conducted dialectically, as a cooperative search for truth, rather than eristically, as a kind of debate.

If, for instance, using an example that springs to mind, we consider the question of whether God exists, isn't there what the American philosopher called, "a fact of the matter"? Isn't it either true or false that there is a God, and we should strive to find out what the fact of the matter is?

Taking up your suggestion, should it be rationally or non-rationally, or irrationally debated whether we should be rational? Philosophers (like me) believe that philosophy is a serious subject, and not a game.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 06/03/06 - Analytic Philosophy as Religion? ............

Is Analytic Philosophy the equivalent in the History of Philosophy, to Fundamentalism in Religion? From my brief experience with a few Analytic Philosophers, I say yes, indeed. They recognize on their own philosophy as the only, True Philosophy- in discussions they always retreat into the claim they just don not understand an opponent, or if I quote anyone but another Analytic, the Analytic merely dismisses the quote on the basis of the author. Am I entirely wrong?

Jon1667 answered on 06/03/06:

An ad hominem disguised as an analysis. No analytic philosopher I know of thinks that analytic philosophy is the only "true philosophy". Obviously, analytic philosophers think that analytic philosophy is the best way of doing philosophy otherwise they would not be analytic philosophers.

When you or someone else says something I understand and I think is wrong, I state my objection. When you or someone else says something I don't understand, I say I don't understand. That might be an opportunity for you to try to make clear (if you can) what you said, or even find out that you really did not understand what you were saying.

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Question/Answer
Bradd asked on 06/02/06 - Asian Philosophy

Someone asked about "oriental" philosophy.

So here's a question: Confucian philosophy, Daoist philosophy, and Greek philosophy all emerged at roughly the same time - give or take.

Were they connected? What was going on in the 5th or 6th century BC that may have been responsible for one affecting the other? If anything at all. The Silk Road?

Buddhism, Gainism, and Hinduism also take shape in this time period. Were these religious philosophies also part of whatever was happening?

Within Judaism, the "social philosophy" of the prophets is written down, and is quite different from what has gone before in that tribe's sacred writings.

Are all of these movements interconnected somehow? If so, how? If not, why not?

Jon1667 answered on 06/02/06:

Not much of a response. I guess we are all too Eurocentric.

But, as I pointed out in another thread, and as you yourself illustrate here, what is called Asian philosophy (Eastern philosophy) is deeply embedded in Eastern religions. As for Judaism, the philosophy of (say)Ecclesiastes, is, I suppose, what we would call "wisdom" rather than the sort of thing that began in Athens in the 5th century B.C. which (with the possible exception of the Talmudic commentaries) is quite unique in the history of the world. The Greeks seemed to pursue ideas for their own sakes, and found it, I guess, fun.

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Question/Answer
Jim.McGinness asked on 06/01/06 - Verbal sparring or Rules of Engagement

Many of the postings on this board fall into a category I would call "verbal sparring". It's a bit like practicing the moves of an argument without actually committing to having the argument. Tricks, feints, low blows, intimidation, sarcasm, and sly criticisms often outnumber the earnest statements of positions and the honest exploration of differences.

What are your rules of engagement for participation in this board? I've laid out in response to Hank's most recent question a number of my pet peeves. I've been called on making ad hominem remarks, erecting straw men, and generally having the wrong attitude for this board.

Is there anything we can agree to amongst ourselves that will make participation here more fulfilling? A while back, JackReade left in disgust, but came back after finding no greener pastures elsewhere. [Welcome Jack!] Ken dropped out of sight for a while but now seems to be participating regularly again [Hi, Ken, I still enjoy "most" of your postings.]

If a new person came along and read through past threads, how likely is it that they would want to stay and participate in questions? Do we want more participants? What philosophical points of view are we sorely missing?

Jon1667 answered on 06/01/06:

Perhaps some posters engage in verbal sparring some of the time. But, surely, not all engage in verbal sparring all of the time. I, myself, do my best to answer questions sincerely, and to the best of my belief, although I do engage in some humor, and perhaps some sarcasm on occasion. It does not seem to me that Tony does any verbal sparring, or if he does, I have not noticed it.

When, for a while, I did not participate, it was partly because I was busy elsewhere, and partly because I found nothing worth participating in. When I think I can make a contribution, I do so. There is a French saying, "Penser, toujours. Parler,jamais" ( "Always think, never speak") Well, I try to follow the first part of the advice; and when I transgress against the second, I try to have something to say.

As I have said, my philosophical point of view is clarity and rationality. Should we have any other?

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Question/Answer
jackreade asked on 06/01/06 - Former Republic and Democracy

I tend to agree with Noam Chomsky that America is no longer a democracy.

Those running for election take much money from large donors so they must vote the donor's agenda or not get money for reelection. Their will is more important than the people's will.

Lobbyists write a lot of legislation and give away lots of money in order to further their agendas.

Most Republicans and Democrats are bought and paid for . Everyone knows that.

Therefore, the rich and powerful individuals and Corporations are able to use politicians to further their programs. A few manor corporations control the media, the newspapers and television media are primaily promote right wing agendas, there are only a few media outlets that promote a true left wing agenda. Lightweight Katie Couric is the new CBS 6 o'clock anchor. Fluff. Bill O'Reilly tells outright lies with a straight face. Most talking heads can't hold their jobs if they don't bash democrats.

Congress has been effectively rendered powerless. Bush can dismiss what they pass if he "doesn't agree with it". The executive branch can order the search of a Congressman's office in the middle of the night and seize his computer...no private Democratic election strategies there, I bet. Bush/Cheney can invade Iran if they want to.

WE have an Imperial Presidency with Dick Cheney at the head and George Bush as the genial but stupid spokesmodel.

So, do you agree with me?

If not, why not?

Regards, jack

Jon1667 answered on 06/01/06:

A democracy is a state in which there is voting, and those who govern rule by the consent of the governed. It is also a place where there are democratic institutions, such as the separation of powers, and the freedom of speech and assembly. So far as I know, that is still what goes on in the United States, and in many Western nations. Noam Chomsky could not tell us that there is no democracy in the United States unless there were a democracy in the United States.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 05/31/06 - Clarity and rationality

"SOME YEARS AGO, being with a camping party in the mountains, I returned from a solitary ramble to find every one engaged in a ferocious metaphysical dispute. The corpus of the dispute was a squirrel - a live squirrel supposed to be clinging to one side of a tree-trunk; while over against the tree's opposite side a human being was imagined to stand. This human witness tries to get sight of the squirrel by moving rapidly round the tree, but no matter how fast he goes, the squirrel moves as fast in the opposite direction, and always keeps the tree between himself and the man, so that never a glimpse of him is caught. The resultant metaphysical problem now is this: Does the man go round the squirrel or not?"
http://horan.asu.edu/ced522readings/james/pragmatism/james.htm

Well, does the man go around the squirrel or not?

Jon1667 answered on 06/01/06:

DC

But why is that your "take"? The meaning of words is "metaphysical"? How? I agree that James thought that we should focus on consequences. He is a pragmatist. But what has that to do with it?

I think that the squirrel-tree story is exactly as I said it was. It is an illustration that some alleged problems are just verbal. That's why James tells us with amusement that the disputants did not listen to him, and just went on arguing away.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 05/31/06 - Clarity and rationality

"SOME YEARS AGO, being with a camping party in the mountains, I returned from a solitary ramble to find every one engaged in a ferocious metaphysical dispute. The corpus of the dispute was a squirrel - a live squirrel supposed to be clinging to one side of a tree-trunk; while over against the tree's opposite side a human being was imagined to stand. This human witness tries to get sight of the squirrel by moving rapidly round the tree, but no matter how fast he goes, the squirrel moves as fast in the opposite direction, and always keeps the tree between himself and the man, so that never a glimpse of him is caught. The resultant metaphysical problem now is this: Does the man go round the squirrel or not?"
http://horan.asu.edu/ced522readings/james/pragmatism/james.htm

Well, does the man go around the squirrel or not?

Jon1667 answered on 05/31/06:

Well, James's answer was that there were two senses of "go around" and, that the squirrel went around the tree in one sense, but not in the other sense.

Some people have thought that solved, or rather, dissolved, the problem. For, they thought, once the distinction between the two senses is made, it can be seen that there never really was a dispute in the first place, or maybe, rather, there was never a real dispute in the first place. No more a real dispute than there would be between two people who disputed about whether one of them was going to Paris or not, and it turns out that one of them means, Paris, France, and the other means, Paris, Texas. Such a dispute would be called a "verbal dispute" (some people love to call such a dispute, "semantics") But in any case, it would turn on the meaning of words, and not on the actual facts. In the squirrel's case, the facts are the facts. The dispute is only about how to describe the facts, and, according to James, there are two equally correct ways to describe the facts. So, there is no dispute. Actually, I happen not to find James' dissolution of the problem satisfying in this particular case. But that is another story.

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Question/Answer
HANK1 asked on 05/29/06 - GOD WANTS US TO BE FREE:



The torrid aspects of our United States Constitution would be situated elsewhere if sovereignty resided in only the people. We should be able to work freely and become devoted to the same national causes without being exposed to political propaganda. I like the expression VIRTUE OF INFLECTION while considering my true definition of a Republic. To inflect means "to turn from a straight or usual course." In this instance, it means a group of people who are willing to change their destinies by changing their present attitudes and values to realize common interests in one locale. This locale, of course, could be your neighborhood. To inflect this virtue would then allow us to delete 'subject to the same laws' and keep what's left because we'll be cognizant of SELF-DISCIPLINE. We must start somewhere if our country is to survive morally.

Any commments?

HANK

Jon1667 answered on 05/31/06:

I have read all the replies before mine to this question and not one of them has anything whatever to do with any of the other replies. They might all be replies to a different question. What do you think that means?

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Question/Answer
Bradd asked on 05/28/06 - Proofs of God

Thomistic philosophy continues to be important in some institutions of higher learning (Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans, etc.)- Catholics in general.
Anselm's proof takes up many internet pages.

But these medieval approaches don't hold much attraction to modern day students.

What is the current proof of God? If any. As science increases, and God as fable decreases, are we eliminating God, or fine-tuning him/her/it?

Jon1667 answered on 05/28/06:

I would suppose there are no current proofs of God, since if there were, such a proof would have shown that God exists, and, so far as I know, no one has shown that. It may, of course, be that there cannot be any proof of the existence of God for the obvious reason.

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Question/Answer
jackreade asked on 05/26/06 - Determinism

This is a cut and paste from an article on the Internet titled: "Determinism":

"Determinism is the general philosophical thesis which states that for everything that ever happens there are conditions such that, given them, nothing else could happen. This thesis, which has taken several forms, such as logical, ethical, physical, and so on, is perhaps as old as philosophy itself. The question of determinism has been given much contemplation in modern philosophy, largely because of the development of physical science in the 17th and 18th centuries. Because of this development, the idea began to take hold that man, like heavenly bodies and everything else, behaves according to certain unchanging laws of nature. That mans actions or wills are determined raises serious questions regarding human freedom and moral responsibility. Some early American philosophers such as Jonathon Edwards and Ralph Waldo Emerson, as well as English empiricist John Locke, espoused various types of determinism; theistic, natural, and psychological. Opponents to determinism include Charles Peirce and William James."

Would you say it is important to know philosophers' views on Determinism over the ages?

Are there discussions today about determinism; is this an actively discussed area of philosophy?
If so, in what areas of determinism?
In today's language, how would a question involving deerminism be phrased?

Jon1667 answered on 05/27/06:

"Important" is a term that needs a context. Some philosophers' views on Determinism are worth knowing because the point up different ways of understanding determinism. For instance the 17th century Dutch philosopher, Spinoza espoused the Rationalist view that the causal relation was a necessary relation like those of mathematics, so that it was just as logically impossible for a cause not to produce its effect, as it would be for a triangle not to have three sides. But the British Empiricist, David Hume, famously held that "anything could cause anything", and that causal connection was purely contingent. And this difference between two views of what it is for one event to determine another event has great importance for the problem of freedom of the will.

In today's language, philosophers would ask, what is the nature of causal necessity?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 05/27/06 - Science or Nonsense?

............................................

The other possibility is that the "last event" loops back to the "first event" causing an infinite loop. If you were to call the Big Bang the first event, you would see the end of the Universe as the "last event". In theory, the end of the Universe would be the cause of the beginning of the Universe. You would be left with an infinite loop of time with no real beginning or end. This theory eliminates the need for a first cause, but does not explain why there should be a loop in time.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Determinism

Jon1667 answered on 05/27/06:

Probably, just speculation. It bears a resemblance to what has been called the theory of the oscillating universe. Wittgenstein used to have nothing but contempt for popular descriptions of abstruse scientific theories because he thought they were attempts to translate into some kind of pictorial language theories that made sense only in their contexts. This is no more nonsense than most other tries of this sort.

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Question/Answer
jackreade asked on 05/24/06 - Nativism

I was doing some research today in the interests of learning something new, and I ran across the word nativism. John McCain used it in a private speech in New York.

I'll post the definition from the on line dictionary:

nativism
n.

1. A sociopolitical policy, especially in the United States in the 19th century, favoring the interests of established inhabitants over those of immigrants.
2. The reestablishment or perpetuation of native cultural traits, especially in opposition to acculturation.
3. Philosophy. The doctrine that the mind produces ideas that are not derived from external sources.


Note, definition #3 as used in Philosophy. What is this? Isn't it accepted knowledge that individuals have minds that produce ideas not derived from extermal sources?

Any discussion and input appreciated.

Jon1667 answered on 05/25/06:

John Locke, the 17th century English empiricist coined the term "tabula rasa" or "blank slate" to express his belief that there are no innate ideas in the mind, and that all our ideas come from the senses. In his great, "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding" the first chapter is titled, "On Innate Notions". There, Locke targets those philosophers of his time in England (The Cambridge Platonists) who held, with Plato, the the mind was born with ideas. The dispute between the Rationalists (nativists) and the Empiricists, is an on going dispute in the theory of knowledge, particularly, how knowledge is acquired.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 05/24/06 - What is a Nation State?..........................

Off the top of the head, it may seem obvious; but essentially, is it something more than a particular ruling body of a particular geographic area?

Jon1667 answered on 05/24/06:

Yes. For instance, it has to have a government. It has to be recognized by other governments. It need to control its territory.

Let's just begin with those.

By the way, what is the "particular ruling body of Palestine"? There is no agreement even on the boundries of Palestine.

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Question/Answer
Oldstillwild asked on 05/23/06 - obscurity

Can you be absent?

And

What is it?

Jon1667 answered on 05/23/06:

Of course. I was often absent from school when I was ill (and even when I wasn't ill); some people are absent minded; and remember, absence makes the heart grow fonder (although, it is also true that out of sight, out of mind).

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Question/Answer
Bradd asked on 05/22/06 - Terrorism - Revisited

"Terrorism is the deliberate targeting of innocent people to pursue some goal. How could such an action be even excused, much less justified"?

An excellent question.

The UK and the US deliberatly targeted innocent people to pursue the goal of winning the war against Germany and Japan. The Allied air forces stopped strategic bombing of military targets to concentrate on civilian populations. Hamburg and Dresden were levelled, and napalm was introduced against Japanese cities because of their wood construction.

The victims were the elderly, children and infants, and their mothers. This was NOT "collateral" damage - it was intended. 600,000 died in Germany, perhaps one million in Japan. In Japan, it was safer to be in the armed forces.

The Brits, to their credit, have acknowledged what they did. The US has never done so.

It all seems to turn on your point of view. One man's terrorist, as has been repeated so often, is another man's freedom fighter.

Jon1667 answered on 05/23/06:

"In contrast, I think in the instance of Palestine, it accurate to describe it as a terrorist nation."

Since when is Palestine a nation?

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Question/Answer
Bradd asked on 05/22/06 - Terrorism - Revisited

"Terrorism is the deliberate targeting of innocent people to pursue some goal. How could such an action be even excused, much less justified"?

An excellent question.

The UK and the US deliberatly targeted innocent people to pursue the goal of winning the war against Germany and Japan. The Allied air forces stopped strategic bombing of military targets to concentrate on civilian populations. Hamburg and Dresden were levelled, and napalm was introduced against Japanese cities because of their wood construction.

The victims were the elderly, children and infants, and their mothers. This was NOT "collateral" damage - it was intended. 600,000 died in Germany, perhaps one million in Japan. In Japan, it was safer to be in the armed forces.

The Brits, to their credit, have acknowledged what they did. The US has never done so.

It all seems to turn on your point of view. One man's terrorist, as has been repeated so often, is another man's freedom fighter.

Jon1667 answered on 05/23/06:

But that slogan is inane. If, indeed, what you describe took place in Dresden or in Hiroshima, then it is simply that the allies then, were also terrorists.It is not a matter of who calls whom a "terrorist". It is whether the individuals or the country did or did not commit terrorism. The fact that terrorists are CALLED "freedom fighters" by those who favor their cause, doesn't make them freedom fighters. Besides which, there is the fact that it is possible for someone to be BOTH a terrorist AND a freedom fighter. Terrorism is a tactic, a means. And the goal may be a good one. Freedom-fighting, or ridding the world of Hitler. The fact that the goal of terrorism is a good goal, doesn't make it any the less, terrorism. But it may mitigate it, or even partly excuse it (not justify it, excuse it). Then it become a question of balancing means and end. Is the goal, freedom, or getting rid of Hitler, worth the means, terrorism? The answer to that is probably not. In fact another book has just been published about the mass bombing of Germany, evaluating its goals, and dealing with whether these goals could have been otherwise accomplished, or whether these goals were in anyway achieved.

Terrorism is such a terrible thing that it is hard to see how any goal it is attempting to achieve could excuse it (as I said, justifying it is out of the question).

But the slogan, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom-fighter" is, as I said, an inane bumper-sticker slogan. All it does is point out that some people may call terrorists "freedom-fighter" whether or not they really are, if those people happen to approve of what the terrorists are doing. And, of course, there is the further complication that someone may be both a terrorist and a freedom-fighter at the same time.

But what it does not show is that the term "terrorist" is subjective, or relative, or any of that. After all, what something may be called, is one thing. But what it is, may be a different thing. Calling a dog's tail a leg doesn't mean that the dog now has five legs, and calling a terrorist a freedom fighter doesn't make him less a terrorist, or more a freedom fighter.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 05/21/06 - What are you?...................................

"You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules." (Francis Crick)

What is your view?

Jon1667 answered on 05/21/06:

Some people who are overly enthusiastic like to say that X is ONLY Y, when in more sober moments they would say that X is Y, all right, but not ONLY Y. At some moments I might say that a cake is ONLY flour, eggs, and sugar, when I mean that a cake is flour, eggs, and sugar, but surely not ONLY flour, eggs, and sugar. Of course, I need not mean by that, that the cake has some further ingredient which I had failed to mention, say, cinnamon, either. Only that these the ingredients of the cake are not the same as the cake, and that the ingredients have to be formed in a certain way, and, of course, the cake has properties that the ingredients just all mixed together in any old way, would not have.

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Question/Answer
jackreade asked on 05/20/06 - Justifying

Can terrorism of any kind ever be justified?

Jon1667 answered on 05/20/06:

Terrorism is the deliberate targeting of innocent people to pursue some goal. How could such an action be even excused, much less justified?

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Question/Answer
jackreade asked on 05/18/06 - Puzzles

I was thinking, with the advent of sophisticated language(words for abstract ideas, say) and education(someone putting information and ideas into another's mind), long abo in the distant past, did a human life become more how to figure out and create "puzzles", instead of just enjoying life?

Jon1667 answered on 05/19/06:

Puzzles are trivial. I guess that's why you put the word into quotes in your question. You didn't really think they were trivial because finding out about the world is isn't trivial.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 05/15/06 - Can we know what is real? If so how?

........................ We all think we know what is real but there is good reason to think we are mistaken! In fact we don't even know what "we" are and what "thinking" is. "We" believe that there is "mental activity" but we only make that inference from what we call "thoughts". In fact, every word we use presupposes thinking yet we finish up in the bizarre situation where thinking is explained in terms of physical events which are inferred from our sensations...

Jon1667 answered on 05/15/06:

I wonder why anyone would think that any this is true. For instance, I don't infer "physical events from my sensations". I don't "infer" that there is, for instance, a computer monitor before me. I simply observe the monitor. No inference going on.
If thoughts are mental activity, then how is it that we "only" infer mental activity from thoughts. (By the way, what am I supposed to infer from all those quotes spread about, apparently at random? What is the difference between "we" believe that there is "mental activity" and "We believe there is mental activity"? Anything?).

And why is it bizarre that although speech presupposes thinking, that thinking can be "explained in terms of physical events" Where is the problem?

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Question/Answer
jackreade asked on 05/14/06 - Argument from Hidden-ness

It's Sunday night, and I'm almost through cleaning up loose ends, so I have another question for the experts. :)

While reading a little in introductory comments on an atheist site, I found out that atheist philophical arguments were mainly made from Evil in the recent past, but now that arguments are made from hidden-ness. I didn't see where this argument was located.

Does anyone know what this argument consists of?

Jon1667 answered on 05/15/06:

Indeed, this argument is (for me) a new one in the never-ending saga of religious belief and non-belief, and I thank you for bringing it to my attention, and to Tony for explaining it.

The argument seems to go like this:

1. If there were a God, then (ceterus paribus) every rational person would believe in Him.

2. But some rational people do not believe in God.

3. Therefore, there is no God.

This is a valid argument. So, whether it is sound as well depends on whether the premises are true. Clearly, the salient premise is the first premise. The support for that premise seems to be that God would want everyone to believe in him (and, since God is all-powerful, he could so arrange it that everyone did believe in Him).

Some people certainly seem to be better acquainted with the desires of God than I am. But I would wonder whether God would, indeed, want everyone to believe in Him. Even I don't particularly care that everyone believe in my existence. Why should God worry about whether people believe in Him.But, of course, this is rank speculation. What else could it be? I think that St. Augustine informs us that our only duty, imposed on us by God, is to worship Him. I have always felt if that is so, it is rather shabby of God to have that kind of overweening ego.

But (as I suggested) what do I know?

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Question/Answer
Coup_de_Grace asked on 05/14/06 - Rationality Paradigm

"Philosophers in the main work in the paradigm of rationalitythe idea that using reason to address problems helps us achieve truth, or at least is the most pragmatic way to approach problems. Reason may be one of the categories of understanding which shape our experience of the world. Rationality dominates the world of thought.

There have been criticisms of rationality from anthropology (cultural relativism), subjectivism, Zen, particularist ethics, and so forth, and usually the establishment is able to ward off these attacks. One of the hardest to deal with, in my mind, comes from post-feminism.

The argument, in the main, is that rationality has an intractable connection with masculinity, while feminism is connected to emotion. That kind of view has dominated our thinking culture, less so explicitly now, but easily discoverable in aphorists like Nietzsche and Lichtenberg. That the rationality paradigm dominates is seen as an aspect of a patriarchal culture: the elevation of rationality over emotion, of mind over body, is a reinforcement of the superiority of male over female.

The post-feminist will then argue that is essential for feminists to find a new voice aside from rationalitya feminine voice which can speak in the world with as much strength as rationality. Feminist philosophy cannot be articulated through a patriarchal paradigm. A new paradigm must be found, aside from subject-object use relations, aside from logical analysis, aside from universalism, all of which are patriarchal.

Some questions, then. Is it true that the rationality paradigm is only internally coherent, or can it find a grounding in the world which somehow justifies it as the dominant voice? Is there another paradigm which could find such a grounding, and what is it? What are the relative importances of following rationality and emotion, and should we take connotations of masculinity and femininity into account when preaching them?

Should there be one universal paradigm voice, or must this be relative across cultures and social groups?" Anonymous

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I ran across this question while I was visiting web sites, and I was fascinated because this is a new way to think of things....new to me.

I am hoping the experts here feel like making comments and answering the question.


Susan

Benjamin and Susan Grace

Jon1667 answered on 05/15/06:

If I were a woman, I would bridle and be quite angry at the suggestion that rationality is a masculine "paradigm" and emotions are a feminine "paradigm" That seems to me the worst kind of stereotyping, and misogeny. When the president of Harvard, Laurence Summers, made a speech in which he even suggested, suggested, that it was possible, just possible, that the intelligence of women was not well-suited for science, although perfectly suited for other areas, there was such an uproar, that Summers is now ex-president of Harvard.

Rationality is what makes human beings, human beings. It is what has driven us to created and invent not only in science and in philosophy, but in all other areas of human endeavor. To say that women have, or should find, something else to do than be raional is to imply that they are less than human. It is to degrade them. Imagine that someone had argued that black people should "find another voice" than rationality, with the implied suggestion that they could not compete on equal terms with caucasion people on that score, but rather than they were good at emotions (and probably "rhythm" and athletics. Such a person would be accused of the worst sort of bigotry. Why is it not bigotry when said about women?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 05/13/06 - Proof and verification..................

It is generally accepted that human beings have a right to life yet this principle cannot be proved or verified scientifically. How would you justify it?

Jon1667 answered on 05/13/06:

Not everyone. Jeremy Bentham, for instance, said that natural rights are "nonsense on stilts".

Maybe the view that everyone has a right to life ought to be understood as an expression of the sentiment that there is a presumption of a right to life unless this presumption is defeated: for instance by depraved behavior, or the requirements of self-defence. After all, it is no surprise that an ethical view cannot be verified or prove scientifically.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 05/12/06 - Just society

By what reasoning might one justify that a society in which some people accumulate great wealth, while many others live in poverty, is just?

Jon1667 answered on 05/13/06:

Are you simply assuming that such a division in a society is largely due to injustice in the society, or have you grounds for such an assumption? After all, there may be a number of plausible explanations for this disparity in society, only one of which might be injustice.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 05/06/06 - Wondering...................................

I wonder, for an Atheist, what purpose might it serve to go any further than Rand- insofar as, metaphysics and epistemology?

Jon1667 answered on 05/06/06:

Where did Rand go? Please let me know. I want to avoid the place.

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Question/Answer
jackreade asked on 04/30/06 - Free Will

"I take it that what is meant by 'choice' is free 'choice' for it is obvious that we all have choices in that there are many instances where something is selected from a number of given options; as long as one is selected, it can obviously be said that you finally chose what you selected. However, FREE choice refers to a choice that is made ultimately by you, and not determined by some other factor.

I'm more inclined to believe that we have no free choice at all. I don't say this because there are many influencial factors such as culture, religion, guilt, upbringing, etc...; rather, I say it for the following reasons:

Whenever I perform any kind of action, I either perform an action that is automatically triggered by reflex, impulse, conditioning, or, I perform an action that would typically be said to involve free choice.

With regards to the first kind of action, reflexsive etc..., I suppose that everyone will agree that these clearly do not seem to involve any free choice.

With regards to the second kind of action, I believe that there is always a thought of some sort (or a reasoning process) that is just prior to the action and can be said to be the final decision to make that action. If we agree, then let us focus on this decisive thought; for if we agree that this is what determines the action, then all we need to figure out is whether or not we choose this decisive thought. If we do, then we have free choice in these kinds of actions; if not, then we don't.

Now, for one to make a choice, it is necessary that one is aware of his or her options to choose from. However, when we have a thought or idea, we only become aware of it once we have already had it and NOT before it was brought into mind. This shows that we cannot be the choosers of our thoughts or ideas. Again, this is because for us to be the choosers of them, we should be aware of them prior to making the choice of having them. However, we are never aware of an idea or thought prior to having the thought. Thus, thoughts and ideas happen without us choosing them.

Now, there are instances where we are in fact presented with options to 'choose' from. But even in these instances, the decisive act of choosing that selects one of these options is itself a thought or some other perception such as a feeling, will, or inclination. But these are similar to thoughts, for we could not choose to have them since we aren't aware of them until they have already occured.

Thus, it seems to me that we never ever have free choice; Although we do end up choosing many things, it is never a free choice but always determined by our thoughts, which are never chosen, or by our reflexes."anon

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I ran across this essay by an anonmous person on another website.

I was interested in it because I do not think that most people operate with free will at all.

What do you think about so-called free will?

Jon1667 answered on 04/30/06:

At the bottom of your question, like at the bottom of all questions, this site presents "your options" and lists, answer the question, clarification, or "report abuse". I, of course, chose the option, "answer the question". I could have chosen one of the other options. One of them, "report abuse" would have obviously been an unreasonable choice since there was no abuse, and even if there had been, I clearly could have chosen not to click that choice.

Now, your question presented a long and involved argument that I actually did not choose (or freely choose) the option I clicked, namely, "answer the question".

The question I want to ask you is this: What do you think is more likely: that I did in fact freely choose to answer the question, or that the argument that I did not freely choose to answer the question is somehow flawed? (Never mind what the flaw might be. That might come later.)

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Question/Answer
jackreade asked on 04/30/06 - What is the Difference?

What is the difference between:

1. A professor of Political Science who writes a book based on his ideas about his speciality.

2. The professor of the Philosophy of Political Science who writes a book about the philosophy of political science.

???


Thanks, jack

Jon1667 answered on 04/30/06:

I would think that the first would be broadly speaking, an empirical study as for instance about elections, or about the interactions of countries. The second would be a conceptual study of, for instance, the idea of political justice and its connection with that of the idea of equality.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 04/30/06 - Analyzing and interpret ting the available empirical data.

Is analyzing empirical data a purely objective and unprejudiced study, by anyone?

Viruses cause disease and therefore, if there is thinking and reasoning God, this God must be evil; or so it has been said. However, do virus's server any other purpose?

Jon1667 answered on 04/30/06:

I don't see what the first question has to do with the second. Is there supposed to be a connection?

I would have thought that well-designed double-blind controlled studies of data are examples of "purely objective and unprejudiced studies". Have you any reason to think they are not?

It is the existence of mosquitoes that get me. But I hear that some birds find them tasty. But maybe they don't bite God.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 04/28/06 - Interaction between philosophy and science.....

To what extent do philosophical propositions influence scientific theories, and vice-versa?

Jon1667 answered on 04/29/06:

There is an important distinction between your question, how do philosophy and science influence one another, and a different question which might be confused with it, namely, what, if any, theoretical implications have the two disciplines for one another. An example is in order:

The physiology and psychology of perception has led philosophers to distinguish between two sorts of properties of objects which Locke earlier on called primary and secondary properties. The primary properties were those which objects "possessed" independently of perception by human beings, properties like mass or velocity; the secondary properties, on the other hand, were those which were somehow the product of interaction between certain physical properties of the object, and the sensory faculties of people. These were properties like color, smell, and taste. In this way science influenced the epistemology of perception.

But now, the question arose as to whether secondary properties were "really" properties of the objects as primary properties were. And some philosopher have held that secondary properties, like color, are "really in the mind" and not a property of the object at all. Now this is what I would call a supposed philosophical implication of science for philosophy. The question is whether science implies that the world "external to the mind" has colors, and smells, and tastes, as it appears to have to commonsense (what the philosopher, Wilfrid Sellars) called, the manifest image. Some philosophers, as a consequence of the distinction between primary and secondary properties, have concluded that although primary properties are "in" the objects themselves, secondary properties are "in the mind".

It is one think to point to the influence that the science of perception has had on the philosophy of perception which is, of course, great, and another thing to draw philosophical conclusions from these scientific discoveries, as for instance that colors are not in the object, but "in" the mind.

These two different kinds of interactions between philosophy and science ought to be carefully distingished, for although science has influenced some philosophers to hold that colors are "subjective" properties, it is another question whether this is really an implication of the science of perception.

There are many other examples of this.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 04/27/06 - Possible worlds

[I]f we say 'Humphrey might have won the election (if only he had done such-and-such),' we are not talking about something that might have happened to Humphrey, but to someone else, a 'counterpart'. Probably, however, Humphrey could not care less whether someone else, no matter how much resembling him, would have been victorious in another possible world. (Naming and Necessity , p.45.)

Are not possible worlds the same as ours?

Jon1667 answered on 04/27/06:

A different possible world is like ours (the actual world) except that Humphery did something else than he did in the actual (our) world. (As a consequence, other things would be different in the different possible world, since not just one event could have changed).

We have to be careful about hypostatizing the language of possible worlds. I have always taken it as a metaphorical description, but there have been philosophers, e.g. the late David Lewis, who has taken it quite literally.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 04/25/06 - Are we the same persons we were seven years ago?

......... Since we no longer have the same cells in our bodies why are we regarded as being the same persons?

If we are not the same persons why are we regarded as being responsible for what we did seven years ago?

Jon1667 answered on 04/26/06:

Of course. Since both stages of ourselves are spatially and temporally continuous with one another. Of course, that is not to say that there have been no changes, either physically or in terms of personality. And sometimes we are not considered responsible for what did seven years before, if what you mean by "responsible" is morally responsible and not just causally responsible. For instance, an eight year old is not considered morally responsible for what he did when he was one year old, since a one year old is not thought to be morally responsible for anything he did. And if a person of any age did something when he was mentally impaired in some way, he is not considered morally responsible seven years later. And there are other cases too.

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Question/Answer
Bradd asked on 04/24/06 - Revolutions - and More Revolutions

Since the 18th century there have been three major revolutions (political) - American, French and Russian.

Which one has effected the world the most?

Jon1667 answered on 04/25/06:

You forgot the Iranian revolution which is affecting the world right now.
Of the three, probably the French, although the question is really too vague to answer.

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Question/Answer
katekat asked on 04/24/06 - Hempel's Paradox

1. If "all ravens are blackbirds" is true, does it logically follow that "some ravens are not blackbirds" as being false? Y, N, can't determine
2. If "all ravens are blackbirds" is true, does it logically follow that "all blackbirds are ravens" as being true as well? Y, N, can't determine
3. If "no ravens are blackbirds" is true, is it also true that "all ravens are non-blackbirs"? Y, N, can't determine

Jon1667 answered on 04/25/06:

What has this to do with Hempel's paradox? These are just questions about immediate inferences.

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Question/Answer
kalicam2000 asked on 04/22/06 - Glaucon- the myth of gyges

how does gluacon argue for the claim that the only reason people obey the rules of society is because it is in their self interest?

Jon1667 answered on 04/22/06:

Glaucon finds a ring and by twisting it on his finger, he can make himself invisible. Glaucon then makes himself invisible, and does what "men do only in their dreams". He murders the king and marries the queen. Thus, he can get away with acting in his self-interest. Had he not had the ring, he would have had to obey the rules of society, because he would have feared being caught and punished. Plato generalizes this to all men, and then asks whether there is any reason, except for fear of punishment, that we should be moral.

Question/Answer
jackreade asked on 04/21/06 - Definition of Good and Evil

*Good* is what upholds the well-being of common humanity.

*Evil* is whatever injures humanity or distrubes one's inner peace.


"......spiritual Path #3 grows out of a universal human need that God fulfills. In this case, the need is for a kind of meaning that extends beyond the ego and its endless craving for pleasure, power, and status.

Path #3--Seeking Community, Togetherness, Inner Peace

On this path the individual begins to see that there is more to life than winning. The competitiveness and work ethic of Path #2 led to worldly success, a visible sign that a person was favored by God. But inner life can't be satisfied by external goals, and even the greatest winner feels isolated at the top. A yearning develops for an end to struggle. One wants to relax in the embrace of community. Therefore, a need for belonging begins to emerge, and with that comes such altruistic impulses as philanthropy and giving to charity. It's no surprise that great entrepreneurs often become philanthropists late in life.

The other face of Path #3 is the tightly bound religious community, like the Pilgrim forefathers, whose members exchange individual drive for a larger group identity. This delivers a powerful sense of being chosen or among the elect. God becomes a collective spirit. For the first time He seems warm and forgiving. The former emphasis on sin and obedience now relaxes--the believer is welcomed into a family.

Path #3 strikes many people as feminine--for the first time a Mother God becomes as viable as a Father. The love of a caring, selfless mother is one of the paradigms on this path. Also, the dawn of the feminine softens the aggressive competition of Path #2, whose winner-loser dichotomy has no bearing on bonding and togetherness.

On Path #3 people may devote their lives to service, or they may turn to monasticism--this allows a total immersion in a religious community. The search for inner peace may be as intense as the search for success on Path #2. ***Good*** is defined as whatever upholds the well-being of common humanity. ***Evil*** is whatever injures humanity or disturbs one's inner peace.

The most significant milestone, however, is that God has turned inward. Many modern people find this a revelation. They were often able to fulfill lower needs--for security and achievement--without putting spiritual values on them. But inner peace dawns as an unexpected psychological phase, and one easily feels it as holy, special, a state of grace.

Every path has its built-in contradictions, and so does Path #3. When a believer sees these contradictions, ****the way opens for a new version of God***. The contradictions of Path #3 include the following:

--Inner peace seems blessed but lacks vibrancy and motivation.
--Religious communities offer togetherness but at the price of rigid conformity and exclusion of non-believers.
--Service is supposed to please God, yet one becomes prey to the greed and selfishness of others who get more reward out of being served than the server does.
--Common humanity often negates the individual, who in merging with the group loses the opportunity to grow and shine on his or her own.

Despite these problems, Path #3 can lead to a beautiful life, and personalities who thrive on service seem saintly in their goodness and selflessness.

Finding the "next path" is often a slow process, given how rewarding this path is.">>> Deepak Chopra

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

What do you think of Mr Chopra's modern definition of good and evil?

What do you think about his other opinions?

Jon1667 answered on 04/21/06:

That they are persuasive definitions. That is, they are attempts to persuade us to use the term "good" in a particular way. Marxists believe that "good" is what furthers the advantage of the working class (never mind 'common humanity' which might include capitalists). And radical Moslems think that good is what furthers the advantage of an Islamic caliphate, and never mind all the infidels (like you).

Actually, according to the dictionary, "good" is the most common adjective of commendation. And people may commend things as being good for lots of different and conflicting reasons.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 04/20/06 - how the Universe adapts to its environment.

Alfred Korzybski it is said explained: Plants adapt to their environment through their awareness and control of energy, while animals adapt to their environment through their awareness and control of space, and then humans adapt to their environment through awareness and control of time. What I am interested in is how the Universe adapts to its environment.

Jon1667 answered on 04/21/06:

Maybe. But Kant was certainly not one of those philosophers.
All that Kant indicated was that the notion of "everything" which is, I suppose what the term "Universe" (big "U") is supposed to mean, is not a clear notion. As, indeed, this thread has illustrated.
The atmosphere of the planetary systems would, like the systems themselves, surely have to be included in "everything" would they not? The atmosphere of the planetary systems is, of course, part of the enviroment of those planetary systems. But not of the Universe (big "U") as a whole. You don't think that the Universe (bit "U") has an atmosphere, do you? Or, do you?

I don't think that Tony or I think anything of the sort. Come to think of it, I don't know whether we do, since I am not sure of the meaning of what you wrote.

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Question/Answer
Coup_de_Grace asked on 04/19/06 - Argument against Atheism

Here is a quote by C. S. Lewis in his book "Mere Christianity"(page 39). My wife used it to try to get me back in the fold of "believers".

"Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should have never found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning."

This argument seems strange, but I don't know how to refute it. Isn't the analogy like this...if there were no dogs in the universe, there would be no dog food?
And, isn't the first sentence a straw-man.

Help would be appreciated.

Ben

Benjamin and Susan Grace

Jon1667 answered on 04/19/06:

I suppose (because that is what it usually means) that to say that the whole universe has no meaning is just to say that there is no Deity whose purpose is being fulfilled by the universe. And Lewis is arguing (I suppose that's the word) that if this were so we could not know about it. But, consider, supposing it is so (that the universe is meaningless) then clearly we do, in fact know about it. Lewis' argument is just another case of what is called "a counter-evidential intuition". Another example of a counter-evidential intuition is that it is impossible that material objects should think when all the evidence we have supports the proposition that material objects (us) do, indeed think. The point is that all the evidence we have points to the fact that the universe is not fulfilling any purpose. So it must be false that we do not know that, since we do. And so, it must be false that if it is true that the universe does not fulfill any purpose, we could not know it.

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Question/Answer
Coup_de_Grace asked on 04/19/06 - Nihilism

At a dinner party a week ago Saturday, the after dinner conversation drifted to politics and philosophy, as usual.

We were discussing nihilism, I'll put down the definitions that are the closest to what we understood it to be and how we were using the word.

[In philosophy A doctrine holding that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated.
2. Rejection of all distinctions in moral or religious value and a willingness to repudiate all previous theories of morality or religious belief.
3. The belief that destruction of existing political or social institutions is necessary for future improvement. (Excerpts from On-Line Dictionary)]


Now, I'm no nihilist, but I would assume that nihilists are very few. Later, the more I looked at the definition, the more I felt that the nihilist philosophy has merit (as long as a society is not based on nihilism). It seems to me that a few nihilist thinkers here and there would add a lot to philosophical thought and discussions.

What is your educated opinion of nihilism? Who are some philosophers(whose names would recogize) who had nihilistic leanings? Do you think nihilism has to ultimately be "negative"?

Can a thinker's ideas or concepts be "nihilistic", for example, the religious idea of original sin, I can't remember whose idea it was, be called a "nihilistic idea/concept"(my wife and I in a few minutes of heated debate on this topic of nihilistic ideas).


Thanks,

Ben

Benjamin and Susan Grace

Jon1667 answered on 04/19/06:

"Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated. It is often associated with extreme pessimism and a radical skepticism that condemns existence. A true nihilist would believe in nothing, have no loyalties, and no purpose other than, perhaps, an impulse to destroy. While few philosophers would claim to be nihilists, nihilism is most often associated with Friedrich Nietzsche who argued that its corrosive effects would eventually destroy all moral, religious, and metaphysical convictions and precipitate the greatest crisis in human history." (From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Dostoyevky wrote a novel about nihilism in Russia called, "The Devils" which you might want to read.

Nihilism may be masked by an ideology. For instance, many Islamic terrorists are really nihilists who mask their rejection of values by using Islamic rhetoric.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 04/19/06 - Means and ends (continued)...........................

This question is a continuation of Ken's (which has become too unwieldy).

There are two moral principles - in addition to the Utilitarian "greatest happiness of the greatest number" - which are relevant.

One is that we should choose the lesser evil - which is not always the same as choosing the greater good. In order to save many people it is legitimate to allow an innocent person to die but what about deliberately killing that person? The decision is extremely difficult because it is one thing to influence the course of events and another to disregard a person's right to life by committing a criminal act. This is quite distinct, for example, from robbing the rich to enable starving people to survive.

The second principle is that of sacrifice. Sometimes we are confronted not with a choice between good and evil but between two evils, as in the previous examples. The deontologist rejects this principle on the ground that an evil action is never justified even when the motive is good. To me this seems unbalanced because it is more reasonable to judge the morality of an action by its three aspects: the motive, the action itself and the consequences. Otherwise there would be a lot of unnecessary suffering in the world caused by inaction - even though life cannot exist without sacrifice!

What are your views?

Jon1667 answered on 04/19/06:

Tony:

Your post illustrates the complexity of moral thinking, and, also, that there are times when moral principles, although fine taken singly, sometimes conflict, and then we are confronted with what Kant called "moral choice". There seem to be no meta-principles that tell us how to act when there is a conflict between moral principles.

In any case, one thing is clear. Whether in a particular case the end justifies the means depends on the circumstances.

One more thing. I am persuaded by John Stuart Mill's point that we should not judge an action by the motive, but only the agent of the action. A man with a good motive may do hellish things. That is why we have the saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, except that we should substitute the term "motives" for "intentions"

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 04/14/06 - Does the concept of pre-emptive strike grate against your moral sense of right and wrong?

It seems to me, that the stories I remember best in history, are in moral favor of the people who, have resisted invading or occupying forces.

Jon1667 answered on 04/16/06:

You ought to distinguish between pre-emptive and preventitive strikes. It seems clear that if we know that we are about to be attacked, and the attack is imminent, that pre-emption is justified. The 1967 attack by Israel on Egypt and Syria seems to be a clear case of a justified pre-emption.

On the other hand, a preventitive war is a far more morally ambiguous matter. In such a case, an attack is not imminent, but there is evidence that a potential enemy is building up its armed forces.

The case of Nazi Germany here springs to mind. It is obvious that had the British and French threatened war or even gone to war when Hitler was building up Germany's armed forces and then invaded the Sudetanland, and, then later, made Austria a part of Germany, and even more, before Munich and the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, much misery and destruction would have been avoided. As Winston Churchill said in Parliament at that time to the British government who appeased Hitler, "You had a choice between shame and war. You chose shame, but you shall have war" A war again Hitler at the time of Munich would have been preventitive, not pre-emptive. But wouldn't it have been justified?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 04/14/06 - What is truth?

................................... Instead of saying "It is true we are alive" we can simply say "We are alive". Do you think this shows that the concept of truth is unnecessary? If not, why not?

Jon1667 answered on 04/15/06:

Suppose Jones said, "It is true that we are alive" and someone else wanted to say to a third party, "What Jones said is true". How could he say that without the term "true". If he said, "what Jones said" that would not be English.

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Question/Answer
CeeBee2 asked on 04/14/06 - Meekness...............................

meek = weak?

Xenophenon: meek = the wild horse that has been tamed but whose spirit has never been broken. Tamed becomes useful; an unbroken spirit remains lively, vigorous, energetic.

Plato: meek = the victorious general who spares a conquered people. Triumph allows and encourages generosity.

Socrates: meek = the person who can argue his point effectively without losing his temper.

Aristotle: meek = the person who is angry at injustice yet whose anger never degenerates into ill-temper or vindictiveness or the desire for revenge.

Jesus said the meek will inherit the earth.

On the other hand, Nietzsche said strength must overcome all weakness, meekness, and pity, and man must become Superman. Any religion or philosophy that glorifies meekness, the poor, humility, and such is condemned.

