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I've known some professors to ban laptops from their class. Students often complain about this, and one argument they make is based on a kind of transactional view of higher education. They argue that, since they are paying tuition for their courses, it is their right to conduct themselves as they wish (to use laptops, perhaps even to send text messages on their phones or take naps) so long as they do not disturb others. For similar reasons, many students complain that things like attendance requirements are also illegitimate. Is this reasonable? Do professors have a right to enforce a more demanding classroom ethic?

I don't know about this "transactional" model of college education -- for one thing, tuition doesn't begin to pay for the cost of higher ed, so a student is deluded if he or she thinks higher ed is a straightforward economic exchange -- but let's leave aside my scruples about that and examine the major premise here, which is that if one has contracted for something, one is not subject to any regulation in one's use of that thing. This premise is obviously false. For one thing, it might be part of the contract that there are "terms and conditions" governing both the provider of the good or service, and the consumer. So in downloading a movie or some music, you agree not to show the movie or play the music for any commercial purpose. Similarly, a student who enrolls in a college agrees to abide by the regulations set by the school -- generally encoded in a student handbook. (Faculty, similarly, are required to abide by the regulations in the faculty handbook). I expect that, for almost all...

What's an ancestral?

An "ancestral" is a kind of relation that is a sort of generalization of a more specific relation. It's easiest to explain this by means of an example. Consider the relation "being the parent of" This is a relation that holds between any person who has a child and that child, for example, Henry Fonda and Jane Fonda. Of course Henry Fonda was himself the child of another person -- maybe George Fonda. And George was the child of yet another person, Sarah Fonda, and so on. So we could, by going back through the generations, build a list of individuals, where each individual is the parent of the next individual on the list. So consider the "Fonda List." Every person on that list is related to Jane in some way. Henry is her parent, George is her grandparent, Sarah is her great-grandparent, etc. But is there some way to talk about an arbitrary person on this list? There is! We can say that every person who is on this list is an *ancestor* of Jane's. Someone -- say Patrick -- is an ancestor of Jane...

So for the past month I've been having a great deal of anxiety over something kind of strange. I've always overthought everything in my life, which led me to wondering whether we as human beings are able to control our thinking. Sometime it seems as if random thoughts pop into my head for no reason at all. For example I could just be at work and randomly think of the upcoming superbowl. However, why did I do that? Did I choose to think about that? Or did the subconcious part of my brain send me that thought? Wondering about this kind of frightens me. I know it's irrational to be scared of it, but it makes me think that we don't really have free will. Do we really control our thoughts? Please answer.

First, let me reassure you that the experience you describe, of having random thoughts pop into your head, is extremely common, and not a sign of anything wrong. (That said, if these occurrences are worrying you, or if the content of the thoughts is disturbing, please consult a mental health practitioner). As for control: it is consistent with our having some control over our thought processes that there are *also* random or at least non-rational processes that affect us at times. We know, for example, that concepts, ideas, and images can become linked to each, so that thinking of one thing immediately prompts thought of another. So, for many of us, the word "salt" immediately causes us to think "pepper." Or a few notes of a certain piece of music, or a whiff of a certain fragrance, can stir up particular emotions or memories. Associations occur as a result of things being frequently paired in our experience, (like the conjunction of the word "salt" with "pepper"), but they can also be built...

Are feminists (who subscribe to the view) right to claim that all men are necessarily sexist? Perhaps it makes sense to limit the scope of the claim to a particular country, say within the UK. Presumably the sexism of men in few examples of matriarchal societies, if indeed they are sexist, would be different from the sexism we're familiar with. As a man, I would not care to insist that I am not sexist in various ways. My morality is egalitarian but it is no doubt at odds with my attitudes and behaviour. That applies to gender just as it applies to other ways we distinguish sets of people (or subjects of moral concern). The problem I have with the assertion is that it seems to take gender (or sex for the transphobic flavours of feminism) as the essential dividing line between people. Aren't there all sorts of predicates that group people into different sets, some more privileged than others? 'Born-in-the-UK' vs. 'Born-in-Malawi'; 'disabled' vs. 'fit'; 'socially anxious' vs. 'charismatic'. In many cases...

