What are philosophy thesis defenses like? Does the quality of the questioning surpass that of the best courtroom cross examinations?

It varies by country: in some traditions, doctoral exams are big public events; in others, small private affairs. At my University, doctoral exams have a chair -- someone from outside the subject who observes, trying to ensure that the process is fair and the regulations followed. Because of this, I have experience of a huge number of doctoral exams, many outside philosophy (let's see, a few from botany, entomology, economics, forensic science, psychiatric nursing, biomechanical sports science, etc.). They are surprisingly similar in the pattern of questioning. Whether they are superior to courtroom cross-examination, however, is moot. This is because the purposes of the two practices are different: a court wants to establish the truth of X (or at least the appearance of the truth of X); a doctoral exam is frankly not interested in the truth of the content of the thesis, but rather in the validity and professionalism of the research and thinking that went into it.

Isn't prejudice just common sense? If it's reasonable to assume that since every dog I've ever met has four paws and a snout, then, until proven otherwise, every dog I will meet with have four paws and a snout, then why isn't it reasonable to assume, if every American I've ever met is foolish, unless proven otherwise, that every American I will meet will be foolish?

It seems to me that you have at least three classes of judgement in your question. 1. Prejudice. 2. Common Sense. 3. Informal definitions. 4. Inductive generalisation. Let's start with the latter: if all the Xs I have come across are Ys, and if I have no reason to believe that the Xs I have come across are exceptional or otherwise not representative, then I have some confidence that Xs are Ys. Americans are foolish. What I am calling an informal definition is a way of describing an identifying feature of something: dogs have four paws. Now, this is different from the above because you very likely learned about dogs in part by having the number of paws pointed out to you, whereas probably you didn't learn what an American is by having their foolishness pointed out. Continuing backwards, I would claim that the first two categories have something social or cultural about them, that the second two do not necessarily have. Common sense is called 'common' to indicate that it belongs to a particular social...

Other than subscribing to philosophy journals, what kind of funding do philosophy departments need for their research and teaching? I would think that philosophy requires the least amount of funding in all of academia!

My daughter told me a relevant joke: A university's Dean of Research became frustrated during budget negotiations with the science faculty. "Why do you physicists always need such expensive labs? Why can't you be more like the mathematicians? All they need is paper and a waste basket." After a moment he added: "Or like the philosophers? All they need is the paper." Yes, philosophy is cheap in terms of material resources. It is worth adding that the journals and books tend to be cheaper also, compared to other subjects. However, teaching philosophy is often an intensive, small-group experience -- so that costs. More importantly, like any other subject, the researching philosopher needs TIME. And time is comparatively expensive, with respect to material resources.

i just started reading some philosophy writings and got so mach interested in philosophy.But my assess to books is very much limited and i would appropriate its if anyone can help me with free e-book sites from where i can download some philosophy books. Thanks

You are in luck: the internet is densely populated with philosophical texts. Good places to start are: www.earlymoderntexts.com www.gutenberg.org (also, they have a small set of recommendations in their 'philosophy bookshelf' but it represents only the tip of an iceberg!) https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/ and Google books has hundreds of pdf scans of old volumes. Now, there are three problems with these sites: for the most part, they present texts without commentary or explanation; often they use old editions or translations (because they are out of copyright); and finally, for the same reason, they tend to emphasize philosophy from times past. Recent philosophy is more difficult to come by, but not impossible. Certainly useful introductions can be found at the Internet or Stanford Encyclopedias; also, university teachers often put their lecture notes up on the web.

I'm finishing Augustine's Confessions. At a certain point, he argues that "shapeless" (I'm not reading an English translation; the Latin word is "informis" ("informitas" as a noun)) physical entities are possible. I didn't understand his argument and anyway can't imagine how some physical body could be shapeless. Perhaps an infinitely large or infinitely small body could be shapeless, but infinitely small things are hardly conceivable. Would you explain me how could some physical body be shapeless? Or perhaps Augustine is talking about something else I didn't get? (it's in Book XIII).

Book XIII is tricky; it is often skipped when people teach Augustine. He is trying to read the opening verses of Genesis in several ways simultaneously. First, to stress the utter dependence of all of creation upon God; second, to integrate into Christianity the basic metaphysics of Plato and Plotinus; third, as a metaphorically compressed history of the church and its organisation. So, creation occurs in two steams -- the spiritual and the corporeal (XIII.2) -- and in each stream in three phases -- original creation, conversion, and formation. The original creation is of that which is formless (shapeless as you translate it); conversion is when the first creation 'hears' the Word of God (that is, it returns to the call of its creator; this is passive for the corporeal, but active for the spiritual); formation is the result. The primary concern of Book XIII is spiritual creation; whereas corporeal creation is dealt with more fully in Book XII. The first phase of corporeal creation is unformed matter, the...

