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I can see how private language does not make sense in Wittgensteins eyes, in that a language in its true sense cannot be with one person, but I don’t see how this is relevant to mind/body dualism? I see lots of people saying that a ‘language’ that is ‘private’ suggests mind/body dualism is not real, but all I see is the feeling of senses cannot be described in a (soliloquised, for lack of a better word ‘language’) doesn’t mean anything except a private language is not possible. Note: I’ve never asked a philosophical question online before, and I’ve also had a couple of beers as England have just got to the QFs of the World Cup so if this makes no sense I will try to reword!

You should study Wittgenstein's arguments against a private language more closely, because I don't think that his view is quite that language "cannot be with one person", although that is really a wonderful way of putting it. It seems to suggest merely the view that the nature of language is that of a interpersonal communication, which is a bit uninteresting, and yet your phrasing is profoundly interesting. I also didn't quite follow why thinking that there can be a private language goes against psychophysical dualism. Surely it's the other way round. Descartes, for example, has to think he can give sense to his words privately, because he can intelligibly doubt the existence of everyone else. And Wittgenstein himself has been thought to be a behaviourist, or closer to behaviourism than to psychophysical dualism. I am very sorry about Croatia too. I imagine you had some more beers. I did.

I have a mother with alzheimer dementia in a very advanced stage and she is unconscious about anything is happening around her. I think she is alive phisically but not a conscious being, she acts by instincts, grabbing a piece of bread or crying when she needs something, like a baby or an animal. Cant talk, dont know who she is or anything... I cant stop asking myself wether she is "alive", alive here meaning as a conscious human being. If I was religious I would ask where did her soul go?? Is it still there? Is it only her body what is left? Is all mad people also "alive"under this terms? What about very young children (who hasnt developed self awareness yet)? What about people who lives in auto pilot all their life and never question ther existence? Actually when do we start being "alive" under this concept? "I think therefore I am" Sorry for the long lines, I hope I explained myself. Thank you in advance. Juan C.

It is very sad to hear your story. I can give a guess about the awfulness of what you are going through, but I am more certain that I cannot appreciate the full daily horror for you. Your question is a most reasonable one. Is your mother "alive"? It is interesting that you feel obliged to put this word in scare quotes. It is something that "you can't stop asking yourself". So there is something very important here, an important issue. But you have also answered your own question, or part of it. Let us distinguish between the mental and the physical. Is your mother alive physically? Her body is not dead, if we can put it that way. Is she alive "as a conscious being"? Here you give your own answer: ' . . . she is unconscious about anything [that] is happening around her.' I think perhaps you should say that she is conscious only of the most immediate and restricted domain. That perhaps is part of the reason the question is difficult. She is conscious, but not in a full sense. The whole difficulty about...

Most bathroom sprays don't destroy bad odours so much as overpower them with a more pleasant odour. In such cases, can people really be said to be smelling the bad odour if they have no conscious awareness of it?

Philosophers will divide over the question whether tastes, colours, sounds, smells and so on are by nature physical or phenomenal. If these so-called "secondary qualities" are physical, then it makes sense to think of one smell covering up another, which is still there and reappears when the smell covering it up is removed. Similarly, if you think of colour as a physical entity, or you thinkbof it as rather like paint , you can think of one "colour" covering another up, so that the top layer of "colour" could be peeled off to reveal the older underlying colour. But if you think of the qualities as inherently perceptual, then one colour or sound or smell is not covered up by another; it is replaced by it. As Plato puts it in the Phaedo , 'in such a situation it either withdraws or ceases to exist.' My own preference is for a theory in which the "secondary qualities" like tastes are not inherently physical. It makes no sense to think of a physical blue, say, that lacks the quality blue . But...

Hi; please, I would like a philosophy professor to answer this question for me: is religion an ideology? And if it's not, then what is the difference? Thank you

An ideology or politically organizing world view doesn't have to be about God, so ideology and religion are not the same thing. Is religion a false view that organizes society? (This is Mannheim's "particular" conception of ideology.) Well, you might think so, but you would then have to think that religion is false. You could study religion under the "general" conception, in which it "arises out of life conditions", but it seems to me that a religious person might not disagree with that, provided that "life conditions" is understood sufficiently deeply.

I've often heard it said that Americans are uncomfortable with sex, and that this is seen in the fact that it is often forbidden to depict sexuality or nudity in popular media, yet depictions of graphic violence are ubiquitous. Implicit in this observation is that depictions of violence should rightly seem as bad, or worse, than depictions of sex. But what makes any such depiction bad? Is it just a matter of the psychological distress they cause? Is it that they encourage people to do what they depict? Are some things just intrinsically obscene?

I think what you say about American attitudes towards sex may be true, if we stick to the surface of the culture, and these attitudes are Puritanical compared with European ones, for example French and Swedish ones. What makes depictions of violence wrong, surely, is not just the distress they cause. The answer to that is for people to avoid violent movies. Or if movies with sex in them cause distress, they can easily be avoided. And you are obviously correct that there is something wrong with depictions of sex and violence together, even or even especially from a narrow utilitarian point of view. For one thing, they can make people jaded with the real things; they can make sex less appealing and violence routine and routinely acceptable. And you are right again, I think, to ask the question whether some things are intrinsically obscene. Consider the Madonna and Child in so many representations. There is often a quiet tenderness here that cannot be missed. Then consider juxtaposed some viscous and...

Hello my question is about the Kalam Cosmological Argument. I personally do agree with the premises and the conclusion, however a person on youtube said that you cannot say that an infinite regress does not make sense but an infinite being does. So my questions are what is the difference between an infinite regress and an infinite being, can you say they are both absurd? Does an infinite being make sense?