I don't know of any feminist writer who would assent to the claim that "all men are sexist." I seriously encourage you to think about where you got the idea that it is common for feminists to think such a thing. Feminists have had always had to contend with people caricaturing or willfully misunderstanding what they say, and so there are a lot of misconceptions floating around. If you are seriously interested in feminist views, I would suggest that you start reading. I'd suggest, as a start, the book *Discovering Reality* by Marilyn Frye. I cannot speak for all feminists, but I do hold views that are pretty common among feminists, so let me tell you my reactions to the claim you mention. First of all, I consider sexism to be a structural, rather than an individual problem. It is not primarily a problem about the false beliefs or malign attitudes of individual men, and much more a matter of an entire system that gives women a much more limited menu of life options than men have. This is...

Feminists often oppose "slut shaming" which is when people denigrate women who are perceived to engage in sexual behavior excessively. Does this mean that promiscuity or (so called promiscuity rather) should be condoned or celebrated? Is there any reason to be opposed to (so called) promiscuity?

It's important here to separate issues. One issue is whether there is something morally objectionable in a person's having multiple sexual partners. Another issue is whether the answer to that that question partly depends on the gender of the person involved. Feminist opposition to "slut shaming" has entirely to do with the double standard regarding sexual promiscuity that prevails in our culture: a cultural presumption that there is something more shameful about a woman's having multiple sexual partners than about a man's having multiple sexual partners. In many milieus, it accrues to a man's status for him to have multiple "conquests" to his credit, while it decrements a woman's reputation for her to have had sex with an equal number of men. Why should that be? How could promiscuity be morally different for a man than for a woman? The idea that there is such a moral difference is what feminists are objecting to. Doesn't that seem perfectly reasonable? There are a number of...

Would you professional philosophers advise that us--rather uninitiated--students begin tackling philosophers and philosophical perspectives through series such as the "A Very Short Introduction" collection? I am a senior international relations/development studies undergrad and have been recently taking courses on what kinds of ethical relations we have to others, in general,"global justice". I have read key pieces from Rawls, Pogge (I enjoy his cosmopolitan institutionalist perspective!), Sen, David Held, Habermas, Nagel, some Charles Taylor, and several others. One constant problem I have encountered was that many of these authors are writing amidst the background of other thinkers such as Hegel, Rousseau, Locke, Mill, Kant and so on. To return to my initial question, would you recommend "intro" readings for many of these authors so one can understand--very basically--where contemporary scholars derive their ideas, or do I need to take the plunge directly into Hegel (I know one day I will) et al? Could...

There are lots of resources available for people who would like to gain entry into the world of academic philosophy. I suggest that you find out what texts are used in introductory philosophy courses in the areas in which you are interested. There are two obvious ways to do this: one, if you live near a college or university, check out the campus or area bookstores for lists of the required or recommended books for the courses that interest you. You might even visit a professor during his or her office hours (these may be posted on the web, or you may be able to get them by calling the department office) to ask for recommendations. Alternatively, or in addition, you can surf the web for course syllabi. Many instructors post these to publicly accessible sites, and the syllabi usually list the books required or recommended for the course. There are at least two good encyclopedias of philosophy that I can recommend. There is a print encyclopedia, published by Routledge. It is very...

Suppose a computer is trying to execute some code or another, but hasn't done so yet (for example, it is waiting for a given signal, or for a certain period of time to elapse). Does the computer intend to execute that code? Can we speak of intention in a case like this?

You may not realize it, but you have presupposed the answer to your question in the way you asked it. You speak of the computer "trying" to execute a code. Trying involves intending to do something. So if you are not speaking metaphorically, you are presupposing that computers can have intentions, and that the computer in your case already has one. If the computer can really be said to be trying, then the additional detail in your example (viz., that there's a temporal gap between the computer's beginning to try, and the execution of the intended act) doesn't matter. Now maybe you meant to be using the term "trying" loosely, or metaphorically, and then your question was whether the term "intention" could be strictly and literally applied to a computer. That's a good question. The answer, however, is not going to depend on whether there's a a temporal gap between the trying and the successful execution. You can see that if you consider some non-controversial cases of something's intending to...

