I would really like to know what logic is. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has TOO MANY articles on logic for someone like me. Let me list most of them: action logic, algebraic propositional logic, classical logic, combinatory logic, combining logic, connexive logic, deontic logic, dependence logic, dialogical logic, dynamic epistemic logic, epistemic logic, free logic, fuzzy logic, hybrid logic, independence friendly logic, inductive logic, infinitary logic, informal logic, intensional logic, intuitionistic logic, justification logic, linear logic, logic of belief revision, logic of conditionals, logical consequence, logical pluralism, logical truth., many-valued logic, modal logic, non-monotonic logic, normative status of logic, paraconsistent logic, propositional dynamic logic, provability logic, relevance logic, second-order and higher-order logic, substructural logic, temporal logic. I have started reading some of these articles, but I still didn't find an answer for my basic question. In...

There are "forms" of thinking and reasoning and arguing that do something very specific. They guarantee that if the premises of your thinking and reasoning and arguing are true, then so is your conclusion. These "argument forms", as we can call them, are said to be "valid". Logic is the study of these forms, and the methods used to distinguish them from invalid forms. An example? Well, what about De Morgan's theorems, one of which states not-(p AND q) is the same thing as (not-p OR not-q). This is valid, and it is worth studying, even for its intrinsic interest. And if you do study it, what you are studying is logic, or a part of it.

Assuming that trees are not conscious, is there anything morally wrong with cutting down a tree that has survived for a thousand years?

It is most certainly not true that non-conscious things can be destroyed without reason, or just for the reason that they are not conscious. What is wrong with slashing or burning a Rembrandt painting? The answer is not that there is nothing wrong, because the painting is not conscious, but that there are many things wrong, including aesthetic ones, and historical ones, and the fact that the painting does not belong to to the slasher. Of course it would be even worse if the painting were conscious. And even if it belongs to the one who destroys it, it is unclear that he has the right to destroy it. A question might still arise. Is the painting part of the national heritage? This sort of consideration is relevant with Grade I, II* and II listed buildings in the U.K. Or what would be wrong with burning the only Penny Black remaining in the world just for kicks? About the 1000 year-old tree, now. The mere fact that it has survived for that long, for nearly 1000 years since the Norman Conquest, to put it in...

Could there be colours we haven't yet seen?

A lot depends on who "we" are. Suppose we are complete achromats, so that we only see "achromatic colours", greys, blacks and whites. Now it is clear enough that there is a colour "we" haven't seen. Red is an example, and so are all the other chromatic colours. Now what if "we" is the whole human race at all times. We can imagine that we take the set of all the colours that anyone has ever seen. Question: are there more? Wittgenstein is someone who takes a negative line on this. Are they colours that others might see which we do not? '. . . [W]e would still not be forced to recognize that they see colours that we do not see. There is, after all, no commonly accepted criterion for what is a colour, unless it is one of our colours' (Wittgenstein, Remarks on Colour I, 14). We do not use colour language just by pointing to colour samples and naming them. It takes more to be talking about colours than that (III, 58). The idea of little coloured patches of colour is not a "more fundamental" idea of...

Here is a question. Say I want to live forever and constantly move my brain from one body to another, so I never age. I also replace non functioning parts of my brain with new ones made with stem cells. Eventually after living for a long enough time my brain is no longer anything like the original except for its collective memories. Would that thing still be me? To take it a step further I create clones of myself and each of them has a small part of my originals brain. Would I still exist? Or I created a collective consciousness in which I am able to communicate to each of my clones and we are able to share our experiences in one big cloud. What does that even mean for me? Am I even the same person or something completely different? These problems have been really bugging me and I am just trying to see if anyone has any answer.

Often with questions that are composed of multiple further questions ("Here is a question", you write . . . - it's not - I count four question marks!) it helps to take just one, and deal with it carefully, before moving on to the next. Of course some of the sub-questions will generate further questions, but that simply means that some patience is required. For example, 'I move my brain from one body to another, so I never age.' Why does it follow that you never age? If you retain your memories (line 3) and add to them, then you are changing and aging, psychologically. So you must mean that you don't physically age. But the brain does age. And why is it that 'I never age' follows from 'I move my brain from one body to another'? That seems to assume that who you are is a matter of having the same brain. Is that right? And if it is, then if as you say 'after living for a long time my brain is no longer anything like the original' then you are not after all the same person, so the question goes away. A...

I'm in a sticky situation right now. Within a month I have to choose if I want to study law, philosophy or take a year off so I can find out what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to study law so I can hopefully make a lot of money and provide well for my hypothetically family. However, I don't know if that's worth it. Because I have to study a lot for 5 years then work hard until the day I'm too old to work, then I have to wait for the day I die. This seems meaningless to me right now, because I don't care about money at all. But I know I will need it to take care of a family. Anyway, I want to study philosophy so I can somehow change the problems humanity is facing. Somehow this makes more sense for me because I often ponder about everything wrong with this world, and why we don't do anything about it. Here is also why I don't care about money, because that's another factor that bring humanity down. And I don't think I can spend 8 hours everyday of my young and adult life, to work for money....