Atheist and philosopher Emma Goldman believed that "consciously or unconsciously, most theists see in gods and devils, heaven and hell; reward and punishment, a whip to lash the people into obedience, meekness and contentment."

Ayn Rand (Objectivism) wrote, "The temperate virtue is that which [lies] between the two extremes : the short-term and the long-term, abstinence and overindulgence, meekness and intolerence."

Has religion given meekness a bad reputation, misdefined it? What was your first experience with meekness? How would you define meekness?

Jon1667 answered on 04/14/06:

meek ( P ) Pronunciation Key (mk)
adj. meeker, meekest
Showing patience and humility; gentle.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 04/12/06 - How did purposeful activity originate?.......

Scientific explanation is retrospective, i.e. backward-looking : it seeks to explain the present and future in terms of the past. Purposive explanation is prospective, i.e. forward-looking: it explains the past and present in terms of the future.

At the outset it cannot be assumed either explanation is sufficient by itself. There is no a priori reason to suppose either the past or the future is more significant than the other.

For science the future cannot influence the present. Causality is a one-way process which leads in no particular direction. Biogical evolution, for example, is thought to be the result of a series of accidents caused by favourable genetic mutations which need not have led to the emergence of man.

Yet even non-human living organisms are necessarily goal-seeking. Their activity is "teleonomic" in stark contrast to inorganic processes which lack the "plasticity" of life. It was this fact that caused Henri Bergson to postulate an "elan vital".

"Why?" remains as significant as "How?" and cannot be ignored in any balanced view of reality. In practical terms the question of purpose is usually more important. What are your views?

Jon1667 answered on 04/12/06:

"Purposive explanation is prospective, i.e. forward-looking: it explains the past and present in terms of the future."

But is that true? To begin with, if the explanation is in the future, then that explanation does not yet exist. How, then, can we give an explanation of a present (or past) event, if the explanation does not yet exist?

But, in the second place, purposive explanations are not really in terms of future events (as how could they be?) If I explain why I crossed the road: in order to purchase milk, I am explaining my crossing the road in terms of my present intention (aim) to purchase milk. A present event, which will explain the event of my crossing the street. It is no different from any other scientific explanation. (Spinoza discussed this long ago).

There is no reason to think that scientific explanations do not explain "why?" as well as "how?". "How did the car receive that dent?" "I hit the side of the garage while entering". "Why did you hit the side of the garage?" "I was inattentive".

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Question/Answer
Bradd asked on 04/08/06 - Love and Will

What is love?

To me, it's an act of the will.

The lover wills the good for the beloved. Reciprocity is not only not required, but can even sometimes be an obstacle to true love. Love is always about the Thou.

"Greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for his friend."

The Eskimos, we know, have 20 or 40 or 100 words for "snow". Yet, in English, the word "love" has been so overused it can carry 20 or 40 or 100 shades of meaning - from the sublime to the silly.

When I say I love my wife/girlfriend, I love my child, I love my dog, love a good pizza, the San Francisco Giants, my country, the way the sun hits the shoreline at dusk - surely these words of "love" can't mean the same thing.

Yet the same word is used for all these very different pieces of life.

I would be interested in reading what others here see as the essential meaning of the word "love".

Jon1667 answered on 04/09/06:

And, as for "snow", so do we (in English) have many different words for "snow": drifiting snow, light snow, heavy snow, blowing snow, etc.

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Bradd asked on 04/08/06 - Love and Will

What is love?

To me, it's an act of the will.

The lover wills the good for the beloved. Reciprocity is not only not required, but can even sometimes be an obstacle to true love. Love is always about the Thou.

"Greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for his friend."

The Eskimos, we know, have 20 or 40 or 100 words for "snow". Yet, in English, the word "love" has been so overused it can carry 20 or 40 or 100 shades of meaning - from the sublime to the silly.

When I say I love my wife/girlfriend, I love my child, I love my dog, love a good pizza, the San Francisco Giants, my country, the way the sun hits the shoreline at dusk - surely these words of "love" can't mean the same thing.

Yet the same word is used for all these very different pieces of life.

I would be interested in reading what others here see as the essential meaning of the word "love".

Jon1667 answered on 04/08/06:

"The Eskimos, we know, have 20 or 40 or 100 words for "snow"."

Do they?

http://www.zompist.com/lang16.html#eskimyth

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 04/08/06 - What is self-sacrifice?........................

Some examples would be helpful.

Jon1667 answered on 04/08/06:

What would be helpful is for you to say what you have in mind by asking this question, since there are clear examples of self-sacrifice, and you know what they would be.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 04/05/06 - What do you understand by "an act of will"?

.

Jon1667 answered on 04/05/06:

As I use it (if ever I do) it means an action which is one of strong determination.
For instance, "it was by a sheer act of will that I refrained from having two pieces of chocolate cake. It was that good!"

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 04/04/06 - In what sense do you make a choice?

Machines make choices, from instructions that they do not choose. What choices do people make, and on what basis do they make these choices?

It seems to me Freedom is to be free to be what you are. So, for example, if you are ultimately an "ABC," then free will means that any choice you make will ultimately be based on you being "ABC".
Free will is not freedom to be something that you are not.

Jon1667 answered on 04/04/06:

Machines do not make choices. To talk of their doing so is metaphor (poetry). Choice entails consciousness, and machines are not conscious. People, on the other hand, are conscious, and they choose things like vanilla ice-cream rather than chocolate.

To say that freedom is to be free to be what you are is, I am afraid, not very enlightening, since the notion of freedom is both in what is to be defined (the definiendum) and the definition (the definiens). In other words, it is circular. Acting freely, as I have already mentioned, is just doing as you please.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 04/03/06 - Is determinism compatible with the ability to do otherwise?

Is it possible that Memes are the basic building blocks of our minds and culture,that is, in the same sense that genes are the basic building blocks of biological life.

Jon1667 answered on 04/03/06:


This morning I could have taken a one mile walk if I had chosen to do so, but I COULD NOT have taken a twenty mile walk.

Actually, I did neither. I lazily remained in bed.

But it is clear, is it not, that even if determinism is true, I could have taken the one mile walk, if I had chosen to do so, although I did not, and I could not have taken the twenty mile walk (and, of course, I did not). Therefore, if follows, that even if determinism is true, I could have done something I did not do if I had chosen to do so.

By the way, I know I could have taken the one mile walk because I have done so the morning before, and every morning for the past three years, and nothing has changed.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 04/02/06 - The Argument from Ignorance...............

Is any explanation better than none? Provided an explanation is consistent with the existing body of knowledge I believe that in the absence of a rival it should be accepted provisionally, no matter how improbable and unpalatable it may seem. The value of this strategy is that it provides a basis for investigation whereas the alternative offers nothing!

Jon1667 answered on 04/02/06:

Surely not just any explanation. If my car doesn't start and I cannot find the cause, it wouldn't be helpful to posit banshees as the cause.

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Question/Answer
DeckChair asked on 03/31/06 - Science or Pseudoscience?

The logical positivists proposed the verifiability criterion of meaning. According to this, a statement is meaningful only if there is the possibility that at least someday it can be verified through empirical evidence.

Along came Karl Popper, protesting that it's actually falsifiability that matters rather than verifiability. Popper said that it's impossible for science to verify anything. If science says "the table exists" based on observation, that can't be verified since it has to assume it's not a delusion or some sort of great new holodeck program. On the other hand, says Popper, if the scientist goes in there and finds no table and carefully examines the area to be certain the table isn't in the room, then science can indeed falsify the table. Thus Popper creates what amounts to a falsifiability criterion... he thinks the role of science is to systematically rule out possibilities and then leave us to take whatever's left as the possible truth.

Then, of course, there was the Quine-Duhem thesis and Putnam's arguments to say that falsifiability is no more possible than verifiability. The scientist who thinks he's falsified the table may actually be hallucinating the nonexistence of the table while the actual table is right there in the middle of the room. Via Quine, no experiment can confirm or disconfirm a hypothesis because it always relies on a system of auxiliary assumptions. If I release a ball and it falls to the ground, that cannot be said by itself to confirm that gravity pulls things down. I have to make various assumptions such as the floor and ball not being giant electromagnets and there not being an especially strong gust of wind coming through the window and there not being another force twice as strong as gravity which coincidentally pulls things down when gravity pulls things up... that sort of stuff.

It's clear that we have two methods to choose from even if neither works. We can try to verify things, or we can try to falsify things. Is one more reliable than the other? Specifically, which of them should be used in the demarcation problem -- the problem of deciding what's science and what's pseudoscience?

Jon1667 answered on 03/31/06:

The verificationism was, as you stated, supposed to be a criterion of meaningfulness. But Popper was quite explicit that his falsifiability criterion was not one of meaningfulness, but rather demarcation between science and non-science.

The Quine-Duhem thesis tells us not that falsifiability is not possible, but rather that we cannot determine, with certainty, whether we have falsified an hypothesis because hypotheses cannot be falsified singly, but only in groups. So, of course, if your standard of falsification is falsification with certainty, then we cannot falsify a single hypothesis. But if that standard is relaxed, as it should be, then we can determine with reasonable certainty that, for instance, there is a table in the middle of the room, or that it is gravity that is making the ball fall.

As for the demarcation problem, it seems that there are clear cases in which an hypothesis is unfalsifiable, such as the hypothesis that some natural disaster is due to the will of God, and some hypotheses are falsifiable beyond a reasonable doubt (although not beyond any doubt whatsoever, because of Quine-Duhem-and other reasons) such as the hypothesis that an earthquake was caused by my having sneezed a few moments before it occurred.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 03/30/06 - Metaphysics and Ethics......................

Aristotle believed fulfilment and happiness are the result of living virtuously, ethics being related to metaphysics. To extent, if any, do you agree?

Jon1667 answered on 03/30/06:

Of course, that depends on what Aristotle means by "living virtuously". He meant something like living so that one fulfills himself. "Becomes all he can become". So that the notion that fulfillment and happiness are the result of living virtuously becomes, virtually, an analytic truth.

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Question/Answer
jackreade asked on 03/28/06 - Some things independent of God

Spinoza said, I believe, that God exists, but only philosophically.

Leibniz accepted, and even endorsed, the fact that some things are independent of God. These are necessary truths, such as: all squares are not circles.

Are these views consistent with atheism?


Jack

Yeah, I'm back; nowhere else to go. :)

Jon1667 answered on 03/29/06:

Where does Spinoza say that? And what does it mean, anyway?

I don't think that atheists believe that God exists. Do you. I have no idea what "existing philosophically" could possibly mean.

Since atheists do not believe in God, they would think that anything that exists is independent of God.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 03/25/06 - Are we really in an Egocentric predicament?

........ This problem is related to the last question. Just as we cannot feel another person's pain or pleasure so too, it is argued, we are limited to our own perceptions, trapped inside our minds and cannot have direct knowledge of anything but our thoughts, feelings and sensations. What is your reaction?

Jon1667 answered on 03/25/06:

But our 43 president, Bill Clinton, told us that he could "feel our pain". And he must know.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 03/25/06 - Reasoning vs feeling

Many people suppose that pain arises necessarily from the removal of some pleasure; as they think pleasure does from the diminishing of some pain, and that pain and pleasure are mere relations, which can only exist as they are contrasted.
Although people are sometimes mistaken in their feelings the problem seems to be the names they give those feelings.

Do you agree or disagree.

Jon1667 answered on 03/25/06:

The notion that although the external world is hidden under the veil of perception, but that our own minds are open books to each one of us is a pervading theme in Western philosophy since, at least, Descartes. A supplement to this view is that any mistakes we make about the content of our own minds are but "verbal mistakes", not factual mistakes as happens in the external world when, for instance, our ability to perceive rightly is obscured by the circumstances of perception, and in the dark we mistake an old boot for a cat. Here, it is said, our mistake is not in mere misdescribing, but in our beliefs. On the other hand, there can, of course be verbal mistakes as when my tongue slips, and I call "Frank" "Hank".

But is it true that there cannot be factual errors about the content of our own minds, but only verbal errors? That is not obvious to me. There is research, for instance, that people sometimes mistake anxiety for hunger, and even thirst for hunger. It isn't that they merely call these sensations by the wrong name. They actually believe they are hungry when they are merely anxious, or hungry when it turns out that a glass of water will satisfy them. If I have eaten a large meal, and ten minutes later, I profess myself hungry, I am likely to be told, "but you can't be hungry". Would that be right?

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 03/24/06 - Does motion exist?

Suppose you intend to travel from point A to point B on a straight line. In order to do that you have to reach the midpoint C between A and B. In order to reach point C you have to reach the midpoint of A and C, say D, ad infinitum. Therefore it takes you an infinite amount of finite movements to reach point B which is in contrast with the notion of constant speed.

Therefore motion does not exist. Do you agree?

Jon1667 answered on 03/25/06:

The story goes that Zeno and his friend, Demostenes, went to a horse race in Athens, and Zeno had bet on his favorite horse, Pegasus. When the race started Zeno became very enthusiastic and began to urge Pegasus on. "Come on, Pegasus. That's a good boy! Stretch out those long legs of yours!" After a moment of this, Demostenes turned to Zeno and said, "But Zeno, didn't you say....?" Before he could finish, Zeno, while keeping his eye on Pegasus, replied, "Yes, Yes, I know Demostenes. All this is impossible. But I just can't help myself. I love racing so!"

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tonyrey asked on 03/24/06 - What is the nature of explanation?

............ Are there different types of explanation which are equally valid or does one of them have precedence? Are we bound to be ultimately confronted by that which cannot be explained? If so, how would we know we have reached that point?

Jon1667 answered on 03/25/06:

An irreducibly purposive notion of explanation like Aristotle's would imply that there are future events that somehow produce present occurences. Rather hard to swallow. If purpose requires a purposer, then it would seem that the purpose of the purposer was a cause of the event in question. If the explantion of my move on the chessboard is to check the opponents king, that that purpose is part of the psychological explanation of what I did, and it is a causal explanation.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 03/24/06 - What is the nature of explanation?

............ Are there different types of explanation which are equally valid or does one of them have precedence? Are we bound to be ultimately confronted by that which cannot be explained? If so, how would we know we have reached that point?

Jon1667 answered on 03/24/06:

I suppose there are different kinds. There is scientific explanation, which is causal explanation; and there is an explanation which may make you understand something, like explaining the meaning of a word or explaining the meaning of the play, "Hamlet". And then, of course, there is the kind of explanation we call an "excuse" which one gives to get oneself "off the hook".

Of course, sometimes pseudo-explanations are given, which may appear to give understanding, but do not really. That my watch runs because there is an invisible, undetectable gremlin inside the watch is an obvious example of a pseudo-explanation.

Clearly, any explanation must be different from what is being explained although some have talked of God causing (explaining) Himself, and one argument for God has it that there need be no, and cannot be, and explanation for His existence, since it is of His essence to exist. On that principle (that any explanation must be different from what is explained) there can be no explanation of "everything" (whatever everything is) since there is nothing else. (It is easy to trip over onself in explaining all this).

One type of pseudo-explanation I have mentioned in an earlier post an attempt to explain what (or who) caused something, although there is no way to understand how it happened.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 03/22/06 - How do we know we are thinking?...............

Is it by inference or direct awareness?

Jon1667 answered on 03/22/06:

Yes, that is a hard question. But I have been persuaded that it is by inference. How, for instance, do I know what I want? I think that there is some "direct awareness" but that what I am directly aware of may turn out to be wrong. It may be, in other words, that after consideration, I decide that I did not want what I thought I wanted after all.If there is knowledge by introspection, it is certainly not infallible.

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Dark_Crow asked on 03/21/06 - Existence does not emerge as a distinct concept......

What does it mean to say, that some thing exist? Existence does not emerge as a distinct concept, from Parmenides to Aristotle, in Greek philosophy. The concept plays no part in the formulation of Plato's and Aristotle's ontology

Charles H. Kahn believes it has taken shape in Islamic philosophy, as a means of forming a distinction between necessary and contingent existence: between the existence of God, on the one hand, and that of the created world, on the other.

Being, in Greek philosophy, was the question of "reality" as determined by the concept of truth, according to Kahn.

From that, one could easly conclude that the question of existence is a Theoligical problem and not rightly a philosophical question. For by Greek philosophy there is only being, not a coming into existence.

Jon1667 answered on 03/21/06:

"What does it mean to say, that some thing exist?"

To say that X (whatever it is) exists is to say that a certain concept (the concept of X) has an object. To deny that X exists is to deny that the concept of X has an object.
So, for example, to say that God exists, is to say that the concept of an omnipotent, omniscient, holy, etc being has an object. A more accurate way of putting the same thing is to that to say X exists is to say that something answers to a particular description, so that to assert that God exists is to assert that something answers to the description, "is omnipotent, omniscient, etc."

Why should what "exists" means be a "theological problem" any more than it is a problem of food? We say artichokes exist as well as that God exists.

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Dark_Crow asked on 03/20/06 - What is our way out of difference?

Nature, by one use of the term is defined: The sum of all phenomena, together with the causes which produce them- The nature of any given thing, is the aggregate of its powers and properties. Or by Mills definition: "Nature, then, in this its simplest acceptation, is a collective name for all facts, actual and possible: or (to speak- more accurately) a name for the mode, partly known to us and partly unknown, in which all things take place.".

One could say, " Nature is a Unity, a mode of Being, that includes the properties of good and evil, and being that good and evil are two contraries; most would agree there is little doubt.
However, given that it is undoubtedly a very common fact that good comes out of evil, and evil from good Nature is not test good and evil, or which in any mode or degree attach merit or approval to following, imitating or obeying Nature; nor unity a test.

Jon1667 answered on 03/21/06:

DC.

Somewhere in his "Dialogues on Natural Religion" but I don't recall where.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 03/18/06 - conceptual distinction...............................

Is there a conceptual distinction that can be made between the terms, natural and physical reality, in contrast with social reality?

Jon1667 answered on 03/19/06:

Well, there is a difference between social man-made reality like the game of baseball, which would not exist except for convention, and reality independent of man and social convention like thunder and lightening.

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tonyrey asked on 03/18/06 - In what sense do facts, concepts and numbers exist?

Are they "real" in some sense other than that applied to material objects?

Truth, for example, is generally regarded as correspondence. It seems independent of time, space and human activity. It is intangible but not imaginary. We can hardly describe truth as a fiction! It cannot be linguistic convention because art can express truth.

Numbers present a similar problem. They are distinct from the symbols used to refer to them. They are abstract and intangible yet not fictitious. Otherwise why do we distinguish between "real numbers" and "imaginary numbers"?

What are your views?

Jon1667 answered on 03/18/06:

Jim:

"The so-called imaginary numbers exist in exactly the same sense as the real numbers. The labels do not correspond to truly different ontological categories. And the sort of existence they share is different from material existence."

I think you are right about imaginary numbers and real numbers.
But, as I wrote in my reply, I don't think that "exist" is ambiguous at all, and that everything exists (or does not exist) in the very same sense of "exist". I think that, for example, distinguishing between "material existence" and other kinds, is really just a way of distinguishing between the different ways in which we determine whether something (or a kind of thing) exists. It is wrongly converting an epistemological issue into an ontological one.

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tonyrey asked on 03/18/06 - In what sense do facts, concepts and numbers exist?

Are they "real" in some sense other than that applied to material objects?

Truth, for example, is generally regarded as correspondence. It seems independent of time, space and human activity. It is intangible but not imaginary. We can hardly describe truth as a fiction! It cannot be linguistic convention because art can express truth.

Numbers present a similar problem. They are distinct from the symbols used to refer to them. They are abstract and intangible yet not fictitious. Otherwise why do we distinguish between "real numbers" and "imaginary numbers"?

What are your views?

Jon1667 answered on 03/18/06:

If they exist, then they exist in the same "sense" that whatever exists, exists. I am not one who thinks that there are a number of senses of "exist" In my view, to say of something that it exists is just to say that a particular description is instantiated (that something answers to a particular description). So, to say of tigers that they exist, is to say of the description, "large striped feline mammal" that at least one thing answers to that description.

Similarly, to say that the number three exists is to say (to follow Russell) that the class of all triples exists. That would, of course, make the number three an abstract entity, and imply that there are abstract entities.

How to DETERMINE that the class of all triples (or that abstract entities in general exist) is a different issue. For different kinds of things there are different ways of determining whether they exist. (I expect that it is because of this difference in determining whether a kind of thing exists, that people are prone to talk about different "senses" of "exist" There aren't different senses of "exist", but there are different ways of determining whether something exists. The sense of "exist" is the same.

After all this preliminary, I would expect that the way to determine whether a kind of abstract entity, like numbers, like facts, exist is, at the end, pragmatic. If the positing of such entities is the best explanation, or gives us the best understanding of certain phenomena, or gives a solution to a set of problems, then we can provisionally say that kind of entity does exist. For instance, if the positing of numbers as classes (a la Russell) serves to explain, and coordinate what we do with numbers, then we can (provisionally) accept numbers into our ontology: provisionally to finding a better explanation and coordination.

The answer I give here is just adopted from my understanding of the late W.V. Quine's views about ontology.

Of course, as you can see, this is a matter of metaphysics, but, obviously, not the kind of metaphysics I would reject as speculative. It is "descriptive metaphysics".

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Question/Answer
NCohen asked on 03/16/06 - Philosophy of Science

Sometime ago I was involved in a discussion concerning whether scientists should limit themselves (or not)in setting any limits on their investigations....because the decision on how to use (positively or negatively) the applications of their investigations are partly the responsibility of the politicians and corporations?

- Are scientists responsible negative consequences of their discoveries ?
- If so, should scientists limit their investigations?
- Are politicians and corporations responsible enough to apply new discoveries in a constructive way? Should this be a concern of scientists?


Many thanks.

Jon1667 answered on 03/17/06:

1. If scientists intended the negative results of their discoveries or should have known they would occur, and went ahead without caring about it, then, of course, they are morally responsible for what they did.

2. I think that scientists should behave as responsibly as any other people. If a discovery could have only negative results, then scientists should not try to make them. But I doubt there are such discoveries.

3. Some politicians are, and some are not. The same is true of corporations. Scientists should be concerned too. But, unless they are also elected to make decisions, they ought not to do so.

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tonyrey asked on 03/16/06 - Science and metaphysics..........................

Once again science is alleged to be more informative than metaphysics - which is said to be mere speculation. Yet if science is based on metaphysical assumptions how can it be a superior form of knowledge? Without solid foundations science must be a castle in the air...

What is science based on, if not the following assumptions (amongst others)? That the universe exists, that the universe is intelligible and fundamentally orderly, and that there are causal relations between objects. Are these scientific or metaphysical assumptions?

Jon1667 answered on 03/16/06:

I wonder what you think makes these propositions you listed especially metaphysical. I know they have been called so, but I think that they are just very general truisms based on common observation.I don't think it is an especially startling discovery to be shouted from the housetops that there is a universe, although it might be interesting to analyse what we mean by that proposition. Or that the universe can be known about, or that events are mostly caused, (although it was an earthshaking discovery that on the contrary, some events (microevents) have no causes)

Your other assumption that if some knowledge is based on other knowledge, that the basis is superior to what is based on it, seems to me suspect. It seems to me that the proposition that there is are causal relations is a rather boring truism. But finding out these causal relations, as scientists have done is what is exciting and important.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 03/14/06 - in general......................................

Is it the scientist, or, the metaphysician who want to get closer than, in general, to what is considered knowledge?

Jon1667 answered on 03/15/06:

Although it is clear that there is scientific knowledge, whether there is such a thing as metaphysical knowledge is, to say the least, controversial. So, I suppose that your question could fairly be called question-begging, since it supposes something that needs proof, namely that there is metaphysical knowledge to get close too.

But even if there is, your question also assumes that science and metaphysics are in competition to achieve something you call knowledge. But do they search for the same thing. Even those who believe there is metaphysical knowledge are careful to explain that it is quite different from scientific knowledge.

So, it seems to me that your question is off-track in two different ways.

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tonyrey asked on 03/15/06 - How plausible is materialism?

.............................Where are thoughts, beliefs, desires, intentions and sensory experiences located in the brain? In which part of the brain does a rational decision occur? Where is the seat of consciousness? In the absence of precise answers is it correct to describe materialism as an unverified hypothesis?

Jon1667 answered on 03/15/06:

Materialism is more of a reseach programme (to use a useful chiche') than either an hypothesis or even a theory. I think that brain physiologists have done more mapping of the brain than you allow. Of course, the map is by no means complete, but a lot of people are working on it, and much has been learned about the kinds of questions you ask. Of course, the fact that we don't have a complete map does not, and cannot imply, that we aren't on the right track. Especially when the alternative is considered which would amount to ignorance.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 03/13/06 - Where does this desire to self-sacrifice come from?

Do you suppose it to be instinctual? Of course, not, so we can eliminate that from the start of the inquiry.

Jon1667 answered on 03/13/06:

I think that very few people DESIRE to sacrifice themselves. Perhaps the suicide-bombers, and probably very few of them. Most people who sacrifice themselves for others do so quite reluctantly, and if the action is not one of generous impulse, do it because they believe it is the right thing to do.

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Question/Answer
Oldstillwild asked on 03/10/06 - Longitudes.......

Why is my boot-lace always growing longer?

Jon1667 answered on 03/10/06:

Your foot is shrinking. Medical help is needed-and quickly!

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 03/09/06 - How did religion begin?

The study of the origin and development of religion is a comparatively new field. For centuries, people more or less accepted the religious tradition into which they were born and in which they were brought up. Most of them were satisfied with the explanations handed down to them by their forefathers, feeling that their religion was the truth. There was seldom any reason to question anything, nor the need to investigate how, when, or why things got started. In fact, for centuries, with limited means of travel and communication, few people were even aware of other religious systems.
During the 19th century, however, the picture began to change. The theory of evolution was sweeping through intellectual circles. That, along with the advent of scientific inquiry, caused many to question established systems, including religion. Recognizing the limitations of looking for clues within existing religion, some scholars turned to the remains of early civilizations or to the remote corners of the world where people still lived in primitive societies. They tried to apply to these the methods of psychology, sociology, anthropology, and so forth, hoping to discover a clue as to how religion began and why.

0 What was the outcome? Suddenly, there burst upon the scene many theoriesas many as there were investigators, it seemedwith each investigator contradicting the other, and each endeavoring to outdo the other in daring and originality. Some of these researchers arrived at important conclusions; the work of others has simply been forgotten. It is both educational and enlightening for us to get a glimpse of the results of this research. It will help us to gain a better understanding of the religious attitudes among people we meet

Jon1667 answered on 03/09/06:

I suppose there are as many theories as there are theoreticians. Freud had one theory, Marx another, and so on. It is a question like, how did language begin? For a while, the American Language Association would accept no papers on this topic for its meetings on the ground that the answer was unknowable.

And, of course, there need not be just one answer, anyway. It might be that in various circumstances there are different explanations. But, I would imagine that one plausible explanation would be that religion seems to explain frightening or unusual natural phenomena. Thunder for instance, or the eruption of a volcano.

It is for this reason that science, as it progresses in explaining natural events, undermines religion. It pulls the explanatory function out from under religion, and leaves it with no function (but comfort, I suppose).

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 03/09/06 - What is your concept of God?

..........................................regardless of belief or disbelief.......

Jon1667 answered on 03/09/06:

The usual, I suppose. Except, I think, crazier.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 03/06/06 - What is your concept of a perfect world?

........ Please indicate how it could be implemented.

Jon1667 answered on 03/07/06:

Well, the perfect, as it is said, is the enemy of the good. But like the Lord High Executioner, I have a little list of people who never would be missed, and their elimination would make an excellent start.

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Question/Answer
HerrAirhorn asked on 03/06/06 - How on Earth?

In this day and age, what possible argument can a person make for the opinion that death and illness and illness related pain are EVIL? These are all "natural" occurences.

How about using the proper words...maybe unfortunate, sad, untimely, etx. Can anyone make the case?

Jon1667 answered on 03/06/06:

Since "evil" just means "very bad" and some pain is very bad, therefore, some pain is evil. Why cannot a natural occurrence be evil? I suppose that those who have now taken to torture and behead are very bad people, so, what is the matter with calling them evil people?

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tonyrey asked on 03/03/06 - How would you define evil?

......................... In theory there could be as many types of evil as there are creatures, e.g. "canine evil", "feline evil" and "leonine evil"! Or even a type of evil for every individual: Jack's evil and Jill's evil since "one man's meat is another man's poison"... This is an absurd extreme but it does indicate that definitions often oversimplify the issue.

The traditional division into "moral evil" and "natural evil" is misleading because a so-called evil person may not be evil at all. A rapist or serial killer may not be responsible for his crimes, yet the crimes are undoubtedly evil in causing needless suffering and death. So there seems good reason to include "personal evil" in the list. What do you think?

Jon1667 answered on 03/03/06:

There are many different kinds of dogs as well, schnauzers, chows, and terrriers, etc. but that is no reason to think that the common definition of "dog" as domestic canine simplifies the issue.

"Moral evil" may be an attribute of a person, or of an action. A person who is not responsible (whatever that comes to) for an evil act which he does, is nevertheless not himself evil, but, of course, his action is still morally evil. But there is still a distinction between the evil that is caused by a natural disaster like a hurricane or an earthquake, and the evil that is caused by a person.

Evil seems to be just extreme badness.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 03/02/06 - Possibilities

The planet shudders with the force of ten thousand earthquakes. A shock wave of displaced air sweeps over the surface of the globe, flattening all structures, pulverizing everything in its path. The flat terrain around the impact site rises in a ring of liquid mountains several miles high, exposing the bowels of the Earth in a crater a hundred miles across. . . . A vast column of dusty debris fans out into the atmosphere, blotting out the sun across the whole planet. Now the sunlight is replaced by the sinister, flickering glare of a billion meteors, roasting the ground below with their searing heat, as displaced material plunges back from space into the atmosphere.
Professor Davies goes on to link this imaginary scenario to the prediction that comet Swift-Tuttle would hit the earth. He adds the warning that although such an event may not be likely in the near future, in his opinion sooner or later Swift-Tuttle, or an object like it, will hit the Earth. His conclusion is based on estimates that suggest that 10,000 objects a quarter mile or more in diameter move on Earth-intersecting orbits.
Do you believe that such a frightening prospect is real?

A surprising number of people do. But they brush aside any concern by reassuring themselves that it will not happen in their time. Why, though, should planet Earth ever be destroyedeither soon or millenniums from now? Certainly, it is not the earth itself that is the main source of trouble for its inhabitants, human or animal. Rather, is not man himself responsible for most of the problems of this 20th century, including the possibility of completely ruining the earth?

Jon1667 answered on 03/02/06:

I thought that comets consist mostly of gas, and that, although Earth has been hit by a comet many times, nothing happened.

In any case, if such a catastrophe were to occur, it would be a natural event with natural causes, and would not be a punishment.

You are starting to sound like Jerry Falwell, or the mayor of New Orleans. What is happening to you?

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Question/Answer
Coup_de_Grace asked on 03/01/06 - A Riddle

I posted this on the Christianity Board, but was disappointed in the answers, save one. Would members of this board please comment on the three quotes stating reasons why they agree or disagree of a combination of both?

ONE. Epicuris posed the following riddle:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

In other words:

If god is all good, whence comes evil? For evil cannot come from good any more than thistles can come from apples.

I'd prefer no comments about free will as I am familiar with this piece of Christian theology unless you have a sophisticated argument, of course, and can relate them to the Riddle above.
======================================================================= ======


TWO. Nietzsche said, "The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad."


What do you think of this particular Nietzsche quote? What are the ramifications of seeing the world ugly and bad?



THREE. "Nothing is so firmly believed as what we least know." Montaigne

Did Montaigne hit the nail on the head? Why?


Thank you.

Ben

Benjamin and Susan Grace

Jon1667 answered on 03/01/06:

You have posed what is traditionally called, "the problem of evil". The most important attempt at what is called, "Theodicy" (Greek for the justification of God) is the 18th century philosopher Leibniz's view that this is the "best of all possible worlds". By that, Leibniz meant not that the best of all possible worlds would have no evil in it, but rather, that it would have the least evil, commensurate with the most possible good for which that evil was necessary. For example, sympathy and pity are goods, and the world is a better world with sympathy and pity in it, than a world without sympathy and pity in it. But it is impossible to have sympathy or pity, unless there are those who require sympathy and pity, like the sick and the tormented. The question is, then, whether it would be better to have a world with no sympathy and pity, and not sick and tormented, or to have both? Because you cannot have the good without the bad. Leibniz's idea is that we have to have faith that: 1. every evil is a necessary evil, necessary for some good, and, 2. every good for which the evil is necessary more than compensates for the evil. If you accept those two propositions, then you can accept that the evil in the world is understandable even if God is both all-good and all-powerful. God allows the evil because without the evil, the greater compensating good could not exist.

The Nietzche quote seems to me typical Nietzsche, and, therefore, false.

The Montaigne quote doesn't "hit the nail on the head" since we often believe things we also know, and often don't believe things we do not know. For instance, I know that Quito is the capital of Ecuador, and I believe it too. And I do not know that Guyaquil is the capital of Ecuador (since it is not) and I don't believe it is.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 02/28/06 - what we see is so determined

The world as immediately given to us is a mixture of sense perception and thought. While the two may not be separable in our experience, we can nevertheless distinguish the two. When we do, we find that the perceptual alone gives us no coherence, no unities, no "things" at all. We could not even note a patch of red, or distinguish it from a neighboring patch of green, without aid of the concepts given by thinking. In the absence of the conceptual, we would experience (in William James' words) only "a blooming, buzzing confusion." by Stephen L. Talbott.

But, what is a concept, where does it come from?

Jon1667 answered on 02/28/06:

No one has, I think, undertaken to answer the question you asked which is, what is a concept? And, I suppose, what you are asking is really, what is the concept of a concept? When philosophers go about writing books like, "The Concept of Mind" or economists write on, the concept of money, they seem to be talking about understanding, in the one case, what the term "mind" means, and in the other case, what the term "money" means. So I would think that when we talk about concepts we are talking about the meanings of words (or phrases)and understanding them. That is why I think that there are no concepts, at least in a fully-fledged sense of that term, without language, and the acquisition of concepts goes hand-in-hand with the acquisition of language. But some have said that animals (who have no language) have concepts. But is that true? Does the cat have a concept of milk? I wonder.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 02/24/06 - Pleasure and happiness.

................................It seems evident that pleasure alone is not sufficient to make a person happy. What else is required?

Jon1667 answered on 02/25/06:

Mill's answer was that it is the quality of the pleasure that counts for happiness, and not (merely) the quantity. And, as Aristotle pointed out, it is long term pleasure which is important. And, as Plato pointed out, we should not be seduced by "false pleasures", namely those that last momentarily and lead to pain.

But if these, and, perhaps other, adjustments are made, it may very well be that pleasure constitutes the whole of happiness.

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tonyrey asked on 01/21/06 - What are your views on consciousness?

........ My own view is that it is a state of mind and cannot exist independently of mind. In its most developed form it implies the power of abstraction in order to recognise oneself as an individual. Like rationality, consciousness does not seem to me adequately explained as a by-product of physical processes.

Jon1667 answered on 01/22/06:

Of course consciousness is a "state of mind". What else would it be? But that tells us nothing unless we have some clear view of what the mind is. After all, the mind might itself be a physical process. I think you mistake a particular concept of the mind as the only possible concept of the mind.

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Question/Answer
Bradd asked on 01/20/06 - Morality and Religion

Is morality (or the social contract) feasible without religion?

Atheists, relatively few in number, say yes, but are they simply projecting an altruistic view which they, composed mostly of high-minded individuals, naively assume everybody else will accept?

From Socrates to Spinoza, religion, believed or not, is seen as the glue that holds societies together.

As religion declines in the affluent societies, and immorality increases, what will take its place? Social Darwinism?

By religion, I don't mean any particular creed, but rather the common mythos that all social groups tend to pass on to their children. Its strength is that it is not reduced by "science" - it transcends mere logic and resonates in the human psyche.

Could there be something of ultimate truth in such an a-rational aspect of the human condition?



Jon1667 answered on 01/22/06:

I have never understood this view. What is the evidence that it is religion that "holds societies together" or that it is religion that makes people moral?

Why should there be "ultimate truth", let alone just plain good old truth, in something irrational? You talk as if the fact that religon is irrational is actually an argument for its truth. And that's irrational.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 01/19/06 - Bin Laden Makes Truce Offering

Bin Laden Makes Truce Offering On Latest Terror Tape
01.19.2006 5:47 PM EST

White house response:
"During his daily briefing, before the voice was authenticated, White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said bin Laden was desperate and "clearly on the run," adding, "we do not negotiate with terrorists. We put them out of business. The terrorists started this war and the president made it clear that we will end it at a time and place of our choosing.""

Is this a wise response?

Jon1667 answered on 01/20/06:

During World War II, we demanded unconditional surrender from Hitler. Was this wise?

There are some things that are not negotiable. There is nothing to negotiate when bin Laden demands that the West get out of the Middle East and consent to his establishment of a Caliphate there. Besides, we are on the way to putting him out of business, and we'll do it unless the West goes "wobbly".

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tonyrey asked on 01/18/06 - Is beauty entirely in the eye of the beholder?

It would seem not, given facts like the golden ratio:

http://technology.guardian.co.uk/online/science/story/0,12450,875198,00.html

Jon1667 answered on 01/18/06:

I have read some popular summaries of studies that indicate strongly that the judgement of beauty of human beings and other kinds of object are intersubjectively standard. For example, symmetrical features on a human face are judged more beautiful than are asymmetrical features. There may be evolutionary explanations for such concurrences.

Therefore, there is evidence that judgements of beauty are not restricted to individuals, if that is what "beauty lies in the eye of the beholder" means. Clearly, however, there is not "beauty" residing in things anymore than, to paraphrase Santayana, whisky lies dead drunk in the bottle.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 01/14/06 - What is mathematics?........................

It has been argued that both logic and mathematics are manmade systems, the truths of which do not exist outside the human mind. Yet the affinity between mathematical equations and the physical world, for example, seems to require explanation. Is it a coincidence that the Poisson distribution describes so beautifully a wide range of scientific phenomena? Radioactive decay is the only truly random process known in nature and yet it can be mathematically predicted with remarkable accuracy.

I believe both logic and mathematics are rooted in reality and other minds in the universe would discover the same truths and principles known to us. Numbers do not exist in a Platonic realm but nor are they are fictions devised by man!

Jon1667 answered on 01/16/06:


The best thing I know on this question is Carl Hempel's essay, "On the Nature of Mathematical Truth" especially Section 11, "On the Applicability of Mathematics to Empirical Subject Matter"

http://64.233.161.104/search?q=cache:GpW5HwQgICsJ:www.meta-religion.com/Mathematics/Philosophy_of_mathematics/nature_of_mathematics_2.htm+hempel+carl++mathematics+applied&hl=en&ie=UTF-8

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 01/11/06 - When a Fact Is Not a Fact

Ken in the previous post brought up the subject of "Dogmatism" that Choux thought was "super," and I agree. However, I would like to point out another "Dogmatism" that, I feel is a great mistake taught in our Public School system here in the U. S.- The theory of organic evolution.

A fact is something that exists beyond question. It is an actuality, an objective reality. It is established by solid evidence.
A theory is something unproved but at times assumed true for the sake of argument. It has yet to be proved as factual. Nonetheless, sometimes something is declared to be a fact that is only a theory.
The theory of organic evolution falls into this category.
ON September 30, 1986, The New York Times published an article by a New York University professor, Irving Kristol. His contention is that if evolution were taught in the public schools as the theory it is rather than as the fact it isnt, there would not be the controversy that now rages between evolution and creationism. Kristol stated: There is also little doubt that it is this pseudoscientific dogmatism that has provoked the current religious reaction.
Though this theory is usually taught as an established scientific truth, Kristol said, it is nothing of the sort. It has too many lacunae [gaps]. Geological evidence does not provide us with the spectrum of intermediate species we would expect. Moreover, laboratory experiments reveal how close to impossible it is for one species to evolve into another, even allowing for selective breeding and some genetic mutation. . . . The gradual transformation of the population of one species into another is a biological hypothesis, not a biological fact.
The article touched a raw nerve in Harvard professor Stephen Jay Gould, a fervent defender of evolution as a fact, not just a theory. His rebuttal of Kristols article was published in a popularized science magazine, Discover, January 1987 issue. It revealed the very dogmatism Kristol deplored.

Jon1667 answered on 01/13/06:

There is a considerable difference between saying that something is a theory and saying that it is ONLY a theory. There is no incompatibility between some unified explanation of the data being a theory, and also being a fact. For example, the theory of gravity is both a theory and a fact. Atomic theory is both a theory and also a fact. Which is to say that to the best of our evidence, both are true. (Ditto for Germ theory-that disease is spread by germs). But to say of some view that it is ONLY a theory is to say that it is tantamount to a speculation. For example that there is life on other galaxys is "ONLY a theory" because it is a mere speculation, in that there is little or no evidence for it.

Evolution is certainly a theory since is it is a unifying explanation of the data. But it is hardly a speculation, or "ONLY a theory". The support of it is overwhelming. Not merely from biology proper, but from paleontology, for genetic theory, from astronomy, and from other sciences. It is at least as well-grounded as is the theory of gravity, or the theory of relativity. The only issue is why it is that people believe that it is not. The answer is clear. Such people have a stake in the view that Evolution is only speculative ("ONLY a theory").

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 01/13/06 - What is truth?...................................

Attempts have been made to explain truth as nothing more than linguistic convention. According to this theory, if language did not exist neither would truth! Yet truth is widely regarded as correspondence between belief and reality, e.g. our belief is true if we believe the world is round and the world is in fact round. Correspondence is a relation and not a human construct. So the truth is not invented but discovered.

Bertrand Russell tried to evade the reality of "universals", i.e. abstract ideas like truth and beauty. He gave up the attempt when he realised that it is impossible to deny that similarity exists whether we recognise it or not. Even if no human beings existed the facts would remain the same... (except the fact that there are human beings!)

Jon1667 answered on 01/13/06:

I think you may be confusing truth with "true". There are truths, of course. A truth is (near enough) a fact. And facts (or truths) are not "linguistic conventions" nor are the existence of truths dependent on language. It was true that there was a Sun long before it was true that there were Men, and therefore, long before there was language.

However, "true" is an adjective which qualifies something. There has been a lot of discussion in philosophy about the question, what are the "bearers" of truth. What is it that is true. Is it a belief, a statement, a sentence, a proposition? In ordinary discourse we append the term "true" to all of these. In this way, to say that something is true is to assert some relation between what you say is true (whatever that may be) and some fact or truth "state description" (Carnap)state of affairs, and that truth-bearer.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 01/11/06 - Speaking of Hume-

I wonder why anyone would believe there was not, a reality external to a mind. That is to say, on the very face of it that appears to be a fact.

You have a conscious mind. That statement may seem basic, but it sums up something that unquestionably makes you exceptional. The mind has been described as the elusive entity where intelligence, decision making, perception, awareness and sense of self reside. As creeks, streams, and rivers feed into a sea, so memories, thoughts, images, sounds, and feelings flow constantly into or through our mind. Consciousness, says one definition, is the perception of what passes in a mans own mind.

Frankly, how and why consciousness arises from physical processes in our brain is a mystery. I dont see how any science can explain that, one neurobiologist commented. Also, Professor James Trefil observed: What, exactly, it means for a human being to be conscious . . . is the only major question in the sciences that we dont even know how to ask And just studying the physiology of the brain may not be enough. Consciousness is one of the most profound mysteries of existence, observed Dr. David Chalmers, but knowledge of the brain alone may not get [scientists] to the bottom of it.

Who, or where the idea originated, that there was not a reality exterior to us must have been quite the skeptic. Can anyone tell me?

Jon1667 answered on 01/12/06:

But Hume doesn't disbelieve in the reality of the external world.

Hume held we could not know whether there was a world external to our minds, and thought that our attention should be turned to why it was that we believed there was an external world. This was part of his view that epistemology should be "naturalized", and made a part of psychology.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 01/10/06 - Science versus Philosophy and Religion?

........."If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity, or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames. For it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion."

This attack by David Hume seems to consider science as the most reliable, if not the only, form of genuine knowledge. Yet Hume's view that the mind is no more than a "bundle of impressions" is metaphysical and unscientific. It implies that reality consists of "impressions", whatever they may be.

Many people today regard science as more informative than philosophy and religion, although most scientists would agree that all their conclusions are provisional and may be modified in the light of further discoveries. The only certainty related to science is the fact that science exists!

I believe all knowledge is based on consciousness. This is a matter of fact but it is not based on abstract or experimental reasoning concerning quantity or number. It is a consensus of individual experiences which is based on introspection, logic and abstract reasoning.

Jon1667 answered on 01/11/06:

I don't see how Hume's view of the "I" (not, so far as I can tell, of the mind) implies that reality "consists of impression".Hume did maintain that we cannot know whether reality is independent of our impressions, so his suggestion was that the issue is quite undecidable, and that the issue should be not whether there is an external world, but why we believe there is an external world. But this is only a consequence of Humean skepticism.

The fact that science is revisable and not certain in the sense that it is immune from error (that science is fallible) is, of course, not a weakness of science (as you suggest) but one of its greatest strengths, since it distinguishes science from dogmatism. Scientists revel in the fact that they might be mistaken (although) of course, they do not believe that they are in fact mistaken, since it allows science to expand into the unknown. When did you last hear a theologian admit fallibility about his dogmas?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 01/05/06 - What is the foundation of morality?