Hello, I would like some clarification on deduction and induction. I have heard scientists claim to use deductive reasoning. In each case, the scientists use a hypothetical syllogism, such as modus ponens. I am confused about this because I noticed inductive arguments can be made into deductive form if conditionals are used. For example, consider this case: If an argument contains a conditional statement, then it is deductive reasoning. This inductive argument(X)can be re-worded to contain a conditional statement on the spot when asked. Therefore this inductive argument (X) is deductive reasoning. According to the example given, all arguments are deductive! Some help and clarification please? Are all arguments with at least one If . . . then . . . premise deductive by definition alone? Should inductive arguments be inductive no matter what form because the conclusions are not guaranteed from the premises?

Ordinary usage of these terms is inconsistent, and so, to some extent, is the technical usage. Sherlock Holmes is said to have solved crimes through "deduction." A philosopher would say, no, his methods were non-deductive. "Inductive" is often, in philosophy, opposed to "deductive", yet the kind of proof that in mathematics is called an "inductive" proof, is, by standard philosophical definitions, deductive. So no wonder you're confused. Nobody owns these terms, so no one can rightfully say that anyone else's usage is objectively correct or incorrect. But let me give you at least one way of understanding the terms, and then an explanation in terms of that understanding for all the weirdnesses. I tell my students in Intro Philosophy that the difference between "deductive" and "non-deductive" arguments has to do with the way the premises of the argument are supposed to support the conclusion of the argument. In a deductive argument, the author of the argument is claiming that the premises...

Dear philosophers, I have a question concerning politics and movies. Do people who boycott movies involving a certain actor/director/producer simply on the basis of the political views of that actor/director/producer acting reasonably? I wouldn't think so because a large part of how people decide whether to watch a movie or not is the history of the quality of the actor/director/producer's work and not that actor/director/producer's political views. What do you philosophers think?

@font-face { font-family: "Cambria";}p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; } I think there may be a couple of different questionshere. One is: do people have theright to refuse to view a movie on the grounds that they disagree with thepolitics of someone involved in the making of the movie? The answer to that is, yes, ofcourse. No one has an obligationto see any particular movie, so one can decide whether or not to view it on anygrounds whatsoever. Sometimes people find the politics of some director or actor sorepugnant that they cannot bear the thought of viewing a film in which thatperson was involved. That, notice, is a separate thing from making an aestheticjudgment about the film. One might consistently judge that a particularfilm is a masterpiece, and yet condemn the politics of the director who madeit, or the actor/actress who starred in...

Is there a fallacy where claim P is made, but the reply is to use radical people who have made claim P, but this usage of radical people is supposed to represent everyone who said claim P? I'll give an example below: 1. Suppose claim P is: 9/11 happened because of America's failed US foreign policy. 2. Jean Baudrillard has claimed a, b, and c to support P. Noam Chomsky has said d, e, and f to support P. (Note: Baudrillard and Chomsky are on the fringes of supporting P, meaning that they support P, but in very radical ways.) 3. However, a, b, c, d, e, and f are all false. 4. Therefore, P is false. Now, of course the fallacy is that one is only looking at two sources who argue for P, and by discounting those claims, there's a hasty generalization to say that P is false. So a hasty generalization, I believe is correct. However, my focus is on concentrating on the fringes. If one wants to argue against P, one doesn't argue against the fringes who argue for P. So it's sort of a straw-man, but at the...

Whew! What you have here is a real smorgasbord of fallacies. Let's sort them out. One fallacy here -- and I think this is the one you primarily have in mind -- is a fallacy called "attack ad hominem ", which means "attacking the person." This is the fallacy of attacking the character or credentials of the person making the argument, instead of showing what's wrong with the argument itself. In the example you give, Chomsky claims that US foreign policy was partly responsible for the 9/11 attacks, and offers considerations d, e, and f. To attack Chomsky's argument , one would have to either give grounds for thinking that d, or e, or f was false -- that is, show that the argument contained a false or unsupported premise -- or else show that d, e, and f did not logically entail the conclusion (if the argument is meant to be deductive) or did not provide good evidential support for the conclusion -- that is, show that the argument was not valid (bad if the argument was supposed to be...

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