Many years ago I was in something like your position, (though my family was already real rather than merely possible), and I put roughly the same question to a very experienced and wise philosopher, who was also a friend. She was pretty elderly at the point, but her mind was still as sparkling as it was when she studied with Whitehead. She said to me, 'Well, Jonathan, reflect on the fact that it is better to be a third-rate philosopher than a first-rate anything else.' 'Of course! ' I said to myself. 'Why didn't I see that?' I became a third-rate philosopher, and I have been happy ever since.

I don't quite understand why people put so much time and effort into conversing with other people about their internal "belief systems." To me, the only thing that really matters is how other people behave: whatever they believe is secondary to how well or how poorly they act. If one person believes "treat others well because Jesus says so," while another person believes "treat others well because Krishna says so," wouldn't they then both agree with each other that the over-riding priority here is to treat others well? How much "should" it really matter WHO says so?

Your view reminds me a bit of what used to be called "Christian atheism". The idea was that to say for example that God is our heavenly Father is to adopt and proclaim a policy of behaviour towards other men, namely one of brotherhood. The problem with ruling out religious faith as such, "without works", so to speak, is that as a matter of fact for many if not most religious believers it is not the case that religion is just ethics and that "the only thing that really matters is how people behave". That may be what matters to you; then you are saying, 'Ethics matters to me; religious faith doesn't.' And if your view is stated impersonally, that the one ought to matter and the other not, we have to consider the fact that it might be the case that people came to be behave in a brotherly way, but without any affection or love. Would that be as good as people behaving well towards one another and loving their neighbours? And that is the heart of the matter. Behaviourism (your view) is I am afraid to...

Can literature "tell the truth" better than other Arts or Areas of Knowledge?

My answer to this is a firm "Yes". Novels, for example, "tell the truth" better than any other written material, with the exception things like diaries and letters, unless you think of the relevant passages of diaries and letters as though they were mini-novels. But diaries and letters are no better at telling the truth in the appropriate sense than the skills of their authors. What sense is the sense in which novels (or more generally imaginative writing) can "tell the truth" better than any other "Areas of Knowledge", as you call them? (I imagine that you might have the sciences in mind.) The sense is one in which telling the truth has to do with getting the details of a description absolutely right, and getting the overal balance and colour and mood of what one is describing absolutely right. Here psychology for example (which might be thought to "tell the truth" better than the novel) is no better than the sensibility (the eighteenth and nineteenth century word) of the individual working...

Acts of "kindness": I do things in my life for others like; hold doors, pick up liter and carry groceries. I have been under the assumption that I was doing these things for others. After making this a way of life, I find myself feeling guilty when I don't pick up trash or hold the door for someone. So my question is: Are my actions as well intentioned and selfless as I once believed or do I do those things to feed my ego to make myself think I am a good person? This has really got me thinking about my motivations for "doing the right thing". Am I secretly trying to make the unconscious case for my moral/socital superiority? Thanks for listening. Kai

Is there any reason at all to think your motivation is selfish? It seems like an abstract possibility that you are trying "to make the unconscious case" for your moral and social superiority, but where is the evidence? There is the deliverance of your own heart to be considered too. If you catch yourself thinking, 'I wish I didn't have to open all these doors for people. It is so annoying. Why don't I just shove through first? - Oh, but then people will not think I am a good person.' Suppose you suppress the thought. Then there is a question to be answered. But in the absence of any evidence of this sort, any thoughts of this kind, and in the presence of a good-hearted or kindly feeling towards the people for whom you open doors and carry groceries, why on earth would you think that there was anything sinister and egoistical going on in the unknown depths of your soul? For one thing, ex hypothesi these things are unknown. Maybe they are there and maybe they are not. But that is a tautology from logic...

So a really old question would be "what's the meaning of life?". I wanna switch it up and ask "why do we even exist?". We've done so many negative things throughout history. The importance of knowing what we're made of and how we work means nothing to me, if I don't know why we exist on this planet we call earth.

I am not sure how old the question is, in exactly the form you give it. I suspect it is quite new. In the Nichomachean Ethics Aristotle asks whether 'there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for its own sake (everything else being desired for the sake of this) . . .' (W.D. Ross trans.). But this is a very different question. There is no mention of meaning, and there is no mention of life. So I think it makes matters worse to think that 'Why do we even exist?' is the same question. (I wonder about the implication of the word "even". What is it suggesting? ( Cf. 'Why does he even bother to come to the meeting, since he never utters a word, and sleeps through them?')) Another bit of phrasing bothers me. You say that what we are made of means nothing to you, 'if I don't know why we exist on this planet we call earth.' Are you thinking that it's not really called earth, but we, we ignorant fools, we call it that? So what is it's real name? We need to get the main question very...

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