...........................I believe human life is valuable because it is a source of opportunities for development and enjoyment. That is why it is unreasonable to harm or kill a human being except in self-defence. Morality is not therefore subjective, relative and based on human convention but objective, universal and based on facts about human nature.

Jon1667 answered on 01/05/06:

Must there be a foundation? Many epistemologists have rejected the idea that there must be one in epistemology, after all.

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Question/Answer
Lukas asked on 01/04/06 - time/space

Hello

There is an expression "no time and space" that i came across a few times while reading different books. For example "there was no time and space for him" or " he was the enemy of time and space" How to understand this TIME and SPACE. Is it connected with some specific current in philosophy? What it may mean that there is no time and no space? Does it make sense?
thank you!

Jon1667 answered on 01/04/06:

Outside of some special context, I use the expression to mean that I do not have room on my calender or schedule for someone, or that a particular person clutters up my schedule.

Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 01/01/06 - human knowledge

Is all human knowledge is derived from human experience.

Jon1667 answered on 01/01/06:

In a famous passage in his "Critique of Pure Reason" Kant writes,

"That all our knowledge begins with experience there can be no doubt. For how is it possible that the faculty of cognition should be awakened into exercise otherwise than by means of objects which affect our senses, and partly of themselves produce representations, partly rouse our powers of understanding into activity, to compare to connect, or to separate these, and so to convert the raw material of our sensuous impressions into a knowledge of objects, which is called experience? In respect of time, therefore, no knowledge of ours is antecedent to experience, but begins with it.

But, though all our knowledge begins with experience, it by no means follows that all arises out of experience. For, on the contrary, it is quite possible that our empirical knowledge is a compound of that which we receive through impressions, and that which the faculty of cognition supplies from itself (sensuous impressions giving merely the occasion), an addition which we cannot distinguish from the original element given by sense, till long practice has made us attentive to, and skilful in separating it. It is, therefore, a question which requires close investigation, and not to be answered at first sight, whether there exists a knowledge altogether independent of experience, and even of all sensuous impressions? Knowledge of this kind is called a priori, in contradistinction to empirical knowledge, which has its sources a posteriori, that is, in experience."

So, do you mean by "derived" "begins?" (human knowledge's genesis is from experience); or do you mean by "derived" what Kant calls, "arises" (out of experience), which he then explains means is entirely constituted by experience.

If you mean the first, Kant's answer is, yes. But if you mean the second, Kant's answer is, no.

So which do you mean by "derived"?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 12/29/05 - What is the evidence that God exists?

........ Amongst the reasons for my own belief are:

The upward trend of evolution in the development of rationality, consciousness, sensitivity, autonomy and spirituality.

The astonishing history of the Chosen People who believe in the Unknown God and the Messiah, and have suffered persecution throughout history culminating in the unparallelled horror of the Holocaust.

The life, death and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth whose moral code of love and unforgiveness remains unsurpassed.

The fact that life is a constant struggle between good and evil - which exist not simply in the minds of human beings but in the conflict between creation and destruction, integrity and corruption, nobility and degradation.

The fact that countless miracles have occurred in answer to prayer.

The exquisite beauty in art and nature.

Jon1667 answered on 12/31/05:

That this question should be asked is of interest in itself.

We (except for skeptical doubts) have no qualms about what (in general) constitutes evidence in ordinary life. We know pretty well what would constitute evidence for there being an elephant in the room with us. And even in less blatant cases, experts can show us evidence that as non-experts we could not identify. ("See that shadow in the X-ray? That's a lesion." "See those whorls in the fingerprints, those match up exactly with the ones left by the culprit.")

When asked for evidence for God, some people might, no doubt, simply wave their hands about "pointing" to the world, and ask (rhetorically) "And who do you suppose made all this?!" But none of that handwaving would suit a non-believer. And it is not that the non-believer would be unimpressed by this particular piece of evidence, (as someone might dispute whether those fingerprints really did match those of the culprit; presumably even that objector would agree that fingerprints constituted evidence!)

Answered prayers has been cited as evidence. But, as been said, sometimes the answer seems to be, no. How do we distinguish between answered prayers where the answer is, no, and just unanswered prayers?

In the famous "Gods" piece, the philosopher, John Wisdom, tried to say something about this problem about what constitutes evidence for God. He made it seem what a commentator called a matter of "blick" or really attitude. Some people simply "see" as evidence for God what others don't. Are the first sighted, but the latter, blind. Or are the first deluded, and the second realistic?
But this "attitudinal" take on the problem is hardly satisfactory.

One Jew I knew said that so far as he was concerned, the destruction of all the Jews in the world would constitute evidence that there was no God, since God had promised that the Jews would never be destroyed. Here, of course, we are talking about evidence that God exists is false, rather than that it is true. And that raises other issues.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 12/27/05 - What is wrong with theism?

.

Jon1667 answered on 12/27/05:

You still have to support the assumption that there is something wrong with theism. Otherwise, you are committing the fallacy of many questions.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 12/24/05 - What is wrong with atheism?!

.

Jon1667 answered on 12/27/05:

In the law, the question, "what is wrong with atheism" would be called a "leading question", and would call for the objection, "Leading the witness!". In elementary logic books it would be said to commit the fallacy of many questions or a "question begging question" since it would be assuming something which stands in need of proof.

But, I am sure, you knew this already.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 12/26/05 - Why do we have nipples?

Males have nipples, an organ which serves a purpose to females but is entirely useless to men. So why do men have nipples?

Jon1667 answered on 12/27/05:

http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a1_093.html

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 12/19/05 - What is wrong with solipsism?

...

Jon1667 answered on 12/21/05:

That it is false? That there is not reason to believe it is true, and the attempt even to express it is self-stultifying.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 12/19/05 - Are all metaphysical theories equally probable?

... When investigating the nature of reality it seems desirable at the outset to avoid making any assumptions, e.g. that everything has its origin in matter (or mind). Is it reasonable to assume initially that all metaphysical theories are equally probable - provided they are intelligible, coherent and consistent?

Jon1667 answered on 12/19/05:

Solipsism does not seem to me to meet your criteria. But if (something of a large "if") Idealism does meet your criteria, it seems to me less initially probable than materialism because it fails to explain the difference between hallucinations and reality, or dreams and reality, whereas materialism does so. Again, because of its failure to explain interactionism, Dualism seems to me less probable than some form of monism.

But, good question.

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Question/Answer
Choux asked on 12/11/05 - Explain the Christian God

to a person who has no experience with religion as you sit alone together on a bench waiting for a bus that will never arrive.

Jon1667 answered on 12/13/05:

"One problem with Hume's argument is his starting point. His first premise is false. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that Hume can coherently define "good," "evil," and "benevolent," it does not follow that a benevolent deity will prevent all evil from occurring. Hume assumes that a benevolent deity is benevolent toward all his creatures, but Scripture explicitly denies that premise. All things work together for good, not for all God's creatures, but only for those who are called according to his purpose."

Now that is really one of the worst apologies I have read (in a field with many contenders). In effect, it tells us that God will protect from evil only those of His creatures who believe in Him and obey Him. It immediately raises the question of which religion is the right one (if any) unless you are a polytheist. It also raises the question of whether a benevolent God would insist that He be believed in although many people believe there are no grounds for believing in God. It converts God into a tyrant. As the saying goes, with friends like Reymond, God needs no enemies.

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Question/Answer
Choux asked on 12/05/05 - Language

Do men and women experience language differently?

I had the media on today, and an expert was talking about language and being male or female. He said that women had more brain receptors that dealt with language. For example, if a man and a woman have the same kind of stroke, a man will lose far more language than a woman. The reason, a woman has language areas in both hemispheres of her brain.

I wonder.
Any comments would be appreciated.

Jon1667 answered on 12/05/05:

If they women do have these extra capacities it certainly shows in sheer production.

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Question/Answer
Jim.McGinness asked on 12/04/05 - Limits of our understanding...do we know what these are?

Keeping the topic of Obscurity and Profundity alive:

In his comments, Tony said

... it is possible that the obscurity is due to the limits of our understanding.
which set off a small alarm bell. What do we know about the limits of our understanding? Do we know enough about them for an assertion like this one to be considered substantive?

Look, I'm not trying to say that it's meaningless to contemplate limits to human understanding. I'm simply questioning whether any current lack of understanding of a topic merely represents evidence of where the potential limits may lie or if it isn't tautological to claim that the reason we don't understand something currently is due to (unknown) "limits of our understanding."

Jon1667 answered on 12/05/05:

The British Empiricists made this question about the limits of the understanding a main focus of their philosophy. (See Locke's "Essay Concerning Human Understanding") The British Empiricists were reacting against the Continental Rationalists, especially Descartes and Spinoza, who believed that, as Spinoza wrote, "No one can set limits to Man's understanding". Descartes thought there were such limits, but they were supernatural limits, not natural limits. And, Spinoza was reacting against this view too.

Hume, himself, thought that there must be limits to what human beings can understand, just as there were physical limits to what they could do. Hume, for example thought that the relationship between mind a body was a good candidate for such a limit. Another, of course, was how the world came to be. It was Kant who really tried to set what the limits to human understanding were by his division between the phenomenal and the noumenal worlds.

Another stage in this ongoing investigation came with the Logical Positivists and Wittgenstein who raised the question of whether the inability to understand some issue (like the mind-body problem) was not rather a sign not of a real problem, but of a pseudo-problem. But that is another story.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/30/05 - Obscurity and Profundity

............................................ Apparently simple questions, like "What is goodness?" are among the most difficult to answer. Is obscurity and even a degree of unintelligibility to be expected in profound explanations?

Jon1667 answered on 12/02/05:

There might be a rather simple reason why such profound questions as "What is goodness" are so hard to answer. Perhaps they are so very vague in the form they are in, that we don't know how to begin to tackle them. I imagine that except for the rather diminuitive subject matter, the question, "What is it to eat mashed potatoes" would be just as difficult to answer.

There is a old conundrum which goes, "What is the difference between a boy, and a postage stamp?" Now the difficulty in answering this question surely does not lie in our thinking that there are no differences between a boy and a postage stamp. The trouble is that there are so very many differences between the two that we have no idea what the propounder of the riddle has in mind. (Like, what is it to eat mashed potatoes? We eat mashed potatoes a lot, but what would someone who asks such a question have in mind? That's the real problem)And, of course, the same goes for, "What is goodness"? What sort of answer is the questioner angling for?

By the way, not to leave you in unbearable suspense, the difference between the postage stamp and the boy is that the first you stick with a lick, and the second, you lick with a stick.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 12/02/05 - "person" and "human being"

Does the term, "person" and "human being" mean different things?

Jon1667 answered on 12/02/05:

Well of course. In the 17th century, John Locke pointed out the difference. The term "human being" is a biological term, denoting a certain species of animal which can now be identified as having a particular DNA (although Locke, of course did not know about that) and which has a certain place in the evolutionary scale. "Person" on the other hand, is what Locke called a "forensic" term which concerns the legal and moral status of the individual. A person has responsibilities and rights, and is a member of a society of persons.

We can easily think of a person who is not a human being. For instance, Mr. Spock who was half-Vulcan (as you will recall) was certainly a person, but was not a human being (not a member of the species homo sapiens). On the other hand, it is certainly not clear that a fetus is a person (and legally it is not a person) although it is a human being. It is also questionable whether a human being who is very feeble minded is a person.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 11/27/05 - no amount of thought will reveal this knowledge

If a person does not attend to the meaning of terms, he may begin to sound absurd. Shall I explain this matter to you Darkcrow?
And explain he did That I had been in error on at least one account became apparent soon enough: that he was not a peasant! He traced his linage to the very near beginning of knowledge: to what is known to be a fact.
For it seems my guide is no less than a direct decandent of Hypatia the Philosopher Daugher of Theon and wife of Isidrus. Add to that Aristippus of Cyrenefounder of the The Cyrenaic school of classical Greek Thought. As it turns out Aristippus was home schooled by Arete of Cyrene, his mother and, the namesake of Timarte (Socrates claimed that arete is a kind of knowledge. Others believe that arete is more than a matter of knowing; it is, some people think, also a matter of willing.)
Timarte; too was home schooled and revealed to me that knowledge passes from father to father though one generation after another. Knowledge is not to be found dusty books the likes of Diodrus Siculus nor Friedrich Nietzsche or Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel nor one G.E. Moore, or David Hume. Knowledge requires action and is not to be generated in ones mind. If you believe there is water in the cup you only need taste it, and if the thirst is quenched, it is water enough; no amount of thought will reveal this knowledge.

Jon1667 answered on 11/27/05:

What if you believe it is water and it turns out to be some poisonous substance that kills you? Wouldn't you then wish you had taken some thought before you drank the stuff? Even Hume and Moore would know that.

"Lineage" is the word.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 11/26/05 - Knowledge Sir; everyone knows that.

Where was I! Oh yes; the course of events, to which I bear witness, the, comings and goings to the very Gate Post of the underworld and, not to forget: by one, mere purveyor of fact.

Ever so long ago I happened upon a man, nay, a man among men: a peasant, as any aristocrat would cheerfully attest; but with the clarity of thought of the likes of any G.E. Moore, or David Hume. I had hired him as a guide; for only a fool would travel the Nile from Alexandria to Sudan without a reliable guide; even at the present time. My guide, Timarete; (and nevermind the female name that is another story for perhaps another time.) swore the journey by which we would proceed was the very route taken by Herodotus; that is, we would travel when the Nile was near its height we would pass by water but not the channels of the river, rather over the midst of the plain: from Naucratis to Memphis, and then to the foot of the very pyramids themselves.

As we were carried along I could not help thinking the scene resembled more nearly than anything else the islands in the gean Sea, only the cities rising above the sea. And I wondered aloud, What were all the great Pharoas seeking, and Timarete replied, as if in wonder, Knowledge Sir; everyone knows that.

Jon1667 answered on 11/26/05:

Dark Crow, the Sibyl was a model of clarity next to you. Pray, what is the meaning of this parable? Tell me that I may too be wise and profound.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/20/05 - To what extent does language obscure thought?

For example, to define is to impose limits where they may not exist. Definitions tend to lead to an atomist view of reality and ignore the continuity of processes. Yet it is impossible to dispense with definitions...

Jon1667 answered on 11/23/05:

I know of a cynical Frenchman (or is that a pleonasm) who said that language is given to Man in order to enable him to conceal his thoughts, but why should definition obscure thoughts? I thought that the purpose of a difinition is to make clear and refine our thoughts. When someone defines a "brother" (biological, of course) as a "male sibling" that does not obscure the thought of brother, it makes it clearer, for it analyses it.

Of course, not all expression of our thought consists in definitions. But surely, if language obscures thought, it would be difficult to come up with a better way of expressing our thought than with language. It is, of course, up to each of us to express what he wants to say as precisely as possible, and all of us have varying gifts in this direction. But it is a pleasure (I think) to hear or to read someone who tells you what he is thinking precisely. I am thinking of philosophers like G.E. Moore, or David Hume, but we can also think of writers like Flaubert who made a fetish of looking for, and finding the exact term to express what it was he wanted to say.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 11/17/05 - Secondness of a mode of being.

100% pure doubtlessness is a property of habit and a habit is acquired by experience; that is, action taken with-out syllogism which has proved itself true; what CS Perice calls Secondness of a mode of being.
Secondness is the mode of being of that which is such as it is, with respect to a second but regardless of any third.
A sign that stands for something to something i. e. object of the sign.
Note: A sign may refer to more than one object or group of objects

A proposition or a description is a sign which may be interpreted to refer to a factual existing object.

A syllogism is a sign of a general law or of a conclusion which leads to the truth.
And so it is that I can say the Bible has literal meaning, and syllogism is the proper means of investigation, not blind faith.
As now, as Christians, ought not, they be testing their words against the whole of the Bible. And if them, certainly all who wish to speak of it in any knowing way. If I want to know a man I listen to his words, not what others say about him and, the same with the Bible; how can one believe, that is, be with-out doubt unless they see for themselves.

Matthew 22:37
Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. Faith by reason as opposed to blind faith.
My bold

Jon1667 answered on 11/17/05:

The things people say!

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/16/05 - How relevant is size to significance?.........

It is often argued that life is insignificant in the vast reaches of time and space. How valid is this argument?

Jon1667 answered on 11/16/05:

Not much. David slew Goliath. But it helps. As someone pointed out, the race is not always to the swift, nor is the battle always to the strong, but I would advise that you bet that way.

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Question/Answer
Nocturne asked on 11/06/05 - Reliability of Memory

If memory is not to be trusted, what can courts of law rely on? How can they establish what 'really happened'? How can things from the past, be proved?

Jon1667 answered on 11/15/05:

But why should not memory be trusted. It is true that it is not perfect. But that does not show we should not use it. Neither are out senses perfect. Sometimes we make mistakes. But does that mean that we cannot establish what is happening or what exists with our senses?

John Locke tells the anecdote of the "foolish servant" who, because it did not give as much light as the sun in daylight, blew out the candle he had, and left everyone in the dark.

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Question/Answer
Choux asked on 11/15/05 - Said and Done

When all is said and done in one's life, what is your opinion about this, "What is the most important objective an individual must accomplish in his/her life"?

Jon1667 answered on 11/15/05:

I don't think there is any one thing. Different people have a lot of goals at different times in their life. A poor man thinks money is the most important thing. A sick man, health. A lonely man, someone else. And so on.

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Question/Answer
Nocturne asked on 11/14/05 - Something

Why is there something rather than nothing?

Jon1667 answered on 11/15/05:

What else should there be? Besides, if there were nothing, I bet you would complain about that too!

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Question/Answer
Nocturne asked on 11/12/05 - Proving Something Exists

Can you prove that something exists without being able to see, touch, smell, taste, or hear it?

Jon1667 answered on 11/15/05:

Of course. Scientists do it all the time. Things like electrons, muons, neutrinos. They are called "theoretical entities" and since (for instance) atomic theory talks about them, and atomic theory is true, theoretical entities exist.

Or, another example is gravity.

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Question/Answer
Oldstillwild asked on 07/13/05 - Life is about contemplating

I am convinced,that the one and only most important talents of mankind is majorly overlooked by most if not all people.
As a consequence mankind developed all kinds of skills in stead.Skills that wouldnt be meant to be,but nevertheless.
If one (as I am ) is searching for the "moment" where it "all went wrong",one has to take an intellectual and emotional journey to the point of conclusion about what life is really about and why in reality it is not.
I am convinced,that life is about eating,breeding and feeling well.Just as in the rest of nature.And that the rest of the day,apart from sleeping,is meant to be used for contemplation in order to reach that very state of feeling well,feeling high,reaching enlightment,you name it.And incorporating the results of that(and even the contemplating itself)in daily social life.
I know what I am talking about.
What do you think,you know youre talking about with regard to the very meaning of life(what it should be)?

The odds are,that your risk isnt particularly remote,that I'll use comments like"You dont know what youre talking about".

Where are my hero's?

(<:)

Jon1667 answered on 07/14/05:

Where are your hero's what?

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Dark_Crow asked on 06/13/05 - Jackson not guilty all ten counts

just or unjust

Jon1667 answered on 06/14/05:

Of course it is not the duty of the jury to determine justice. They are supposed either to find the defendant guilty beyond reasonable doubt on the evidence presented in court, or the defendent is not guilty. I try (although it is sometime hard) not to second guess a jury. They are there in court, listening to the evidence, and I am not.

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tonyrey asked on 06/04/05 - Which vices (if any) are harmless?

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Jon1667 answered on 06/04/05:

Posting on this site.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 05/23/05 - Why are moral rules (un)necessary?

.........

Jon1667 answered on 05/23/05:

For one thing, to teach morality to children which we do both by precept and example. For another, to guide ourselves in problematic circumstances.

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tonyrey asked on 05/14/05 - To what extent can the mind control the body?

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Jon1667 answered on 05/16/05:

Just to the extent that the body can control itself.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 04/17/05 - "what is it to be human?"

That thought gives rise to attitudes, which give rise to acts which seem basic human value (to be inherent in human understanding) such as Truth, Care, Peace, Duty and Justice are uniquely Human. How is this so of course has been asked from the beginning, and what is answered has been called Idealism by those that doubt.

What do you think is the most objective answer to the question "what is it to be human?"

Jon1667 answered on 04/23/05:

The only objective answer is that to be a human being is to have human DNA. Hitler was a human being as was Tamerlane who sat on a pyramid of human skulls. And so was St. Francis of Assisi, and Benedict de Spinoza. The first two were bad human beings, the second two were excellent human beings. Human beings may be untruthful, uncaring, warlike, shirk their duties, and be unjust. And many of them have been. But they all had human DNA, and so, they were human beings.It is generally confusing to mix value issues with factual ones.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 03/21/05 - Are names arbitrary

Are names arbitrary and not accurately reflective of reality or are they supposed to describe.

Jon1667 answered on 04/23/05:

Suppose I call a mousetrap a "mousetrap". "Mousetrap" seems to be an apt name for a mousetrap, since it describes its function pretty well. So, would we call the name "mousetrap" arbitrary? I wouldn't think so. On the other hand, of course, the term "shoe" doesn't have any particular relation to the kind of thing it names. So that name is, I suppose arbitrary. In general, of course, the names of things are not like "mousetrap" but like "shoe" so, I suppose, in that way, most names are arbitrary.

Of course, mousetraps need not have been called "mousetraps". And, in some languages, they are not, I suppose. But whatever the word is, it is still the name of the kind of thing, since it is accepted as the name of that kind of thing by the speakers of the language. That makes all names conventional, but, of course, some names, like "mousetrap" are not arbitrary.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 01/21/05 - So much for rules of Argumentation

No wonder they fail so often

These three requirements comprise an Axis of Logic. Below, we examine Mr. Bush's inaugural speech based upon these rules of argumentation..
http://www.axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/article_15197.shtml
Thoughts and comments?

Jon1667 answered on 01/22/05:

A similar sounding critique could easily be made of say, Lincoln's Second Inaugural, or Kennedy's first Inaugural "Ask not what the country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." Imagine what the welfare constituency would have done with that!

In fact, I bet that such critiques were made.

You can please some of the people some of the time; you can please some of the people all of the time; but you can't please all of the people, all of the time.

I am pretty sure that a bunch of pharisees would have had a ready critique of The Sermon on the Mount.

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Question/Answer
picassocat asked on 01/20/05 - Legislating Morality

Is it possible to legislate morality?

Jon1667 answered on 01/20/05:

Depends:

We legislate morality all the time. For instance, the laws prohibiting murder, rape, and theft, are legislating morality. So, since we do it, it is possible.

But, you may mean by "legislating morality" making people moral by legislation. If you mean by that, making people at least not act immorally, then yes. Laws try to do that, and often succeed in doing it. I suppose lots of people do not steal because they fear the legal consequences of doing so.

On the other hand, you might mean by "legislating morality" changing the desires and motives of people to act immorally. Well, that is harder to do. Sometimes we can partly succeed, but a lot of times we fail.

You might also be asking whether we OUGHT to legislate morality. Well, in the case of murder or forcible rape I should think we should. But in the case of (say) gambling or even voluntary prostitution, whether we should legislate morality is controversial.

As so often, it depends on what you mean.

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tonyrey asked on 01/03/05 - What is the significance of life on earth?

If you knew that all life on earth would be destroyed in 2005 how would your beliefs and values be affected?

Jon1667 answered on 01/03/05:

I suppose you are asking, what is the existence of life a sign of? Why should the existence of life be a sign of anything?

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 12/30/04 - Is the human era coming to an end?

It has been said that within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended. http://www.ugcs.caltech.edu/~phoenix/vinge/vinge-sing.html
Is such progress avoidable? If not to be avoided, can events be guided so that we may survive as the same species?

Jon1667 answered on 01/01/05:

I think you take what people "say" too seriously.
Imminent doomsday has been predicted now since the dawn of time, and here we are, still around, and predicting imminent doomsday.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 12/23/04 - We are the belief makers, we give it all meaning

To even assert that existence is eternal with no beginning or end is to assert a contradiction, that everything is both a cause and effect at the same time.

Lao Tzu wrote, "Though it has no limit, I call it limitless". To say that something is eternal, ---that is--- without boundaries; or has no limits, is to state a contradiction--- for in and of itself such a statement imposes limits, boundaries and the finite!


We are the belief makers, we give it all meaning, including what we decide is and is not nonsense in any given moment; we make it all meaningful and meaningless.

Comments?

Jon1667 answered on 01/01/05:

You think that when I say that the class of natural numbers is infinite, or that the expansion of PI is infinite, I have contradicted myself, or that all the mathematicians who assert that have contradicted themselves? Did Lao Tzu know any mathematics? Or about anything else?

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Question/Answer
Choux asked on 12/10/04 - INtelligent Design

I'm not sure what this exactly means, but if it means that god is a "super intelligence" who somehow invented the Universe out of nothing,and humans on earth are like "chips off the godhead" of consciousness, why are humans so stupid?

Serious question. Thanks

Jon1667 answered on 12/13/04:

The following link might interest you and others on the matter of intelligent design.

http://www.biola.edu/antonyflew/flew-interview.pdf

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/11/04 - What are your views on the following theory?

"In the beginning organization, purpose or consciousness did not exist; only atomic particles existed. Nothing had any value. There is no reason why life has emerged or development has taken place. Atomic particles could have remained as they were without producing a universe in which there is knowledge, control, value and fulfilment."

Jon1667 answered on 11/15/04:

Which seems to me only to say that beings like us who know, control, value, and fulfill, might not have evolved. That seems clearly true.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/28/04 - What are your views on "destiny"?

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Jon1667 answered on 11/02/04:

What will happen will happen. Of course that is true, for it is a tautology. And, empty of any empirical significance.
However, some people mean by "destiny" that whatever occurs is inevitable. That nothing could have been done to prevent it. That is, of course, true of some events; for instance an earthquake, but clearly not true of other events, for example an automobile accident. (If the automobile accident was caused by faulty brakes then, of course, had the brakes been repaired, the accident would not have happened.) Sometimes, by "destiny" is meant "fatalism". That is to say, human actions are inefficacious, so that whatever a person does, what happens cannot be averted. But, of course, that is obviously false. Had I not written this post, it would not have been written by me.

So, in general, the doctrine of destiny is either empty of significance and a tautology parading as a significant proposition, or it is false.

Another victory for "Hume's Fork".

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/25/04 - To what extent is the future predetermined?

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Jon1667 answered on 10/25/04:

If that means that human actions are inefficacious, that what people do makes no difference to what will occur, then the proposition that the future is predetermined is false. It is quite obvious, for instance, that had I not written this post, this post would not have been written by me. Therefore, it follows that my having written this post caused this post to be written by me, and that my action of writing this post was efficacious. So, at least, the proposition that the future is predetermined, eitherdoes not imply that human actions are inefficacious, or, if it does imply it, it is clearly false. What else it might imply, I do not know.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/13/04 - Can we ever be mistaken about what we are thinking?

If so, when and how?

Jon1667 answered on 10/14/04:

Of course. I have sometime believed I was thinking something about some person (say, Abraham Lincoln) and believed I remembered something about him, when I was actually thinking about another person.

I may mention for instance that Lincoln warned the United States to avoid all "entangling alliances", and someone may say, "Oh no, Lincoln did not say that, you must be thinking of George Washington who talked about that in his farewell speech".

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/11/04 - What counts as empirical knowledge?

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Jon1667 answered on 10/11/04:

A rough answer to a rough question:

What is either observed directly, or derived from observation, and confirmed by observation. Statements which, as Quine wrote, "stand before the tribunal of experience".

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tonyrey asked on 10/08/04 - What is the most reliable type of knowledge?

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Jon1667 answered on 10/09/04:

Empirical. Is there any other kind?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/06/04 - When does science cease to be science?

..........How can one decide whether a statement is scientific?

Jon1667 answered on 10/07/04:

Karl Popper's famous criterion is, as you probably know, falsifiability. Which is to say, a scientific statement is one that must be testable by observation.

That seems about as close to a criterion of what make a statement scientific as I know of.

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Dark_Crow asked on 09/22/04 - is it not true we have symphony of the senses?

Aristotle, whose influence has been so long in time that many people still speak of the five senses as if there were no others."

But is it not true we have symphony of the senses?

Jon1667 answered on 09/22/04:

Not only that, but a concerto, and a sonata.

In fact, I think what you call a "symphony of the senses" Aristotle called "the common sense."

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 09/16/04 - Moral Equivalence

The slogan most terrorist are Muslim lacks a Moral Equivalence and therfore is not only improper but shows bias.
I thought I would give the slogan some equivalence and equate it with the suffering of the Jews at Christian hands, which went on for 2,000 years and climaxed in the Holocaust

Any thoughts?


Jon1667 answered on 09/16/04:

Why is it a slogan? It's true. It is like, most Scandanavians have blue eyes.
What do you mean it "lacks moral equivalence"? And how is it like the bit about Jews and Christians? "Most____are____" Fill it in. BC, you really have to try to make sense.

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Question/Answer
markharding asked on 09/14/04 - simple question about poppers falsification

if i hold to the theory that "the 1969 lunar landing did not happen and that there is no module there" and a telescope was built on earth that was large enough to scan the specific area , if i then looked through the telescope and saw a Lunar module with perfect clarity, in the light of this new evidence...what would you consider my stance to be if i then asserted that my theory hasn't been falsified because i now allow for the possibility that the Americans somehow shot a replica up at a later date.

Jon1667 answered on 09/15/04:

I would point out that it is always possible to suppose some reason for thinking that some observation does not show what it appears to show. That is why the philosopher Quine pointed out that we can never either verify or falsify a single theory or hypothesis, because there are always ancillary assumptions being made at the same time. However, if someone were to argue as you suggest, I would have to ask him what his evidence was for his further assumption about the later moon-shot. The fact that such a possibility exists is no reason to think that it is true, and, thus, no reason to think that when we saw the Lunar module, that was not a falsification of the theory you proposed. The possibility that we might be mistaken is no reason to think that we are not right, nevertheless. It is only a reason to think that we cannot be absolutely certain that we are not right. And, empirical science doesn't "do" certainty.

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tonyrey asked on 08/05/04 - Opposing a Nuclear Treaty........

.............What are your views on the fact that the same US government that went to war in Iraq because Saddam did not fully comply with UN weapons inspections has rejected similar control over its own WMD arsenal?

Jon1667 answered on 08/06/04:

The demand that the United States be expected to disarm if Iraq is expected to do so inevitably bring's to mind Emerson's famous, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 07/15/04 - When, if ever, have new laws of nature emerged?

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Jon1667 answered on 07/15/04:

We are discovering new laws of nature all the time. How can we tell how long they have been in operation?

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mr_internet asked on 07/13/04 - Being rational

"What does it mean to be rational?"

Jon1667 answered on 07/14/04:

Aristotle distinguished between two kinds of reason: theoretical reason and practical reason, and, so, two kinds of rationality, theoretical rationality and practical rationality

Theoretical rationality consists in being able to understand arguments, and being able to evaluate them as good or bad arguments. Practical rationality consists in being able to understand what is the appropriate or correct action to take in the circumstances. I think that if you are talking about philosophy and arguments for God, it is theoretical rationality that is important.

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mr_internet asked on 07/12/04 - My philosophy of religion course

Dr. Tonyrey,

Today I just had my first class. It was okay I guess but at times it was tough to understand what the teacher was talking about since as you may recall I am not a philosophy major but information systems major. But my teacher was funny. For example, he said if you can't go to sleep at nights, don't take drugs just read this text book!!

As for the text book we have "philosophy of religion" selected readings third eidtion by William l. Row and William J. Wainwright
(Do you have that book or are you familiar with the authors?)

In the first class first he gave us overview of the whole course which made me say at times say: what is he talking about? Then he told us about the paper that we have to write. Again it was not clear what he exactly wanted but it seems he wanted something about "Arguments for the existance of God (ontological, cosmological, teleological, moral argument). I think I should email him and ask him to provide written explanation of what he exactly wants.

Then he started with talking about "The Nature and attributes of God." And deductive logic and inductive logic.... He concluded by telling us us next time we will start with talking about "What does it mean to be rational?"

One more thing.... Right now his grading method is 3 tests for 60% quizes for 20% and paper for 20% but he said that he is open to ideas from us. Now as I recall you been teaching in a university (right?) How would you grading method be like.

Lastly, I would like to share some of the issues we talk about with my professor. What is the proper way to give you credit for your contributions to our discussion?

Again, I appreciate your help and support

Jon1667 answered on 07/14/04:

It seem to me that if you found you did not understand the instructor, then you should have asked him some specific questions about what you were confused about. After all, he is not a mind reader.

From your description, and from what I know about this sort of course (which I have taught) it seems to me pretty standard, and nothing out of the ordinary.

This was the first session, and since he has not really begun to talk about the standard arguments for God, it is unlikely that at this point you will understand what he has in mind for your paper. I suppose that as time goes on he will say things to clarify it. Since the paper will be on arguments for God, he has begun to talk about arguments in general, and two very different kinds of arguments, deductive and inductive. One of the arguments for God is a deductive argument. That is the Ontological Argument. The others are inductive arguments. So, if you are to write about arguments for God, and since a lot of the paper will be on evaluating the arguments, an important part of evaluating an argument is to evaluate it as a deductive argument if it is deductive, or to evaluate it as an inductive argument if it is inductive. So, it is quite important to learn the difference between the two kinds of argument. So what he has been doing seems to me to make perfect sense.

It is not always the fault of the teacher when the student fails to understand him. You ought to keep that in mind.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 06/26/04 - How is morality related to happiness?

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Jon1667 answered on 06/29/04:

Distantly, so far as I can tell.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 06/16/04 - good and bad inherent in nature

Heraclitus was I believe right in observing nature was in a state of constant flux. Whether or not he recognized that that change was good and bad, or that good and bad changes as does nature I dont know. But if he did, and it were so, good and bad is inherent in changeSo that something that was good, was no longer. Therefore good and bad is relative to nature (reality ) at what has been called time and space, as would be morality. If our species is a part of the natural world it follows the same would apply to us as it does all of natureWould this mean that there is inherent good or bad in all actions no matter whether we are aware of it or not?

Jon1667 answered on 06/16/04:

Even if good and bad are inherent in nature (whatever that may mean) and, even if nature changes, that need not mean that good and bad change. It may be that good and bad remain the same, but what IS good or bad change because things change. The same apple may be good at one time, but rotten at a later time because the apple changed, but good and bad remained the same. And a person may be bad at one time, and then, at a later time, become a better person. But the values have not changed, it is the person who changed.

On the other hand, if you think that good and bad are inherent in nature, what do you say against the following famous quote from Spinoza?

"One and the same thing can at the same time be good, bad, and indifferent, e.g., music is good to the melancholy, bad to those who mourn, and neither good nor bad to the deaf."
Baruch Benedict de Spinoza

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Question/Answer
chekhovToo asked on 06/12/04 - Semantics of philosophy

Why does semantics play such an integral role in philosophy?

Jon1667 answered on 06/12/04:

I don't know just what "semantics" is, but I think what you are talking about is that philosophy is a second-order discipline. It is not, like physics, or like history, about the world, but it is rather about the concepts we use about the world. And, of course, one way of talking about concepts, is to talk about the language which expresses these concepts: hence, "semantics." One philosopher described philosophy as "talk about talk." Scientists use the concept of causation, or of confirmation, in their attempt to understand and explain the world. Philosophers try to understand the concepts of causation and confirmation which scientists use. This second-level approach, is, I think what gives the impression that "semantics" plays such a role in philosophy, and also, the impression that philosophy is abstract.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 06/10/04 - What doesn't require explanation?

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Jon1667 answered on 06/11/04:

What is self-explanatory?

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tonyrey asked on 06/10/04 - Why is an infinite regress unsatisfactory?

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Jon1667 answered on 06/10/04:

There are two sorts of infinite regress, vicious, and harmless. Harmless infinite regresses do not imply the impossibility of what is supposed. For instance, take the principle that every event has some cause, and every cause is, itself, an event. This implies an infinite regress, since there is no reason to believe that the chain of causes must have an end. But this is not a vicious infinite regress unless it is supposed that it would be impossible for the chain of causes to exist unless there was a first or initial cause. There is no reason to think that.
On the other hand, take the famous paradoxes by Zeno. Take, in particular, the paradox that states that an arrow shot at a target can never reach the target because it would have first to traverse a finite distance, and before that, traverse another finite distance, and, since there are an infinite number of finite distances, the arrow could not even get started. This is a vicious regress since it implies its own impossibility.

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Question/Answer
Gguru asked on 06/09/04 - Memento Mori..........................................

Its time to incorporate death in a positive integral way in our lives,in society.
What do you think?

And if not........
What do you expect?

Jon1667 answered on 06/10/04:

I am all for corporations. You draw up the legal papers; I'll sign them.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 06/05/04 - To what extent is modern society decadent?

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Jon1667 answered on 06/08/04:

To the same extent, I suppose, that in every other era people have complained of decadence. With all our alleged decadence, I am glad to live in a society with anti-biotics and anesthesia. And so would you be if you had a bad infection, or needed surgery.

I imagine that the only era when people were not woeful about its decadence was the pleistocene.

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Question/Answer
Gguru asked on 06/04/04 - Wishes?

Given the answers to date,there is a pretty big chance,that --all(!)--wishes would derive from the darkside-motivations in us.

Nature would have wishes too.So,there must be a kind of (natural) borderline between genuine positively based wishes and darkside based wishes.

In what symptoms,dou you think, this borderline,or rather the neglection of that,is projected in human society's development.

Love!
Gguru

Jon1667 answered on 06/05/04:

Golly gee! Right now I wish I had a vanilla ice-cream cone with chocolate sprinkles on top. What is the chance that wish "derives from the darkside-motivations" in me? Gee, I hope not. I think that my little granddaughter wishes she had one too. You never know!

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 06/04/04 - How can something explain itself?

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Jon1667 answered on 06/05/04:

I may send you a message I received from a friend asking me to ask you for an address, and append the note, "This message is self-explanatory."

Spinoza, of course, thought that God was self-explanatory: "Causa sui." But, "self-explanatory" may simply have the minimal meaning of, "requires no explanation." For instance, something that is eternal would require no explanation of its existence. So, if the world is eternal, with no beginning in time, then the world is self-explanatory, in that sense. And, as I have pointed out, most believers believe that God is self-explanatory in that minimal sense.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 06/03/04 - What distinguishes physical and spiritual reality?

........Please ignore the prvious question.

Jon1667 answered on 06/04/04:

What is material is everywhere. What is spiritual is nowhere.

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tonyrey asked on 06/02/04 - What will never be explained by science?

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Jon1667 answered on 06/03/04:

By the way, as Tony pointed out some time ago, the term, "everything" is ambiguous as between the collective meaning (everything altogether) and the distributive meaning, (each individual thing-whatever those may be).

Yes, it isn't philosophy that is simple, it is people who attempt to philosophize.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 06/02/04 - What will never be explained by science?

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Jon1667 answered on 06/02/04:

How could anyone know that a priori? Spinoza writes in The Ethics somewhere that it is foolish to suppose that anything is beyond the capacity of man to explain.

The history of philosophy is littered with the bones of those who predicted (falsely) that we would never be able to understand or know this or that. One example was the prediction that no one would ever know the composition of the stars. Less than a half century after that prediction, the spectroscope was invented which enabled astronomers to analyse the composition of the stars from the light emitted from them. Not more than 80 years ago, it was a kind of article of faith in medical science that the human heart could never be operated on, for it "belonged to the Lord alone." Then, in 1930, the first blue baby was cured by heart surgery.

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tonyrey asked on 05/26/04 - Is life a chance phenomenon?

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Jon1667 answered on 05/27/04:

Of course not. It is a consequence of certain physical and biological laws of nature.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 05/23/04 - What is your reaction to Susan Sontag's article?

..... http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1223273,00.html

Jon1667 answered on 05/24/04:

If by, "Considered in this light, the photographs are us," Sonntag meant by "us" humanity in general, I would tend to agree. But she doesn't. She means President Bush, and Americans who support him, and, so, the piece is politically driven. Sonntag should reside in France where she would feel more at home.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 05/18/04 - How strong is the evidence for miracles?

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Jon1667 answered on 05/20/04:

As Hume pointed out, not nearly so strong as the evidence against miracles.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 05/16/04 - Are we morally infallible?

..........We are all entitled to our opinions but why should we believe we cannot make a mistake about what is right or wrong, or just or unjust? If morality is merely a matter of subjective opinion the views of the lunatic and the criminal should be respected and tolerated!

Jon1667 answered on 05/19/04:

Clarification/Follow-up by tonyrey on 05/17/04 5:05 pm:
Ken, what is it that makes morality more than a matter of taste?
_____________________________________________
There is no arguing about tastes, there is arguing about moral issues: hence, moral disagreement is different from disagreement about tastes.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 05/16/04 - Are we morally infallible?

..........We are all entitled to our opinions but why should we believe we cannot make a mistake about what is right or wrong, or just or unjust? If morality is merely a matter of subjective opinion the views of the lunatic and the criminal should be respected and tolerated!

Jon1667 answered on 05/16/04:

I think it morality is subjective in at least one sense of that term in that it is very much intertwined with our sentiments (in Hume's sense) but it is clearly not MERELY a matter of subjective opinion in the way that whether vanilla or chocolate flavor is nicer. There is some complication in the notion of "subjective," here, so that although the moral views (insofar as they can be called "views") of the lunatic or criminal should not hold any weight, it does not follow that when we judge something to be right or wrong we are judging as we would judge when we observe that water is H20. There is something in between matters of taste and matters of science. It is the job of philosophy to make such nice descriminations and avoid ham-fistedness.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 05/15/04 - Why is Dafur neglected by the West?

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Jon1667 answered on 05/16/04:

What on earth is that?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 05/05/04 - What do you think of this critique of Hume?

..... "David Hume is both an epistemological and metaphysical Subjectivist and a moral and ethical Relativist. His theories make both philosophical knowledge and scientific knowledge impossible. This is, of course, intellectual insanity of the worst sort."

Jon1667 answered on 05/05/04:

It seems to me that the conclusion is false (if, indeed, an argument is being presented) So, either the argument is invalid, or the premise is false.

I think it is true that Hume believes that a particular view of philosophical knowledge, namely into the First Philosophy of Plato and Descartes, as a kind of investigation into a transcendental reality is impossible, since he believes there is no such transcendental reality, and if there were, human beings could not know about it. And, again, he believes that a particular view of scientific knowledge is a dead end, namely the kind of view that the Rationalists purveyed to the effect that science is the investigation of necessary connections between kinds of events. Hume did not think that there were such necessary connections.

But, just because Hume did not think that a particular _philosophical_ or of _scientific_ knowledge was sustainable, it does not follow that he believed that there could be no philosophical or scientific knowledge. To think that, would be to suppose that the views he attacked were the only possible views of philosophy and science.

It would be as if someone were to call someone else an anarchist who did not believe in any government on the ground that the person did not believe in a monarchial form of government. Of course, if one swallows a certain view of something as the only view of that thing, then anyone's repudiation of that view will seem to him as a repudiation of the existence of that thing.
But, suppose that the view repudiated is not the only view there is. What then?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 05/02/04 - What is the alternative to substance?

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Jon1667 answered on 05/02/04:

Both Hume, and Berkeley before him (in regard to material objects) thought that objects were collections of qualities.

But, the fact that our grammar is mostly a subject-predicate grammar need not mean that we have substances and their qualities. What is it that compels us to suppose there are substances at all is, perhaps, the question I should put to you.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 04/30/04 - What are your views on monism?

............(Webster: The theory that there is only one kind of ultimate substance.)

Jon1667 answered on 05/01/04:

I have doubts about the existence of substance at all, but, if one is going to talk that way, then, I suppose, that Russell's version, "neutral monism" is the way to go if only on the grounds of Ockham's Razor.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 04/30/04 - How can we determine what exists?

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Jon1667 answered on 04/30/04:

It would depend on what it is you are determining exists. Material objects by observation, both direct and indirect. Mathematical objects (is there a prime number between numbers X and Y? for instance) with mathematical means, and, I suppose sensations or emotions, by introspection, at least partly. So I don't think there is a general answer to your question.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 04/29/04 - What are our most basic concepts?

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Jon1667 answered on 04/29/04:

Here are some I think would be on everyone's list:
existence, truth, knowledge, understanding, cause, argument, morality, right (wrong) good (bad), thought, reason; and one I would have on my list that others might not mention, the same.

Like Hamlet's beast, we would "want discourse of reason" unless we had, at least, these concepts. But, I am sure that there are many other concepts others would add.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 04/27/04 - Is metaphysics "nothing but sophistry and illusion"?

............... Please justify your answer.

Jon1667 answered on 04/28/04:

Hume was inveighing against the predominant metaphysics of his time, Rationalism. Rationalism centrally held the thesis that it was possible to know a priori, independently of sense-experience, deep and important truths about the world. It was the view that metaphysics was the rival of science, except that it investigated the world of reality, while science investigated the world of appearance. Hume argued, in my opinion, and in Kant's opinion, successfully, that view of metaphysics was bogus. That was not sensible metaphysics. Sensible metaphysics, in my view, consists in the understanding of our basic concepts about the world which concepts are used in science and in commonsense. It is a much more modest view than the former view, or Kant's own view concerning synthetic a priori knowledge, but, in my opinion, a far more manageable view of metaphysics, and one that seems to have made some progress.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 04/27/04 - Is metaphysics "nothing but sophistry and illusion"?

............... Please justify your answer.

Jon1667 answered on 04/28/04:

"Please justify your answer" makes it sound like a quiz in school.