Can a word be used incorrectly and still be 'useful'? I've heard that pragmatists define true statements as those that are useful in predicting future empirical outcomes, to quote Wikipedia. However, I have heard of words being used incorrectly that can still be 'useful' despite being incorrect. The words 'subjective' and 'objective' are often used in everyday language to divide and distingiush things that are 'a matter of opinion' from things that are 'a matter of fact', respectively. Although this is an oversimplified and incorrect use of the words, you can't deny that people still find them useful in labelling 'facts', as distinguished from 'opinions'. It seems that just because a term is 'useful', doesn't make its usage correct. What are your thoughts on this? Thanks.

Interesting question, thanks! A word used in a deviant way would only have meaning if those who listen or read understand it. For example, I sometimes get confused in casual conversation and come out with a spoonerism -- a mixed up word. Usually, though, my wife understands what I mean anyway, by interpolating from a shared context. A new word, or a new meaning of a word, might gradually come to be accepted usage more widely. Slang words, in particular, tend to get picked up rapidly in this way. Let us say that the 'correct' meaning and usage of a word is determined by the dictionaries. But a modern dictionary is itself only a reflection of broad usage by speakers and writers. We have to go back quite a way in time to find a dictionary that sets out to adjudicate meanings, rather than simply record or describe them. So, the 'official' meaning of word comes about because of common usage. If enough people use a slang word, it ends up in the dictionary. Dictionaries tend to be a conservative force in...

Do rainbows exist? I assume rain drops and sunlight exist, but the rainbow is not a collection of rain drops, nor a region of the atmosphere where passing rain drops get some colour, is it? Should we say that rainbows are optical illusions? Or what?

Lots of things should be said to exist, even though they are not material entities (like raindrops) nor energy forms (like sunlight). We're happy to talk about numbers or abstract concepts as existing, for example, and likewise dreams, or things that happened in the past. We might provisionally say that X exists if it were to matter in some way if someone asserted that X did not exist. (This is a pragmatist definition. I'm not endorsing it so much as finding it useful.) If someone said that you DID NOT have the dream last night you say you had, then that would matter, because they would be saying you are lying; if someone says that we have no concept of causation (Hume), then that matters because whole bits of philosophy, and maybe physics too, become valid or invalid. An optical illusion exists because its happening matters to the person experiencing it. (So, even an atheist would have to admit that God existed, because it matters so much to so many that he does; however, the atheist would assert...

Why is such a high value placed in reading the "Classics"? It's one thing to honor the past and honor the fact that, but for those who came before, we wouldn't be where we are today, and another thing entirely to pretend that those "classic" thinkers and thoughts of the past are worthy of the scrutiny of self-respecting truth-seekers today. If I'm being honest, the Pre-Socratic writings are simply idiotic by today's standards, claiming matter is all "water", or "fire", or some other random element. Leibniz, Spinoza, and those guys aren't any better. None of them had even the most rudimentary concept of physics. JS Mill and Kant read like some High Schooler, discoursing at length about Happiness and motivation without even a whiff of suspicion about the basic facts of psychology, treating those terms as if they were transparently obvious, monolithic concepts. Even an idea like the more recently vaunted Veil of Ignorance seems ludicrously vulnerable to someone of even mediocre intelligence, like me. It...

If one thought that the only true goal of philosophy was to describe, as precisely and accurately as possible, using the very latest scientific findings, the nature of the universe or of the human mind, then indeed there would be no need to read the 'classics' of philosophy. In that case, however, I wonder whether one needs philosophy at all, since what was just described is not in essence different from physics or psychology themselves. So, there would also be little point in reading contemporary philosophy. Within the history of philosophy, of course, many have seen their work, or a substantial part of it, in just this way, in part because science and philosophy had not yet fully branched off from one another. Very often, these were first class scientific minds (Aristotle or Leibniz, for example). But their primary interest today is not as scientists. Here are the main ways that I try to 'sell' my students on reading the history of philosophy: 1. The philosopher is not there to tell us...

What do we mean when we say that someone is "ideological"? How does having an ideology differ from simply having a particular set of moral or political views?

'Ideology' is used in a number of difference senses. However, whether within political philosophy, or philosophical sociology, 'ideology' is distinguished from having views, by the extent to which we recognise the possibility of other views. So, suppose I think abortion is immoral. Now, what do I think of someone whose moral views permit abortion? Either, I could believe them to be mad, deceived or perverse. In any case, they are wrong and that's the end of it. Or, although I doubt it strongly, I could think that they might have a point -- that is, it is not in principle impossible that their view is has some merit. In other words, a convenient definition of 'ideology' is that it is a view that excludes the possibility of rational discussion or debate. Ideology may also tend to be 'unconscious', so much a part of one's world view that it isn't even noticed. Indeed, because it is not available for enquiry, there is no need for me to be aware of ideology.

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