There doesn't seem to be any reason to say that an infinite regress "does not make sense" but that an infinite being does. There exist infinite progressions of things, particularly in mathematics. Can there be an infinity of real things? Or of physical things? Or of instants in time? Plainly different arguments are needed in each case, since at least on a Platonist view numbers are real if not physical. So some "regresses" or progressions or series or sequences do "make sense" and others don't. Now what about an infinite being? I suppose the question here is as always what is meant. Could there be a being infinite in wisdom, for example, or infinite in power, and so forth? There seems no obvious reason why not. Would an infinite being, in this sense, occupy the entire physical universe? Well, only if the being is physical and the universe is infinite in extent. But only a very few theologies have a physical or "corporeal" God, Hobbes' for example. So it seems that the standard conception in which God has...
Just a quick response to a point Stephen makes. He writes, 'It is eminently deniable that the universe began to exist.' However you phrase it, is deniable that the universe began to exist, but not "eminently" so. The evidence from physics is absolutely overwhelming. There are detailed measurements of the expansion rate of the universe extrapolated backwards and the explanation of Hubble's Law, the 4% background microwave radiation, which gave Penzias and Wilson the Nobel Prize in 1978, the existence of clouds of light gases, and so on and so on. How can you reasonably deny all this? In my view the logical arguments, though obviously they do not converge on a date of 13.8B years for the age of the universe, are also compelling, such as Whitrow's, discussed in my note above.

Say that you join a "youth social and adventure group", where, while rock-climbing or bowling or hiking, its core members will begin, subtly, to sound out your religious beliefs and talk to you about God, is that at all morally problematic? Or in general, if any group has the main raison d'etre of recruiting for a church/political party/pyramid scheme, but initially conceals this motivation (for instance, through initially avoiding any mention of the parent organisation), is there anything wrong with that?

There is something plainly wrong with a group that conceals its real purpose, surely, and lures you in with a false front. But there is nothing wrong with members of a group that is visibly religious in orientation inviting someone to come along and join. 'Why not come and join our Catholic knitting group?' is fine. As to your first question, being sounded out seems OK, because if it get too intense or probing you can always leave. I do think there is something a bit off about a religious group targeting people who are a little lonely or isolated, but on the other hand if there's no expected quid pro quo where's the harm? The devil is in the details of how things are done, I think. Concealed pyramid schemes are another thing altogether, because here the element is deception is at the centre of what's going on.

What is the key difference between philosophy and poetry? Can a quote be identified as poetic with a philosophical idea hidden within it? For example Albert Einstein once said "Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand." Could this quote be identified as a sort of poetry? Can it be described as something that describes a philosophical idea? This question arose as someone told me that this is his philosophy, but it sounds like a poetic piece that describes an idea to me. In addition, David Schmidtz once said that "Life is a house and meaning is what makes it home." This also sounds poetic, but does it also describe a philosophy in a single sentence? In general, can a poetic sentence/quote be used as a philosophy or to more generally describe a philosophy?

Plato's view was that poetry is a divine madness - theia mania - and that it is better avoided. He recommended philosophy instead. This seems a bit extreme, and a bit dull. Not all poetry is the product of any kind of mania, and many poets are perfectly sane. Some philosophy, on the other hand, is pretty mad, and does come across as a kind of poetry, though mostly bad poetry. Poetry is not all tall tales, as Plato thought, though some of it has an aspect of fiction. Take for example John Clare's "Autumn Birds", which begins, The wild duck startles like a sudden thought, And heron slow as if it might be caught. The flopping crows on weary wings go by And grey beard jackdaws noising as they fly. There is nothing maniacal about this. Imagination can rise to a kind of poetic description of fact, brilliant and accurate as a mere statement of fact could not be: "The wild duck startles like a sudden thought . . .", for example. The quotation from David Schmidtz seems perfectly reasonable as a piece of...

Is it possible to answer a question with another question? is that what we called a Socratic questioning?

It seems that the word "answer" is being used in two senses in the question that you ask. Plainly, it can happen that someone asks, 'Is the tomato a fruit?' and someone else answers thus: 'What do you think?' That might well happen. But it is not the end of the story. One could count that as an answer, or as a failure to answer, or as both, but then in two different senses. It is a verbal response or reply, and "response" is one sense of "answer". There is a narrower sense of "answer", in which it means something like, "State the correct (or what the respondent takes to be correct) solution to the problem posed by the question", or something like that. This is closer to the legal sense of "answer", in which one "replies" or "makes answer" to a charge or accusation, by offering a defence. Asking a question as an answer would not work in these contexts. So if I am asked, 'What is the solution to 7x9?', what is meant is "the correct answer", and it is the answer to the question what the product of 7 and 9 is...

Don't many of us regard that "vision" is something like the headlights of a car, casting a beam of light on objects, originating inside the eye? Which is of course completely wrong and the truth is the opposite. Its fairly present in many cultures and even though it is just a mere figure of speech it feels wrong doesn't it?

Do the perceptual systems work from the environment in, or from the perceiver out? In English there are famously two very different groups of perceptual words, one active and one passive: look/see, listen/hear, touch/#feel, smell/smell (i.e. "smell" has two meanings, one for the activity of sniffing out - ('The dog was smelling my shoes'), and the other for a more passive kind of reception of some smell.) In his celebrated 1966 The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems J.J. Gibson argued that the active seeking out of "information" is more fundamental than passive sensing, and his famous cookie-cutter experiment showed this. If you actively move your hands relative to the object of perception, the percentage of correct identifications is very high. If the stimuli are given to you passively, the percentage drops to under half of what it was. The senses have to be active, and without activity even the passive sensation degrades. This was also shown by some early phenomenological experiments by Katz on...

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