Hume is too harsh, but much of the kind of metaphysics Hume had in mind, what Kant was later to call "speculative" was exactly that.

Even Kant accepted much of Hume's criticisms of speculative metaphysics, in particular that of post Leinizian Rationalism (of which Kant himself was a victim before he was awakened from his "dogmatic slumber" by Hume's attack on it.) It was why Kant tried to put metaphysics on a new footing with his seminal question, "How are synthetic a priori judgements possible?" That question, with its implicit assumption that there are synthetic a priori judgements (propositions) which the Logical Positivists rejected, let to analytic philosophy and those like Quine and Davidson and Dennett and Strawson, who began to do sensible metaphysics.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 04/26/04 - Why should analysis be superior to synthesis?

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Jon1667 answered on 04/27/04:

It seems to me that analysis is a necessary condition of synthesis. What are synthesized are, very often, the materials of analysis.

In philosophy, particularly, it seems to me that syntheses, especially grand syntheses are suspect. As Hume pointed out, they generally turn out to be either significant, but false, or trivial and true.

I think I have, before, posted the following on this board, but such wise words deserve to be posted again.

THE SCEPTIC


I HAVE long entertained a suspicion, with regard to the decisions of philosophers upon all subjects, and found in myself a greater inclination to dispute, than assent to their conclusions. There is one mistake, to which they seem liable, almost without exception; they confine too much their principles, and make no account of that vast variety, which nature has so much affected in all her operations. When a philosopher has once laid hold of a favourite principle, which perhaps accounts for many natural effects, he extends the same principle over the whole creation, and reduces to it every phnomenon, though by the most violent and absurd reasoning. Our own mind being narrow and contracted, we cannot extend our conception to the variety and extent of nature; but imagine, that she is as much bounded in her operations, as we are in our speculation.

David Hume



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Question/Answer
XCHOUX asked on 04/25/04 - George W Bush has got to go...

Bush has got to go as President of the United States. In the press converence with Tony Blair last week, he called on God Almighty, and then, looked like more of an idiot than he usually does.

Granted he is only the SpokesModel for the Administration of Vice-President Cheney, and we knew that from the beginning, but his blatant attempts to tie his administration to GodAlmighty Christianity(is he Christ or the anti-Christ in his own mind?)is OFFENSIVE! It's illegal!

Do you think Bush has to go?

Jon1667 answered on 04/26/04:

It does not seem plausible, on its face, that someone who has an MA from the Harvard Business School, and has become the president of the United States, is an idiot.

I do not see (as apparently you do) that his policies are guided by his religious convictions. I think they are guided by his Republican conservative convictions. But, after all, that is how he was elected-as a Republican conservative.

I think that before people decide to vote against Bush, they ought to consider what they will get instead. It is not simply voting against Bush. It is voting for John Kerry. And that is something I am disinclined to do.

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Question/Answer
XCHOUX asked on 04/24/04 - Arafat Preparing for his Death

News story. Arafat is preparing for his death since Sharon said that he is no longer bound by an agreement with the US not to kill him.

Comments?

Jon1667 answered on 04/24/04:

I think that Arafat is going to have some bad nights, but, in the end, I don't think he will be killed.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 04/24/04 - How can the Middle East conflict be resolved?

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Jon1667 answered on 04/24/04:

The essential first step is that Arabs give up the idea that Israel is going to vanish or disappear. They must, for instance, erase the notion from the PLO Charter that Israel is an illegitimate state.

The second essential step is that the terror cease. There will be no progress until that happens and Hamas and the other terrorist organizations lay down their arms.

When the Arabs do those two things, there will be a resolution. Until they do them, there can be none.

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Question/Answer
XCHOUX asked on 04/23/04 - Is America Arrogant?

Many times on the boards, I have seen individuals state that America is arrogant for this action or that non-action. I would be curious to know since America is the richest most powerful nation in the history of the world since only 1989, what actions or policies are these complaints of arrogance based on? Isn't America out there in unchartered territory and making the way by trial and error?

Comments welcome...

Jon1667 answered on 04/23/04:

Main Entry: arrogant
Pronunciation: -g&nt
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Latin arrogant-, arrogans, present participle of arrogare
1 : exaggerating or disposed to exaggerate one's own worth or importance in an overbearing manner
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America may be impolitic. It may be annoying. It may be overbearing too. But, the question is this: isn't America the most important and powerful country the world has ever seen?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 04/20/04 - Should all nuclear weapons be destroyed?

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Jon1667 answered on 04/22/04:

Some countries need them as insurance that they will not be overwhelmed by a much more populous enemy. I mean, especially, Israel.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 04/17/04 - What is the best model for interpreting reality?

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Jon1667 answered on 04/18/04:

What are the choices?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 04/16/04 - To what extent is psychology a science?

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Jon1667 answered on 04/17/04:

Psychology is a science since it is an attempt to describe, and then explain, human behavior. How successful a science it is depends on its success in doing it. Clinical psychology, which is a kind of applied psychology, is something else again. Its success is spotty.

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Question/Answer
AhmadBalkhi asked on 04/13/04 - predistiny or will

I am writing a paper on the following philosophical topic:

There are two (or more) systems of beliefs. One claim that all humans have a predistiny. That is, everything we do or whatever we are is determined by a God before our creation. The other belief or philosophy asserts that humans must strive to be or become good. Otherwise, according to this group, justice would be injustice. For instance, if god created a criminal to be a criminal, then it would be injust to put him in hell or it would be injust to put him in prison. In fact, there should not be any hell or heaven. Everything is determined by god, himself (or herself). There shouldn't also be any hospital or police stations or prisons and etc. If a person is to die, he/she will die. If he/she commits a crime, he/she is determined to do it, and therefore, not guilty.

I need some ideas for this topic. Also, if you could tell me what are the names for this two schools of philosophy.

I appreciate your help. Thanks!

Jon1667 answered on 04/14/04:

Is it not possible that our use of our will is "predestined?" Suppose I choose to eat eggs for breakfast tomorrow? Since I chose to do it, and I was not compelled to do it, I acted from my will, and freely. Of course, it might be that I was "predestined" to make that choice. But that choice is no less my choice.

So, it seems to me that what you call "predestination" and acting from one's will are compatible, and there is no conflict between them.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 04/08/04 - How did consciousness originate?

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Jon1667 answered on 04/09/04:

It evolved. How else?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 04/07/04 - What is your guiding star?

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Jon1667 answered on 04/08/04:

I must confess, Tony. It is Britney Spears.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 04/07/04 - To what extent are we groping in the dark?

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Jon1667 answered on 04/07/04:

Really, Tony!

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 04/04/04 - To what extent are we controlled by machines?

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Jon1667 answered on 04/04/04:

To a far lesser extent than we control machines.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 04/02/04 - To what extent are we slaves of the monetary system?

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Jon1667 answered on 04/03/04:

The real question, Tony, is to what extent are we slaves to those who use exaggeratedly emotional language as an instrument for manipulation.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 04/01/04 - What are the disadvantages of wealth?

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Jon1667 answered on 04/01/04:

As F.Scott Fitgerald once said, "The rich are different from you and me. They have more money."

I could produce some cant, I suppose, and say things like: "Well, if you are wealthy, you cannot appreciate the humbler things of life." But, to tell the truth, I would rather not have to appreciate the humbler things of life.

So, for the life of me, I think there are no disadvantages of wealth. The more, the better.

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Question/Answer
XCHOUX asked on 03/29/04 - Ordinary People

Plato compared the ordinary life of people to the allegory of people living in a cave. Just as the people living in the cave mistake the shadows cast on the wall of the cave for the real objects which pass before the mouth of the case and cast shadows, so we people who believe we are observing real thing are really observing the shadows or appearance of real things. We fail to understand that we are living in a world of Appearance.

What is that other world Plato describes...what is it called...what is it the opposite of Appearance?

Does Plato think that people can

Jon1667 answered on 03/29/04:

The opposite of appearance is reality. Plato thinks that we are like those prisoners in the cave, and that we take appearance for reality, because, he writes, we are "lovers of sights and sounds." But reality can be known only by the intelligence and not by the senses.

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Question/Answer
XCHOUX asked on 03/29/04 - Fatalism

A merchant in Baghdad sent his servant to the market. The servant returned, trembling and frightened. the servant told the merchant, "I was jostled in the market, turned around, and saw Death.

"Death made a threatening gesture, and I fled in terror. May I please borrow your horse? I can leave Baghdad and ride to Samarra, where Death will not find me."

The master lent his horse to the servant, who rode away to Samarra.

Later the merchant went to the market, and saw death in the crowd, "Why did you threaten my servant?" He asked.

Death replied, "I did not threaten your servant. It was merely that I was surprised to see him here in Baghdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra."

Is Fatalism a legitimate school of philosophy?

Jon1667 answered on 03/29/04:

The fatalism expressed in this parable holds that human actions have no effect on what will happen, in the sense that what happens will occur whatever people do. This implies, for instance, that even if you had not asked this question, the question would have appeared on this site. Clearly that is false. Therefore, fatalism is false.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 03/28/04 - When (if ever) is martyrdom justified?

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Jon1667 answered on 03/28/04:

Clearly not when martyrdom is sought for its own sake (or for the sake of 72 virgins.)

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 03/25/04 - What does racism entail?

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Jon1667 answered on 03/25/04:

Racism is not "in the head" as some seem to think. Racism has to do with how individuals are treated. If individuals are treated accoring to their talents and merits, then there is no racism involved.

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Question/Answer
chekhovToo asked on 03/21/04 - The Politician's Answer

I often hear politicians' from both sides of the political spectrum being interviewed, and I find it annoying at the irrelevance when they attempt to answer a question (s). For the most part they avoid giving direct answers they don't want to answer and are circuitous in the extreme. How can the public at large counter their linguistic obfuscation?

Jon1667 answered on 03/22/04:

But that is what "being politic" means. (That's where we get the word "polite" from) If politicians were not politic, they would not be politicians.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 03/22/04 - "Red in tooth and claw"...

...................... Does that strike you as a balanced description of nature?

Jon1667 answered on 03/22/04:

No. Some is like that. Some is not. (Insofar as the pathetic fallacy is ever balanced, of course.)

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 03/19/04 - Relativism

Are there exclusive truth claims that are binding on the world at large and if so, please give an example?

Jon1667 answered on 03/19/04:

Sure. It was raining in New York City on June 14th, 2002 in the afternoon. Look it up.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 03/19/04 - How can knowledge and truth work

"As far as the propositions of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality." - Albert Einstein

"How can knowledge and truth work, if there are no absolutes to support them?"

Jon1667 answered on 03/19/04:

Einstein seems to be talking about the difference between pure and applied mathematics, in the first quote.

I have no idea what he is talking about in the second quote. Do you?

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Question/Answer
XCHOUX asked on 03/18/04 - Is Albert Einstein Correct?

I was captured by this quote. Can my fellow Board frequenters help me understand it?

"If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor."

Regards,,,

Jon1667 answered on 03/19/04:

Since truth and elegance are not in conflict (I wonder why Albert seems to assume they are) it seems to me that it is better to have elegance and truth than just truth alone. But if Einstein means that truth is more important than elegance, I, of course, agree.

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Question/Answer
chekhovToo asked on 03/18/04 - Government responsibility to the people

I know this is perhaps a more politically oriented question, but it does have philosophical implications as well.
To what extent is the government responsible or indeed answerable to its citizens?
The United States for example is a liberal democracy. The notions of liberalism as I see it places an emphasis on the individual. So, if one doesn't vote, is the government still responsible to that person(s)?

Jon1667 answered on 03/18/04:

Are you asking whether governments are responsible to their citizens, or are you asking whether they should (ought) to be responsible to their citizens. The answer to both questions is pretty clear: to the first, some are, and some are not; to the second; yes, they ought to be.

It is not a necessary condition of the government's answerability to a citizen that the citizen vote. For instance, children cannot vote, but the government is answerable to children.

But, even if a citizen chooses not to vote, there is no reason he cannot question, object, or oppose, the policies of the government. He has this right as a citizen, regardless of whether or not he votes.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 03/15/04 - Why is evil evil?

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Jon1667 answered on 03/15/04:

What else should evil be, but evil?

If you mean by "existing only in the mind," that evil is a response by people to events and the actions of others, I agree that is what it is. But then the question is whether the judgment that something is evil is appropriate or not arises. The ascription of evil to an action or an event is, as you suggest (or do not suggest!) "subjective." but then, so is the ascription of color to an object, subjective in just that sense. Subjective, but not arbitrary nor non-rational. We do not ascribe the color red to fire-engines on whim.

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Question/Answer
XCHOUX asked on 03/15/04 - The Passion, Yet Again

Did anyone else see the SCATHING satire on Saturday Night Live a couple of days go re: The Passion/AND Bush ending with the Looney Tunes finale we have all seen and the famous music?? I have never seen a piece of humor so, well, have you seen it??

Comments.....

Jon1667 answered on 03/15/04:

Ridiculing the film is fine, and appropriate since it deserves ridicule. But that should not divert attention from its insidiousness.

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Question/Answer
XCHOUX asked on 03/13/04 - Individual Freedom vs Societal Needs

I want to do a little thinking and reading about individual freedom and the needs of the individual's society to maintain, well, stability or whatever.

Could someone(s) give me a place to start thinking about this, or a web site to visit with info or a book.

Chou

Jon1667 answered on 03/13/04:

The main function of a civil society is to give security to its members. All other functions are peripheral.

This is the idea behind the social contract about which philosophers like Locke and Rousseau wrote.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 03/12/04 - Freedom and Security.....

How far can they be reconciled?

Jon1667 answered on 03/12/04:

It doesn't seem to me that is the appropriate question. As Thomas Hobbes argued so well, not only are freedom and security not at odds, so they needn't be reconciled, but without security, the freedom we cherish could not exist. We need, for instance, to be secure in our ability to speak up, for there to be freedom of speech in the first place. In is on Speaker's Corner, in Hyde Park (as you know) that those who attack the government, and the values of British society, who are protected by the very government whom they scourage.

Had there been more security on the trains, those who were so brutally murdered by those who kill and maim for the sake of killing and maiming, and for no other reason, would have be free to return to their loved ones, instead of being dead and maimed.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 03/10/04 - intrinsic representational capacity

When I look at a mental representation of a concept or an external object, I do not need another conscious being to know what the content of my mental states are. My mental state seem to have a sort of intrinsic representational capacity that has no place in an extensional ontology. It is as if the word 'tree' physically made of ink on a sheet of paper, would know by itself what it refers to.
Explain this please.

Jon1667 answered on 03/10/04:

Have you really looked at a mental representation of a concept or an external object? I have never looked at a concept, much less a mental representation of one, and, although I have looked at objects (alot of times) when have I ever looked at a mental representation of an object. Never, that I am aware of. Maybe I have done so also, but I certainly have never thought I did. Or are you and I so different? Could you explain to me when I have done either of those two things. I would be interested to learn. And I would be interested to learn also how come I never realized until this moment when you told me about it, that I have done so.

I wonder how many readers of your post believe they have done these occult things you describe?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 03/07/04 - Too much?

A new book by an American social scientist, Barry Schwartz, called The Paradox of Choice, suggests that reducing choices can limit anxiety. Your reaction?

Jon1667 answered on 03/08/04:

Well, of course. That is why those who live in totalitarian societies are so relaxed.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 03/05/04 - How could nature be improved?

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Jon1667 answered on 03/06/04:

Well, we improve on nature all the time. The invention of eye-glasses for the improvement of defective vision is a good example. Another is the invention of anesthetics, and anti-biotics. Had you something else in mind?

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Question/Answer
Diamind asked on 03/03/04 - Is life fair?
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I hear a lot about the idea that everyone can be everyone he wants to be if

Is life fair?
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I hear a lot about the idea that everyone can be everyone he wants to be if he puts his mind to it, therefore life is fair and if somebody is unhappy, it is because he doesn't work hard enough etc. But I dont think it is true. Imagine that someone invented pills, which make a person smarter for 50%, make him work 50% harder and increase other positive features by 50%. This will not change overal picture. Blue-collar workers will not become white collar ones as most of them want, because other people will become 50% smarter as well. Even if there is no pills, imagine that everyone decided to put his mind on something. It will be the same effect as with pills. My theory is that there is a competition in the society. Everyone works as hard as he can and as smart as he can be. There will always be custodians no matter how everyone works and study hard to become somebody. Do you think that life is fair then? I would agree that life is fair, meaning everyone has equal opportunity to become what he wants to be in the society, where robots serve humans and nobody has to do what they dont want to do. The food is gathered and processed buy very smart robots and humans only sleep, eat and do what they want. In this society you can be whoever you want to be, this world may have all the population as doctors or lawers or whatever. In our world though there is suply and demand laws, rich have more power and privilegies to become what they want. It is not fair society in my opinion. It is still close to the animal world, where the fittest survives. It is impossible for everyone to be a say doctor, because infinite number of doctors means infinitely low salary for them and therefore all the people would die. Do you agree with me?

Jon1667 answered on 03/03/04:

I think you are asking whether everyone gets what he merits. Of course not. Just look around you.

"The good end happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means."

Oscar Wilde

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 03/03/04 - What is love?

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Jon1667 answered on 03/03/04:

'Tis not hereafter. Present mirth hath present laughter....love's the stuff will not endure.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 03/01/04 - How can we deal with evil?

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Jon1667 answered on 03/01/04:

How else than by eradicating its doers? Two evil doers were eradicated just yesterday by Israeli missiles. At least they will not be sending homicide-bombers to murder innocents. And, others will learn from their example.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 02/27/04 - To what extent are we liberated by philosophy?

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Jon1667 answered on 02/28/04:

From Bertrand Russell's "The Value of Philosophy" The whole essay can be read on:
http://skepdic.com/russell.html

The value of philosophy is, in fact, to be sought largely in its very uncertainty. The man who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the co-operation or consent of his deliberate reason. To such a man the world tends to become definite, finite, obvious; common objects rouse no questions, and unfamiliar possibilities are contemptuously rejected. As soon as we begin to philosophize, on the contrary, we find, as we saw in our opening chapters, that even the most everyday things lead to problems to which only very incomplete answers can be given. Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is the true answer to the doubts which it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom. Thus, while diminishing our feeling of certainty as to what things are, it greatly increases our knowledge as to what they may be; it removes the somewhat arrogant dogmatism of those who have never travelled into the region of liberating doubt, and it keeps alive our sense of wonder by showing familiar things in an unfamiliar aspect.

Apart from its utility in showing unsuspected possibilities, philosophy has a value -- perhaps its chief value -- through the greatness of the objects which it contemplates, and the freedom from narrow and personal aims resulting from this contemplation. The life of the instinctive man is shut up within the circle of his private interests: family and friends may be included, but the outer world is not regarded except as it may help or hinder what comes within the circle of instinctive wishes. In such a life there is something feverish and confined, in comparison with which the philosophic life is calm and free. The private world of instinctive interests is a small one, set in the midst of a great and powerful world which must, sooner or later, lay our private world in ruins. Unless we can so enlarge our interests as to include the whole outer world, we remain like a garrison in a beleagured fortress, knowing that the enemy prevents escape and that ultimate surrender is inevitable. In such a life there is no peace, but a constant strife between the insistence of desire and the powerlessness of will. In one way or another, if our life is to be great and free, we must escape this prison and this strife.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 02/27/04 - To what extent are we slaves of habit?

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Jon1667 answered on 02/27/04:

William James, no mean psychologist, wrote:

HABIT
William James
"It is very important that teachers should realize the importance of habit."

"Habit is second nature, or rather, ten times nature."

"Ninety-nine hundredths or, possibly, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousandths of our activity is purely automatic and habitual, from our rising in the morning to our lying down each night."

"We are stereotyped creatures, imitators and copiers of our past selves."

"The teacher's prime concern should be to ingrain into the pupil that assortment of habits that shall be most useful to him throughout life. Education is for behavior, and habits are the stuff of which behavior consists."

"We must make automatic and habitual, as early as possible, as many useful actions as we can."

"In the acquisition of a new habit, or the leaving off of an old one, we must take care to launch ourselves with as strong and decided an initiative as possible."

"Never suffer an exception to occur till the new habit is securely rooted in your life."

"Seize the very first possible opportunity to act on every resolution you make, and on every emotional prompting you may experience in the direction of the habits you aspire to gain."

"A character is a completely fashioned will." (J. S. Mill)

"Don't preach too much to your pupils or abound in good talk in the abstract. Lie in wait rather for the practical opportunities, be prompt to seize those as they pass, and thus at one operation get your pupils both to think, to feel, and to do."

"Every good that is worth possessing must be paid for in strokes of daily effort."

"Do every day or two something for no other reason than its difficulty."

"New habits can be launched."

"Could the young but realize how soon they will become mere walking bundles of habits, they would give more heed to their conduct while in the plastic state."


"We are mere bundles of habits."

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 02/15/04 - When, if ever, is suicide justifiable?

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Jon1667 answered on 02/15/04:

Clearly only when you have good reasons for committing suicide.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 02/13/04 - Why be moral?

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Jon1667 answered on 02/14/04:

There is a paper by the English philosopher of the earlier part of the last century, Harry Prichard called, "Why Moral Philosophy Rests on a Mistake" in which Prichard argued that the attempt to answer the question, why be moral supposed that there were non-moral reasons for being moral. In other words, that you had to be good for something. When the truth was that there was no reason to be moral. You should just be moral.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 02/11/04 - Argumentum ad hominem

I often hear complaints that an argument is ad hominem, but what does that mean? Argumentum ad hominem literally means "argument directed at the man." is there a time and place for name-calling?

Jon1667 answered on 02/14/04:

Some arguments ad hominem are proper, and some are not. It depends on the argument, and particularly on what is to be proved, the conclusion of the argument. Consider the following two similar (but not the same) arguments.

Argument I.

1. John testifies that he saw Mary steal.
2. But John is a well-known congenital liar.
Therefore, 3. Mary did not steal.

Argument II.

1. John testifies that he saw Mary steal.
2. But John is a well-known congenital liar.
Therefore, 3, John's testimony should not be believed.

Argument I is invalid. Even congenital liars may, on occasion, tell the truth.

Argument II. is a valid argument. Clearly, the word of a congenital liar should not be taken.

Arguments of kind I and kind II are often confused, and it is sometimes said that all ad hominems are invalid. That is clearly false. In the law courts, for instance, lawyers regularly try to impeach the witness on cross-examination by proving that the witnesses testimony is not to be believed. This is standard procedure.

Arguments ad hominem attack the asserter or the arguer and not the assertion or the argument. But sometimes this is logically proper, and sometimes it is not. As usual, we have to make distinctions.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 02/09/04 - When and to what extent should we be dogmatic?

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Jon1667 answered on 02/10/04:

Only when we are absolutely certain we are right-which is to say, never.

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Question/Answer
XCHOUX asked on 02/08/04 - BBC Reels Under Criticism

"The Week Magazine" Feb 13, 2004 Page 15

"Tony Blair has been exonerated, said George Jones in the 'Daily Telegraph'. The BBC accused Blair of purposefully lying about Iraq's weapon's capabilities, attributing the claim to an unnamed source. When that source was outed in the media as scientist David Kelly, he killed himself. The tragedy prompted an unprecedented barrage of accusations and counter-accusations between the government and the BBC, and an independent commission was appopinted to report on Kelly's death. Nobody espected the report, released last week by the commission head Lord Hutton, to be so "damning" of the BBC. Hutton accused the BBC of having a "defective" editorial system that sllowed its reporters to make "unfounded", politically biased calims, and he cleared the government of any wrongdoing. ...The BBC face "the worst crisis in its history".

Having watched BBC America in the past and been disgusted with its bias, this proof is good news to me.

Comments?

Jon1667 answered on 02/09/04:

The BBC has become an organ of the radical left in Britain, much like the Guardian. Except, of course, that the BBC is funded by public money. When I lived in Britain, the BBC was considered dull, but trustworthy. But under the 60s radicals who have taken over, it has bartered accuracy and honesty, for "sexing up" (to borrow their words) the news. So that, until there is a thorough shakeup of the BBC establishment, they simply will no longer be trusted as an unbiased source of news.

And, the BBC has not offered any defense of is betrayal of the public trust so far as I can tell. In fact, even those who were given the sack, marched away (on television) with the familiar "we are the elite so you are wrong" snicker so characteristic of them and the radical left. It is striking how people get to look like what they are.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 02/08/04 - What are your views on death?

....

Jon1667 answered on 02/08/04:

Glum, Tony, glum.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 01/30/04 - Would you have assassinated Hitler?

........ if you had had the opportunity...

Jon1667 answered on 02/01/04:

Mutatis mutandis, of course. Just as I would Osama bin Laden, or Yassir Arafat, and for much the same reasons.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 01/31/04 - realism is a school of thought

If I am correct and have my facts right, realism is a school of thought in philosophy which scientists, like Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Einstein and Freud, employed which has as its essence, the *correspondence concept of truth. That there can only be one true description of the world. Another essence of realism is a epistemological premise, the premise is that objects are able to causeour senses to form more or less correct observations of them as they actually are; and a ontological premise, which is that thoughts, and actions of any kind, are caused because minds are part of nature.

* A mind-independent or discourse-independent "states of affairs" (Putnam, 1981, pp. 479).

I thought I might give everyone an opportunity to kick this around a bit.

Jon1667 answered on 02/01/04:

I think that Realist would probably have to adopt the correspondence theory, and Idealists the coherence theory of truth, but that is not what defines Realism or Idealism.

If Idealism does imply the coherence theory, that is another reason to think that Idealism is false, since the coherence theory is clearly false.

That is another reason to think that Idealism confuses truth with knowledge of the truth. Coherence is a a theory of knowledge, not of truth. Correspondence is a theory of truth, not of knowledge.

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Question/Answer
grayeagle_50 asked on 01/30/04 - Conservative??

Sorry if my spelling is off..The question is...Just what is a conservative? I was told that Bush is one, yet he has out spent all other presidents..He vowed to keep a conservitive office so ,I'd like to know what it is he was talking about. could it be that it is just another name tagging to draw in the voters that don't focus on the real issues??? All answers are welcomed and thanks....Jeff

Jon1667 answered on 01/30/04:

Ambrose Bierce


Conservatives

Conservative. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from a Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.

Which of the spellings you give of "conservative" are you apologizing for?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 01/22/04 - Should we ever act against our conscience?

.......If so, when? If not, why not?

Jon1667 answered on 01/24/04:

Clarification/Follow-up by tonyrey on 01/24/04 1:53 pm:
It isn't the fallibility alone, Ken, that is the problem but the notion that conscience is also the product of circumstance, i.e. relative to upbringing, etc.

Does moral revulsion, e.g. with regard to wanton slaughter, have a rational basis or is it simply an emotional reaction?
___________________________________________
Oh. That. But I don't see the connection between that a fallibility. In any case, it is a moral response (not reaction) but not simply a moral response. It is one, for instance, for which people can give reasons, and a response which is often shared.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 01/22/04 - Should we ever act against our conscience?

.......If so, when? If not, why not?

Jon1667 answered on 01/23/04:

The question is whether we ought to do what we believe is right, or whether we ought to do what is, in fact, right.

The answer, it seems to me, is that we ought to do what is right. But that we can be expected only to do what we believe is right, and hope that what we believe is right is right.

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Question/Answer
XCHOUX asked on 01/17/04 - Can Problems Ever Be Solved?

I was participating in a discussion about President Bush's Plan for Illegal Immigrants.

One of the participants said that his proposition would not "solve the problem".

Are problems ever solved?

Jon1667 answered on 01/17/04:

I've solved some chess problems. Does that count?

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Question/Answer
chekhovToo asked on 01/16/04 - What is philosophy and can it be taught

What is philosophy and can it be taught?

Jon1667 answered on 01/16/04:

Philosophy is the analysis and understanding of the basic concepts of thought about the world.

Yes, it can be taught. But teaching does not imply learning.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 01/16/04 - Is anything immutable?

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Jon1667 answered on 01/16/04:

Ecclesiastes 1:4
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.

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Question/Answer
chekhovToo asked on 01/14/04 - Importance of Philosophy

Is philosophy important to study both in and out of college. Why or why not?

Jon1667 answered on 01/14/04:

Go to:
http://skepdic.com/russell.html

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Question/Answer
JeffreyBryson asked on 01/14/04 - Comments?

In the tradition of Ken, I'll post likewise but only to stimulate conversation amongst yourselves given how quiet it's been getting here lately.







OP-ED COLUMNIST
The Awful Truth
By PAUL KRUGMAN

Published: January 13, 2004






E-mail: krugman@nytimes.com






People are saying terrible things about George Bush. They say that his officials weren't sincere about pledges to balance the budget. They say that the planning for an invasion of Iraq began seven months before 9/11, that there was never any good evidence that Iraq was a threat and that the war actually undermined the fight against terrorism.

But these irrational Bush haters are body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freaks who should go back where they came from: the executive offices of Alcoa, and the halls of the Army War College.

I was one of the few commentators who didn't celebrate Paul O'Neill's appointment as Treasury secretary. And I couldn't understand why, if Mr. O'Neill was the principled man his friends described, he didn't resign early from an administration that was clearly anything but honest.

But now he's showing the courage I missed back then, by giving us an invaluable, scathing insider's picture of the Bush administration.

Ron Suskind's new book "The Price of Loyalty" is based largely on interviews with and materials supplied by Mr. O'Neill. It portrays an administration in which political considerations satisfying "the base" trump policy analysis on every issue, from tax cuts to international trade policy and global warming. The money quote may be Dick Cheney's blithe declaration that "Reagan proved deficits don't matter." But there are many other revelations.

One is that Mr. O'Neill and Alan Greenspan knew that it was a mistake to lock in huge tax cuts based on questionable projections of future surpluses. In May 2001 Mr. Greenspan gloomily told Mr. O'Neill that because the first Bush tax cut didn't include triggers it went forward regardless of how the budget turned out it was "irresponsible fiscal policy." This was a time when critics of the tax cut were ridiculed for saying exactly the same thing.

Another is that Mr. Bush, who declared in the 2000 campaign that "the vast majority of my tax cuts go to the bottom end of the spectrum," knew that this wasn't true. He worried that eliminating taxes on dividends would benefit only "top-rate people," asking his advisers, "Didn't we already give them a break at the top?"

Most startling of all, Donald Rumsfeld pushed the idea of regime change in Iraq as a way to transform the Middle East at a National Security Council meeting in February 2001.

There's much more in Mr. Suskind's book. All of it will dismay those who still want to believe that our leaders are wise and good.

The question is whether this book will open the eyes of those who think that anyone who criticizes the tax cuts is a wild-eyed leftist, and that anyone who says the administration hyped the threat from Iraq is a conspiracy theorist.

The point is that the credentials of the critics just keep getting better. How can Howard Dean's assertion that the capture of Saddam hasn't made us safer be dismissed as bizarre, when a report published by the Army War College says that the war in Iraq was a "detour" that undermined the fight against terror? How can charges by Wesley Clark and others that the administration was looking for an excuse to invade Iraq be dismissed as paranoid in the light of Mr. O'Neill's revelations?

So far administration officials have attacked Mr. O'Neill's character but haven't refuted any of his facts. They have, however, already opened an investigation into how a picture of a possibly classified document appeared during Mr. O'Neill's TV interview. This alacrity stands in sharp contrast with their evident lack of concern when a senior administration official, still unknown, blew the cover of a C.I.A. operative because her husband had revealed some politically inconvenient facts.

Some will say that none of this matters because Saddam is in custody, and the economy is growing. Even in the short run, however, these successes may not be all they're cracked up to be. More Americans were killed and wounded in the four weeks after Saddam's capture than in the four weeks before. The drop in the unemployment rate since its peak last summer doesn't reflect a greater availability of jobs, but rather a decline in the share of the population that is even looking for work.

More important, having a few months of good news doesn't excuse a consistent pattern of dishonest, irresponsible leadership. And that pattern keeps getting harder to deny.



Jon1667 answered on 01/14/04:

In an article a few months ago, Krugman blamed Bush for terrorism, and, in particular, 9/11.

Krugman would blame Bush for SARS, and for AIDS, and for the cold spell hitting the Northeast right now, if he thought he could get away with it.

O'Neill was fired for incompetence, and for saying stupid things. For instance, several of his remarks helped to send the dollar into a tailspin from which it has not yet recovered. Apparently, O'Neill spoke so irrelevantly at Cabinet meeetings, he was simply not listened to. Finally, Bush decided to fire him. So, O'Neill, like many childish disgruntled employees, wrote a book. (Or, rather, he had someone else write it for him.)


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Question/Answer
XCHOUX asked on 01/06/04 - Philosophical Question

In your opinion, what is the oldest philosophical question?

Cordially, Chou

Jon1667 answered on 01/07/04:

The pre-socratic philosophers began with the the question, "phusis" or "nature." They were asking about what was the basic "stuff" which underlay everything else. Thales, the first of them from whom we have any "fragments" or bit of writing, held that everything was basically, water.
http://www.forthnet.gr/presocratics/indeng.htm

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Question/Answer
chekhovToo asked on 01/07/04 - Truth and Justification

Can something be justified but not true?

Jon1667 answered on 01/07/04:

Yes. To give an example: suppose, trying to discover whether Quito is really (as I thought) the capital of Ecuador, I check it in the latest World Almanac. The WA says , it is. But, to make sure, I check it on the site for the Embassy of Ecuador. The site confirms that Quito is the capital of Ecuador. But, since I am neurotic, I phone a friend in Quito, and I ask him whether Quito is still that capital. He assures me it is. So, am I justified in thinking that Quito is the capital. I would say so. But now, let's suppose that unknown to anyone, in the middle of the night, the Ecuadorean legislature had (for some reason) changed the capital from Quito, which it had been from the start, to Guayaquil (the second city of Ecuador). Only the legislature knew about the change, and it was being held secret, so the police did not let anyone in the legislature contact anyone on the outside.
So, it is not true that Quito is the capital. But was I justified in my belief that it was. Of course.

Of course, you can DEFINE being justified in believing something in such a way that unless what you believe is true, you are not justified. But is that what you are asking? Are you asking whether you can define "justification" in that way? Well, of course you can. But, so what?

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Question/Answer
HANK1 asked on 01/06/04 - OPINION OF JEWS!


Why do many people dislike Jews? The ones I've met in many places were fine people ... dutiful and intelligent! What's the hang-up?

HANK

Jon1667 answered on 01/06/04:

Of course, you will have to ask the anti-semites that question. There are been a number of theories proposed about the causes of anti-semitism. Mine is simple, if not simplistic. An amalgam of stupidity and envy. That is always a dangerous combination.
(But now, a caution. Beware those who tell you they are not anti-semitic, but only "anti-Zionist." That's possible, but not very probable. Anti-Zionism is the "new face of anti-semitism. It is an attempt to give it some intellectual respectibility.)

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Question/Answer
tomder55 asked on 01/05/04 - Rep. Ron Paul

In a conspiracy theorist diatribe Rep. Paul of Texas says that the so called 'neocons' have a historical link to Leon Trotsky .Can some one explain what he is talking about in this piece called 'Neo-Conned' ?


http://www.house.gov/paul/congrec/congrec2003/cr071003.htm

Jon1667 answered on 01/06/04:

Are you sure he didn't say (or mean) Leo Strauss? That would make sense. A number of neo-conservatives are former student of Leo Strauss' who taught political philosophy at the University of Chicago in the middle part of the last 20th century. He was a conservative thinker, and very influential.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 01/05/04 - What (if anything) is not relative?

...

Jon1667 answered on 01/05/04:

The question is so vague as to be unanwerable: except, of course, by ER who gives an absolutist answer which belies itself.
Those who really want to consider the question, can begin by going to:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/relativism/

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Question/Answer
chekhovToo asked on 01/04/04 - Thinking

I observe from time to time that some people put aside one's own thinking and accept the thinking of others. It is like a pressure to go along with the group. Perhaps we feel more comfortable and safer in collective thought and we don't stand out. Sitcoms for example, manipulate some of us. Sitcoms tell us when to laugh, when to feel sympathy and so on, with their pre-programmed tracks. Our responses are subject to manipulation. So why do some people let others direct their thinking, which leads them to stop thinking for themselves. I don't think this it is a good thing for society, so what can one do about it? What are your views on this?

Jon1667 answered on 01/04/04:

But sometimes, on the other hand, people are persuaded by the arguments of others to change their minds. Sometimes it is rational to accept the thinking of others, even though sometimes it is not. People should change their minds when they are properly convinced they are mistaken.

Of course, what you say happens, happens as well. The only remedy for that is an increased ability to think critically, and to examine the influences on you coming from the mass media, your friends, family, any anyone else you encounter. Critical thinking can be learned and cultivated. It is a skill. And it is a nonsense-detector. But, like "all things excellent, it is as difficult as it is rare." (Spinoza)

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 12/29/03 - How cogent is monism?

.....................

Jon1667 answered on 12/29/03:

Technically, monism is the philosophical theory that there is but one substance. But since I do not think that the term "substance" is the name of anything clear, I tend to pass on it.

Less technically, monism is the view that everything is, at bottom, the same thing. This view offends my fox-like proclivities (as contrasted with my very few hedgehog like proclivities). So I am an devotee of Bishop Joseph Butler's apothegm which appropriately appears as the motto of G.E. Moore's "Principia Ethica," viz. "Everything is what it is and not another thing."

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 12/27/03 - Is size related to significance?

..........................................................It is often argued that in the immensity of the universe life on this planet has little or no significance. Has much weight do you attach to this argument?.......................................................

Jon1667 answered on 12/27/03:

Pascal put both sides of the argument well:

"The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me." and, "Man is no more than a reed, the weakest in nature. But he is a thinking reed."

The English philosopher, F. P. Ramsey, clinched the point when he said that he was, himself, not impressed by the immensity of the Universe since he could think, and the Universe could not.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 12/23/03 - Agnosticism or atheism?

........ Which is more reasonable?

Jon1667 answered on 12/24/03:

Both seem to me problematic. Agnosticism because it supposes that there is some evidence available which we do not have, but might have, and we are awaiting it. Atheism, because, at least in one form, it supposes that it is up to disbeliever to present evidence that there is no God.
As you know, I think there is a different form of atheism which simply takes the position of non-belief, and leaves it to either the disbeliever or the believer to present arguments for their respective positions.

I think that this last position (weak atheism) is the most reasonable.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 12/21/03 - Is our mental activity caused by physical events?

...

Jon1667 answered on 12/21/03:

I imagine that if you saw a tiger on the loose, the fear would cause you to run away. Or am I mistaken?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 12/20/03 - What is nature?

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Jon1667 answered on 12/21/03:

"It thus appears that we must recognize at least two principal meanings in the word Nature. In one sense, it means all the powers existing in either the outer or the inner world and everything which takes place by means of those powers. In another sense, it means, not everything which happens, but only what takes place without the agency, or without the voluntary and intentional agency, of man. This distinction is far from exhausting the ambiguities of the word; but it is the key to most of those on which important consequences depend."

John Stuart Mill "On Nature"

For the rest of this classic essay go to:
http://www.la.utexas.edu/research/poltheory/mill/three/nature.html

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 12/19/03 - justify making assumptions

Is it possible to justify making assumptions? I often here people speak of a particular belief as being a subjective perception as though saying this somehow proved the belief a fallacy. But what other way do we have for forming beliefs but through subjective perception? So by the same token, can we ever make decisions without some assumption?

Jon1667 answered on 12/19/03:

Are you asking whether it is possible to justify _making_ assumptions, or justify the assumptions themselves? A lawyer for the defense may say to the jury, "Let's assume that Jones was in Chicago at the time of the murder. If he was, and the murder was committed in New York City, then Jones could not be the murderer." It seems to me that we are free to _make- any assumption we please, although it may not be effective to do so. But, of course, justifying the assumption is something else altogether. It may be impossible to justify the assumption that Jones was in Chicago at the time of the murder.

All beliefs may be, as you say, "subjective." But it is not true that all beliefs are ONLY subjective. My belief that vanilla tastes better than chocolate is ONLY subjective. But my belief that Quito is the capital of Ecuador, although subjective in the sense that beliefs are mental, is not ONLY subjective, since it is about something external to my mind which is either true or false.

The term "belief" is ambiguous: it may refer only to a mental state (the believing); but it may also refer to what the belief is about, an external matter (the belief, or what the belief is about.) Therefore, I can say that although Jones' belief that Quito is the capital of Ecuador is subjective in the sense that it is a mental state (the believing); it is also true that it is his belief (what the believing is about) that Quito is the capital of Ecuador, and that refers to an external matter of fact.

You are thinking of only one sense of "belief," the sense in which it refers to a mental state. But you are not taking into consideration the objective sense of belief, namely, what the belief is about, viz. the world.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 12/17/03 - violation of natural law the cause of all problems.

Would it be true to say natural law is the orderly principles that govern physical events and processes.
If not: What Is Natural Law?

Jon1667 answered on 12/18/03:

Natural law describes the causal connections between cause and effect as we know them. For instance, Newton's Inverse Square Law, or Kepler's Law that planets describe circular orbits around the Sun. The term "govern" is misleading, since it confuses prescriptive (man-made) laws, like a local ordinance against walking on the grass in certain areas, with laws that describe how natural events occur. The laws of nature do not compell natural objects to act in any way. First of all, natural objects have no wills and cannot be compelled to do anything; and second of all, as I have pointed out, we should not confuse presriptions with descriptions.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 12/15/03 - Why is one responsible for one's past actions?

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Jon1667 answered on 12/16/03:

Because one did them. One sense of "responsible" is that which simply means, "is the the cause of" (as in "the earthquake was responsible for 1,000 injuries") And clearly it is truistic in that sense that people are responsible for what they did. I think you have in mind, "morally responsible" rather than just "responsible." The answer here is much the same. People are morally responsible for their past actions to the extent that they did them. However, sometimes, people have good excuses for what they did, even if what they did was wrong. People do things by accident; by mistake; inadvertently; not deliberately; and so on. When a person can produce a good (and true) excuse for his action, then, his action, to that extent, is not quite "his" action. If I trip on your extended feet under the table while carrying a full glass of water and spill the water on you, then, although dousing you was a bad thing, "it was not my fault" and I have a fairly good excuse which should get me out of trouble. And, to that extent, I did not do that action, although, of course, had I doused you intentionally, that would have been a bad thing, and I would be fully responsible for it. (The law, of course, has a full list of excuses "pleas" which it recognizes in order to mitigate responsibility: neglect, and so on.)

It is a characteristic, by the way, of uncivilized and primitive people, that they have much less regard for the mitigation of responsibility with excuses: thus the tyrant who kills the messenger; and "honor murders" even when it is not the fault of the woman in many uncivilized and primitive societies.

By the way, being responsible, and being _held_ responsible, introduces another set of complications.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 12/14/03 - Are there philosophical truths?

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Jon1667 answered on 12/15/03:

Sorry, wrong click. So I am just repeating my clarification-in-error here.

No, and yes. If you mean great profundities about man, life, and holding hands together, then, no. David Hume refuted the Platonic view that there is a special and superduper kind of philosophical knowledge which, Plato claimed in The Republic, that all and only philosophers have: a kind of intuitive insight into reality he called "Nous" and which would bypass sense knowledge and ordinary human reasoning. So, if that is the sort of thing you mean by philosophical knowledge (which, apparently several people on this board seem to have vaguely in mind) the answer is, of course not.

However, if you mean, can we get clearer understanding, and in that way, get some answers to some traditional philosophical questions, the answer is, yes. Many times, by achieving more clarity about the questions we ask through analysis of them, we can conclude that the questions themselves are confused and have no answers, at least in the way they were formulated. And, sometimes, by getting clear about the key concepts in a question, we can see that the answer is truistically either yes, or no.
And, sometimes we can, by making the proper distinctions and clarifications, understand why philosophers have (mistakenly) believed certain things, and can show what the correct view is.

Let me give two examples, since the above was very abstract, as philosophy tends to be; so that the abstractions always have to be brought to earth by actual examples of what is meant.

1. Skepticism is the view that there is no knowledge, or that knowledge is impossible. A great deal of what fuels this view is the confusion between knowing and being certain, and, more particularly, the failure to distinguish between the truth that knowledge implies only the inactuality of error, but not the impossibility of error. Skeptics seem to believe that because when someone knows it must be that person IS not mistaken; that when someone knows it must be that it is impossible that he should be mistaken. Thus they confuse knowing (which is the former condition) with certainty (which is the latter condition)

2. A second example which comes to mind is that of fatalism. Again, the belief in fatalism (which is false) is fueled by the confusion of fatalism with determinism (which stands a better chance of being true)
Determinism is the view that all events, including human choices, and the actions which flow from them, are caused. That may be true. But fatalism is the doctrine that human actions are not causally effective, so that "whatever will be, will be" and nothing we or anyone can do can change the future, In fact, fatalism treats the future as "fixed" in the way the past is treated, as "fixed."
But fatalism, understood in this way (which is the traditional way)is clearly false, and can easily be shown to be false by commonsense and a little knowledge of statistics.

So, those are two examples of what I (although, perhaps not you) would call "philosophical knowledge." But, whatever we call it, it is very different from what Plato (and those who followed him in this) thought of as philosophical knowledge, since it does not replace ordinary knowledge and reasoning, but, instead, makes use of it to deal with philosophical issues.

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Question/Answer
Bradd asked on 12/13/03 - Philosophy today

How does today's philosophy react to the 20th century discoveries in science; esp, physics.

In particular, quantum mechanics. The uncertainty principle? Et al. And the notion that at the micro level, logic seems to fail?

Another way of asking this question might be "Can philosophy, in light of these discoveries, continue to inform us about ultimate meanings?"

Or advise us? Or even question?

The question, obviously, could have been presented in a way to obviate non-responsive answers, but it's the best I could do. The best of you will get the gist of my question.

Jon1667 answered on 12/14/03:

Your question assumes that philosophy has, in the past, informed us about "ultimate meanings." But is this assumption true? If it is, then can you or anyone give an example of an "ultimate meaning" that philosophy has informed us of?

One of the important tasks of "philosophy today" and, indeed, of philosophy of yesteryear is to ask what, if anything, is to be understood by the phrase, "ultimate meaning." It is an important result of philosophy today that questions should be examined at least as closely as the purported answers which some try to give to these questions. And sometimes, the result of such examinations of the questions (or purported questions) themselves is that the question is no longer asked.

It is not at all clear what are the implications of microphysics for philosophy, or, indeed, whether there are any. In the past, popular science was full of such purported implications, very few of which have turned out to be genuine.

There seems to me no good reason to think that at the microlevel logic has "failed." In fact, I am puzzled by what you might mean by talking of the "failure of logic." The "failure of logic" would imply the failure of reasoning. But I doubt you believe that something could show that reasoning is a failure. For one thing, how could you show such a thing except by the use of reasoning (and logic) itself? So such an argument would seem to be self-refuting. And, if reasoning and logic "failed" what could replace it? But, perhaps you could explain that to me.

Science is one thing; but the alleged philosophical implications of science, which is what you are talking about is quite another thing, and a good deal more dubious.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 12/12/03 - Is anything "spaceless"?

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Jon1667 answered on 12/12/03:

Whatever us timeless is spaceless. At least if you believe the Special Theory of Relativity (which I hope you do.)

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 12/10/03 - Is anything timeless?

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Jon1667 answered on 12/11/03:

Yes. Faculty meetings; they go on for an eternity. And, listening to Wagner's "Parsifal."

If by "timeless" you mean not "in" time/space, then numbers are timeless, for one thing. And, I suppose, if there is a God, then He is timeless in that sense too.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 12/09/03 - What is time?

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Jon1667 answered on 12/09/03:

St. Augustine writes:

What, then, is time? If no one asks me about it, I know; [but] if someone asks me to explain it, I don't know. (Confessions xi, 17)


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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 12/07/03 - What constitutes evidence for design?

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Jon1667 answered on 12/07/03:

I suppose, Tony, you mean evidence for design in the case of the universe. Well, in that case, I suppose what has been traditionally been offered. The structure of the eye; the building of nests by birds, and so on. These have all been offered as evidence for design. The question is not whether all of this sort of thing is evidence for design, but whether it is good evidence for design. As far as I am concerned, Hume's "Dialogues on Natural Religion" is a decisive demolition of that claim. There is one point Hume makes that is worth noting, although not much noted: it is that we have to distinguish between what causes us to believe in design, from what is good evidence for design. Just as, to take an analogy, our sense impressions no doubt cause us to believe in an external world, but the epistemological question is whether what causes us to be believe in an external world is good evidence for an external world. The same goes for the difference between what causes some to believe in design, and evidence for design.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 12/05/03 - How could a (neo)Darwinist explain this?

..........."Essentially, the same amino acid chain being found also in other animals and even in plants, we have a case in histone-4 where more than 200 base pairs are conserved across the whole of biology. The problem for the neo-Darwinian theory is to explain how the one particular arrangement of base pairs came to be discovered in the first place. Evidently not by random processes, for with a chance 1/4 of choosing each of the correct base pairs at random, the probability of discovering a segment of 200 specific base pairs is 4-200, which is equal to 10-120. Even if one were given a random choice for every atom in every galaxy in the whole visible universe the probability of discovering histone-4 would still only be a minuscule ~10-40." (Hoyle)

Jon1667 answered on 12/06/03:

Tony,
I am not, and probably, no one here, is a biologists who specializes in evolution. So the fact that I and others cannot give an satisfactory answer to your question does not show very much. Evolution is a technical field juat as nuclear physics is one.

In any case, there are explanatory gaps in the theory of evolution just as there are in every other theoretical science. The strategy of ID is too point out gaps (or what they believe are gaps) and infer from that they have somehow weakened or even refuted evolution. But they have not. The fact that there are explanatory gaps in the theory gives no reason to think that evolution is still not the best explanation for life and the development of life. Indeed, it is, so far as I know, the only rational explanation there is. It is difficult to see how it (in its general outlines) could not be true. ID is an attempt to beat something with nothing. The proponents of ID try to point to explanatory gaps in evolution, and then conclude that since evolution is wrong (on that account) ID must be right. But the fact that there are explanatory gaps in evolution in no way shows evolution is wrong, but only that the details are incomplete; just as they are in every other science. And, even suppose that evolution were wrong; it would not follow that ID was right. Evolution or ID is simply a false dilemma. If evolution were somehow (and I cannot imagine how, since it explains so much that could not be explained without it) no rational person, and certainly no scientist would suddenly announce that ID was right. First of all, ID is not a theory at all, since it does not even attempt to explain how intelligent design did what it it is alleged to have done. And, of course, second of all, there is no reason to think that ID is the only alternative to evolution, and, indeed, much reason to think that it could not be.

If you have not done so, I recommend a somewhat outdated, but still excellent book by Phillip Kitcher called "Abusing Science" which goes into Creationist arguments and claims. Of course, ID is only Creationism in everything but name only. It contains the same non-sequiturs and the same view that you can beat something with nothing. The only difference is that the ID's think that by calling it "ID" rather than "Creationism" that they may be able to get away with something.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 12/04/03 - Was evolution inevitable?

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Jon1667 answered on 12/05/03:

I have (as I often have to do nowadays) been trying to figure out what you are asking.

Are you asking why we have the law of evolution just as we have the law of gravity, or the second law of thermodynamics?

Could there have been different laws of nature than there are? Leibniz asked that question when he posed his famous (notorious?) Why is there something rather than nothing, and, since there is something, why this something rather than some other something? The second question is tantamount to asking why this world exists rather than some other world. A world is defined by the laws of nature constituting that world.

Clearly it was logically possible for the laws of nature to have been other than they are. But not physically possible, because physical possibility is defined in terms consistency with the laws of nature (at least as they are known)

Leibniz' answer to why there is something rather than nothing, and why this world rather than some other world, is, as you know, refers to the will and goodness of God. He tells us that in order to answer the twin question why is there something and not nothing, and why this something and not some other something, we must move from science to "metaphysics;" which for him means from explanation in terms of cause to explanation in terms or purpose.

So, if your question about the inevitability of evolution is whether it was metaphysically possible that there should have been no law of evolution, the answer, according to Leibniz, anyway, is yes.

My answer is that it was logically possible that there should have been a different world and, therefore, different laws of nature. But, since I do not assume (as do Leibniz and you) that it was "metaphysically" possible for there to have been a different world, my answer is that since the law of evolution is one of the laws of nature of this world, the question of its inevitability does not arise, since to suppose it either inevitable or "evitable" (if such a word exits) is to suppose that a different world was not only logically possible (as it was) but "metaphysically" possible, which it was not.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 12/03/03 - Do our decisions have physical causes?

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Jon1667 answered on 12/03/03:

Inasmuch as decision is a neurological event, and inasmuch as neurological events are physical events, and inasmuch as physical events have physical causes, decisions have physical causes.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 12/03/03 - To what extent is evolution caused by random events?

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Jon1667 answered on 12/03/03:

What drives evolution is natural selection. The genetic mutations which are naturally selected are, so far as we know, random events. But, of course, scientists are looking for the hidden causes of these mutations. There are various theories of how this works. The latest that I am aware of is punctuated equilibrium. But, I may be 10 years behind the times.

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Question/Answer
chekhovToo asked on 12/02/03 - G-d and Darwin's Theory of Evolution

When one looks at the Existence of G-d, then how important is Darwin's theory of evolution in all of this?

Jon1667 answered on 12/02/03:

Evolution is consistent with God. Only after evolution God explains less than God explained before the theory of evolution.
Let me give an analogy: Suppose a child believes that what explains his presents on Christmas morning is that Santa Claus brought them. Then the child learns that the presents are not provided by Santa Clsus, but by his parents. The child need not give up his belief in Santa. He can simply say, "Well, Santa exists anyway. My mother and father bring the presents, but Santa is just a nice old man who lives in retirement at the North Pole." I think that a reply would be something like this: "Well, it is true that even if the explanation of presents on Christmas morning is not Santa, but your mother and father, it is still possible that Santa exists. But wasn't the point of Santa to _explain_ why you got presents on Christmas morning? Now that you know what the true explanation is, what reason now, do you have to believe that there is a Santa Claus?" And, now that we know that evolution explains life when God used to be the explanation, what reason have you to believe in God? When be believe something exists on the basis that it explains something, and we find a better explanation, then is it rational to think that the thing exists anyway? The theory of evolution is strong evidence against the existence of God, although it is still possible to believe in both God and evolution. Just as the the fact that the child's parents explain the presents on Christmas morning, is strong evidence against Santa Claus, even though it is still possible to believe in Santa and also that the parents are the source of the christmas presents.

I suggest you read "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" by Daniel Dennett.

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Question/Answer
rosends asked on 12/02/03 - Color Cognition

I don't know if this is strictly appropriate but as it has to do with naming and perception, I thoght I'd pass it along.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/30/magazine/30CRASH.html

Jon1667 answered on 12/02/03:

Rosends:

Yes, I had read it. It is interesting, but a little confusingly written. Just as if the author had no firm grasp on what the issue is, which is whether colors and color perception are-yes- I am afraid to say, subjective or objective.

The conclusion seems to be that they are joint products of the mind and what is "out there." Which is right; but pretty obvious by now.

You may recall how I (as did Hume) use color perception as a model for moral perception, since moral judgements, like color judgements, also seem to be joint products of what goes on independently of us, and our responses to it. Of course, there is more universality of response to colors than there is to human behavior, but, apparently from what this article says, not very much more.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 12/01/03 - Sermon on the Mount

What does it mean to be -Be righteous, be meek, be pure of heart, be a peacemaker, be merciful

And although these are the teaching of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount could they not also be the wisdom of hundreds of thousands of years of mankind, and should they not only be the cause of Religion but the cause of Atheism as well.

Jon1667 answered on 12/01/03:

For pity's sake, Dark Crow! Please!

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/30/03 - What is willpower?

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Jon1667 answered on 12/01/03:

A behavioral disposition to make a change in other, usually ingrained, behavior.

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Question/Answer
chekhovToo asked on 11/30/03 - Information and Opinion

What is the difference between information and opinion?

Jon1667 answered on 11/30/03:

According to one dictionary:

Information is knowledge obtained from investigation, study, or instruction.

Opinion is: a : a view, judgment, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter, or, a belief stronger than impression and less strong than positive knowledge.

Dictionaries are very useful when you want to know what words mean.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/30/03 - Is self-control located in the brain?

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Jon1667 answered on 11/30/03:

No. But the mechanism for self-control is. I don't think it makes much sense to talk about the location of self-control. Self-control is not an object, and so it has no location.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/30/03 - Is the brain aware that it exists?

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Jon1667 answered on 11/30/03:

The brain is no more aware that it exists than the heart is aware that it beats. To talk of parts of the body being "aware" is a category mistake. It is like talking of the number 7 as being twelve inches tall. It is the person who is aware (or not aware). But the person's brain (central nervous system) is what causes the person to be aware. That is why oysters are not aware, and persons are. Of course, the brain is not aware, but it doesn't follow from that that something ethereal is aware. That would be the same kind of mistake as saying the brain was aware. Persons are (or are not) aware, and they could not do it without brains.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/27/03 - What is (a) mind?

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Jon1667 answered on 11/28/03:

The mind consists of dispositions to behave in certain ways, together with the neurological causes of that behavior. It is not a "thing" as the body is a "thing." Rather it is an activity of the body together with, as I said, the causes of that activity. Thus, to say of someone that he has a "good mind" is not to refer to some hidden object located someplace in the person, and accessible only to him. It is, rather to summarily talk about certain abilities and capacities of the person, as well as their causes, which are, in fact, observable.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/26/03 - How can nature be distinguished from supernature?

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Jon1667 answered on 11/26/03:

William James' word for superstition is the literal "overbelief." These are beliefs which literally not only "go beyond" but even ignore evidence, and can be classified as transcendental beliefs. By the transcendental, I mean that which is over and beyond normal observations or rational coherence, and is enhanced by mystery and magic. This surely is what the great mystics have referred to as the ineffable depths of Being. Scientific inquiry is naturalistic; that is, it attempts to uncover the natural causes at work. Granted that these are often hidden causes, unseen by unaided observation, such as microbes or atoms; yet such causes can be confirmed by some measure of verification; they fit into a conceptual framework; and their explanatory value can be corroborated by a community of independent inquirers. Transcendental explanations are, by definition, nonnatural; they cannot be confirmed experimentally; they cannot be corroborated objectively.

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Question/Answer
chekhovToo asked on 11/24/03 - Legal Argument

I don't know much about how lawyers argue respective cases, so that is why I am asking here. What exactly is legal argument, how does it work and how does the defence and the prosecution build their case. And what makes a good legal argument from a bad one? Thanks..

Jon1667 answered on 11/25/03:

Legal reasoning, like most reasoning is an amalgam of deductive and inductive reasoning. Most often we begin with inductive reasoning, and use the conclusions from inductive reasoning as premises for deductive arguments, integrate the deductive conclusions with the inductive results and so on.

Much of legal reasoning, in Anglo-American law is the kind of inductive reasoning called argument by analogy. Both sides try to draw analogies between the case they are arguing and cases like the case they are arguing, and try to show that the present case is like another case or cases in which the decision was favorable for their side. This is argument by precedent.

For more, go to:
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/legal-reas-interpret/

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/22/03 - Are all correct explanations of fact testable?

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Jon1667 answered on 11/23/03:

If an explanation is not testable, then how can it be known whether it ought to be believed? If it matters whether the explanation is true, then it must matter whether the explanation is testable. What is the alternative supposed to be?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/21/03 - Is testability the hallmark of rationality?

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Jon1667 answered on 11/22/03:

In the instance of explanation it is certainly one of them. Otherwise how can you tell whether the explanation stands a chance of being true? We test explanations by their logical consequences. But an explanation which has not logical consequences has no empirical import. It constitutes a story, like one of Kipling's "Just So Stories." E.g. "How the Leopard Got His Spots." Stories like that parade as explanations, but aren't.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/21/03 - Is scientific explanation superior to others?

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Jon1667 answered on 11/21/03:

Doesn't it depend on what is to be explained? And, of course, on what you mean by "scientific explanation."

1. If you want to explain the meaning of a word, for instance, "nevertheless" I don't think that an empirical theory will be relevant.
2. If you want to explain why King Lear was treated so badly by two of his daughters, I don't think that an empirical theory will do the job.

But if you want to explain how life began, or how emotions like love or jealousy arose, I think that an empirical explanation is the only appropriate one.

And explanation is supposed to create understanding of whatever it is which requires explanation. And whether an understanding is created is not a subjective matter. Believing you understand is one thing. Understanding is another. Some people believe they understand why people do things by noting the configuration of the heavenly bodies. They are astrologers.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/18/03 - When does a theory become credible?

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Jon1667 answered on 11/19/03:

When it is confirmed by its observable consequences, and when it coheres with other credible theories.

One writer gives the following description of when a theory becomes credible:

1.It is supported by many strands of evidence rather than a single foundation, ensuring that it probably is a good approximation if not totally correct,
has survived many critical tests that could have proven it false,
2.It makes predictions that might someday be used to disprove the theory, and
3.Itis the best known explanation, in the sense of Occam's Razor, of the infinite variety of alternative explanations for the same data.
This is true of such established theories as evolution, special and general relativity, quantum mechanics (with minimal interpretation), plate tectonics, etc. Unfortunately the usage is muddled by cases like string theory and "theories of everything," each probably better characterized at present as a bundle of competing hypotheses. A hypothesis, however, is still vastly more reliable than a conjecture, which is at best an untested guess consistent with selected data, and is often a belief based on non-repeatable experiments, anecdotes, popular opinion, "wisom of the ancients," commercial motivation, or mysticism.

A good example of a non-scientific "theory" is Intelligent Design. Likewise, other claims such as homeopathy are also not theories.

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Question/Answer
chekhovToo asked on 11/16/03 - Are We All Alone

Is the human race the only one that exists in the universe, or could there be other life forms in other galaxies?

Jon1667 answered on 11/16/03:

No one knows for sure. Could there be other life forms? Of course there could be. And the vaguer the term "life forms" is, the more likely it is that there are some, even in this galaxy.

Astrophysicists have argued that the universe is so vast, that the probability of the existence of the conditions of life somewhere in the universe is very high: and now philosophers believe that they have discovered many solar systems like ours with planets orbiting a central star, so, arguing by analogy, they have concluded that it is highly probable, that there are many "Earths" out there, and, arguing by analogy again, have concluded, that it is very probable that there are life forms very like ours, too.

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Question/Answer
chekhovToo asked on 11/16/03 - Do you need proof that G-d exists

To my mind the existance of G-d is hypothetical, because there has not been, to my knowledge, any evidence to the contrary. If indeed the existance of G-d is true, then how can you prove it? How can you prove the unprovable?

Jon1667 answered on 11/16/03:

A statement can be unprovable either because you cannot find any evidence for it, or, it can be unprovable because it is false. After all, you cannot prove a statement is true, if that statement is false. I think that people forget that when they say that it is impossible to prove that God exists; it may be impossible because God does not exist. So, you can't prove the unprovable, but you have to consider why what you say is unprovable is unprovable.

You are, I think, wrong, when you say that there is no evidence that God does not exist. The existence of evil, innocent and undeserved suffering in the world has often been cited as evidence against the existence of God. And, the fact that since the rise of science, supernatural explanation has been consistently replaced by natural explanation, so that more and more, God explains less and less, is also evidence against the existence of God. For, if the existence of God is an hypothesis used for explaining what seemingly could not be explained without supposing His existence, and if it turns out, more and more, that what seemingly could not be explained without supposing that God exists now can be explained without supposing God exists, that is another reason for thinking that God does not exist.

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Question/Answer
chekhovToo asked on 11/16/03 - Faith as Evidence

Is faith acceptable as evidence in an argument?

Jon1667 answered on 11/16/03:

Faith is a kind of belief; a strong belief. But belief needs evidence; it cannot, itself. be evidence. To say that you believe because of faith; or that you believe "on" faith. is merely to say that you believe because-you believe.
After all, the fact that you believe something cannot be any reason for believing that something is true, since to believe something is already to believe it is true.

So, faith is not a kind of alternative to evidence (which your question suggests it is) since it, itself, needs evidence.

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Question/Answer
nasa00 asked on 11/15/03 - What would Plato say?

John and Martha both married and parents of several children are having an adulterous affair. One night when they are meeting secretly, they witness a murder. They agree that they cannot report it without exposing their affair. The next day, the body is found and within a week a suspect is apprehended and charged with first degree murder. When John and Martha see his picture in the newspaper, they realize that he is not the murderer. They meet again, discuss their dilemma, and decide that despite the new, dreadful development, they will not step forward as witnesses?

Jon1667 answered on 11/15/03:

The right thing is to reveal it to the police. But, I imagine that there are ways of doing that which would not expose John and Martha to unpleasant consequences. Morality does not imply stupidity.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 11/15/03 - what are things?

(George Berkeley, 1710) Nothing seems of more importance, towards erecting a firm system of sound and real knowledge, which may be proof against the assaults of skepticism, than to lay the beginning in a distinct explication of what is meant by thing, reality, existence: for in vain shall we dispute concerning the real existence of things, or pretend to any knowledge thereof, so long as we have not fixed the meaning of those words.

I agree and have some particular ideas about what reality and existence means, but what are things?

Jon1667 answered on 11/15/03:

One dictionary definition for "thing" is:

noun: a separate and self-contained entity

Which seems to me good enough, and vague enough, to capture the sense of the term.

The term "thing" is a "place holder" for whatever one wants to plug into it. It is a kind of variable for whatever is deemed to be "a separate and self-contained entity." (The term "item" has the same logic. A supermarket checkout may have a sign, "Fewer than 10 items." But how do you count "items"? Is a six-pack one item or six items?)

Berkeley was concerned that the term NOT imply that what is a thing is a material object. So, although he would, no doubt, have said that tables or chairs or stars were things, (separate and self-contained entities), he would have insisted that they were not material things, but collections of ideas. Both an Idealist and a Materialist would call tables and chairs "things." But they would have had opposing theories about what things were: what a correct analysis of the the concept of a thing was.

I don't think that in ordinary language we are comfortable with talking about mental entities like concepts or ideas as "things," because I think that despite Berkeley's efforts in the opposite direction, the term "thing" still has at least the connotation of materiality. But that, of course may just mean that ordinary language is dualistic.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/15/03 - How would you explain Mozart's creativity?

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Jon1667 answered on 11/15/03:

What have you in mind by explanation? I don't think we know enough to give an explanation in terms of nature and nuture (genetics and enviroment)nor, probably the laws of nature involved, so that it would have been possible to make a reasonable prediction that Mozart would have done what he did. But that is not particularly surprising, is it? Is that what you had in mind? But if not, Tony, might this be another one of your questions?

By the way, in regard to your reply to Andiri's farewell: what would make, in your estimation, a good philosophy site? Would one, for instance, contain replies to this question about Mozart. And, if those answers were not in terms of explanation in the way I have suggested (and which, I expect you did not mean) what, I wonder would be the sort of answer (not the answer, but the sort of answer) you are looking for? A question is not usually a shot in the dark. The questioner usually has something in mind as to what species of answer would satisfy the question. Although, perhaps you think that in philosophy, that's what a question is-a shot in the dark to see what turns up. Do you? And, why, if, of course, you do. (On the other hand, it occurs to me that you may very well have a very specific kind of answer in mind which is very different from the sort of answer I suggested above.) You said to Andiri that he would not be missing much by his departure. In this specific instance of your Mozart question what, I wonder, would be the kind of answer he would be missing when he departs?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/13/03 - What is the philosophical significance of music?

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Jon1667 answered on 11/14/03:

Schopenhauer called music "the voice of the universe." That should be enough.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/12/03 - Is unselfishness related to happiness? If so, how?

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Jon1667 answered on 11/12/03:

Whose happiness? The agent's, or the person who is the object. Probably a person who is less the object of selfish actions will be happier I distinguish, of course, selfish action from self-interested action. I doubt that whether or not I happen to go to bed early because I am tired (in my own self-interest, that is) affects anyone very much. As for the agent, possibly, since a reputation for selfishness may be to his detriment. But I see no necessary connection between an individuals happiness and his selfishness or unselfishness. It would be nice if unselfishness increased the agent's happiness, wouldn't it? But, as we all know, when we decend from the blue sky, it doesn't. There are selfish happy people, and unselfish happy people: selfish unhappy people, and unselfish unhappy people. And, so it goes.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 11/09/03 - How is justice justified?

Can justice be justified when it serves some at the expense of others? For example the establishing of the State of Israel, or the death wish of a suffering person.

Jon1667 answered on 11/09/03:

Well, for instance, the justice of executing a serial rapist is done at the expense of-yes- the serial rapist. Sometimes the guilty suffer. What is wrong with that? I don't see how euthanasia is an example of justice.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/09/03 - To what extent is justice reflected in life?

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Jon1667 answered on 11/09/03:

Poetic justice was exemplified yesterday when bombs set by Al Quaeda were exploded in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia supports terrorism hoping to avoid it, and just on general principles. If even there was a case of chickens coming home to root (an Americanism) that was it.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/06/03 - Why does injustice cause so much emotion?

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Jon1667 answered on 11/08/03:

Apparently, at least in the one case of the injustice of the Holocaust, which seems to me to transcend most of the injustices of the world, many are not so exercised as they might be. The latest account of this sad saga:

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/08/opinion/08ROSE.html

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/07/03 - How do we judge whether a person is rational?

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Jon1667 answered on 11/07/03:

When he is swayed by argument and evidence.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/06/03 - Are there criteria for moral superiority?

...... If so, what are they?

Jon1667 answered on 11/06/03:

Cultures that do not practice slavery, forced circumcision, or public executions, are superior to those which do. I should have thought that was obvious. Another criterion is whether a society or culture can provide a secure and safe enviroment where there is the rule of law and not of men, and in which those who govern by consent of the governed are morally superior to those in which that is not true. But, again, I should have thought that obvious.

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Question/Answer
rosends asked on 11/05/03 - Word with a difficult meaning

nullibicity
Pronunciation: /nul-i-BIS-uh-tee/
n : the state or result of being nowhere
"The nullibicity of cooperation in our household will lead to its
demise."

Is that even possible? The example sentence given does not truly demonstrate the definition. Can such a definition be connected to "something" in life?

Jon1667 answered on 11/06/03:

Well, on the one hand, there are times when I would rather be nowhere else than where I am. But, sometimes, for example at department meetings, I feel as if I have been nowhere for a long time. And here is the connection: Those department meetings are something else!

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/05/03 - What is your reaction to the following facts?

According to the British Office for National Statistics:
Roughly 9.5 million people in Britain today cannot afford adequate housing conditions.
About 8 million cannot afford one or more essential household goods.
About 6.5 million adults go without essential clothing.
Around 4 million are not properly fed by today's standards.
(Total population: 60 million).

Jon1667 answered on 11/05/03:

That things could be better, but I would rather live in the Britain of today than the
Britain of 70 years ago, and in the Britain of today than the Ivory Coast of today. Wouldn't you?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/04/03 - How do you react to the following facts?

The richest 1% of Americans (compared with 18% in Britain) own well over 40% of their nation's wealth.

Nearly half the benefits of Mr Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut in 2001 went to the richest 1%, while 60% of this year's cuts will go to taxpayers with incomes of more than $100,000.

Every member of the Bush cabinet is a millionaire.

The number of Americans living in poverty has risen to 12% in the last two years.

The United States child poverty rate is substantially higher (often two to three times higher) than that of most other major Western industrialized nations.


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Jon1667 answered on 11/05/03:

"... I am by no means anti-American...."

Sure?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/03/03 - Social Justice in the United States?

... I am by no means anti-American and I appreciate many values in the United States where, however, there are now 44 million people who are not insured for health care (which is not provided by the state). What is your reaction to the fact that the "safety net" recently advocated by Ken does not exist?

Jon1667 answered on 11/04/03:

The issue is whether some essential universal health care can be provided consistently with:
1. Maintaining the present standard of health care in the United States which surpasses that of any other country.
2. Free enterprise.
3. Not causing insuperable economic problems for the country.

So far, this problem has not been solved, and competing interests in a democratic state like America, make the solution very difficult.

I would like to see it solved. But the only sustained effort to solve it, during the early days of the first term of the Clinton administration failed miserably.

The fact that people are not insured, by the way, does not mean that they do not get health care. All hospitals must, under law, treat people who come for life threatening or emergency illness. But this is not a very satisfactory way of dealing with the matter, obviously.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 11/01/03 - Is reality synonymous with existence

Is reality synonymous with existence

Jon1667 answered on 11/03/03:

If "real" were synonomous with "exist." then, if I pointed to a fake diamond, and said, "that isn't a real diamond," I would have to be saying, "that isn't an existing diamond." But that isn't what I am saying. So "exist" and "real" are not synonymous.

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Question/Answer
chekhovToo asked on 11/01/03 - What is a Good Education

What does it mean to have a "good education"? And should philosophy be part of one's education?

Jon1667 answered on 11/02/03:

It seems to me that a good education should prepare you for living in the world. But not merely in the sense of your being able to live well economically (although, that's important) but to be able to enjoy the things that the world has to offer. Literature, and Art, and Scientific knowledge, and music. So that when you are not working at your job, you will be able to enjoy your life then too. That is why I think a liberal arts education is so important. (You should not want to be confined to plunking yourself down in front of the TV to watch "Friends" or someother nonsense, when you come home from work.)

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 11/02/03 - Why are wrong actions wrong?

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Jon1667 answered on 11/02/03:

I suppose, Tony, you are asking what makes wrong actions wrong actions. And, as you know, there have been a lot of answers given to this. For instance: 1. God says they are.
2. They have bad consequences. 3.They can are irrational. 4.The non-answer, namely that the question itself is misconceived. See the famous essay, "Does Moral Philosophy Rest on a Mistake?" by H.A. Prichard.

I am, myself, pretty much a consequentialist: (Answer 2, above) And I suppose that when it comes down to it, most of us are.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 11/02/03 - To you argue to win, and dont care how---is that Philosophy?

Ken, can you are anyone else explain why you continue your infantile games

I ask-----Is reality synonymous with existence

You quoted Hume instead of answering for yourself which implies you agree---Hume made the distinction between "real existence" and "ideal existence." The former is existence that is mind-independent. Like chairs and tables. (Not, of course, the words "chairs" and "tables" in case you were going to quibble.) Ideal existence is mind-dependent existence. Dreams, hallucinations, and, of course, thoughts.

Then I ask, But why two different kinds of existents.?

I don't know that the question why? makes much sense. Why are there several kinds of animals?

Now since I can tell your not jesting it makes me wonder why you bothered to answer, I believe two things, you argue to win, and you dont care how.

Jon1667 answered on 11/02/03:

You believe a lot of things that are not true. (Although, come to think of it, you have been known to hold that if you believe something it is true)

I really don't know that there is an answer to your question, why? But, anyway, I did not say that I agreed with Hume. I merely expoused his position, but I did not espouse his position. And, I don't know that it is accurate to say that ideal existence and real existence are two "kinds" of existence, either. I, myself, think that Hume was only making a distinction between the mind-independent "objects" and mind-dependent objects. Not between two different kinds of existence. (I, myself, think that we mean the same thing when we say that something exists whether it is mental of material.) And please don't ask me why there are two kinds of objects.

You are getting very irascible in your old age, DC. Return to your old sweet self.

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Question/Answer
chekhovToo asked on 11/02/03 - Study of Philosophy

What is the value of philosophy and why should it be studied?

Jon1667 answered on 11/02/03:

I think there are two answers to this question, depending on whether you are asking it from the viewpoint of a philosopher (or someone who is interested in the questions of philosophy, or whether from the viewpoint of a student of philosophy.

For a philosopher (or someone interested in the questions of philosophy) the value of philosophy lies in the attempt and possible success in answering philosophical questions,and solving philosophical problems, just as for the physicist the value of physics lies in answering physical questions, and solving physical problems. So, a philosopher may want to know, for instance, whether morality is objective or subjective, and he may try to discover the answer to that question.

For a student of philosophy (maybe someone who takes one or two courses in philosophy)or reads an introductory book on philosophy, the value of philosophy lies in the effects the study of philosophy has on him. It will introduce him to the importance of thinking logically about abstract and general questions and how it is done. And it will also teach him that mere assertion of a view is useless without an argument to back it up. That is why logic is so essential to even the study of philosophy. But there is more than that. And, I can do no better than to quote to you a wonderful description of the value of philosophy by a great modern philosopher, Bertrand Russell who writes in his final chapter to his little book, "The Problems of Philosophy" the following:

"The mind which has become accustomed to the freedom and impartiality of philosophic contemplation will preserve something of the same freedom and impartiality in the world of action and emotion. It will view its purposes and desires as parts of the whole, with the absence of insistence that results from seeing them as infinitesimal fragments in a world of which all the rest is unaffected by any one man's deeds. The impartiality which, in contemplation, is the unalloyed desire for truth, is the very same quality of mind which, in action, is justice, and in emotion is that universal love which can be given to all, and not only to those who are judged useful or admirable. Thus contemplation enlarges not only the objects of our thoughts, but also the objects of our actions and our affections: it makes us citizens of the universe, not only of one walled city at war with all the rest. In this citizenship of the universe consists man's true freedom, and his liberation from the thraldom of narrow hopes and fears.

Thus, to sum up our discussion of the value of philosophy; Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions since no definite answers can, as a rule, be known to be true, but rather for the sake of the questions themselves; because these questions enlarge our conception of what is possible, enrich our intellectual imagination and diminish the dogmatic assurance which closes the mind against speculation; but above all because, through the greatness of the universe which philosophy contemplates, the mind also is rendered great, and becomes capable of that union with the universe which constitutes its highest good."

But the entire little essay called, "The Value of Philosophy" can be read if you go to:

http://www.popular-science.net/books/russell/chapter15.html

It is very good.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 11/01/03 - Is reality synonymous with existence

Is reality synonymous with existence

Jon1667 answered on 11/01/03:

Dreams exist, but they aren't real. That is, their contents are not real.
Hume made the distinction between "real existence" and "ideal existence." The former is existence that is mind-independent. Like chairs and tables. (Not, of course, the words "chairs" and "tables" in case you were going to quibble.) Ideal existence is is mind-dependent existence. Dreams, hallucinations, and, of course, thoughts.
So, if we follow Hume, we can say that some things that exist are not real because their existence is mind-dependent.

The programme did not let me reply to what you wrote about sitting down on the bed. When you sit down on the bed in a dark room, this is not an act of faith since I would suppose that you had reason to think (evidence) that the bed was there, didn't you. So, why is it an act of faith? In fact, you knew the bed was there.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/31/03 - Why is it generally wrong to break a promise?

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Jon1667 answered on 10/31/03:

Because it undermines the point of promising. There is no point is making promises if promises are kept only when convenient to the promiser: for, in that case, no one could rely on a promise. The same is true of truthfulness.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/30/03 - What is justice?

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Jon1667 answered on 10/31/03:

Since Plato tried to answer the question in his "Republic" this discussion has raged on. In recent times it has been refined into a debate between the late John Rawls and the late Robert Nozick. This debate concerns what Aristotle called "distributive justice" and the role of government (if any) in distributing the goods of the society. Rawls is on the "liberal" side which advocates the heavy hand of government, and Nozick is no the "libertarian" side, which advocates "the minimal state."

A good summary of the debate between these two eminent social and political philosophers and their arguments can be found at: http://www.public.iastate.edu/~ltorrago/nozick.html

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/30/03 - How do we know aspects of reality?

....................(assuming that we do)...

Jon1667 answered on 10/30/03:

Tony, you talk as if "reality" were the name of some object, like that elephant in the story of the blind men and the elephant, which we "explore" with the hope of encountering one "aspect" or another. I don't mind it as a kind of shop-worn metaphor, perhaps for engaging in science, but it is when we take it literally, as you seem to be doing, that I rebel. I am not particularly comfortable with calling the world, an "object," but, at least, there is some clarity in talking about trying to find out about the world, although I am sure that without context, I don't know what an aspect of the world would be like.

I once saw a magazine called "The Poultry World," and, I think another called, "Automobile World." Could that be the sort of thing you have in mind? Poultry, and Automobiles could, I suppose, be called "aspects of reality." Perhaps those who raise and breed chickens do tend to see things in terms of how they relate to the raising and breeding of chickens. But that is hardly a serious philosophical matter. Is it?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/29/03 - What is a number?

................................................... (This may have a bearing on the previous question.)

Jon1667 answered on 10/29/03:

According to most mathematicians a number is a set or a class. The number 3, for instance, is the class of all triples, and the number 1, for instance, is the class of all units. So, a number is an abstract entity, like all classes.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/29/03 - How is truth related to reality?

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Jon1667 answered on 10/29/03:

Reality is what truth is about. A true proposition or statement is one that corresponds with reality, so that truth is a relational property of correspondence that a proposition or statement has with reality. As Tarski put it: "Snow is white" is true if and only if snow is white. Or, as Aristotle put it, many centuries earlier: "To say of what is, that it is, and to say of what is not, that it is not."

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 10/28/03 - morons completing high school today

I just dont accept the idea---that there is such a thing as Thinking without Words..

I can agree---in its loosest sense, thinking signifies everything that goes through our minds.

Citation: John Dewey---In this sense, silly folk and dullards think..

But where is the dignity, or truth, or usefulness, in idle fancy, trivial recollection, or flitting impression, or building sand castles in the air.

Citation: John Dewey---that loose flux of casual and disconnected material that floats through our minds in relaxed moments are, in this random sense, thinking?

I would like to point out that perhaps we have morons completing high school today is because there are those that teach such nonsense as truth is discovered, or that thinking is done with-out words.

Jon1667 answered on 10/28/03:

You're kidding, DC. Please say you're kidding.

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Question/Answer
chekhovToo asked on 10/27/03 - A Good Job or a Good Education

What's more important. A good job or a good education?

Jon1667 answered on 10/27/03:

Both, obviously. They are not exclusive. In fact, they go together.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/26/03 - Why is it generally wrong to kill a person?

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Jon1667 answered on 10/27/03:

I suppose you mean "kill" and not, "murder."
It is generally wrong to kill a person because you are depriving that person of everything (I nearly added, "that makes life worthwhile"!) You are taking away everything, quite literally, from the person you kill.

But, as the term "generally" indicates, there are exceptions. The most controversial is capital punishment. But another is letting people die who have, themselves, expressed the wish not to live any longer in intolerable circumstances, such as being kept alive with "heroic measures" when there is no hope of recovery. Here, some philosophers have distinguished between "killing" and "letting die"

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Question/Answer
chekhovToo asked on 10/26/03 - Argument and Evidence

When arguing a particular point of view in an essay for example, what constitues good evidence? Is an authority on a particular subject sufficient as evidence? And if one uses facts as evident to support one's argument, what exactly is a fact and what facts can be used?

Jon1667 answered on 10/27/03:

I will have to give very general answers to your very general questions.

1. You "argue a particular point of view" when you are in a debate, or you are a trial lawyer, and are trying to win, but not necessarily establish the truth. When a scientist like Newton, for instance, argued for his inverse square law, he was not arguing for a particular point of view, He was trying to show some proposition was true. There is a difference.

2.There is no general answer to what is good evidence except that it (good evidence) should be (1) true, or at least highly plausible or probable; and, (2) support the conclusion you are trying to prove. (1) and (2) are independent criteria. For instance, it is true that Lincoln was the 16th president, but that does not support the conclusion that Mars is the third planet from the Sun. In the same way, if I argue:
1. All dogs are mammals
2. My pet is a mammal
_________________________
Therefore, 3, My pet is a dog,

1 and 2 may very well be true, but they do not support 3, since my pet may not be a dog but a cat. So the conclusion does not follow from the premises, and the premises do not support the conclusion, although the premises are true. (And even if the conclusion happens to be true, and my pet is a dog, the premises do not support that conclusion)

3. A fact is either a true proposition, or is a proposition that you know (or have good reason) to think is true.

The facts you should use are, as I pointed out in the previous paragraph, those that support your conclusion, namely, those from which your conclusion follows.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/26/03 - What do philosophical disputes indicate?

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Jon1667 answered on 10/26/03:

They may indicate confusion, curiosity, desire to understand, wonder (Aristotle), or even, ornerinessn and so on. There is no reason to think there is just one thing philosophical disputes indicate.

"The search for the unit _is_ the illusion." Wittgenstein.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/26/03 - What motivates human beings?

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Jon1667 answered on 10/26/03:

There is no reason to think that there is just one answer to that question, anymore, than there is just one answer to the question, what do people eat? Many things motivate people: greed, envy, love, anger, and so on.

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Question/Answer
chekhovToo asked on 10/25/03 - Fear

What is fear?

Jon1667 answered on 10/25/03:

Main Entry: [2]fear
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English fer, from Old English f[AE]r sudden danger; akin to Latin periculum attempt, peril, Greek peiran to attempt
Date: 12th century
1 a : an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger b (1) : an instance of this emotion (2) : a state marked by this emotion
2 : anxious concern : SOLICITUDE

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/25/03 - Hume's view of morality...

"It would not be irrational to prefer the death of a thousand Orientals to the pricking of the little finger." Why not Occidentals as well? Why not everyone?

Jon1667 answered on 10/25/03:

I would not jump to the conclusion that Hume's remark is racist, or even xenophobic, as apparently you do. I think, although I cannot find it, that he, in a different place, wrote "the whole world" instead of the bit about Orientals. But, I would understand him as pointing out that the "sentiment" of morality should not be confined only to the familiar, but also extended to what is alien to us.

But, in any case, the important thing here is, of course, Hume's view that in the last analysis, morality is not a matter or reason, but a matter of sentiment (feeling). And that reason can inform us of what our choices are in the circumstances, and reason can inform us of what the consequences of those different choices may be; but reason cannot tell us which choice to prefer or to make. Preferring and making a choice is ultimately a matter of feeling, not reason. In this sense, it is not irrational to choose even one's own death to the pricking of one's little finger.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/24/03 - How do we determine if a sentence makes sense?

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Jon1667 answered on 10/25/03:

There are a lot of different kinds of sentences: some express statements, some questions, some exclamations, some commands, and some even to perform actions ("I hereby bequeath my pet alligator to my Grandfather.") And the same sentence may be used to perform many functions. For example, sometimes "The door is open" may have just the informative function of letting someone know the door is open. But "the door is open" may also be used to suggest to someone that she shut the door after she has entered and left the door open.

In general, a sentence may fail to make sense for three reasons (not exclusive).
1. It fails to use terms that make sense.
("Jabberwocky" is a good example)
2. All the terms are meaningful, but the syntax fails. For instance: "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously" (Chomsky's well-known example)
3. Or for a host of other reasons. As, for instance, when a sentence presupposes something that is not true. Russell's famous, "The present king of France is bald," (France is presently a Republic).

And of course, many people would use the description "makes no sense" or "nonsense" for a sentence which is "extremely" false. For instance, "The Moon is made of oatmeal."

The question you ask is a complicated and much disputed one, especially in contemporary philosophy. And has no simple answer. I have tried only to indicate a sketch of a reply. But one thing seems to me clear. I would expect that if someone said something I did not understand, that he would try to explain what he said in terms I could understand, or, at least give a reason to think that if I had the proper background knowledge (say in nuclear physics) I could understand it.

If a person makes up a neologism, e.g. "Being in itself" or "Nature is truth" he should explain it. That is not a matter of philosophy. It is a matter of facilitating communication, and common courtesy.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/23/03 - What are your metaphilosophical principles?!

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Jon1667 answered on 10/24/03:

Just off hand:
1. Be intelligent
2. Be logical
3. Don't assume that just because a sentence ends with a question mark that it makes sense.
4. Cultivate, if you do not have one, a commonsense "thermostat" which sets off an alarm when some philosopher or other says something obviously absurd. (Remember Cicero's, "There is nothing so absurd that some philosopher has not said it.")

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/20/03 - What is more important than anything else?

(This may be related to the last question.)

Jon1667 answered on 10/21/03:

Tony. Really, what sort of question is that? As I have mentioned, J.L. Austin remarked on the "fallacy of asking about nothing in particular."

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 10/20/03 - solution to the Israeli/Palestinian problem

The solution to the Israeli/Palestinian problem is for Israel to start the removal of some 200,000 Jewish settlers from the West Bank and Gaza strip, that seems like it would be a good show of faith, + its the right thing to do.
Just as the Palestinian Authority needs to confront and eradicate the terrorists within their midst, so too does the Israeli government need to confront and remove the settlers and settlements that is itself a road block to peace.

Any thoughts on the matter?

Jon1667 answered on 10/20/03:

I wonder how on earth anyone thinks that the notion of good faith has anything to do with dealing with the like of Hezbollah or the other terrorist groups whose unswerving aim is to destroy Israel and murder as many Jews as possible in the process. Dark Crow must think we are dealing with civilized people who are actually interested in such Western fantasies as compromise and serious negotiation. and who do not consider such actions as shows of weakness and surrender. As Wilde called this kind of dangerous naivete', it is the triumph of hope over experience

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/19/03 - What is the world's most urgent priority?

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Jon1667 answered on 10/20/03:

The ability to think critically.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/15/03 - How can one know which is the best society?

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Jon1667 answered on 10/16/03:

Jim.McGinness 10/16/03
I don't think one can.

One can observe differences between different existing societies. One can make a judgement about each of these differences, but it's not a simple judgement; does the difference result in a better society? for whom? are there internal or external effects from this society trait that we should deplore or wish to avoid?

There will be a number of cases where the comparison results in nearly unanimous agreement that one society is better than another; but for most cases, there will be legitimate disagreement and it will be impossible to find one society that is better than every other society, i.e. best.
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Off hand, it would seem to me that there would be no easier and clearer judgment than that the society in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, or Saudi or Iranian society or Congo society is very bad and should be got rid of.

The fact that there would be disagreement shows only that the concept is a vague one, like many other concepts: e.g. religion, or best picture of the year. In both those cases, and well as in many other, there would be disagreement. The best society is probably an ideal which, like ideal gases in physics, serve as standards. But the fact that there isn't the best society does not, in anyway, imply that one cannot correctly distinguish between evil and very good societies.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/15/03 - How can one know which is the best society?

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Jon1667 answered on 10/16/03:

It would be based on the principle of "minimalisim." The minimal amount of government compatible with the essential needs of the members of society so that human freedom can be maximized.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/13/03 - How do you interpret the principle of equality?

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Jon1667 answered on 10/14/03:

You may have in mind the principle that people in equal circumstances should be equally treated. But, now of course, we require a lot of casuistry to apply such an abstract principle to actual cases.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/12/03 - What is your view of David Hume's opinion of reason: "so minute, so weak, so bounded a princ

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Jon1667 answered on 10/12/03:

As usual, Hume has to be understood in terms of his criticism of Rationalism. The Rationalists considered that there were no limits to the power of human reason. Locke had already questioned this belief in his Essay on Human Understanding, and Hume was expounding on it. It made sense that just as there are natural limits to what the human body can do, so there were natural limits to what the human intellect could accomplish. For Hume, in particular, the claim that there could be a priori knowledge of "matters of fact" which was the center piece of Rationalism, was something he thought was an outlandish and outrageously false claim. For Hume, as for empiricists in general, Reason was the servant of the perceptual knowledge. Reason could give us no new knowledge, but it was indispensable, since it permitted us to make inferences from the immediately observed to the unobserved. Without reason, human beings would be animals, confined to the knowledge only of what they could immediately observe. So, what Hume was arguing was that compared with the exaggerated claims for reason by the Rationalists that by reason alone and unaided by the senses, we could have substantial knowledge of the world, relative to those claims, reason is minute, weak, and, especially, bounded, i.e. has limits.
Hume is not a deprecating reason. He is attacking what he considers a mistaken (and, incidentally nefarious view of reason) held by Rationalism. (Nefarious, by the way, because Hume thought such a view leads to anti-liberal institutions and a "closed society" run only by elites, or in its classical form, the Philosopher Kings of Plato's Republic.)

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 10/10/03 - philosophically dishonest

Philosophy has been said to mean many different things and while I can agree with that, ought not philosophy mean presenting ideas and defending them with reasonable argument. Reasonable argument that involves more than just citing conclusions from some authority, more than sharing anecdotes, and certainly more than expressions of whimsical thinking; argument in which conclusion is through appeals to reason and by logical linkage to reasonable premises which are supported by the facts of verified/verifiable experience.
And as usual, I ask the experts, wouldnt to do otherwise be philosophically dishonest.

Jon1667 answered on 10/10/03:

I agree with your characterization of philosophizing. Who would not?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/10/03 - Inequality...

According to UN-HABITAT's new publication "The Challenge of Slums: Global Report on Human Settlements 2003" nearly one billion people alive today - one in every six human beings - are slum dwellers. If no serious action is taken, the number of slum dwellers worldwide is projected to rise over the next 30 years to about 2 billion. The report finds that the cyclical nature of capitalism, increased demand for skilled versus unskilled labour, and the negative effects of globalisation - in particular, economic booms and busts that ratchet up inequality and distribute new wealth unevenly - contribute to the enormous growth of slums. In the past, the global economic system was responsible for creating the famous slum areas of major cities in today's developed world and it is very likely to do the same again in the developing world.
What are your views on this type of inequality?


Jon1667 answered on 10/10/03:

It would be interesting to find out what are considered to be "slums." Another consideration, before we can determine what we should think about all this, is whether the way people have lived (as in parts of Africa and Asia) for thousands of years, should be suddenly considered a "slum." And, a third consideration should be whether it is true that capitalism is responsible for these "slums," or whether, as seems to me more likely, that capitalism is responsible for better and better standards of living for those ready to take advantage of this "machinery of wealth."

I think that undeserved inequality is bad. I think, on the other hand, that inequality that occurs because of corruption and the failure to care about self-improvement is only what is to be expected. (Unless, of course, God intervenes)

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Question/Answer
HANK1 asked on 10/09/03 - BEING CORRECT!


Is there more to knowing than just being correct?

HANK

Jon1667 answered on 10/09/03:

Well sure. A lucky guess at the race course is correct. But it isn't knowing. To know, you have to be adequately justified

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/08/03 - Can we control our thoughts? If so, how?

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Jon1667 answered on 10/08/03:

Cognitive psychologists give techniques for controlling "runaway" thinking or obsessive thinking. For instance, you can distract yourself by concentating on the concrete and immediate objects which you observe all about you; noticing their colors, or noticing their proximity to one another. It is a matter of knowing some of these techniques. "Square breathing" also helps.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/07/03 - Are thoughts electrical currents?

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Jon1667 answered on 10/08/03:

An answer to the question with another question: is water hydrogen dioxide? Yes, of course it is. But that doesn't mean that when we think of water, or ask for a drink of water, that we are thinking of hydrogen dioxide or asking for hydrogen dioxide. That is because our attitude toward the world is, intensional. Our thoughts are electic currents, but our attitude toward them is not as toward an electric current. That reply will not, as Jim's did not, satisfy you. But, really, it should.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 10/06/03 - sciences are more important than the arts

The sciences are more important than the arts for an understanding of the world in which we live, or, even, all we need to understand it.-----------Or are they?

Jon1667 answered on 10/06/03:

Sounds like a good school debating club issue. I'll suggest it.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/05/03 - What happens when we think?

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Jon1667 answered on 10/06/03:

Well, for some of us, it is a real shock.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/05/03 - How well can you argue against your most cherished belief(s)?

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Jon1667 answered on 10/05/03:

Beautifully. How should I know? I think I can often think up good objections to views I hold. But I am probably biased as to whether I have thought up most of the good objections, or, indeed, whether I can answer those objections. So, it is probably up to others to say. I don't think that the person who holds a belief is likely to be able to judge competently whether he is able to argue well against that belief, especially if that belief is "cherished." Why would you think he would be?

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 10/02/03 - How can morality be called morality

How can morality be called morality; unless it is applied equally with everyone?

Jon1667 answered on 10/02/03:

This is an important idea, stemming from Kant, and recently trenchantly expressed by the late, John Rawls in his earlier book, "Justice as Fairness" and in his important later, "A Theory of Justice."

This review of Rawl's work will give you a good idea of his ideas on this.

http://chronicle.com/free/v47/i45/45b00701.htm

Justice or morality certainly implies fairness. A law, for example, to be just, has to apply to everyone, and if there is an exception, there has to be a good reason for the exception. For example, suppose there is rationing of an important food like milk. The law might make an exception for infants and little children. But no one can make an exception for himself with out good reason if the law is to be just, and applied justly.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/01/03 - Does science make assumptions about the universe?

If so, what are they?

Jon1667 answered on 10/01/03:

One would certainly be that there is one (I mean, a universe) since it is making assumptions about it. And, I would suppose that scientists believe they can, with dilligence and intelligence, find out things about the universe, else, they would not bother to inquire about it.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 10/01/03 - Occam's razor and mathematical tautologies

Are they related? If so, how?

Jon1667 answered on 10/01/03:

I see no relation between the principle of parsimony, and logical or verbal truths. Should there be any?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 09/30/03 - What are the beliefs on which science is based?

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Jon1667 answered on 09/30/03:

Percy Bridgeman wrote that "the scientific method...is doing one's damnedest to think things through with no holds barred." And, although, I don't remember the quote verbatim, Alfred North Whitehead said something like metaphysics is an unusually stubborn attempt to think clearly.

Except for that sentiment, I don't think that either science or philosophy has its proprietary beliefs.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 09/26/03 - What Hitler and Bertrand Russell had in common

Well of course we like to think ourselves on a much higher plane of Morality than the Nazis were; but if we examine ourselves in the light of history, were we any better?
As Sacramento banker Charles M. Goethe, a founder and sponsor of the Eugenics Society of Northern California and Pasadena's Human Betterment Foundation, noted in 1929, the Mexican is "eugenically as low-powered as the Negro. He not only does not understand health rules: being a superstitious savage, he resists them." Goethe -- for whom a public park on the Sacramento State University campus is named -- tirelessly campaigned to restrict Latin American immigration and to increase sterilization of the "socially unfit."
... that proponents of eugenics were not obscure cranks or fringe right-wingers, but the best and brightest civic reformers and professional leaders. In southern California, the Human Betterment Foundation enjoyed the active support of banker Henry Robinson, as well as social scientist William Munro and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Robert Millikan---.
Its interesting to note the famous philosopher, peacenik and anti-nuclear camapaigner, Bertrand Russell spoke in favor of it.
"President Woodrow Wilson signed New Jersey's sterilization law, and one of his deputies descended to greater fame as a Nazi collaborator at Buchenwald. Pennsylvania's legislature passed an 'Act for the Prevention of Idiocy,' but the governor vetoed it .... Other states, however, joined the crusade. ... Eventually, the eugenicist virus found a hospitable host in Germany. There... it led to the death chambers of Buchenwald and Auschwitz. Thanks to the Nazis, highly praised by eugenicists here, the movement eventually collapsed. But not before nearly 50,000 Americans were sterilized."

From------Mr. Platt, emeritus professor of social work, California State University

Jon1667 answered on 09/26/03:

Einstein, Russell, and other very smart people occasionally said dumb things. Just as dumb people occasionally say smart things. So what?

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Question/Answer
ttalady asked on 09/24/03 - The cow and the coward

How I came up with that title, well I just did. Honestly I do not know where this posting belongs, relationships, spiritual, farming, ect.

I watched the most beautiful site in the world today. A calf being born. It was early morning on my way to work and witnessed a miracle. I had to pull over and just watch. I did not want to leave but time soon ran short for "punching" in.

I came back the same way to notice the baby feeding off the Momma, the calf on all fours and just knew where to get the food and not too far from that Momma and baby was yet another Momma and baby. This baby having been born not all that long ago by the looks of it's coat. They must have some sort of communication or is it beyond that?

Tomorrow both babies shall be gone. On the other side of the road, in the same pen as the other babies, as the Mothers just look at them and wonder why? The hardest yet was seeing the baby in the pen on the back of a gulf cart and the Momma crying out following the baby.

I know why this happens, I understand why this is done, however I question myself on what is right and wrong in this. I am a hyprocrit to feel as I do yet practice as I do. I can drink milk, more than I should, however I could never take the baby away from a Mother. I eat meat (filet mignon, yummy) however could never butcher the cow. I even eat veal however temor when seeing a young bull tied to the side of a barn. I love venison however could never have the guts to shoot one myself, bf does the dirty work on that. I catch fish, help in cleaning them, however feel bad for them before their end.

Is it not possible that what we do in life, how we live life, how we preceive life to be all for the fact of finding ourselves and living with ourself? To accept others as they are however to finally accept ourselves as we are? Or am I just a hypocrit?

I know I could never live on just lettuce, even so that is killing a living thing. I am just having a hard time understanding how I can relate to such and give fact, reason to such. Then again, can you give reason?

BF always tells me, "You think too much", but is that possible? I am so easy to find the obvious however this is one I can not find, only an excuse!

Any help out there?

Jon1667 answered on 09/24/03:

Yech!

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 09/24/03 - What is the difference (if any) between a truth and a fact?

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Jon1667 answered on 09/24/03:

It is true, that as Jeff writes, in at least one sense of "fact," "truth" and "fact" are synonymous (or nearly so). But there is another sense in which "fact" means not only a truth, but what is _known_ to be true. So that when I say that it is a fact that Quito is the capital of Ecuador, I am saying that I know that to be true.

However, although ordinary language is (as Austin remarked) the "begin all," it need not be the "end all." In a paper called, "Unfair to Facts," Austin argued that in a more philosophical sense (whatever that may be) of "fact," facts are what make true sentences (or beliefs etc.") true. They explain why some sentences are true and other are not. True sentences correspond with facts, and false sentences do not. That is why the former are true, and the latter, false.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 09/23/03 - What is true?

Ken; (and anyone else who cares to jump in) you really need to make up your mind on this matter and stop jumping back and forth like an Old Maid who has finally been ask for her hand in marriage.

Ill start with language---words have a defined meaning and that meaning has been reached through common use, and agreement. Stop me here if you disagree, and have an argument that words derive their meaning in another way.

Now, based on that, I have made the claim: What is true is true because it is what we _agree_ is true, meaning comes through language; because we give language meaning by agreement. But you then say: It seems to me you have it backwards. It isn't that what is true is true because we agree it is true; rather, we agree on what is true because it is true.

Then what is it that is true aside from a proposition? It follows from what you say that the material world must be true; but then you and Andiri have denied this.

Jon1667 answered on 09/23/03:

"Ill start with language---words have a defined meaning and that meaning has been reached through common use, and agreement. Stop me here if you disagree, and have an argument that words derive their meaning in another way.
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I agree that language is a convention. I don't think that all words have a "defined meaning," but maybe I don't understand what you mean by it. The term "religion" for instance, has no "defined meaning" as I understand that notion. Is Buddhism a religion, for instance? No divinity, of course.

Now, based on that, I have made the claim: What is true is true because it is what we _agree_ is true, meaning comes through language; because we give language meaning by agreement.
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But that's the part I don't think is true (unless I misunderstand you) Truth is not the result of agreement. It is not truth that the world is spherical because people agree that it is. Rather, people agree that it is spherical because it is true that it is spherical. But you know that. So what do you mean? (Many philosophers have held that there are truths by agreement or convention. For instance that all sisters are females, or that all dogs are dogs. These are called logical truths, or analytic truths, or even, in philosophy 101, "definitional truths." But, synthetic truths, like, all dogs are carnivores, are not true by agreement or convention. It is the world that makes them true, if they are true, and the world that makes them false, if they are false. (I mean because the world is one way, and not another way.)

But you then say: It seems to me you have it backwards. It isn't that what is true is true because we agree it is true; rather, we agree on what is true because it is true.
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Yes, that was the point I just made. Isn't that right? If not, why not?

Then what is it that is true aside from a proposition?
It follows from what you say that the material world must be true; but then you and Andiri have denied this."
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The term "proposition" is a term of art. It is a technical term of philosophers. Propositions are _not_ bits of language. They are abstract entities which are "the bearers of truth." Language, sentences, _express_ propositions. For instance, the sentences, "Mary is taller than John," and "John is shorter than Mary," express the same proposition. But the proposition is not, itself, language. It is an abstract entity, as I said, like a mathematical set, or a number. (It is a Platonic thing) and most materialists do not accept the existence of propositions. For many of them, sentences or statements are true or false. Statements are much like propositions, but they are linguistic entities.

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I don't understand why you think I must accept the conclusion that the material world is true. The material world is neither true nor false. No more than a chair is true or false. The adjectives, "true" and "false" are properties of statements, or sentences, or, if you are a Platonist of some kind, and believe there are abstract entities, propositions. I don't know what property the world has, at least as you are using the term "world," but it certainly hasn't the property of being true (or false, for that matter).

But, I have the distinct feeling that I am missing your point. So, what have I written that you don't agree with? (I am here tempted to use "Ryle's ploy;" "If you disagree with me, then you don't understand me."

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Question/Answer
ElizabethOrient2000 asked on 09/22/03 - Hypothetical Speaking

What do you think was the first philosophical question?

Jon1667 answered on 09/23/03:

Why do you think there must have been one? What was the first word spoken?

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Question/Answer
ttalady asked on 09/17/03 - Dear John,

With your answer I am VERY confused! It may be the blonde hair!

"Ethics" is from the Latin, "Morals" is from the Greek. Both mean customs or ways of acting. As they are now used, morals refers to the right or wrong ground floor judgments about behavior; for example, abortion is wrong, or capital punishment is right. But ethics refers to the philosophy of these ground floor judgments: for example, what is rightness or wrongness. So ethics is first floor.
If you don't know what the right or wrong answer to a question is, it does not follow there is none. But not every issue has a straightforward right or wrong answer. Some issues are matters of more or less. And for some, there are several ways to see the matter. Sometimes it isn't the world that is simple. We are simple. Some issues are matters of judgment. And some people have better judgment than others."- Jon


Is a judgement not an opinion however with a decision, you act upon? A judgement you act upon, you do, an opinion is what you think and say/act upon in a way. So it could be true that morals (beliefs) + opinion + judgement could equal= fact! Only if judgement proves right?

My issue is that morals, opinions, judgements, even facts can eventually be proven wrong. ENRON did a bad thing by the outcome however do we not wonder if at that point and time they did think and in fact, less morals, know that they were trying to save the company?

Judgement to me is to put a name tag on an issue, person, ordeal. It is not factual and many times shows another side in time. Judgement secludes one from many other opportunities, much of life, and all of respect in many circumstances.

Again, answer the question on "What is you opinion with discrimination (no sex,color, ect involved)". Do you find such "factual" or more of morals/ethics/beliefs".

Jon1667 answered on 09/17/03:

My issue is that morals, opinions, judgements, even facts can eventually be proven wrong. ENRON did a bad thing by the outcome however do we not wonder if at that point and time they did think and in fact, less morals, know that they were trying to save the company?

Judgement to me is to put a name tag on an issue, person, ordeal. It is not factual and many times shows another side in time. Judgement secludes one from many other opportunities, much of life, and all of respect in many circumstances.

Again, answer the question on "What is you opinion with discrimination (no sex,color, ect involved)". Do you find such "factual" or more of morals/ethics/beliefs".
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Well, anything could be proven wrong, (although, it seems to me that if something is a fact, then it is true, although lots of times people think that something is a fact when it isn't a fact. But if it is a fact, then mustn't it be true? Can there be such a thing as a false fact? I don't think so.) But, sure, people make mistakes, and what they believe is true, may be proven wrong. People are fallible. They are so in science, so I guess they are fallible about morality as well. And sure, the executives of Enron were trying to save the company. But they did bad and criminal things in pursuit of that goal. So the goal is no excuse for what they did. At least the law doesn't think so. (And, after all, they weren't trying to save the company so much as trying to save their own skins, so we cannot even give them that credit.)

As for "judgment," when I state that the Earth is round, I am making a judgement about the shape of the Earth, and when I judge that terrorists are evil-doers I am making a judgment about the morality of terrorists. (I think you may be confusing making a judgment with judging.) There are factual judgments and there are moral judgements. They are both judgments.

It is true that more people disagree about moral judgments than about factual judgments. I think that is because there is more general agreement about how to settle factual judgments than there is on how to settle moral judgments. I think that just as most people agree that Quito is the capital of Ecuador because they agree that to settle that it is, we have to do such things as look it up in the latest World Almanac, or on a reliable site on the Internet. This agreement about agreement is what, I think, makes us think that the question, what city is the capital of Ecuador is an objective question, and that we can give an objective answer to it. On the other hand, people tend to disagree about how to settle moral questions. And that if why they tend to call such questions, "subjective." Nevertheless, it still is true that people would tend to agree that it is wrong to cheat, to cook the books, and steal from your employees, as the Enron executives are accused of doing. So, such examples show that moral judgments and factual judgments are not all that distant from each other.

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Question/Answer
ttalady asked on 09/17/03 - Ethical vs Moral

Now I realize they are in a way one in the same however ethical has to do with a profession and being moral in that profession. Morals having to do with an over outlook in life, right from wrong.

I have finally dived in and I am taking a class in accounting 101. Ever since ENRON, accounting now focuses on being a moral person in this field. Honestly in testing as well as going for a CPA there are questions that relate to being moral. According to my teacher many jobs as well question on such.

Morals are based on beliefs, yes? They are based on teachings, yes? Therefore how is it possible for a moral to be right or wrong? You can disagree on morals however to have it a fact is impossible. For instance my favorite debate and moral standing is that abortion is wrong. That is my moral on this one subject. Many can argue with me that abortion is right, however I stand that such is wrong, it is my belief and my teaching.

Now understand that my moral position on this one subject has changed from years past. As does knowledge, beliefs, and even just feelings. To say that anyone involved in the ENRON case was never ethical/moral at some point would be rediculious let alone impossible. Everyone has a right and wrong even if it does not co-inside ours. Morals can be manipulated!

The ethical questions in this book are unreal. Not only having to do with $ signs we are talking life situations all just in math figures! The "what would you do", and there is no true right or wrong answer, more of if you did this, this might happen, if you do that, that might happen. Morals play a part of everything in life!

So to get to my question. Is it not true that accounting (math as well as theory and philosophy) only works when morals (beliefs, right/wrong) are involved? For the word "works" I mean benefits the one and others. Is it not true/ aka true that beliefs are the fundimental factor of philosophy, science, math, what makes the world go around?

What do you think? And if so, what is your view point on discrimination?


Jon1667 answered on 09/17/03:

"Ethics" is from the Latin, "Morals" is from the Greek. Both mean customs or ways of acting. As they are now used, morals refers to the right or wrong ground floor judgments about behavior; for example, abortion is wrong, or capital punishment is right. But ethics refers to the philosophy of these ground floor judgments: for example, what is rightness or wrongness. So ethics is first floor.
If you don't know what the right or wrong answer to a question is, it does not follow there is none. But not every issue has a straightforward right or wrong answer. Some issues are matters of more or less. And for some, there are several ways to see the matter. Sometimes it isn't the world that is simple. We are simple. Some issues are matters of judgment. And some people have better judgment than others.

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Question/Answer
chekhovToo asked on 09/17/03 - Academic Argument

What is an academic argument?

Jon1667 answered on 09/17/03:

I think that in the sense of "academic" you mean, an academic argument is one that as the dictionary says, is: theoretical or speculative, which has no practical or useful significance. In other words, an argument that doesn't matter for the issue involved. For instance, suppose someone argues that had we deposed Saddam in 1991 after we won the Gulf War, we would not now be having the problems we are now having in Iraq. Another person might reply, "That's academic now. We have to deal with what is happening now, and not speculate about what could have been done in the past." He is saying, that although what you argue might be valid, but it is irrelevant now. The word, no doubt, derives from "academia" where (allegedly) what goes on there is of no relevance to what is called "the real world."

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 09/14/03 - gravest of mistakes to mistake the string with the hook

It seems to me the gravest of mistakes to mistake the string with the hook, as well as the philosophy with the philosopher, so, can it be true that because a philosopher is religious, it follows her philosophy is religious?
And secondly---Can the holder of an opinion, that is the opinion of the book published and purchased, claim the opinion as their own?

Jon1667 answered on 09/14/03:

No, to both. Why do you ask?

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 09/13/03 - religious philosophy reasons to derive a conclusion by deduction

Would it be that we could say, and be somewhat accurate in a general way, religious philosophy reasons to derive a conclusion by deduction, and non-religious by induction?

Jon1667 answered on 09/13/03:

You could say it. But it would not be true, much less accurate. Not even in a "general way." I don't know that Sartre or Camus arrived as their conclusions by what you call, induction. Do you? They were both atheists. What about your pal, Nietzsche? Did he practice induction? Not that I have heard of?

I think that both you and Tony have set upon a view of some kind (I am not sure just what it is) and then are groping about for some reasons to justify it. I am afraid you will both have to continue groping. I think, also, that you both ought to try to get the view straight, if you can.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 09/12/03 - what does religious philosophy offer

In your view, what does religious philosophy offer that non religious philosophy does not, and vice versa?

Jon1667 answered on 09/13/03:

When I first saw your phrase, "religious philosophy" I thought you meant, "philosophy of religion." But you seem to mean something like, "philosophy based on religion." If that is the case, then (obviously) so far as someone who is not religious is concerned, secular philosophy offers the prospect of truth. Religious philosophy does not. But maybe I don't understand the phrase "religious philosophy." Do you mean, for instance, something like Thomism, which is the official philosophy of the Roman Catholic Church?

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 09/12/03 - distinction between knowledge and belief

Tony you said: I think making a sharp distinction between knowledge and belief is misleading. All knowledge ultimately depends on beliefs and all beliefs ultimately depend on knowledge (although this may be minimal).

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I thought the idea of determining what is true, or false is based on making a sharp distinction between what we believe and what we know.

Anyone else please feel free to answer, this is not a private question.

Jon1667 answered on 09/12/03:

1.Beliefs may be, but need not be, true. Knowledge must be true.
2.Beliefs may be, but need not be, justified. Knowledge must be justified.

Since beliefs may be true, we cannot determine whether a proposition is true or false simply by determining whether we believe it or know it. Of course, if we know that p, then p is true. But we cannot determine whether p is true by first determining we know that p. Rather, we have first to determine that p is true in order to determine whether we know that p. It isn't as if I say to myself, "Let me see, do I know that p? Yes I do, so p must be true." There is no such thing as finding out whether I know that p without first finding out that p is true. That was the point of my previous question, is knowledge a mental state? I cannot introspect to find out whether I know, and then infer that p is true. I must, in order find out whether I know that p, first find out whether p is true.

The truth of p is a necessary condition of my knowing that p. But my knowing that p is only a sufficient, but not necessary condition of the truth of p. That is, if p is true it does not follow that p is known. But if p is known it does follow that p is true.

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Question/Answer
chekhovToo asked on 09/12/03 - War on Terror

Can the "war on terror" actually be won. If so how if not why? I am interested what ideas you have about this.

Jon1667 answered on 09/12/03:

I wonder why you believe that anyone likely to be on this board could have any expertise on this issue, so that his opinion would be worth reading. And, also, why this would be a suitable question for a philosophy board.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 09/11/03 - Economic injustice...

What contribution, if any, can philosophical analysis make to the solution of economic injustice?

Jon1667 answered on 09/11/03:

A lot. Three important names here are Aristotle and his theory of distributive justice (as contrasted with retributive justice) and in recent times, John Rawls, "A Theory of Justice," (certainly an argument for social intervention) and Robert Nozick, "Anarchy, State, and Utopia" (a counter-argument for the "minimal state," who advance two opposing theories of distributive justice. Some philosophers have considered Rawls, who died last year, one of the most important philosophers of the 20th century. They are widely discussed in academic philosophy. I happen to be interested in other philosophical topics, but I have read some of this, and am deeply impressed by the power of the minds of Rawls and Nozick. (It goes without saying, Aristotle) Those interested should look up these philosophers on google.com (and the up-and-coming search engine, teoma.com.)

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 09/11/03 - Economic Justice?

"The World Trade Organisation is a corrupted, coopted, captured institution, but all those who care about global justice should be fighting for its survival. Every time we shout that the WTO has got to go, we join hands with George Bush: he wants to destroy it because it impedes his plans for direct US control of other nations' economies.
In principle, the poor members of the WTO can and should outvote the rich ones. In practice, its democratic structure has been bypassed by the notorious "green room" meetings organised by the rich nations, by corporate lobbying and by the secret and unaccountable committees of the corporate lawyers it uses to resolve trade disputes.

All this must change, but it is now clear to me that to call for its destruction is like calling for the dissolution of a corrupt parliament in favour of the monarchy: it is to choose unilateralism over multilateralism. Our key task is not to overthrow the WTO, but to assist the poor nations to use it to overthrow the power of the rich.

In theory, the rules the WTO enforces are supposed to prevent protectionism by the rich nations while permitting a degree of protectionism by the poor ones. The principles behind this are sound. Most of the countries that are rich today developed with the help of "infant industry protection": defending new industries from foreign competition until they are big enough to compete on equal terms. The policy makes sense. Established industries have capital, experience and economies of scale on their side; infant industries in poor nations do not. Developing in direct competition with big business overseas is like learning to swim in a torrent: you will be swept away and drowned long before you acquire the necessary expertise. Rich countries, by contrast, have no need for protectionism, but by defending their markets against imports from poor nations, they prevent the transfer of wealth.

In practice, because of the way in which the rich members of the organisation have been able to subvert its processes and bully the poor ones, the WTO does precisely the opposite. The "special and differential treatment" it offers the poor nations is both utterly feeble and routinely blocked by the IMF and the World Bank, which insist that their clients drop all their protections in order to be eligible for loans. The "technology transfer" the WTO has long promised the poor has never materialised. The rich nations, by contrast, are permitted to protect their farmers, their textile producers and their steel millers, and to grant their companies ever greater rights over other people's intellectual property.

Instead we need a clear and non-negotiable sliding scale of trade privileges. The very poorest nations should be permitted, if they wish, to fully protect their infant industries, just as Britain did during the early days of the industrial revolution or the US between 1789 and 1913. As they become richer, they would be forced to gradually drop these protections. The very poorest countries should also be allowed free use of rich countries' intellectual property, for trade within their own borders and with other poor nations.

These measures, of course, are fair only in so much as they permit the development of economies and the transfer of wealth between nations. They do not deal with the other great source of injustice: the corporations' ability to force nations into destructive competition, abandoning the laws defending workers and the environment in order to attract their custom. Truly fair trade requires a further set of measures: corporations should not be allowed to trade between nations until they can show that they are meeting the standards set by the International Labour Organisation and the UN.

The WTO would therefore become a licensing authority, a bit like the health and safety executive in Britain. Like those participating in voluntary fair trade today, all corporations engaged in international trade would be obliged to employ monitoring companies, which would ensure rules were respected and report back to the WTO. Any corporation employing slaves or using lethal machinery, banning unions or tipping toxic waste into rivers would be forbidden from trading internationally. If we were to add the provision that all companies should pay the full environmental cost of the resources they use, we would possess a complete mechanism for ensuring only the nice guys survive.

None of this would be possible without a world trade organisation. In helping the poor majority to pursue this agenda, we can transform the WTO from a body that enforces unfairness into one that makes economic justice the principle by which the world is run."

What are your views?

Jon1667 answered on 09/11/03:

Tonyrey:

I must tell you that I deplore the use you are now making of this board. I consider it an abuse, and I would consider it an abuse even if it expressed a different ideology. There are other sites and even other parts of this board for this sort of thing. The Philosophy board is not an extention of The Guardian. And what you post has nothing, even remotely, to do with political philosophy. It is sheer propaganda. And it is often manipulative. For instance, your question about the justification of torture, was only a pretext for another propaganda piece from The Guardian. It is hard, I allow, to find something in the The Guardian (which parades itself as a legitimate newspaper) that is not propaganda. It is now not much different in quality of content from Pravda or Isvestia as they used to be when organs of the now happily defunct USSR. And, as the saying used to go, there is no truth in Pravda (which meant "truth" in Russian) nor news in Isvestia (which meant "news" in Russian) I suppose the saying now must be that there is neither truth nor news in The Guardian. But if it is hard to find any news or truth in The Guardian, I suggest that you take The Telegraph or The Times instead. Or, even go online, to read the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. Really, nearly anything would be better.

I would like you to restrain yourself. If you continue, I would urge the other members of the board to ignore like posts from you, as I will.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 09/10/03 - When, if ever, is torture justified?

This question is prompted by the following remarks:

Remembering al-Qaida's attacks on America tomorrow, many will wearily note that the world did indeed change that day two years ago and that our newspapers are still full of the reverberations. Without 9/11 there would have been no Iraq war. Without Iraq there would be no Hutton, and without Hutton, TB wouldn't be looking quite as weak as he is.
The American press betrays the same pattern, but there is one important and - to me - astonishing absence. Weeks go by without serious newspapers investigating or commenting on human rights abuses by the American government. At home and abroad, hundreds, maybe thousands, of men are being held in camps and prisons by the military, by the CIA and by the justice department, incommunicado, without legal representation or hope of release, there to endure prolonged and terrifying interrogation. Alone, this is enough for the US government to place itself in contravention of the Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, which it is obligated to uphold. But that is not all. There is evidence that the US authorities have encouraged the use of torture and may indeed have participated in the torture of those men they believe to hold information on past and future terrorist attacks.

We surely didn't imagine two years ago that this would be an outcome of 9/11 and yet it has happened with such ease, the once rights-conscious American public turning its gaze the other way, along with the self-regarding worthies of the American newspaper industry. The one exception has been the Washington Post, which alone has pressed the US government on the legality of Guantanamo Bay and the processes instituted there, not by lawyers, but the jesuitical neo-conservative mandarins of the Pentagon, and it has gone some way to exposing the "stress and duress" techniques applied to prisoners at the US base at Bagram in Afghanistan.

Researching my book Empire State, a novel set against the background of these abuses, I discovered that the information is not terribly difficult to come by. In March, prisoners at Bagram reported being beaten, deprived of sleep and made to lie naked on a sheet of ice. The same month, US military coroners ruled that the deaths of two prisoners in mysterious circumstances were homicides. Just before the invasion, I met an American who is attached to a shadowy military/espionage operation; I asked him about the rumours of torture. He replied with a look of astonishment, "Are you crazy? Of course. That's the war we've got on our hands. We didn't ask for it this way."

By far the most disturbing development is the American practice of handing over recalcitrant prisoners to be tortured by compliant regimes in Jordan, Morocco and particularly Egypt, where beating, drowning and even electric shock treatment are used.

When a man is transported bound and blindfolded - in the American parlance "packaged" - it is said that he has been "rendered" to a foreign service, and from the unutterable hell of his subsequent experience come "extreme renditions". The desired result of this process is a complete set of answers to questions drawn up by US intelligence that are then fed into a database which, without a trace of irony, has been codenamed Harmony.

Naturally, the CIA officers are not themselves applying the electrodes to genitals or rubber truncheons to the soles of the feet, but in the case of prisoners being tortured in Saudi Arabia, they are on hand, in the words of CIA director George Tenet, to "share the debriefing results".

All of the above may make you think that I have become violently anti-American. I have not - I still love the place and the people - but it is profoundly disturbing that our closest ally has slipped so easily into methods which begin to match the theocratic savagery that launched the 9/11 attacks in the first place.

Jon1667 answered on 09/10/03:

"All of the above may make you think that I have become violently anti-American. I have not - I still love the place and the people"
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Heaven forfend! Who could ever think of such an idea?! He loves this fruited plain, and some of his very best friends are-Americans. It is only the Administration, and America's selfish economic system, and its awful history, that he hates. And who can blame him?

Tony, just what has your question to do with this screed? It seems only to have been the occasion for it.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 09/08/03 - The Torturers' Picnic...

Repressive regimes will be stocking up again at this week's arms fair - and we're footing the bill

Rachel Shabi
Monday September 8, 2003
The Guardian

On September 11, the defence industry will be commemorating those who died in New York two years ago with a gala dinner in a central London hotel. Here, the world's best weapons makers will be breaking gourmet bread with the world's best weapons buyers, discussing future deals in the safety of a private event, guarded by police lines. The gala dinner is the highlight of Europe's biggest arms fair, Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEI), a five-day weapons expo held in London's Docklands. Indeed, such is the extent of the event's glitziness that the defence secretary, Geoff Hoon, will be its starring guest speaker.
The gala date, says Alan Sharman, director general of the Defence Manufacturers Association,the organisers, is pure coincidence. Even if it had not been a coincidence, he says, it would not have been an issue, since a weapons expo dinner is no different from a motor or boat show dinner (his examples). You'd only think it a problem, says Sharman, if you had a problem with the arms fair.

Well, OK then, I do have a problem with the arms fair. For a start, with the fact that Britain, under a government allegedly committed to an ethical foreign policy, is playing host to an exhibition selling arms to whichever nation wants to buy them. It doesn't matter how you treat your people, how much buying weapons eats into your country's budget, who you have a conflict with or what you are using those weapons for - if you're able to buy, Britain will open the doors to its arms supermarket for you.

Among the list of nations invited to attend DSEI 2003 are Saudi Arabia, where torture and political arrests remain rife; Kenya, where routine executions and torture take place; Colombia, where last year 4,000 civilians were killed for political motives; and Turkey, where torture in police custody remains widespread. Amnesty International says that the appalling human rights records of these nations "graphically illustrates why there must be end-use monitoring in arms sales, so that there can be real assurance that the UK is not inadvertently supporting internal repression, torture or police brutality overseas".

Also on the list of DSEI invites is Syria, the US-decreed "axis of evil" state supposed to be harbouring chemical weapons. And China has been invited too, even though it is the subject of a partial arms embargo. Britain supplies 20% of the world market in arms, second only to the US. During the 1990s alone, approximately 4 million people were killed in violent conflicts - and civilians made up 90% of these deaths. Join the dots.

Trade in weapons, moreover, not only overrides any kind of law on whom to trade with, but also on what to sell. At DSEI 2001, journalists exposed two separate companies attempting to sell anti-personnel landmines, banned under British law. And to cap it all, events such as this month's arms fair are financially assisted by the government. It's estimated that DSEI 2003 will cost at least 1.5m in subsidies and extra policing - covered by the taxpayer. When did you or I agree to that? Weapons trade is something we may have come to accept as an inevitability, yet it is the one area where nimbyism goes legitimate. To say that arms trading would exist whether or not Britain held a weapons fair is a bit like saying child porn would go on whether or not you happen to run the website hosting it. You'd make a killing out of both, but you'd die bearing the responsibility of either.

And that this gala dinner falls on September 11 has a particular resonance because it invokes the war on terror logic peddled ever since those monumental towers turned to dust. This irrefutable logic goes: you see, bad guys are out there, that's why we need to stock up on big guns. But time and again, those whose loved ones were killed in the September 11 attacks say that the way to avenge such acts of terror would be to stop further deaths, to stop giving the "bad guys" reasons to pick up the big guns. It seems that grief brings not a thirst for revenge, but a wish that such devastation should never be experienced by anyone else, not even an adversary.

Rita Lasar, one American who lost a brother in the twin towers, has said that when his death was used to justify the war on Afghanistan, "It was as horrendous a blow to me as the actual attacks on September 11." She describes this binding of her brother's death with a call to arms as insincere, hypocritical and exploitative. To invoke the deaths of September 11 as the validation for bigger military budgets and the perpetual war on terror is a dishonour in the extreme. On September 11 this year, the most respectful commemoration of those 3,016 lives horribly wasted in that day's attacks would be to disarm the trade in death.

Comments?

Jon1667 answered on 09/08/03:

Rita Lasar, one American who lost a brother in the twin towers, has said that when his death was used to justify the war on Afghanistan, "It was as horrendous a blow to me as the actual attacks on September 11."
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How high-minded of her. And how sanctimonious. As we say here in the States, "Give me a break!" She must work for The Guardian, which must be the most sanctimonious publication in the universe.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 09/05/03 - Is the truth important? If so, why?

>>

Jon1667 answered on 09/05/03:

For one thing, if you want to know whether, for instance, a shelf will fit, it is important to know, or, at least, believe the truth about how long the shelf is. If you are mistaken, then the shelf will not fit.This illustrates that, to say the least, it is important to know or believe the truth, because it is useful to know or believe the truth. (Whether it is more useful to know or whether it is just as useful to believe the truth is a different question, raised in Plato's Meno.) But this means only that truth has instrumental value. But, as (the late) Bernard Williams argues in his book, "Truth and Truthfulness," truth could not have instrumental value unless it was also valued it for its own sake.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 09/05/03 - What, in your opinion, is the most difficult question in philosophy?

...

Jon1667 answered on 09/05/03:

I think they are all difficult. Maybe the metaphysical and epistemological ones the most, but that may be only a personal view. Philosophy is very hard.

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Question/Answer
hmghaly asked on 09/02/03 - Subjective and Objective

Can we infer some objective truth from subjective experiences/observations?

Jon1667 answered on 09/04/03:

Clarification/Follow-up by rosends on 09/04/03 11:53 am:
Keillor explicitly states that all the children are above average.
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In the sense of an aritmetical average? I bet not.


I think we're at a point we've approached before. That "objective" has to be used to mean "agreed upon, or verifiable through agreed upon methodology" and "subjective" means something mroe along the lines of "personal". This allows the subjective (personal) to become the objective when enough people share a view. I show you a "real" twenty dollar bill. You say it is counterfeit (though linguistically, it is, used in the current sense, I say it isn't). When enough people share your point of view or design a test which the bill fails, your personal view is now the mass view.
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Whether a bill is counterfeit or not has nothing whatsover to do with how many people think it is counterfeit. The criterion of genuine money is whether it was issued (in the case of this country) by the United States Government or not. If everyone including the FBI thought a bill was genuine, if the bill was not issued by the Treasury Department, it is not a genuine bill, and that is the end of it.

But this brings up the 1491 problem. According to all agreed upon science, the world was considered flat (I know I'm reducing history to soundbites...play along at home), but the mass view and the "objective" view didn't agree. So now we have 3 views. Personal, mass, and factual. But factual can only be applied when the issue at hand is something that can be considered "fact" and not judgment. So here, to be safe, I fall back on faith and say that while I can be pretty sure that a given subject is in the realm of fact or value statement, only god knows for sure. For all I know, all of our current science is wrong and the world is shaped (as guessed in an early "Bloom County" strip) like a burrito, and in 5 years we're all going to look at what we "know" now, and laugh.
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But again, all that you say is true, but is quite irrelevant. The fact that people believe something is true is one thing. Whether it is true, is another. Whether science was wrong or right about the shape of the Earth is just a red herring. The point is that the Earth had some shape or other, trapezoid, rhomboid, square, or spherical. What it was doesn't matter here. And what science or people or even God held or holds is irrelevant too. The question is just this: given that the whole world including science now beliefs the Earth is some shape, that fact of belief is irrelevant to the shape. The point is that people can have false beliefs as well as true beliefs. So what the actual shape of the world is or was or will be, does not matter to the question. Sure, science can be wrong or right at any one time. I we cannot be certain which it is. But we can be pretty certain that the Earth has a particular shape (only given that there is such a material object as Earth) And whatever that shape is, if however many people and who they are and when, and how they arrived at the belief they arrived at. don't believe it is the shape it has, they are simply wrong. (Again, that science or anything else might be wrong (or right for that matter) is quite beside the point, as long as if you hold that if there is a belief about the shape of the Earth, and the shape of the Earth does not conform to that belief, then the belief is wrong, and those who have that belief are mistaken. That is the only point at issue.


Question/Answer
hmghaly asked on 09/02/03 - Subjective and Objective

Can we infer some objective truth from subjective experiences/observations?

Jon1667 answered on 09/03/03:

I suppose that feeling a headache is a subjective experience-isn't it? Well, if I have a headache, isn't it "objectively true" that I have a headache? For instance, we could record in a diary that Jon1667 had a headache on such and such a date at such and such a time. And that was inferred from the subjective experience of feeling a headache.
So, here is a case of inferring an objective truth from a subjective experience.

I don't believe, though, that it would be right to say that I _observed_ my headache. Would you?

Many philosophers have thought that whenever I believe (for instance) there is some object in front of me, that I am inferring that objective truth from my subjective experiences of "sensations" such as visual sensations. But this is controversial.

Question/Answer
denberg asked on 09/02/03 - Is Marxism rubbish?

I've already tried out this question in the business/economics section and the consensus seems to be Yes, it is. No one can think of any uses for it in the business world or the world's economies.
Can anyone think of any other uses for it?

Jon1667 answered on 09/02/03:

I think that where Marxism seems to be right, it is too vague to tell whether it is, and where Marxism tries to be precise, it turns out to be wrong. So, it is either to vague or it is wrong.

That it seems to be useless in describing or explaining matters in business or economics seems to be a testament to the criticism of it I made above.

And, of course, its collapse in the early 90's in the main areas where it was tried, and the miserable state of places like North Korea and Cuba now, is further testament to its being mainly rubbish.

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Question/Answer
denberg asked on 09/02/03 - Definition of Aristotelian and non-Aristotelian logic

"The World of Null A" was the title of a very well know science fiction novel, in which "null A" stood for non Aristotelian logic. In this novel, set in the 25th century, the world was run according to non-aristotelian lines. Members of society had mastered their own thought processes and thereby eliminated mental illness, and the world's population had become happier as a result. Has anyone in the philosophy dicussion board read this novel, and does anyone think it can help with this discussion?

Jon1667 answered on 09/02/03:

Some have talked about non-Aristotelian logic, by which they seem to have meant some system in which the classic "Laws of Thought" are rejected. So far as I know, such views are based on misunderstandings of these laws of thought. I have never read the novel you refer to, so I cannot comment specifically on it.

Aristotle himself argued that any argument against these laws of thought would itself have to _use_ these same laws of thought, and so, be self-refuting.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 09/02/03 - World Poverty:

Tuesday September 2, 2003
The Guardian

The world is beginning to look like France, a few years before the Revolution. There are no reliable wealth statistics from that time, but the disparities are unlikely to have been greater than they are today. The wealthiest 5% of the world's people now earn 114 times as much as the poorest 5%. The 500 richest people on earth now own $1.54 trillion - more than the entire gross domestic product of Africa, or the combined annual incomes of the poorest half of humanity.
Now, just as then, the desperation of the poor counterpoises the obscene consumption of the rich. Now, just as then, the sages employed by the global aristocrats - in the universities, the thinktanks, the newspapers and magazines - contrive to prove that we possess the best of all possible systems in the best of all possible worlds. In the fortress of Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay we have our Bastille, in which men are imprisoned without charge or trial.

Like the court at Versailles, the wealth and splendour of the nouveau-ancien regime will be on display, not far from the stinking slums in which hunger reigns, at next week's world trade summit in Cancun in Mexico. Between banquets and champagne receptions, men like the European trade commissioner Pascal Lamy and the US trade representative Robert Zoellick will dismiss with their customary arrogance the needs of the hungry majority. There we will witness the same corruption, of both purpose and execution, the same conflation of the private good with the public good: le monde, c'est nous. As Charles Dickens wrote of the ruling class of that earlier time: "the leprosy of unreality disfigured every human creature in attendance."

The unreality begins in Mexico with the World Trade Organisation's statement of intent. It will, its director general says, ensure that "development issues lie at the heart" of the negotiations. The new talks, in other words, are designed to help the people of the poor nations to escape from poverty. In almost every respect they are destined to do the opposite. Every promise the rich world has made the poor world is being broken. Every demand for the further expropriation of the wealth of the poor is being pursued with ruthless persistence.

Take, for example, the issue of "tariffs", or taxes on trade. A new report by Oxfam, published today, shows that the poorer a nation is, the higher the rates of tax it must pay in order to export its goods. The United States imposes tariffs of between 0-1% on major imports from Britain, France, Japan and Germany, but taxes of 14 or 15% on produce from Bangladesh, Cambodia and Nepal. The British government does the same: Sri Lanka and Uruguay must pay eight times as much to sell their goods over here as the United States.

This happens for two reasons. The first is that the poorer nations can't fight back. The second is that, without taxes, the poor would outcompete the rich. The stiffest tariffs are imposed on goods such as textiles and farm products, in which the weak nations possess a commercial advantage.

The current trade talks were launched with the promise that tariffs would be reduced or eliminated, "in particular on products of export interest to developing countries". The deadline for producing an agreed text for the Cancun meeting was May 31. Because the rich nations have blocked every attempt to agree upon the wording, nothing has been produced. Instead, last week the European Union, the US and Canada submitted a new paper. It proposes that the poorest countries must do the most to cut their trade taxes. Bolivia and Kenya must reduce their tariffs by 80%, the EU by 28% and the US by just 24%. It appears to be a calculated insult, designed to prevent any agreement on this issue from taking place.

Nor has any progress been made on farm subsidies. In 1994, the rich countries agreed that they would phase them out, if the poor countries promised to open their markets to western corporations. The poor nations kept their promise, the rich countries broke theirs. The new round of talks is supposed to lead to the "phasing out [of] all forms of export subsidies", and a negotiating text to this effect was meant to have been produced by March 31. Again, the promise has been broken, and again the poor have been told that only if they grant the rich world's corporations even greater access to their economies, farm subsidies will come to an end.

But the powerful nations, while refusing to address the demands of the poor, press their own claims with brutal diplomacy. They now insist that the "development round" be used to force nations to grant foreign corporations the same rights as domestic ones; to open their public services to the private sector and to invite foreign companies to bid to run them. What this means, as nearly all the big multinational corporations are based in the rich world, is a rich world takeover of the poor world's economy.

Lamy and Zoellick and the governments (such as ours) they represent must know that these demands are impossible for the weaker countries to meet. They must know that the combination of their broken promises and their outrageous terms could force the weaker governments to walk out of the trade talks in Cancun, just as they did in Seattle in 1999. They must know that this will mean the end of the World Trade Organisation. And this now appears to be their aim.

Subverted and corrupted as the WTO is, it remains a multilateral body in which the poor nations can engage in collective bargaining and, in theory, outvote the rich. This never happens, because the rich nations have bypassed its decision-making structures. But the danger remains, so the EU and the US appear to wish to destroy it and to replace world trade agreements with even more coercive single-country deals. The narrow path campaigners have to tread is to expose the injustices of the proposed agreements without assisting the rich world's underlying agenda by demanding that "the WTO has got to go".

But eventually, as in France, there must be a revolution. It is likely to happen only when there is a globalised crisis of survival: a worldwide shortage of grain, for example (like the deficit which followed the bad harvest of 1788) or - and this is currently more likely and more imminent - a shortage of fossil fuel. In previous columns I have suggested some of the means (such as a threatened collective default on the debt) by which this revolution can take place. Until the nouveau-ancien regime has been overthrown, and Lamy and Zoellick and their kind are (metaphorically) swinging from the lampposts, the rich, like the aristocrats of France, will devise ever more inventive means of dispossessing the poor.

Your opinion?

Jon1667 answered on 09/02/03:

De Tocqueville (as contrasted with Marx) argued that revolution occurs only when things start to improve. If de Tocqueville was right and Marx wrong (as he usually was)and your report is accurate, then it would seem that revolution is a long way away. In any case, let us hope it does not occur. The wretched of the earth certainly do not need revolution which is certain to fail disasterously for them to be added to their other miseries. (There are, unfortunately, some who do not much care about those miseries so long as their ideological prejudices are affirmed) Don't you agree?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 08/31/03 - How can we justify our assumptions

?

Jon1667 answered on 08/31/03:

An assumption is a belief or statement which is taken for granted. But it need be taken for granted only for the time being. In an argument, for instance, the premises are assumed in order to determine whether another statement, the conclusion follows from them. But, then, those premises may be, themselves, taken as conclusions of a different argument, and justified by that second argument. But is there any proposition which cannot be argued for even if we temporarily assume that it is true?

But, the fact that we can argue for any of our assumptions need not mean that we can always find good argument for them. We may fail to do so, and, so, fail to justify the assumption we are arguing for. The fact that we have failed to find such an argument is no reason to suppose no such argument exists, nor that it will not be found.

But I do not believe that there are any statements (which is what assumptions are) which are intrinsically unjustifiable.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 08/30/03 - how intelligence began and progressed?

Can insight into how intelligence began help us to better understand how the mind/brain functions, I think so. Anyone have any ideas on how intelligence began and progressed.

Jon1667 answered on 08/30/03:

I imagine it would be best to ask an evolutionary psychologist, or a cognitive psychologist. I can't imagine you will get an authoritative answer here. Why should you?
Is this supposed to be a matter of speculation?

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 08/29/03 - common sense logic?

Just how reliable is common sense logic? For instance, consider the following:

1)if most A's are B's.
2)and if most B's are C's.
3)then most A's are C's.

True or false?

1)if A is near B.
2)and if B is near C.
3)then A must be near C.

True or false?

Jon1667 answered on 08/30/03:

Commonsense logic is only logic applied to commonsense situations.

The first argument is valid. ("most" means "more than half" I assume.

The second argument is trickier, since "near" is not well-defined. But given it means something like "next to" it also is valid.

I suppose you mean by asking "true or false" whether the conclusion of the argument follows from the premises or not. Of course, as you realize, if one or more of the premises is (are) false, then, since the argument is valid, the conclusion may, or may not, be false. (Not, of course, if the premises are false, then the conclusion is false. That is fallacious) In logic, when we ask the question whether If the premises are true, is the conclusion true, and if the answer to that question is, yes (true) then that argument is said to be valid argument. And, if the answer is no (false) that argument is said to be an invalid argument. It makes no sense to say of an argument as a whole that it is either true or false.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 08/28/03 - truth existed before language?

If language is what we use to represent knowledge, as I believe it is, and truth is a property of knowledge, how can it be that truth existed before language?

Jon1667 answered on 08/28/03:

Well, exactly because of what you say. We use language to express our knowledge, and knowledge implies truth (I expect that is what you may mean by "truth is a property of knowledge" although I am not sure) but that does that mean that my expression of knowledge is the same as the knowledge that I express. No more than my expression of pain-ow!- is the same as my pain. Can I have pain independently of my expression of pain? Of course. Can I have knowledge independently of my expression of my knowledge? Of course.
Can there be truth independently of the expression of that truth? Why not? And, of course, there is. That there were dinosaurs in the Jurrasic period, way before there were people, and, so, way before there was language, is clearly true. Or, if you don't think so, take it up with the paleontologists, and the biologists.

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Question/Answer
hmghaly asked on 08/28/03 - Thought experiment and Analogy

Well there has been some debate on the meaning of these two expressions, but I couldn't really grasp the difference. For something like "the Allegory of the Cave" by Plato for example, this would be a thought experiment and in the mean time an analogy?

Comments?
Hussein

Jon1667 answered on 08/28/03:

You happen to give an example of what is both an analogy and a thought experiment. But some thought experiments are not analogies, and some analogies are not thought experiments.

Here is a thought experiment (from Einstein) He imagines two brothers who are twins, one of which travels at or near the velocity of light to a distant galaxy. The other remains on Earth. On account of the slowing down of time as an object approaches the speed of light, Einstein holds that when one of the brothers returns Earth he will be younger than his brother who remained on Earth, although, of course, they were at exactly the same age when he left Earth. (This is called "the twin paradox" But this thought experiment is not an analogy.

Here is an analogy which is not a thought experiment. People nowadays argue that there for the US, Iraq is like Vietnam, so that just as the United States was "bogged down" in Vietnam, and eventually had to leave, so, the United States will be "bogged down" in Iraq, and have to leave.There is no thought experiment going on here.

A thought experiment concerns what would happen in a possible, although not actual world.
But an analogy (or an "argument by analogy," if an argument is being made need not be about possibilities, but about actualities.

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Question/Answer
eringo asked on 08/26/03 - Naive question.

But then I'm a naive person. I do the best I can.

Is there anything wrong or immoral about thinking that happiness is the ultimate good?

Jon1667 answered on 08/26/03:

The philosopher Immanuel Kant questioned whether happiness was the ultimate _moral_ good. The moral question was (he said) whether someone _deserved_ happiness. It isn't good for someone who does not deserve happiness to be happy. In fact, in the case of evil people, their being happy is downright bad. Does anyone think that it would have been a good thing for Saadam Hussein or Hitler to be happy?

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Question/Answer
hmghaly asked on 08/24/03 - Evil as an absence of Good??

Can we think of evil as the absence of good, like darkness being the absence of light, and ugliness as the absence of beauty?

Jon1667 answered on 08/24/03:

Well, I suppose we can think of it as we like, especially if it makes us feel better. But why should it make any difference if cancer of the bone is "positive evil" or is just absence of the good. It is just as painful, is it not? And, I suppose, death is the absence of life, and illness is the absence of health, or, come to think of it, why not life as the absence of death, and why not health the absence of illness. And, come to think of it, again, why isn't good the absence of evil, light the absence of darkness, and beauty the absence of ugliness? And, of course, the half-fullness of the glass is the absence of the half emptyness of the glass, and, conversely, the half emptyness of the glass the absence of the half-fullness. And so on. Think of things as you like, they are, nevertheless what they are.

I am afraid that this distinction you are making may really be- just "semantics."

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Question/Answer
chekhovToo asked on 08/24/03 - Aristotelian Logic

I wonder if anyone could please give me a sense of what Aristotelian logic is and how it is applied?

Jon1667 answered on 08/24/03:

It is an elementary form of the logic of classes (or categories)
Aristotle (in a burst of genius) saw that the validity of an argument was a matter of form and not of content.
He devised (in another burst of genius) 4 standard subject-predicate forms of statements, and held that all arguments could be understood in terms of these four standard forms. The forms were:(where S is the subject class, and P is the predicate class)
1. The A proposition All S is P
2. The E proposition No S is P
3. The I proposition Some S is P
4. The O proposition Some S is not P

Arguments are, therefore, about class containment, and class exclusion.

An example of such an argument would be:

All Dog are Mammals
All Poodles are Dog
Therefore, All Poodles are Mammals

Which is to say: Since the class of Dogs is entirely contained within the class of Mammals, and, since the class of Poodles is entirely contained within the class of Dogs, therefore (it follows that) the class of Poodles is entirely contained within the class of Dogs.

And that, of course, is right. So the argument is valid, since the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises.

The _form_ of the argument, using the four standard form propositions listed above, is that of:

All X is Y (statement of form 1)
All Z IS X (statement of form 1)
___________
Therefore All Z is Y (statement of form 1)

It is easy to see that an indefinite number of different arguments can be created in terms of this one argument form, and each one of these arguments will be valid since the argument form, above, is a valid argument form.

There is a lot more to this, of course. Any elementary logic book will go into more detail. And there are a great many web sites too. But this is the essential idea: Logic is a formal science, and we can determine the validity (or the invalidity) of any argument in terms of its form alone.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 08/24/03 - Evolution and Purpose

If purposeful activity is the product of evolution then evolution (and natural selection) lack purpose. What are your views?

Jon1667 answered on 08/24/03:

My view is that there is no reason to believe your conditional is true. It is like saying that if someone produces doorstops, then he doesn't have a doorstop himself.

But apart from, and independently of the above, neither evolution nor, say, a knife, have purpose in themselves. If a knife has a purpose, then it is because some intelligent being, a person, makes it for that purpose, or uses it for that purpose. So to talk about the purpose of a non-intelligent thing is "derivative" on what an intelligent being does or intends to do with that thing, and/or, what that thing is made to do. So if evolution has a purpose, it would have to be because some one is using it for that purpose, or someone created it for that purpose. And that, of course, would remain to be shown.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 08/23/03 - What is the origin of purpose?

Jon1667 answered on 08/23/03:

You mean how did purpose evolve? I would suppose it evolved like as part of intelligence and all the more complex functions of mammals, and then, people, through natural selection. How else?

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 08/23/03 - a economic conservative and a social liberal?

Did anyone else see the hannity & colmes comedy show last night, I never miss it, always great laughs.
Anyway to the point. There was a discussion about Arnold and his political position. Hannity, I believe said of him, he seems to take a conservative position on spending and taxes, but a liberal position on social issues. That is, he is a economic conservative and a social liberal. A guest on the show, another Republican candidate, or was it Democrat, countered, that cant be true, because as a economic conservative he could not get the money for the social programs with-out, spending and raising taxes.

Is that reasonable?

Jon1667 answered on 08/23/03:

I think this is a matter of degree. You can be a conservative on social programs without giving away the store as did Davis.

To be more relevant to this board: this criticism is an example of the fallacy of false dichotomy ("the black or white fallacy") That fallacy occurs when a position or view is put as "either-or" either one thing or its complete opposite, when (1) the truth may be that it is neither the one or the other, or (2) the truth may be that it is something in between, or even a third thing.

The choice is not between complete financial conservatism with no compromise, or else, the Davis approach of no check on give away programs. There are a number of rational "in betweens" how rational, of course, depending on how much you lean toward conservativism or liberalism.

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Question/Answer
hmghaly asked on 08/22/03 - Occam's Razor vs. insight



"Entities should not multiply unnecessarily" This is Occam's razor which is considered one of the most significant cornerstones for scientific thinking. Therefore, possibilties thinking is not much welcomed, as the simplest possibility is only recognized for explaining anything. This goes very well for science (I suppose), but can this principle be applied in other fields, like literature for example? I suppose not! From what I have learned through the literature course I've taken, a good literary text is the one that can be read on more than one level, if you stick to the events only this would be the simplest level: "Othello was listening to Iago's description of what Desdemony did with Cassio, and therefore he killed her", but then you will be missing a big part of the message of the literary piece. This, I suppose is the problem with many people who stick to the literal understanding of religious texts, without giving enough insight into the meaning of these texts, which is usually called "Dogma".

Comments?

Hussein

Jon1667 answered on 08/22/03:

Occam's Razor is about explanation, not about stories, and it says that when we explain a phenomenon, we should, everything else being equal, choose the simplest. Occam's razor has nothing whatever to do with the interpretation of literature. Perhaps the simplest explanation of Othello's behavior was that he was something of an idiot. (In fact, that is the interpretation that has always appealed to me). But that is, perhaps not the most satisfactory interpretation since it fails to take into account his great reputation as a warrior.
I do not know what the literal understanding of religious texts has to do with it. But I would not be dismayed, were I you. I see very little of that kind of interpretation.

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Question/Answer
rosends asked on 08/22/03 - Familial nomenclature

Note -- this question is not meant facetiously or to cause anyone pain -- it is a real question I have.

If someone (god forbid) loses a child and then has another, can you say to the second child "You had a sibling"? That child never was alive when the sibling was so were they brothers?
thanks

Jon1667 answered on 08/22/03:

Why not tell the child exactly the truth?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 08/18/03 - What is

responsibility?

Jon1667 answered on 08/18/03:

Someone of something is responsible for an occurrence if and only if it is the cause of that occurrence. For instance, as in, "Hurricane was responsible for the destruction of the roof on the house."
If you are talking of _moral_ responsibility, which I suppose you are, someone is morally responsible for an occurrence if and only if he caused the occurrence and he could have done otherwise if he had chosen, and he could have chosen otherwise. Thus we do not believe infants, the feeble-minded, the insane, or animals are morally responsible even from events they caused, because they could not have done otherwise if they had chosen, and they could not have chosen otherwise.

Of course, the willingness to take responsibility is irrelevant. Many people (alas!) are morally responsible for their actions and are not only unwilling to take responsibility for them, but refuse to do so.

People may try to mitigate their responsibility for what they do by offering excuses. These may or may not be acceptably mitigating depending on what they are, and the circumstances. But excuses never fully take you "off the hook"

Accountability is different from responsibility, of course. As we have seen a child may be responsible for breaking a valuable vase, but because of his age we do not hold him accountable for it. A person may acknowledge responsibility for an action, and yet refuse to be held accountable for it. (i.e. blamed)

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 08/15/03 - "Militant Islam is the problem,

According to Islamic scholar Daniel Pipes, "Militant Islam is the problem, and moderate Islam is the solution.",--- shouldnt moderate Islam be leading the charge against Islamic Terrorism in the world today?

Jon1667 answered on 08/16/03:

As Hussein has just explained, what you like to call moderate Islam is moderate only in that they do not actually participate in the terror. They, however, sympatize with it. So it is unlikely that they will be leading any charges.

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Question/Answer
ttalady asked on 08/15/03 - Terrorism or Coincidence?

With this whole "black out" deal on the East Coast, what are your theories or thoughts on this?

My theory, as many that I have spoken with, is that this is a possible act of terrorism. My theory behind this has to do with the knowledge that was given in the months after 9/11. The largest source of information/misinformation being the news. All the talks on nuclear power plants, shutting off our electricity,water supplies, ect ect. Quite the way to relay to the enemy some weak spots huh?? In the past two weeks having taken into custody two men in Seattle going to NYC buying one way tickets with cash and they are on the "No-fly" list. Nabbing the British citizen for trying to sell land to air missles, and now the biggest of getting the man in charge of the Bahli bombings.

My hard core thought, however not with any understanding of power plants and electricty, is that how is it possible for them to not have known off the bat where this started, an idea of what happened, and the fact that it affected the hardest NYC once again? With our technology I ask, how is this possible? Could it be a coincidence or could it be that much is not being said, for good reasons of course! My theory for the reasoning behind not telling the public is the economy. If this was labled a terrorist attack think of the stock market, all the money in the banks, water, food, gas, ect ect. It would be a terrible fear for many. Our economy would go under.

So that is my theory, thoughts, and over all perception so far. It just seems odd that they said so.... very quickly it was not an act of terrorism, the blame game started, and now they have not ruled out the possibilty of cyber (something or other), in all terrorism.

So what are you thinking, guessing, whatever? Just an act of an old electrical system and a coincidence or terrorism. It would be nice to have some support on what you think! Hey I was even going so far as maybe a test run for Homeland Security, but I think that might be quite rash!

Jon1667 answered on 08/15/03:

Possible, but since there is no evidence that it was terrorism, and those who know think it was not terrorism, the probability is negligible. It is always important to distinguish between the probable and the merely possible. That the blackout was due to terrorism is mere speculation which, at the moment, it would be very unreasonable to believe is true. The reasons you do give for thinking it terrorism seem to be extremely weak. They certainly do not point to terrorism. What they do point to is the inadequacy of our electrical grid system, and our apparent inability to improve it enough to prevent such an event. Where the blame lies for this is another issue. Part of the blame seems to lie with those who, on account of enviromentalist concerns, resist expansion of our power supplies. But there are other's at fault too.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 08/15/03 - Beauty

What is beauty? Does it have any significance? If so, what?

Jon1667 answered on 08/15/03:

Beauty seems to be a dispositional interactive property of things and people. It is the way people tend to repond to certain qualities of an object; qualities like form or color or sound. There is, of course, a great variation of response very much depending on the person's previous experiences and culture. But there are probably generalizations that can be made about the the typical responses that people would tend to make. And, of course, these responses can be developed with time and experience. It took a long time for me to like ballet, and, of course I had to understand something about ballet first. The appreciation of beauty, it seems to me, is a learned response.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 08/13/03 - Why does everyone seem so terrified of gays?

Why does everyone seem so terrified of gays? From the outrage over the repeal of sodomy laws to the furor over the possibility gay marriage to walkouts and a potential international rift in the Anglican church over the confirmation of a gay bishop.

I think it is great what they are doing for the population control effort. Go Gays!!!

Jon1667 answered on 08/13/03:

"Terrified?"

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Question/Answer
hmghaly asked on 08/13/03 - Limit to knowledge

I think there is one basic limit to knowledge (of the Universe, God, and ourselves), that is in any type of thinking, our perception forces us to think in terms of "figure-ground" or Gestalt as it is called in psychology. We reduce everything to simple "objects" that we focus on and ignore the rest, in order to make some sense of what is going on.
I'm claiming that our perception intrnisically acts as a barrier to total knowledge.

Hussein

Jon1667 answered on 08/13/03:

My goodness, Hussein. Still another imitation to the possibility of "total knowledge" whatever that may be. It is a wonder that we can know anything at all. I don't think that important philosopher (well, just maybe Plato) has ever thought that we could achieve "total knowledge" and that human knowledge had its limits. For instance, the theme of John Locke's "Essay Concerning Human Understanding" is to examine and try to set the limits of human knowledge. And David Hume's "Inquiry into Human Understanding" is a forceful attempt to show that Plato's dream of super-knowledge that can surpass that of science is just that, a dream.

In fact, it is the theologians of most religions who, it seems to me, think of the possibility, and even the actuality or "total knowledge." (Though religion, of course!)

It seems to me that the Gestalt psychologists with their famous figure-ground distinction, were trying to show how all knowledge is "interpretive" in the sense that all knowledge claims take place against a background of other beliefs and assumptions. So there cannot be the kind of assumptionless "neat" knowledge advocated by Descartes. As you know, Descartes advocated that we wipe away all our former beliefs and assumptions by the "method of doubt" and begin with a clean slate. The Gestalt psychologists hold this is impossible, and they seem to be right. What we believe at the moment must always take place against the background of many other beliefs that we hold.

But this does not seem to me to be a limitation on knowledge so much as to be describing how we acquire the knowledge we have.

But, nevertheless, there is no question but that just as there are physical limitations on what our bodies can do, there are limitations on what persons can know. So I agree with you, the Koran, Locke, Hume, and many other past and recent philosophers and psychologists of knowledge.

But, that said, isn't it wonderful how much we do, in fact know, and how much science, a human invention, after all, and a comparitively recent one at that, can tell us about the world?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 08/12/03 - A spark in the dark!

I recently used this expression to describe human knowledge with regard to the nature of reality. The replies to keenu's question about consciousness illustrates the disagreement and confusion that exist. Isn't it presumptuous to believe our finite minds are capable of understanding ultimate facts?

Jon1667 answered on 08/12/03:

What would it be to understand an "ultimate fact?" I don't know what you might mean by an "ultimate fact," but suppose you mean a fact that explains other facts, but which cannot itself be explained; an inexplicable explainer, as it were. In that case, then, it would "definitionally" be impossible to explain an "ultimate fact." But, if you mean something else by an "ultimate fact" than an unexplainable explainer, then what might it be? So, if you mean by "ultimate fact" an unexplainable explainer, a bit of clarification shows that it would be impossible to explain an "ultimate fact." I expect that if you mean something else by "ultimate fact," and I don't know what that might be, a bit of clarity would also do the job.

"Philosophers raise the dust, and then complain they cannot see." George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne.

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Question/Answer
keenu asked on 08/11/03 - My question

Ok, then I would like to ask this:
If consciousness didn't exist would there be a physical reality? Would there be a universe?
Would there be a "god"?
What do you think?

Jon1667 answered on 08/12/03:

The question is, why would you (or anyone else) believe there would not be a world unless someone was conscious of it?

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Question/Answer
ethical_reason asked on 08/11/03 - And God said, let there be... (not a duplicate)

So, for this argument, let's say God exists. It can be any God you want and any type of God you want...


What was the first "thing."

In this case a thing can be defined as concepts of actualities. So, brown paper bags, trees, happiness, cold are all in the same boat of types of things to choose from.

I think it would be "decision." But, I'm interested in what everyone else might say.

Jon1667 answered on 08/11/03:

Help! Now, Tonyrey. See what you started?

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Question/Answer
Choux asked on 08/10/03 - Do We Believe in Religion

for other people?

Religion is a means of marketing hope, and of instilling ethical precepts on the cheap. It is also a form of dicipline.

The followers of Leo Strauss, a man who had a profound influence on the Republican Right wing---makes this cynical point explicit in their otherwise arcane tests. THERE SHOULD BE PHILOSOPHY AND KNOWLEDGE FOR THE ELECT, RELIGION AND SENTIMENTALITY FOR THE MASSES. Oddly enough, these forces are ranged in alliance with Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed on the Fundamentalist Christian Right.

Paraphrased from "Missionary Position" by Christopher Hitchens.

So, is it let them be ignorant as Right Wing policy?

Comments....

Jon1667 answered on 08/11/03:

I think I read (or skimmed through would be more accurate) an article talking about the enormous influence of Strauss on the Bushies. To the extent that is true, my respect for the Bushies decends rapidly since Strauss was hardly a thinker, but rather a polemicist. But, I bet that Pearle and the rest of the Bushies have about the passing acquaintance with Strauss that I have. (In fact I have the idea that all acquaintance with Strauss is a passing acquaintance.)
The fact (if it is one) that Strauss believed that drivel is no (good) reason to think that the Bushies believe it.

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Question/Answer
Choux asked on 08/10/03 - Naturally, there are puzzles.

I would like to know whether or not the universe if finite or infinite. I would like even better to be assured that the two words are meaningless. But excepting the sort of puzzle which makes our passage here interesting and gives incentive to our questioning games, I see no mystery at the heart of things and take comfort from Wittgenstein's profoundly unpopular dictum, 'Philosophy simply puts everhthing before us and neither explains nor deduces anything. Since everything lies open to view there is nothing to explain. For what is hidden, for example, is on no interest to us.'

Gore Vidal, "Two Sisters"

Comments.....

Jon1667 answered on 08/11/03:

Even if Wittgenstein in right, not all questions are philosophical questions; for instance, scientific questions. And science does seek the hidden behind the appearances of things, even if philosophy does not. And, in fact, one of the messages in, what you call Wittgenstein's "unpopular dictum" is the difference between philosophy and science. There is a book by one of Wittgenstein's students, Norman Malcolm, which is called, "Nothing is Hidden."

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Question/Answer
HANK1 asked on 08/10/03 - IS THIS REALITY?


Materialism, in my opinion, means a devotion to $$$ and worldly things, to the EXCLUSION of spiritual and intellectual values! Are most American corporations guilty of this devotion?

HANK

Jon1667 answered on 08/10/03:

That is certainly one sense of "materialism" as in Madonna "the material girl."
But by "materialism" philosophers have meant a metaphysical theory usually contrasted with Idealism (which, of course, has a meaning in contrast to the "Madonna" meaning.)
But, as Dark Crow will proudly confirm, words are ambiguous and may have a number of different meanings.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 08/10/03 - Clarification...

According to the Philosophical Dictionary materialism is the belief that only physical things truly exist - although as some materialists do not exclude the existence of "mental entities" a better definition is the belief that everything is either material or has a material origin.


Jon1667 answered on 08/10/03:

As I understand the concept, "physical things" are medium-sized items like chairs and tables, or small iterms like atoms and electrons, or very large items like planets and galaxies. And they have the common characteristic of being capable of being studied by physics (and allied sciences) Now, whether "mental entities" like thoughts or sensations are physical entities, (capable of being studied by physics) is an issue that still needs resolution, but it looks pretty probable that is so.

Materialism is a metaphysical theory. As such, it is vague. Probably "nebulous" is a better term. It really doesn't help (at least me) to define "materialism" as the thesis that everything is material or has a material origin, unless you are able to clear up the concept of "material." Does materialism, imply there are no thoughts, for instance? But, as you know, materialists like Gassendi or Hobbes have not denied the existence of thoughts. Rather, they have denied that thoughts are "spiritual" (but have not denied that thoughts are mental) So, I am at sea about materialism unless someone can at least tell me what materialism denies so I can determine whether those entities materialism denies exist or not.

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Question/Answer
hmghaly asked on 08/08/03 - Materialim assumptions

Is the assumption that everything that exists can be observed and/or measured justifiable?

Jon1667 answered on 08/08/03:

"Observed" and "measured" takes in a lot of territory. So, I don't know whether you would say that, for instance, the number 3 can be observed or measured. Or that pi, or negative numbers, or the square root of minus 1, can be observed or measured.

Philosophers have (and still do) speak of "abstract objects." Numbers are one kind of abstract object. But so is happiness, or forgiveness.

All this would depend on your "ontology." Namely, the sorts of entities you "recognize."

And a philosopher might also hold that abstract objects are somehow "reducible" to observables. Of course, such a philosopher would bear the burden of showing how this could be accomplished.

There is another problem. Some scientific entities like neutrinos, or mesons, are surely not "observable" in any ordinary way. They are detectable only by their effects, and furnish the best explanation of what we do observe (maybe on graphs). These scientific entities are often called "unobservables." So, there is that.

And, of course, I do not need to mention to you that people think that God exists do not think that God is observable or measurable, or reducible to what is observable or measurable. And maybe that is what you are getting at with your question in the first place.

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Question/Answer
CeeBee asked on 08/07/03 - Life after this one --

I posted this on the Christianity board, and several experts told me that the Philosophy board would give me REALLY GOOD answers!!:

We all know the Bible verses that support this. I don't want to read those in answer to my question. (I can find them in my Bible as fast as you can in yours lol.) What I REALLY want here is non-religious or even logical reasons to support the idea that there is an afterlife. (These would be lead-ins to testifying to a person who is an atheist or agnostic or at least someone who is sort of interested.)0

Jon1667 answered on 08/07/03:

As you grow older you become more and more "sort of interested."

Unfortunately, that's where it stays: "sort of." There is no credible evidence for life after death, and since there is no credible evidence for the the Bible, there is no credible evidence that what the Bible says is true.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 08/07/03 - The article in question

Masters of deceit

Convicted felons responsible for thousands of deaths are calling the shots at the White House

Isabel Hilton
Thursday August 7, 2003
The Guardian

The announcement that Admiral John Poindexter's latest brainwave - to encourage betting on the likelihood of a terrorist attack - had been terminated was characteristically bland. It began: "The Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced today that DARPA's participation in the Futures Markets Applied to Prediction (FutureMAP) program has been withdrawn"
The language does not betray the repugnant nature of the project, but then Poindexter is expert at disguising repugnant projects in bland language. He came to prominence in the Reagan administration, where the word "freedom" was used to justify renewed support for Latin American military dictatorships guilty of some of the most egregious human rights abuses on the planet. President Jimmy Carter had frozen them out, but Ronald Reagan's election meant a renewed round of invitations to Pentagon cocktail parties for Latin American torturers.
The tiny, impoverished countries of central America were, to the Reagan White House, the most pressing threat to the United States, through their impertinent insistence on trying to change their internal political arrangements, first through the ballot box and later through resort to arms. But in those days, even a president was not free to do exactly what he wanted. The US constitution gave the right to declare war to Congress, and Congress was cramping the Reagan administration's style in central America.
In El Salvador, there was a leftwing insurgency that needed to be repressed, but there were congressional restrictions on the numbers of US military personnel the president could send. Old friendships, though, are worth a lot. The Argentine generals were happy to lend some spare killers to help out in El Salvador. (Washington was so grateful that the generals thought it would not object to their invading the Falkland Islands - but that's another story.)
In Honduras a local band of killers was doing a good job under the protection of John Negroponte, then US ambassador in Tegucigalpa, now US ambassador to the United Nations. In Nicaragua, the Sandinistas had overthrown the US-backed Somosa dictatorship and had gone on to consolidate their power by winning an election. The problem was that Congress had voted the Boland amendment, which banned the administration from funding their favourite Nicaraguan terrorists, the Contras, who had been engaged to overthrow the Nicaraguan government.
Poindexter, by then national security adviser, proved his worth with a breathtakingly simple scheme. The administration would sell arms to Iran and divert the proceeds to the Contras. Since both ends of the operation were highly illegal - Iran was also under a US arms embargo - it had to be secret.
It worked for a while. The euphemistically named Office of Public Diplomacy planted articles in the US press depicting the Contras as democrats and freedom fighters and put the frighteners on any one who tried to report otherwise. But still journalists reported on the affair. By late 1986, it had begun to leak.
In September 1996, President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica - a small central American country noted for its decision to abolish its army - found that the US was using his country as a supply base for the secret Contra operations. When he decided to call a press conference, Oliver North, a marine working for Poindexter, swung into action. As he reported to Poindexter in an email they later tried to destroy, North called President Arias to "tell him that if the press conference were held, Arias [one line deleted] wd never see a nickel of the $80m that McPhearson had promised him earlier on Friday". Oliver Tambs, another conspirator, "then called Arias and confirmed what I had said and suggested that Arias talk to Elliott (Abrams) for further confirmation. Arias then got the same word from Elliott. [one line deleted ] At 0300 Arias called back to advise that there wd be no press conference and no team of reporters sent to the airfield."
But just a month later the Nicaraguans shot down a CIA supply plane. A month after that, a Lebanese newspaper reported Reagan's arms deals with Iran. A frenzy of shredding and the destruction of emails broke out, and it took a congressional investigation - during which Poindexter, Elliott Abrams, Caspar Weinberger, Colin Powell (now secretary of state) and Richard Armitage (now deputy secretary of state) lied - and a specially appointed independent counsel to get the full story. By then, though, as the independent counsel reported, the administration's web of deceit had achieved its objectives - to protect Reagan, vice-president George Bush and the rest from the consequences of their conspiracy. As the independent counsel put it, Poindexter and North were made "the scapegoats whose sacrifice would protect the Reagan administration in its final two years".
Poindexter, North and two others were indicted on 23 counts of conspiracy to defraud the US and Poindexter was convicted on five felony counts of conspiracy, false statements, destruction and removal of records and obstruction of Congress. His conviction was reversed on the technicality that he had given immunised testimony to Congress.
Elliott Abrams later pleaded guilty to withholding information from Congress. George Bush senior pardoned him; and Bush junior appointed him director of the National Security Council's office for democracy, human rights and international operations and then to his current job as director of Middle East affairs in the White House. The wars these men promoted had left 75,000 dead in El Salvador and 30,000-40,000 dead in Nicaragua, not to mention many thousands dead in Guatemala and Honduras.
Poindexter, having fallen on his sword to save Reagan and Bush, moved into the private sector to pursue his passion for electronic surveillance. In the 1980s, Poindexter had pioneered electronic sur veillance in the US through a 1984 initiative known as National Security Decision Directive 145. This gave intelligence agencies the right to trawl computer databases for "sensitive but unclassified information", a power Poindexter later expanded to give the military responsibility for all computer security for both the federal government and private industry.
It would be wrong to argue that convicted felons should not get a second chance. But this usually requires payment of a debt to society and even remorse, something Poindexter has never shown. Under this President Bush, Poindexter expanded the surveillance of US citizens to unprecedented levels, designing programmes that would not only track trillions of emails, text messages and phone calls but even send agents into public libraries to compile information on what Americans were reading.
Back in Argentina, though, where the festering sore of crimes that were never cleansed through judicial procedures has haunted politics for decades, the new president, in a bold and surprising move, has removed legal obstacles to the extradition of more than 40 military officers wanted for torture, kidnapping and murder of various foreign citizens in the Dirty War. Lies and deceit, as they have learned in Buenos Aires, are enemies of freedom and democracy and generate more lies and deceit. President Nestor Kirchner's actions may yet put an end to a culture of past impunity that has poisoned the politics of the present. In Washington, under this administration, the crimes of the past have been the passport to power; the methods, far from being discarded, have merely been refined.
isabel.hilton@guardian.co.uk

Jon1667 answered on 08/07/03:

I guess that America is simply the worst thing that has happened to the world not even excepting the Flood. Well, I hope the world will survive it.
In the meantime, don't tread on us.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 08/07/03 - Extremely alarming allegations

What is your reaction to the following article?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,1013789,00.html

Jon1667 answered on 08/07/03:

Just another instance of The Guardian's constant search for something anti-American to pick on. And, part of the anti-American cabal of the British chattering classes. You can read another facet of the same phenomenon in the following:

The BBC Is Blind to Its Own Biases

In the Fray
By MICHAEL GONZALEZ

The BBC has been described as Orwellian, because of its unequaled role in shaping perceptions in Britain. This is one reason the government of Tony Blair has taken the broadcaster to task over its biased coverage of the Iraq war and its aftermath. But George Orwell also warned us about the dangers the BBC presents in other important ways.

Orwell recognized that Britain's chattering classes have a suicidal habit of flirting with appeasement. Other great British thinkers have also seen this -- not least those who, despite having a healthy mistrust of nationalism, realized that an elite estranged from feelings of patriotism represented a threat.

That the BBC has become the home to this elite today is a tough judgment to pass, and the BBC does many great things. Its non-news documentaries are excellent and its comedies -- from "Fawlty Towers" through "Blackadder" to, most recently, "The Office" -- are brilliant in a way that few American sitcoms dare to be.

Still, it is important not to close one's eyes to what else the BBC has become, particularly since the corporation and its journalists are themselves blind to it. The BBC refuses to admit that its coverage of the lead-up to war, of the conflict and its aftermath, has been tendentious; that it has relentlessly pushed the agenda that the war was wrong. The last straw was its claim that, against the wishes of the intelligence agencies, the government had inserted into a dossier on Iraq the assertion that Saddam Hussein had the ability to deploy weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes.

The BBC's Andrew Gilligan quoted a source -- who turned out to be the scientist David Kelly -- as criticizing the government. Kelly later refuted how his comments had been portrayed by Mr. Gilligan to a parliamentary committee. Then Kelly committed suicide. Now the BBC has to either admit that it misquoted a mourned scientist or call him a liar.

That's the scandal in a nutshell. What led to it is the BBC's all-out campaign to validate its world view. Because the mass graves and accounts of torture by Saddam's regime are too real, the BBC has grabbed onto the fact that WMDs have not yet been found to justify its animosity toward the liberation of Iraq. And this animus sprang from the consensus that the West is always wrong.

As Conrad Black, owner of the Telegraph newspapers, wrote in a letter in the July 26 Daily Telegraph: "The BBC is pathologically hostile to the government and official opposition, most British institutions, American policy in almost every field, Israel, moderation in Ireland, all Western religions, and most manifestations of the free market economy."

Lord Black added: "Though its best programming in non-political areas is distinguished, sadly it has become the greatest menace facing the country it was founded to serve and inform."

This is not hyperbole. The BBC can be a formidable foe. It has, in its own words, "the most widely watched national news bulletins in the UK." Thus when the BBC decides to manufacture a story, or ignore another, it forms reality for millions in Britain and world-wide. It gave a demonstration of its muscle July 25, when it ran (and ran) with a scoop that Mr. Blair's director of communications, Alastair Campbell, was about to quit because of the Kelly scandal. That dominated headlines for days.

Mr. Campbell is a powerful man, and his imminent departure would be news. But his resignation (still to be confirmed) also validated the BBC's position. Also news, however, was the fact that the same day as the Campbell scoop the BBC had changed its mind and requested that Parliament not reveal testimony Mr. Gilligan had given on the scandal. In telling contrast, the evening's bulletin did not report these facts.

Quite how the BBC's news department got to this juncture is difficult to parse. Journalists are overwhelmingly left of center to begin with. But there's more to it than that. BBC journalists are part of the self-appointed elite. In London, home of the global avant-garde, they imbibe the latest anti-Western ideologies and platitudes at the dinner parties where they sup.

No man was better than Orwell at diagnosing the ills that have led to the state of affairs that Lord Black so eloquently describes. In "Notes," Orwell wrote: "In societies such as ours, it is unusual for anyone describable as an intellectual to feel a very deep attachment to his own country. Public opinion -- that is, the section of public opinion of which he as an intellectual is aware -- will not allow him to do so. Most of the people surrounding him are skeptical and disaffected, and he may adopt the same attitude from imitativeness or sheer cowardice."

Through its declarations the BBC reveals itself to be unaware that some people think of it in this manner, let alone that it might be true. It is a testament to Britain's genius that time and again heroes have emerged from unlikely places to slay the nihilism of the intelligentsia. Whether there are any out there to battle with it today remains to be seen.

Mr. Gonzalez is deputy editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe.

Updated August 6, 2003 12:18 a.m.



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Question/Answer
Choux asked on 08/06/03 - I'm So Disgusted Today

...this is the last straw! Is there any help for American men? Can they find meaning to their lives outside sex and alcohol??? Can the duds at least be removed from media coverage. And, how can we tell them that they are total AH's??

There is a golf out-ing near Chicago where strippers are positioned around the course. And, they can putt through their cleavage on some greens.

I'm so disgusted I don't even want to go on!! A world full of terrorists, jaded fat guys, stupid religions, dictators, AK 47's AND I understand that the English are becoming more and more like us!!

I'm so disgusted...

Jon1667 answered on 08/06/03:

Are you sure this is not just an urban legend? I think it is. Check your sources.

The English should only be that lucky.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 08/06/03 - Facts...

What is a fact? Is it a fact that there are facts?!
Or am I just playing with words?

Jon1667 answered on 08/06/03:

Three senses of "fact."
1. The epistemic: A fact is a what we _know_ to be true/
2. The metaphysical: A fact is simply a truth.
3. What it is that makes a true statement, true, or explains why a true statement is a true statement and not a false statement.

So, we (1)know it is true that there are truths, and (2)it is a truth that there are truths; and (3) what makes it true (what explains why the statement there are facts is true) is that there are facts.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 08/05/03 - funding the war in Israel too?

According to Ray Hanania we gave Israel as much as $14 billion in aid this year. Israels proposed fence (nothing like a fence at all, and made mostly of brick and mortar.) will be 200 miles long and 25 feet high. The first phase of the wall's construction (96 miles) occupies 8,750 acres. It annexes 45,000 acres of Palestinian land, or 3 percent of the West Bank, and will be built on Palestinian lands according to Hanan Ashrawi's organization, Miftah. Compare this the Berlin Wall which was built in 1961 to separate communist-controlled East Berlin from Western-dominated West Berlin. It was 96 miles long, 12 feet high, and built on the dividing line.

Palestinians believe the violence is provoked by Israeli actions. When you take someone's home, lands and possessions, they have a right to fight to return them. I wonder, if Reagan were president, would he be cryingtear down this wall. I also wonder------why are the taxpayers of this country funding the war there?

Jon1667 answered on 08/05/03:

Oh please, D.C. You don't believe a word of this, and you are just trying to be provocative-again. How could you mean such nonsense?

You know, for instance, that the Berlin Wall was not built to keep terrorists (or anyboy else) out, but to keep the East Germans from fleeing to freedom. So, there is no intelligent comparison between the Berlin Wall, and the protective fence the Israelis are building.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 08/04/03 - Intelligibility...

It seems generally agreed that the purpose of explanation is to increase our understanding, i.e. to make something more intelligible. But our understanding is like a spark in the dark. We cannot understand extremely complex subjects nor extremely simple ones. (The most difficult questions in philosophy are often deceptively simple, e.g. "What is a fact?"). So where do you think our understanding begins?

Jon1667 answered on 08/04/03:

Tony,
I would have thought that your answer to your own question would be:

Principium sapientiae timor Domini.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 08/04/03 - common sense answers to common sense questions?

I started a new thread because common sense tells me the designer of this site did not want visitors to have to wade through pages upon pages of argument to get answers.

Now for common sense, in my opinion, and some examples.

Lets suppose someone ask, What constitutes good or bad argument?, and was given the answer, In general, a good argument is one in which the premises establish the conclusion. A bad argument is one in which the premises fail to establish a the conclusion.. (pardon the typo, it was a cut and paste)

Now this is, in my opinion, a perfect common sense question---calling for a common sense answer; (which was given), common sense because although the author of the answer most likely knows the word *good* has multiple meanings,--- the author also knows that the questioner, most likely, will interpret their intended use of the word good.


Now for another example: Lets suppose someone says, Well that depends on what good and bad means. If good means accurate then-- In general, a good argument is one in which the premises establish the conclusion., is a good answer, but good can mean most anything.

Now my argument is that to say, but good can mean most anything., is also a good common sense statement, in context it is a good common sense statement for the same reason the answer, In general, a good argument is one in which the premises establish the conclusion., was good common sense. The author of the statement, but good can mean most anything., would rightfully expect someone with the common sense --- of the author of the answer In general, a good argument is one in which the premises establish the conclusion., to know that the words most anything was anything with-in the accepted multiple meanings of good.

But then this raises another question---is it the job of philosophers to give common sense answers to common sense questions?

Jon1667 answered on 08/04/03:

"Good" according to the dictionary, is the most general adjective of commendation. I am not clear what else "good" can mean.

Of course, if you mean that depending on what we say is good, we can have different criteria, so that the criteria for being a good computer, are different from the criteria for being a good pizza, are different from being a good date, I agree with you, since computers, dates, a pizza are all different, and what makes a date good is not what makes a pizza good, although, of course, if you are on a pizza date, it helps to have a good pizza to have a good date.

But, you would have to show me in detail how the _good_ is not, as the dictionary says, "the most general adjective of commendation" and how, the criteria for a good (commendable) argument is not that the argument supports the conclusion.

What else is an argument supposed to do? Why else do people advance arguments? Now, I would admit that in a debate someone might commend an argument for being persuasive whether or not the premises support the conclusion. And maybe this is the sort of thing you have in mind. But, then we would just have to distinguish between a good argument, and a good debating argument, or something of that sort.

It helps, I think, to distinguish between the _meaning_ of the term "good" (the most general adjective of commendation) and the _criteria_ we use to commend a particular kind of thing as "a good instance of its kind." (Commendable of its kind) Since the criteria are the reasons we commend the particular thing, whatever it is, as being a good instance of its kind.

I don't exactly know what you mean by calling this a "commonsense answer." It seems to me the answer. I guess a person might say that by "good" he means something that pleases him. But I would understand him to say that he commends only those things that please him. Such a person would still be using "good" to commend. And that is its meaning.

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Question/Answer
HANK1 asked on 08/03/03 - REQUEST!


I would like Choux and Andiri to answer my AGGRESSOR question! Please read my post slowly before doing so ... if you do!

HANK

Jon1667 answered on 08/03/03:

It might be a good idea for Hank and the others to read something of the history of those times.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 08/02/03 - Explanation...

What is explanation?

Jon1667 answered on 08/02/03:

Choux' dictionary answer seems to me a good starting place to me.

"...the act of clearing from obscurity and making intelligible."

But, in addition, the nature of the explanation will obviously depend on what is being explained.

For instance, it is one thing to explain the meaning of the word, "sanctimonious," and quite another thing to explain why it is that water freezes; or why Hamlet did not kill Claudius when Claudius was praying; or why capitalism flourished with the Reformation; or why the great vowel shift in English began in the 12th century. Or even how, if God is all-good and all-powerful, there is, nevertheless, evil.

Sometimes, though, what appears to be an explanation, and which may seem to clarity obscurity and make intelligible, actually does not, upon further examination. For instance, the Greeks explained rain as the result of urination of Zeus through a sieve.

I imagine most people would not consider that an adequate explanation of rain.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 08/02/03 - common sense and philosophy,

In philosophy things are done differently.

There is a difference between common sense and philosophy, if someone is given cyanide and dies, common sense tells us to be sure and not to do it again; philosophy tells us it must be repeated many times to be sure.

So I ask you, do you choose philosophy over common sense?

Jon1667 answered on 08/02/03:

If someone dies from cyanide, why do you have to give that person cyanide again to make sure he is dead? Didn't you know he was dead the first time?

I think you are talking about the possibility of committing the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc, which is simply concluding that because X happens, and then Y happens, that X must be the cause of Y.

But it isn't commonsense that is the cause of committing that fallacy. And it isn't philosophy that that tells you that it is a fallacy.

What we want is informed commonsense. And a little informed commonsense will quickly tell you that some events that precede other events need not be the cause of the second kind of event.

In any case, commonsense may be the beginning of understanding, but it need not be ending.

Needed is what is called "reflective equilibrium." We test our theories against our intuitions or commonsense, and then we rectify our commonsense in the light of our theories. And we go back and forth between commonsense and theory, until we are satisfied we have reached some understanding of what is the case, always remembering that revision is possible.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 08/02/03 - "I draw the line in the dust . . . and I say segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregatio

"I draw the line in the dust . . . and I say segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever . . . "

It seems George Wallace was right after all.------------- Michelle Malkin is author of "Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores" points out that in Oberlin, Ohio only black high school teachers can teach black history and a black teacher brings an experience and understanding of being black that no else can bring. In New York City we now have the nation's first publicly run high school for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students. Presumably, to mitigate harassment, the school will build four separate bathroom and locker room facilities. And perhaps -- here's a novel segregationist idea in the name of safety -- The students should be protected when quenching their thirsts through the use of separately labeled drinking fountains.

So have we only traded in the white robes of the redneck Klan for the rainbow sheets of the multicultural clan?

Jon1667 answered on 08/02/03:

Sounds a bit subjective to me.

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Question/Answer
picassocat asked on 08/02/03 - Plea Bargaining

Is plea bargaining in criminal trials ethical?

Jon1667 answered on 08/02/03:

It is a practical necessity. The court system in this country would collapse without it, and you could get no justice at all. The only alternative to plea bargaining would be doing away with criminal trials and substituting universal summary judgments by the courts, and I don't think you would want that.

In the absolute sense in which "the best of all possible worlds" means a world with no evil at all (but not in the sense in which Leibniz meant it-the least evil compatible with the greatest amount of good-see your question above) in this absolute sense of "the best of all possible worlds" there would probably be no plea bargaining. But in this world, (Leibniz' best of all possible worlds) we could not do without it.

So, my answer to your question is, yes, it is ethical.

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Question/Answer
picassocat asked on 08/02/03 - An Historical Example of God's Existence or Powerlessness.

Does the Holocaust mean that God does not exist, or else is powerless?

Jon1667 answered on 08/02/03:

The problem of evil, once more.
Another alternative is that God might have simply permitted the evil although he could have prevented it. So, that would mean that He wasn't all-good.

The most famous philosophical attempt to reconcile the existence of evil with God's power and goodness is Leibniz' "Theodicy". (The Justice of God). This is the "this is the best of all possible worlds solution." According to that, God could have prevented the Holocaust, but a possible world which had no Holocaust would have been a less good world than the one which had it, and which, in fact, is the real world.

The general view is that it would be logically impossible (and even God is bound by what is logically possible) (a) there to be no evil compatible with the amount of good in the World, and (b) that the amount of good in the world is worth the evil the good necessitates.

Therefore, all evil is logically necessary evil; evil necessary for the good to exist, and the good that exists compensates for the evil necessary for it.

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Question/Answer
picassocat asked on 07/30/03 - Argument, Reasoning etc

What constitutes good or bad argument?

Jon1667 answered on 07/30/03:

In general, a good argument is one in which the premises establish the conclusion. A bad argument is one in which the premises fail to establish a the conclusion.

For a deductive argument, a good argument is a "sound" argument. A sound argument is an argument which (a) has all true premises, and (b) the conclusion necessarily follows from the premises. Thus, a sound argument must have a true conclusion.

For an inductive argument, a good argument is a "strong" argument. A strong argument is an argument which (a) has all true premises, and (b) the premises establish the conclusion with a high degree of liklihood (or probability)

In evaluating an argument there are always two factors to take into consideration:
(a) the truth or falsity of the premises; and, (b) the relation between the premises and the conclusion.
These factors are independent of one another.

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Question/Answer
Choux asked on 07/27/03 - I Believe America

has an ethical and/or political responsibility to help Liberia rescue itself from total barbarity.

Am I wrong in my thinking?

Jon1667 answered on 07/28/03:

I think the presumption is against humanitarian military missions, unless there is some vital American interest at stake. That presumption can be defeated, like any other presumption, but I'd like to see the argument.

Choux, that continent gives barbarity a bad name. It is the standard behavior in Africa. I don't think we can do much to change it.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 07/26/03 - subjective and objective evidence

Thanks Ken-----I hate the word objective, now I hate the word absolute--- and I hate the fact I COULD NOT DO ANOTHER FOLLOW-UP.

When someone presents the evidence for a view he holds, or gives reasons why something is the right or best thing to do, should that someone make a distinction between the subjective and objective evidence presented?

Jon1667 answered on 07/26/03:

And now you have introduced the idea of subjective and objective evidence. But I do not know what that is, either.

What have you in mind: I mean before we start going round in circles again? Is subjective evidence what I think is evidence but may not be evidence, for instance? As usual, an example of each would be of great help.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 07/26/03 - subjective views and absolutes

When debating, shouldn't a person really differentiate between their own subjective views and absolutes?

Jon1667 answered on 07/26/03:

Do you mean to distinguish between subjective and objective? I have no idea what you might mean by "absolutes."

I use "absolute" to mean something like, "without exception." But the "subjective" "Ice cream tastes good to me," is, so far as I can tell, absolutely true. It has no exception so far as I am concerned.

But, if you disagree, you should really let people know how you are using the term "absolute." But, here is an excellent start:

Main Entry: absolute
Pronunciation: 'ab-s&-"lt, "ab-s&-'
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English absolut, from Latin absolutus, from past participle of absolvere to set free, absolve
Date: 14th century
1 a : free from imperfection : PERFECT b : free or relatively free from mixture : PURE c : OUTRIGHT, UNMITIGATED
2 : being, governed by, or characteristic of a ruler or authority completely free from constitutional or other restraint
3 a : standing apart from a normal or usual syntactical relation with other words or sentence elements b of an adjective or possessive pronoun : standing alone without a modified substantive c of a verb : having no object in the particular construction under consideration though normally transitive
4 : having no restriction, exception, or qualification
5 : POSITIVE, UNQUESTIONABLE
6 a : independent of arbitrary standards of measurement b : relating to or derived in the simplest manner from the fundamental units of length, mass, and time c : relating to, measured on, or being a temperature scale based on absolute zero ; specifically : KELVIN <10 absolute>
7 : FUNDAMENTAL, ULTIMATE
8 : perfectly embodying the nature of a thing
9 : being self-sufficient and free of external references or relationships
10 : being the true distance from an aircraft to the earth's surface

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Question/Answer
chekhovToo asked on 07/20/03 - Is the Western Mind Closed?

Is the Western mind closed in the sense of an awareness and indeed understanding of the nuances of other cultures, ideas, politics, religion etc. I think the West can learn much from an engagement with the rest of the world and their ideas. What do you think?

Jon1667 answered on 07/20/03:

As for example?

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Question/Answer
Choux asked on 07/19/03 - What is the difference between fact

and knowledge? I don't follow this distinction. Thanks

Jon1667 answered on 07/19/03:

_What_ I know is a fact or a truth. For instance, if I know that Quito is the capital of Ecuador, then the fact or truth I know is that Quito is the capital of Ecuador.

However, the fact or truth that Quito is the capital of Ecuador is still a fact whether you or I know it is. So if I do know something, it is a fact (or truth), but, if it is a fact (or truth) I do not necessarily know it.

How is that, Choux?

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 07/19/03 - Andiri "true justified belief"

Andiri
Of course when you say philosophy you mean Analytic Philosophy which runs into trouble with the term justified. Using that definition of knowledge one must first --believe-- in order to know. (that is to have knowledge.) There are however many sociologist of science who now tend to change the definition of knowledge as "true justified belief" to "customarily accepted belief" this opens the door for inherited societal knowledge.

Jon1667 answered on 07/19/03:

Clarification/Follow-up by Dark_Crow on 07/19/03 8:45 pm:
The idea that instinct is not knowledge, I believe, leads to a paradox. Most of us I believe have performed some acts, like driving a car, riding a bicycle or such. so well we dont have to think about every movement, it is said that our action becomes instinctual. So, it required knowledge for the action to become instinctual, what happened to that knowledge? Now, apply that same idea to genetic instincts.
_________________________________________
But that is just the point. Learned behavior which becomes "automatic" is not instinctual.
Hibernation is instinctual, and so is insect behavior like "the dance of the bees." or spawning by salmon.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 07/18/03 - Jim.McGinness or anyone else

Jim.McGinness-------perhaps you can answer another amateur question, since Ken did not address it-----is there any knowledge that could be called Inherited knowledge, and if so what can be said of it or if not why?

Jon1667 answered on 07/18/03:

I did not know you had asked that question. Did you? When?

The Rationalists (including Plato) believed that there was innate knowledge (if that is what you mean) The Empiricists (particularly John Locke with his "blank slate") denied it.

Most recently, there has been a good deal of evidence that there is a good deal of innate knowledge. The important recent book by Steven Pinker, "The Blank Slate" goes through the pros and cons, and comes out definitely on the side of innate knowledge. It is worth reading.

When you ask a question, you should make sure you have asked it. Few people I know are mind readers.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 07/17/03 - another source of knowledge?

Is all knowledge acquired through propositions, or is there another source of knowledge?

Jon1667 answered on 07/17/03:

Well there is propositional knowledge. I mean "knowledge that..." where the that clause is a proposition.

But there is also "knowledge how" as in, "I know how to swim," or "John knows how to speak French." This is not propositional knowledge but "skill" knowledge, or dispositional knowledge.

But I don't know what you mean by knowledge being _acquired_ through propositions. My knowledge, for instance, that there is a monitor before me, is not acquired through propositions, although it is propositional knowledge ("knowledge that") It is acquired through my senses, and my senses are not propositions: at least not so far as I know.

I might, of course, acquire knowledge by learning of propositions from others. I might learn that Quito is the capital of Ecuador by reading the World Almanac, for instance. Or by hearing my geography teacher utter that proposition. Is that what you meant? But where would that leave my knowledge that there is a monitor in front of me now? I did not learn that by reading or hearing any propositions.

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Question/Answer
Choux asked on 07/16/03 - "Looking for Spinoza"

Joy, Sorrow, and the Feelilng Brain--By Antonio Damasio.

Finally, I am getting into this book.

I would like to know what were some of the prevailing ideas of his time. What was going on at the time in the world of ideas---politics--what influenced Spinoza.

Just some general commentary would be very helpful.

Thanks, Chou

Jon1667 answered on 07/17/03:

I think you should try to get hold of a very nice little book by Stuart Hampshire called "Spinoza."
Spinoza was especially influenced by his reading of religious texts, especially the Old Testament and the Talmud. He wrote an important commentary on them.
Spinoza's central idea, that God and Nature are one and the same (sometimes called "Pantheism") and that God is both the creator and also the creation, has been said to come out of this reading. Just as Spinoza rejected dualism in religion (which is the traditional notion that God is separate and different from his creation) and held that the creator and the creation were only two aspects of the same thing, so Spinoza also rejected Mind/Body dualism which was so strongly espoused by his Rationalistic predecessor, Descartes. Spinoza advanced monism (rather than dualism) and held that mind and body were just two different aspects of one and the same thing.
This last, of course, is what Damasio has taken hold of.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 07/14/03 - philosophy forums

Ken I havent been able to determine whether Paul has attended to your problem. I sent a private message to him as well as two of the moderators but so far have not received any replies.

Jon1667 answered on 07/14/03:

I did get a reply from him. It was less than helpful. He reported to me that everything was go. It wasn't. It isn't. But I got back again with the new resistration: Gassendi1

Sorry I didn't let you know, though.

KS

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 07/13/03 - What is al-Qaeda?

In this extract from his new book, Al-Qaeda: Casting a shadow of terror, The Observer's chief reporter, Jason Burke, looks at the true nature of bin Laden's organisation and why the west's misunderstanding of the broad and diverse phenomenon of modern Islamic militancy undermines its response to terrorism

Thirty years ago a new Islamic political ideology began to resonate amongst millions of young men and women across the Muslim world. This ideology was a sophisticated and genuine intellectual effort to find an Islamic answer to the challenges posed by the West's cultural, economic and political superiority. In the middle of the 20th century nationalist anti-imperialism was the dominant ideology. Then, at least in the Middle East, it was pan-Arabism. Both failed to solve the problems of the Islamic world. Now Islam is seen the solution. But over the decades Islamic activism has changed. Once Islamic activists thought primarily in terms of achieving power or reforming their own nation. There was room in their programme for gradualism and compromise, for a huge multiplicity of different strands of political thought, for the parochial, radical and conservative movements of rural areas and for the clever, educated and aware ideologues of the cities. There was also room, on the movement's periphery, for those extremists who were committed to violence and who saw the world as a battlefield between the forces of good and evil, of belief and unbelief.
But increasingly, and this is a trend that is accelerating, the extremists are no longer perceived as the "lunatic fringe". Instead they are seen as the standard bearers. And their language is now the dominant discourse in modern Islamic activism. Their debased, violent, nihilisitic, anti-rational millenarianism has become the standard ideology aspired to by angry young Muslim men. This is the genuine victory of bin Laden and our greatest defeat in the "war on terror".
In the weeks immediately following the tragedy of September 11th there was a genuine interest in understanding: why?. Why "they" hate us, why "they" were prepared to kill themselves, why such a thing could happen. That curiosity has dwindled and is being replaced by other questions: how did it happen, how many of "them" are there, how many are there left to capture and kill. Anyone who tries to "explain" the roots of the threat now facing all of us, to answer the "why", to elaborate who "they are", risks being dismissed as ineffectual or cowardly. To ask "why" is to lay oneself open to accusations of lacking the moral courage to face up to the "genuine" threat and the need to meet it with force and aggression. Many characterise this threat, dangerously and wrongly, as rooted in a "clash of civilizations."

What is your reaction to this extract? (For the full article refer to:
http://observer.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,6903,996510,00.html

Jon1667 answered on 07/13/03:

I have no objection to examining the "root causes" of Sept. 11, and the other depredations of Islamofacism. No more than I would have had an objection to examining Thugee violence in India in the 19th century, or the rise of Nazism in the 20th.
But, at this time, it seems to me to be mostly an academic exercise. The price that is demanded of the West, and the United States in particular for peace, is far too great even if it would appease the Islamofacists, which I very much doubt.
Just as the Thugees had to be eliminated, and the same with the Nazis, so we must do the same with the Islamofacists. Investigation and explanation are fine, and will occur in any case. But if the suggestion is that it should _replace_ what we are now doing to eradicate Al-Quaeda, I think that would be nonsense.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 07/12/03 - Origin of Species

Darwin published On the Origin of Species, his theory of evolution is commonly accepted as being true, but is it. I think first the theory needs to be defined because there seems to be some contention as to just what it means to say, evolution. If when we say it we mean evolution as change--merely as change. The history of planet goes far, far back in time, certain living things that used to exist no longer exist. Mankind appeared relatively recently in that long history.
Now I can agree with that but what more, if anything does it mean to say what exists evolved?

Jon1667 answered on 07/12/03:

The engine of evolution is natural selection which brings about the adaptation to the enviroment
Without that there is no explanation of the change.
To say that some kind of thing is a product of evolution is not to make a value judgment. It is only to give an explanation.

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Question/Answer
bluevision asked on 07/12/03 - All religions are good

What ethical_reason mentioned in his question to Chou is right. All religions teach people to be good, but the faulty leaders & their followers made the religions look bad. What happened in the Middle East & Northern Ireland are very good examples.
I believe the majority of Chritians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus etc are good people, although I can't say the same about the leaders of the respective religions.
Prejudiced generalizations are dangerous & would cause misunderstanding, uneasiness, ill-feeling, hatred or conflicts among the people of different religions.
Any unbiased thoughts?

Jon1667 answered on 07/12/03:

Not so. For instance, the Thugee religion of North India in the 19th century worshipped the Goddess of destruction, Kali, and set about killing people in her name. It is from them that the term "Thug" is derived. It was finally wiped out by the British.
Hinduism used to have the practice of "suttee" which made the wives of high-born Indians immolate themselves alive on the same pyre which cremated their husbands.
The Wahabi sect of Islam which is now the dominant one in Saudi Arabia teaches that all non-Moslems are to be despised, and even, under certain circumstances, murdered.

I could go on. These are just three examples of bad religions.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 07/12/03 - Assumptions -

What are the metaphysical presuppositions of science and philosophy? (This question is a result of being unable to follow up answers to my question about thought as our starting point.) Is it logical to begin with the universe?

Jon1667 answered on 07/12/03:

Well, according to Kant, the synthetic a priories like, Every event has some cause.
But, as you know, the existence of such judgments is controversial, not to say, questionable. It is always possible we shall encounter some reasons to recant even our most dearly held beliefs. For instance, what about the problems Quantum theory poses for the Causal principle?

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 07/11/03 - Clarification -

Has anyone else sometimes found it impossible to use the clarification facility? It is very frustrating not to be able to respond without having to post another question.

Jon1667 answered on 07/11/03:

Of course. Something has to be done about this programme. It is simply rotten.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 07/10/03 - UNDP Human Development Report 2003

Ranked according to their national levels of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and life expectancy, Sweden tops the list of rich countries, with the US at the bottom.
Sweden, with a lower per capita income than the US, has on average more functionally literate adults and fewer people living in poverty.

Comments?

Jon1667 answered on 07/10/03:

Don't you think that a good deal of the explanation lies in the fact that although Sweden is a homogeneous society, the United States is the most heterogeneous society. The diversity of the population of the United States makes the delivery of health care, and education much more difficult. There is also a philosophical difference. Americans prefer economic freedom (you would call it "capitalism") Sweden is a Socialist society.
America has all the advantages (and disadvantages) of its choice.

You might ask yourself, however, the question: What has Sweden produced in the arts and sciences in the last half century that can compare with the performance of America? I should have thought, Tony, that materialistic values would not be the onces you value most. Apparently, I was mistaken.

Sweden is, indeed, a safe and healthful place. And, oh, so dull.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 07/05/03 - anti-philosophy beliefs

There have been many questions discussed here about the role of Philosophy, some about the nature of Philosophy but what is it to say anti-philosophy. What are some of the major beliefs that we can call anti-philosophy? For instance are Marxists on ideology or naive realists anti-philosophy beliefs?

Jon1667 answered on 07/06/03:

Let me suggest that what you call "anti-philosophy" is more aptly called "deflationary philosophy." Deflationary philosophy is a certain attitude toward philosophy which is represented not only by the two view you cite, but, for instance, the "disquotational theory of truth" which says that when we talk about a sentence's being true, we are only talking about that sentence itself, and not some mysterious property of truth (actually this view is sometimes called "the deflationary theory of truth," or as another example, that there may be knowledge, but no certainty, or as one last example, that moral notions like good and right are in some way, subjective, or only expressions of emotions or attitudes.

This "deflationary" view of philosophy, can be described as an attempt to scale back the ambitions of philosophy (and philosophers). It says that "traditional" philsophy, in the style of Plato, or of Descartes, or Spinoza, which tries to present a kind of unified theory of "Reality" and which pretends to an especial kind of knowledge or this Reality superior not only to commonsense knowledge, but also to science, is just-pretence, and also pretentious. This is because there is no such Reality as is supposed, and even if there were, there is no special philosophical knowledge which human beings have which would let them know about it.

I think that "philosophical deflationism" really started in the 18th century when David Hume argued that all knowledge was of two kinds, mathematical (or "definitional") and scientific (or empirical) and that every other claim to knowledge was a kind of pretentious nonsense. Kant (whom Hume had awakened from his "dogmatic slumber" in traditional metaphysics) tried to save philosophy from Hume's assault, but even he offered a kind of pale substitute (critical metaphysics) compared with the kind of thing Plato and the rest tried to do.

So, I think that what you are talking about is not anti-philosophy, but a kind of philosophy with a human face which brings philosophy "down" to what human beings can accomplish.


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Question/Answer
chekhovToo asked on 07/05/03 - Does It Bother You?

A new & dangerous era in international relations, that of pre-emptive war, was justified by one of the biggest lies of modern history. Does it bother you that the Bush administration was telling lies about WMDs in Iraq?

Jon1667 answered on 07/05/03:

To start with, the existence of WMDs was only one of the reasons given for the war, not the only one.
In the second place, it is jumping the gun to call it a lie. Since:
1. It was agreed not only by the United States, but by the United Nations itself, that Iraq had WMDs.
2. In fact, at the end of the first Gulf War, Iraq had complied with the terms of the cease fire by sending the UN a list of the weapons Iraq had. Iraq never accounted for these weapons, and to this moment, it is not known what happened to them. They might be hidden in Iraq (which is a vast country) or have been sent to Syria. In any case, they are still not accounted for.
3. There is no explanation for why it was that Iraq constructively threw out the inspection team from the United Nations and provoked those sactions which Iraq claimed were devastating the country, unless they were hiding those weapons. Why did Saadam not simply permit the inspection team to remain in Iraq and do its work if, as you claim, there were no WMDs for the inspection team to find? Is it not a reasonable inference that if Iraq, contrary to the cease fire agreement, would not permit the inspection team to look for those weapons, that Iraq was in possession of those weapons?
What else, I wonder, is your explanation?
4. A number of Senators, from both parties, like Joseph Biden, had looked at the intelligence reports, as did Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and had concluded that Iraq did have the weapons. So, you are implying a vast conspiracy of lying to not only the American administration, but also to others including some who were in the opposite party to the administration, and to other countries too.
5. There are now two Senate committees investigating your allegations. I think it would be prudent to wait to find our what they determine.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 07/05/03 - Where do we start? (2)

I get the impression that Descartes was correct in regarding thought as our initial datum. What else could it be? And how can we establish the reality of the physical world?

Jon1667 answered on 07/05/03:

If, as Wittgenstein, Austin, and some, like Thomas Reid before them, have argued, the question of the reality of the physical world is based on the view that we must infer the physical world from sense impressions which are our only data, (sometimes called the theory of representative perception or indirect realism) but that, in fact, direct realism is true so that we perceive chairs and tables, and not sense-impressions that "represent them" and from which we must then infer their existence, then the issue of the existence of the physical world wafts away.

So, perhaps,it is necessary to begin with the justification of the theory of indirect realism.

By "thought," Descartes meant, consciousness (which was what "pensee" meant in the 17th century). So, Descartes considered the sense-impression itself, a thought. So, as he argues in the First Meditation, the issue is how to make that "transition" from "thought" to the external world. It was not, as you suggest, that the intellectual act of thinking, which is how we interpret thought, was his basic datum. For him, the very act of perception itself, constituted a thought.

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Question/Answer
Chilloutinparis asked on 07/02/03 - Cogito ergo sum

Another pearl from Descartes who said said, "I think therefore I am".

Can you prove that you exist? if so, how?

Can you prove the opposite?



Jon1667 answered on 07/03/03:

I would think that the question you ask is self-answering, since if a person can prove he exists, he does not have to do so, since he could not prove he exists, unless he does exist. And, of course, it would make no sense to ask anyone to prove that he exists, unless you already supposed that he did.
There is a story about Morris Cohen, the American philosopher, that illustrates this point. He was challenged, by a student, "Prove that I exist." And Cohen replied, "Who's asking?"

It is important, I think, when you are asked to prove something, in which the context is not clear, in turn to ask the challenger, "What would you accept as proof?" If, as it, usually turns out, he will accept nothing as proof, then, the question he asked becomes an empty challenge. For, suppose you accept the challenge and say, "Well, you can see me." And the reply is, as it probably would be, "That does not prove it, since I might be dreaming," or something of that kind. That would indicate that anything you were to offer would not be accepted. (Does the fact that you _might_ be wrong when you claim to see him show that you are, in fact, wrong, and that you do not see him?)

Would the fact that the challenger would not accept anything as proof that you existed show that you had not adequately proved you exist? Does someone have to accept a proof for it to be a proof? Well, someone has to accept a proof you offer in order for you to prove something _to him_. But, if you have not proved that something _to him_ does it follow that you haven't proved it? Is nothing a good argument unless it is accepted by its audience? That would mean that any complicated argument you happen not to understand, would not be a good argument. And that seems to me to be something we should not accept.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 07/02/03 - Where do you start?

Suppose that, a la Descartes, we begin by doubting everything. It is theoretically possible that nothing exists but I think that is a view no sane person has ever held. So the question arises as to what you believe is more probable than anything else. In other words, what is your most basic belief?

Jon1667 answered on 07/02/03:

I don't think it is possible to doubt everything at once, although it is possible, if you have some reason to do so, to doubt some things, if, at the same time, you do not doubt other things. For instance, for Descartes to have doubted there were tables and chairs he must have believed it was possible to make sensory errors For that was his argument for the dubiety of tables and chairs. Doubting supposes believing.
Furthermore, that it is _logically_ possible to doubt something, is true as long as you are not doubting a necessary truth. (So when you doubt something, you are already assuming, which is to say, not doubting, it is a necessary truth.)But whether it is reasonable to doubt what it is possible to doubt is another thing, again. Even Descartes calls his doubt, "hyperbolic"

Both Leibniz and Heidegger at least entertained the possibility that nothing could have existed. I don't know about Heidegger, but Leibniz was not insane.(Come to think about it, does not Genesis claim that in he beginning was the void? What of that?)

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Question/Answer
hmghaly asked on 07/01/03 - God???

"...That which you hold to, upon which you stake your existence, that is truely your God" Luther
Comments?

Jon1667 answered on 07/02/03:

It seems to me that "having" a God is one thing. God is another thing. People who believe in God don't talk about "having" a God. My comment is that I think Luther was drunk.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 06/30/03 - are words "things"

are words "things" which cause knowledge?

Jon1667 answered on 07/01/03:

If I look up something I did not know before in an Encyclopedia, then the words I read can cause me to know something. If that is what you mean, then, yes, of course. But that is because language is the primary medium of communication, and much of which is communicated (but by no means all) is, knowledge.

But I think (hope) you know all this. So you may have something else in mind with your question. You ought to explain what that is.

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Question/Answer
bluevision asked on 06/25/03 - No philosophers?

"There are nowadays professors of philosophy but not philosophers."- Henry David Thoreau

Do you think this is true?
Do you think there are still philosophers like Socrates(please give examples) or there are just professors of philosophy who are only interested in the theories & methods of philosophy?

Jon1667 answered on 06/25/03:

Well, Aristotle said that what chiefly characterized Socrates' philosophy was "the search for definition." The search for definition is pretty much concerned with the theories and methods of philosophy. And Aristotle should have known since he was a student of Plato who was Socrates' student.
So, maybe you ought to think again about what philosophy is about. (And the same might have gone for Thoreau too.)

But all of this has been discussed on this board a lot of times. People keep complaining that philosophers are not doing what they think philosophers should be doing instead of trying to understand what philosophers are doing, rather than just doing whatever it is they want to do.

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Dark_Crow asked on 06/24/03 - had to ask another question

The question of the meaning of Being is not transitory but immanent at all times.
I agree transcendent is a better word to use.

I wanted to focus not on the God aspect of the meaning of being but soley on the meaning of being [things, existence]and the fact that it is more like changing the sheets without changing beds.


What I found most interesting was the way he explained the meaning of words not by thier properties but by there causes, the nature of the thing.

If you will the Ontico-ontological question.

Ant thoughts on that?

Jon1667 answered on 06/24/03:

I don't think I know what the causes of meaning are.
Spinoza did not think that the meanings of terms were "nominal," which is to say, matters of convention. His notion of meaning (he was like Plato in this) was that words had, of course, their conventional or surface meanings by which we communicate every day, and then they also had their "real" meanings which corresponded to the essential nature of what they referred to. He thought that only what he called, "scientia intuitiva" a kind of intuition in the nature of the things referred to by the words, could penetrate to the real meanings or "real definitions" of the terms. He would have thought that science was a close approximation of this "scientia intuitiva" and certainly superior to common sense knowledge, but inferior to intuitive knowledge.

I really don't grasp the "ontic-ontological question" so I wouldn't know.

For Spinoza, Being was identical with God, so he could not have separated the two.

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hmghaly asked on 06/23/03 - Der Weg ist das Ziel

Hi everyone, I came across this phrase when I was studying German language. It means in English literally "The way is the goal" I think it is commonly used in German. It sounded familiar to me and I liked it. I'd like to know the origin and the meaning behind this phrase. Thanks in advance.

Hussein

Jon1667 answered on 06/23/03:

I guess that's right. If you want to get somewhere, it would be wise to go toward it (rather than in the opposite direction). But I did not need a German or anyone else to let me know about that. Did you?

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Dark_Crow asked on 06/23/03 - Aghhh---Crazy Spinoza

Aghhh---Crazy Spinoza, but only to some. I wont deny I may be interpreting him wrong but Ill give it a try.
He made a distinction between transitive and immanent causes, and in Spinoza's definition, "causes" are immanent causes. And immanent means indwelling, like a chicken egg turning into a chicken.

The question of the meaning of Being is not transitory but immanent at all times.

Jon1667 answered on 06/23/03:

One important thing to understand about Spinoza is that, unlike the Empiricists, he does not distinguish between cause and reason (justification) So, according to Spinoza, that a figure is a triangle _causes_ that figure to have angles summing up to a straight angle. (Spinoza takes mathematics to be the model of all explanation). In the same way, for Spinoza, God is both cause and reason for His own existence, so God is "Causa sui" (His own cause) (After all, in mathematics, the _reason_ does not temporally come before what it is a reason for, although, I makes no sense to talk about the cause and the effect being simultaneous.)
A very good little book on Spinoza is by Stuart Hampshire, called, "Spinoza." Spinoza was the most Rationalist of the great classic 17th century Rationalists.


























































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Choux asked on 06/22/03 - Am I m

"Am I my brother's keeper?"

Was this the first philosophical question recorded?

Are we our (brother's and sister's) keeper, and what does that mean?

Happy Summer Philosophers

Jon1667 answered on 06/22/03:

Actually the question is an inversion of a question asked by one of the apes in the zoo who asked, "Am I my keeper's brother?" The ape had just finished reading a book on evolution.

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Dark_Crow asked on 06/21/03 - epistemologically objective

I have banged my leg and now feel a pain!. Can anyone tell me why this is not epistemologically objective (a justified true belief), and at the same time ontologically subjective (only I can feel the pain).

Jon1667 answered on 06/21/03:

I don't know how you are using these technical terms. In one sense, to say of a proposition that it is "objective" is to say that its truth or falsity is independent of the beliefs (or hopes or desires) of any person or group of people. In other words, "mind independent." And, "contrariwise" to say of a proposition that it is "subjective" is to say that its truth or falsity is dependent on people's beliefs (desires, hopes, etc.) In other words, "mind-dependent." This would be, I think, _ontologically_ subjective or objective. Its truth or falsity independently of how it is _known_ to be true or false. So, for instance, that ice-cream tastes nice would be (ontologically) subjective, since it would depend on a person's (or even a group of persons') taste or attitude toward ice-cream. But, that Mt. Everest is the tallest mountain in the world, would be (ontologically) objective, because the truth of that would not be mind dependent.

In the epistemic sense of "objective" or "subjective." We would be talking about how we _know_ that a certain proposition is true. If a proposition's truth is "necesssarily" accessible to only one person, then that proposition is epistemically subjective. For instance, that I have a headache, is epistemically subjective because only I can determine whether I have a pain in my head. This is sometimes called, "first person authority." If I say that I have a headache, then, _unless I am lying_, I have a headache. On the other hand, of course, I do not have such authority over whether my leg is broken, or even whether I banged it, and a physician can tell better than I can, whether it is broken. Therefore, that my leg is broken is not epistemically subjective. But whether I feel a pain in my leg is epistemically subjective.

As I said in a previous post, the terms "objective" and "subjective" (and "intersubjective") are as slippery as eels. And what I say above is certainly disputable.

There is a book called "Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective" by Donald Davidson (Oxford University Press) which is on my "to read" pile.

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Choux asked on 06/20/03 - What is Existence?

With all this talk of non-self-existence and the illusory nature of phenomena we might conclude that ourselves, others, the world, and enlightenment are totally non-existent. Such a conclusion is nihilistic and too extreme. Phemonema do exist. It is their apparently concrete and independent *manner* of existence that is mistaken and must be rejected.

Take the example of a rainbow. Does it exist or not? Of course it does, but how? As something arising from the interplay of droplets of water in the sky, sunlight, and our own point of observation. A rainbow, then, is an interdependent phenemenon, and if we investigate, we can discover its various couses and conditions.

In a similar way, all existent phenemona are mere appearances to the mind, lacking concrete self-existence, they cone into being from the interplay of various causes and conditions. This is true of ourselves as well. We and all other phenemena without exception are empty of even the smallest atom of self-existence, and it is this *emptiness* that is the ultimate nature of everyhthing that exists. Lama T. Yeshe

Any comments from Western Minds.....

Jon1667 answered on 06/21/03:

The Sun, for instance, with existed for many years before there were conscious beings in the universe, could not have been a "mere appearance of the mind." For there were then no minds for the Sun to be an appearance to. And, for that matter, when you walk into an uninhabited room, and find all the walls and furniture just as when you left them earlier, do you think that room vanished when there was no one there because there was no one for the room and its furniture to appear to?

As C.S. Pierce said: "We must not doubt in philosophy what we do not doubt in our hearts."

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Choux asked on 06/20/03 - What is Existence?

With all this talk of non-self-existence and the illusory nature of phenomena we might conclude that ourselves, others, the world, and enlightenment are totally non-existent. Such a conclusion is nihilistic and too extreme. Phemonema do exist. It is their apparently concrete and independent *manner* of existence that is mistaken and must be rejected.

Take the example of a rainbow. Does it exist or not? Of course it does, but how? As something arising from the interplay of droplets of water in the sky, sunlight, and our own point of observation. A rainbow, then, is an interdependent phenemenon, and if we investigate, we can discover its various couses and conditions.

In a similar way, all existent phenemona are mere appearances to the mind, lacking concrete self-existence, they cone into being from the interplay of various causes and conditions. This is true of ourselves as well. We and all other phenemena without exception are empty of even the smallest atom of self-existence, and it is this *emptiness* that is the ultimate nature of everyhthing that exists. Lama T. Yeshe

Any comments from Western Minds.....

Jon1667 answered on 06/20/03:

Comment from a Western mind: Eastern nonsense.

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Question/Answer
mark5 asked on 06/18/03 - Conventional Wisdom: Galbraith on Keynes

Hello to all--and especially all interested in the application of the tools of philosophy to the Dismal Science:

I'm rereading John Kenneth Galbraith's "The Affluent Society" (Third Edition, revised), and a striking passage in the conclusion to the second chapter (in reference to "the conventional wisdom" in economics and in politics) he makes a point, using John Maynard Keynes's work, regarding this conventional wisdom:

"Keynes, in his most famous observation, noted that we are ruled by ideas and little else. In the immediate sense, this is true. And he was right in attributing importance to ideas as opposed to the simple influence of pecuniary vested interest. But the rule of ideas is only powerful in a world that does not change. Ideas are inherently conservative. They yield not to the attack of other ideas but, as I may note once more, to the massive onslaught of circumstance with which they cannot contend."

First of all, is Galbraith accurately and cogently quoting Keynes? Secondly, where does Keynes end and Galbraith begin in this fairly simple paragraph? And thirdly, is this, overall, an intelligent and fair analysis of "conventional wisdom" and how we change our collective mind about things (bear in mind that this is only the conclusion to a closely argued chapter; beware of quotes taken out of context!)? I sense the differences between the two men in economic thought, and I'm just hoping that others could help me put a firmer finger on it. Galbraith's (?) notion that "ideas [compared with factual circumstances] are inherently conservative" appeals to me, but I'd like a better reason for believing so than its being merely appealing. And: are we indeed ruled by ideas and little else? Isn't Keynes overstating things a bit?

Mark

Jon1667 answered on 06/18/03:

Well, of course, Keynes is "overstating it" as you put it. How could he not be? I suppose he means that our motives are exclusively ideational. But that is obviously not true. We are often motivated by self-interest, and also false beliefs about the world.

It is hard to understand why Galbraith thinks that ideas are inherently conservative. If he means that they never change, he is obviously wrong. For instance, from the divine right of kings to liberty, brotherhood, and equality in the French Revolution. In the second place, if he means by "Conservative" the maintenance of the old order, that is clearly false too. Communism is a radical idea.

Perhaps Galbraith has something else in mind, but it seems to me that what he says is either false, or too vague to be true.
I have always remembered Hume's warning that there is one "mistake to which all [philosophers] seem liable, almost without exception; they confine too much their principles, and make no account of that vast variety which nature has much affected in her operations. When a philosopher has once laid hold of a favourite principle, which, perhaps, accounts for many natural effect, he extends the same principle over the whole of creation, and reduces to it every phenomenon, through the most violent and absurd reasoning. Our own mind, being narrow and contracted, we cannot extend our conception to the variety and extent of nature, but imagine she is as much bounded in her operations as we are in our speculation."
Hume writes this in his great essay "The Sceptic." It is worth taking to heart.

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Question/Answer
Dark_Crow asked on 06/17/03 - origins of qualia

Can it be said that a person has------- an _experience_ of understanding a sentence, for instance the experience of suddenly thinking of something, of suddenly remembering something. Its been claimed that thought-experience is a distinctive experience in its own right.

What are the origins of qualia and arent they part of the intellect and if so objective?

Jon1667 answered on 06/18/03:

This has been called the "aha experience." Go to: http://www.btinternet.com/~neuronaut/webtwo_features_metacognition.htm

Of course, such an experience may be illusory.
I have often thought I understood something, or remembered something, when I did not. A typical case is understanding, or getting the point of a joke. Sometimes people think they get the point of a joke when they do not.

I don't see that such experiences (the term "qualia" means, I think, something different) need be "part of the intellect" (they are not particularly intellectual) nor, if they were, would they need be "objective." But then, I don't know what you mean by that term. Aren't experiences, rather than what they are experiences of, considered subjective?

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hmghaly asked on 06/16/03 - Moral action

What does moral action mean?

Jon1667 answered on 06/16/03:

A moral action is one that has consequences, either good or bad, for other people. For instance, rape is a moral action (an action that concerns moral choice)
On the other hand, a non-moral action would be one such as eating scrambled rather than poached eggs. An action that has no consequences for others.

"Moral" can be contrasted with "nonmoral" or it can be contrasted with "immoral." So "moral action" is ambiguous.

As contrasted with nonmoral, "moral" means something that concerns right or wrong.In this sense, a moral action can also be a wrong action.
But, as contrasted. with "immoral," it means right as opposed to wrong. In this sense, it would be contradictory to call a moral action a bad action.

Unfortunately, the online dictionary I consulted did not make this very important distinction between the evaluative use of "moral" and the nonevaluative use of moral.

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hmghaly asked on 06/16/03 - Ideology vs. Worldview

what is the difference between "ideology" and "worldview"?

Jon1667 answered on 06/16/03:

An ideology is a kind of world view. It is usually associated with a set of political beliefs. A world view need not be political. Atheism is a world view. Communism is an ideology.

Also, ideologys are often unconscious, and are supposed to hide the real view. This is true in Marxism, where ideologies are the "superstructure" which masks the real economic interest underneath.

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chekhovToo asked on 06/16/03 - Mind and Intellect

Is the mind the same thing as the intellect?

Jon1667 answered on 06/16/03:

Doesn't the mind also include emotions, and feelings, and motive, and so on? None of these are considered part of the intellect.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 06/16/03 - Conscience...

Are there any circumstances in which we should do what we believe to be wrong?

Jon1667 answered on 06/16/03:

It is important to distinguish between wrong as a means, and wrong as an end. "Who wills the end, must also will the means," Kant wrote. It may be wrong to go to war, but if that is the only way in which a Sadaam Hussein, or a Hitler can be got rid of, it may be necessary. These are called "necessary evils." Of course, we must be very cautious here, and (1) make sure that the good end is worth the evil means; and (2) that the evil means is the only way (or at least the least bad way) of achieving that good.

But, it is said, that even God permits evil which He believes (unerringly) is necesssary for a greater good such as "soul-buiding" and what not. This is the primary defence of God in the problem of evil.

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Question/Answer
tonyrey asked on 06/15/03 - Truth

Why is truth important? If this fact connected with its nature?

Jon1667 answered on 06/15/03:

Bernard Williams, (who died last Tuesday, as you probably know) argues in his book, _Truth and Truthfulness_ that unless we truth and truthfulness (which presupposes truth) are valued, there could not only be no communication among people, but, what is at least as bad, people could never have learned to communicate in the first place. I think that Williams is right, (although I think there are a lot of spaces in his argument).

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Dark_Crow asked on 06/13/03 - moral justification for supporting dictatorships

I have heard the US has in the past funded, and or allowed American manufactures to sell weapons outright, or on credit, to brutal dictatorships.

Is that a fact? If it is, whats the moral justification for doing so?

Hannity on Fox spun the hell out of this question by a guest, and never answered it

Jon1667 answered on 06/13/03:

As I have pointed out, "to govern is to choose." The United States not only sold, but gave billions in weapons to Stalin and Soviet Russia because it was fighting Hitler. And we rightly believed that Hitler was the greater evil and the greater danger.
In the 1980's we supported Saadam's Iraq against Iran in a ten year struggle because Iraq was about to be defeated by Iran, and we (again, rightly) judged that Iran with its intention of spreading Radical Islam, was the greater evil and the greater threat. These are just two instances. In an imperfect world, politics, and foreign policy is often a matter of choosing between evils.
When the end of the world comes, all will be perfect. Until then, we have no choice but to choose. Let us just hope we choose wisely.

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Dark_Crow asked on 06/12/03 - magic story close to my heart, as an endearing remembrance.

Chou, I see you liked jons little story as well as I.
Here are my thoughts on it.

Art is occasionally a wonderful experience , and your argument here is for me, one of those occasions. An imaginary story, about an imaginary story, about an imaginary person isolated _alone_ in time.

You, the artist who wrote this imaginary story is quite apt indeed, again you have fashioned a straw-man in that you have a student who defined --- *selfish* as (again, defined as being about oneself and not about others---. , hypothetically calling a person isolated _alone_ in time "selfish". By the students definition selfishness requires others to be present and your story excludes others!

I shall keep your magic story close to my heart, as an endearing remembrance.


Jon1667 answered on 06/12/03:

Clarification/Follow-up by Jon1667 on 06/12/03 7:56 pm:
The point of the Crusoe story, if I have to explain it, is that selfishness has to do with the effects of your action on others, and, in particular, whether your action, no matter how self-interested, deprives another of what he is entitled to. The Crusoe story is meant to illustrate (and does so) that simple self-interest is not enough to brand the person selfish.
If, then, a person's action is entirely "self-regarding" (to use an old expression) whether or not he is on a desert island, that is not enough to show his action is selfish. The Crusoe story was a thought-experiment (I hope you know what that is) to bring that point home.

In philosophy (as in physics) we isolate a situation so that we can determine what is relevant to the issue, and what is not relevant to the issue.
There are no ideal gases either, yet physicists talk about them all the time so as to determine how gases behave isolated from real situations. The same is true of "frictionless planes." The physicists then complicate the situation to determine how gases or falling objects will behave in actual circumstances. It was by this procedure that Newton determined that the velocity of a falling body is not determined by its weight as had been thought. Crusoe is an ideal thought experiment to show what is relevant to whether an action is selfish rather than self-regarding. It is those two concepts that you confuse. I was trying to help you tell them apart.

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Choux asked on 06/11/03 - Do You Agree or Disagree..

Happiness is what comes out of you; your gift to the world. Not anything that the world gives to you.

Not a quote, just my opinion.

Jon1667 answered on 06/12/03:

A study I read some time ago (I forget where) said that happy people remain (comparitively) happy even in extremely adverse circumstance, and unhappy people remain (comparitively) unhappy even in very good circumstances. There may be even, as I recall, chemical causes for this.

So your view, as I understand it, has been backed up by psychological studies (or at least one study)

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Dark_Crow asked on 06/11/03 - confusing only to minor intellects. When a word is precisely defined, and signifies only one thing,

The following comes from Mathematics and the Imagination by Edward Kasner and James Newman. The book was first published in 1940. The quote comes from the 16th printing (1958)

Alice was criticizing Humpty Dumpty for the liberties he took with words: "When I use a word," Humpty replied, in a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean-neither more nor less." "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make a word mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty, "which is to be master, that's all."

Those who are troubled (and there are many) by the word "imaginary" as it is used in mathematics, should hearken unto the words of H. Dumpty. At most, of course, it is a small matter. In mathematics familiar words are repeatedly given technical meanings. But as Whitehead has so aptly said, this is confusing only to minor intellects. When a word is precisely defined, and signifies only one thing, there is no more reason to criticize its use than to criticize the use of a proper name. Our Christian names may not suit us, may not suit our friends