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Do philosophers ever assume anything in books or journals (not including thought

Do philosophers ever assume anything in books or journals (not including thought experiments) and wouldn't that be completely contrary to the intent of philosophy?

If by "assume," you mean "accept without argument," then the answer is yes to the first part of your question and no to the second.

Yes: philosophers assume all sorts of things. They usually assume that there is a world out there and that there are people who at least potentially can read and respond to their arguments. They very often take for granted all sorts of facts, scientific and garden-variety: that there are trees; that people sometimes do things deliberately; that water is made of H2O; that the 4-color conjecture has been successfully proven.

No: this isn't contrary to the intent of philosophy. Except on very eccentric views, philosophy is not the enterprise of doubting everything that can be doubted and accepting only what can be proved from indubitable premises. That may have been Descartes' project, but it's been almost no one else's. In fact, most philosophers would say that this project is deeply flawed.

Philosophy, like the Odyssey begins in the middle of things. Want to think about free will? Start by assuming that there are beings who have intentions and sometimes behave accordingly. Want to think about linguistic meaning? Start by assuming that there are languages and people who use them to communicate. Want to think about cause and effect? Start by assuming that things happen (there are "events," on one way or putting it) and that sometimes what happens fits certain sorts of patterns. And so on.

But in any case, there's no one thing that is the "intent" of philosophy. True: philosophy is relatively non-empirical; we don't generally do experiments to settle philosophical questions. It's hard to see how experiments would tell us what it amounts to for one thing to cause another, for example. But sometimes empirical findings are relevant to philosophical thinking. For example: what experimental psychology tells us about how we actually make decisions might very well be relevant to how we should think about free will.

Who decides what gets doubted and what gets taken for granted? The philosopher, and she does it depending on the questions she wants to explore and the state of the broader discussion of those questions. All of this may seem distressingly impure to outsiders, but philosophers would say that it makes it possible to have productive discussions that someone might have a reason to care about.

If by "assume," you mean "accept without argument," then the answer is yes to the first part of your question and no to the second. Yes: philosophers assume all sorts of things. They usually assume that there is a world out there and that there are people who at least potentially can read and respond to their arguments. They very often take for granted all sorts of facts, scientific and garden-variety: that there are trees; that people sometimes do things deliberately; that water is made of H2O; that the 4-color conjecture has been successfully proven. No: this isn't contrary to the intent of philosophy. Except on very eccentric views, philosophy is not the enterprise of doubting everything that can be doubted and accepting only what can be proved from indubitable premises. That may have been Descartes' project, but it's been almost no one else's. In fact, most philosophers would say that this project is deeply flawed. Philosophy, like the Odyssey begins in the middle of things. Want to think...

Can every philosophical word or term listed in peer-reviewed philosophy

Can every philosophical word or term listed in peer-reviewed philosophy dictionaries be explained with a real-life example? If not, how can we know that it's not just BS?

A not-really-relevant aside: most philosophers don't own philosophical dictionaries, but let that pass.

Here's a non-philosophical word: unicorn. It's easy to explain what it means, but there aren't any real-life examples. Whether a term can be clearly explained and whether there are actual examples are quite different questions.

If it's controversial whether something exists then a philosopher shouldn't pretend otherwise, but the question of whether something exists (God, for instance) might be an interesting one. And sometimes the best way to understand a notion is a philosophical question. The notion of free will is like that. In that case, there's no one meaning for the term, but it's possible to have a perfectly reasonable discussion of what might count as free will and why some answers might be better than others. In fact that sort of discussion comes up in many disciplines. Philosophers are unusual in that they're trained to notice this kind of unclarity and to reason about it carefully.

A not-really-relevant aside: most philosophers don't own philosophical dictionaries, but let that pass. Here's a non-philosophical word: unicorn. It's easy to explain what it means, but there aren't any real-life examples. Whether a term can be clearly explained and whether there are actual examples are quite different questions. If it's controversial whether something exists then a philosopher shouldn't pretend otherwise, but the question of whether something exists (God, for instance) might be an interesting one. And sometimes the best way to understand a notion is a philosophical question. The notion of free will is like that. In that case, there's no one meaning for the term, but it's possible to have a perfectly reasonable discussion of what might count as free will and why some answers might be better than others. In fact that sort of discussion comes up in many disciplines. Philosophers are unusual in that they're trained to notice this kind of unclarity and to reason about it carefully.

An elementary precept of logic says that where there are two propositions, P and

An elementary precept of logic says that where there are two propositions, P and Q, there are four possible "truth values," P~Q, Q~P, P&Q, ~P~Q, where ~ means "not."   Do people ever apply this to pairs of philosophy propositions? For example, has anyone applied it to positive and negative liberty, or to equality of opportunity and equality of condition, or to just process and just outcome? On these topics I can find treatments of the first two truth values but none of the second two.   If this precept of logic is not applied, has anyone set out the reasons?

I'm not entirely sure I follow, but perhaps this will be of some use.

Whether two propositions really have four possible combinations of truth values depends on the propositions. Non-philosophical examples make the point easier to follow.

Suppose P is "Paula is Canadian" and Q is "Quincy is Australian." In this case, the two propositions are logically independent, and all four combinations P&Q, P&~Q, ~P&Q and ~P&~Q represent genuine possibilities. But not all propositions are independent in this way; it depends on their content.

P and Q might be contradictories, that is, one might be the denial of the other. (If P means that Paula is Canadian and Q means that she is not Canadian, then we have this situation.) In that case, the only two possibilities are P&~Q and ~P&Q.

Or P and Q might be contraries, meaning that they can't both be true though they could both be false. For example: if P is "Paula is over 6 feet tall" and Q is "Paula is under 5 feet tall," then we only have three possibilities: P&~Q, ~P&Q, and ~P&~Q. The fourth case, P&Q, isn't possible.

Or P and Q might be subcontraries, meaning that they can both be true, but can't both be false. For example: if P is "Paula is under 6 feet tall" and Q is "Paula is over 5 feet tall," then the only possibilities are P&Q, P&~Q and ~P and Q. ~P&~Q isn't possible.

Or P might imply Q. If P is "Paula is over 6 feet tall" and Q is "Paula is over 5 feet tall," then the possibilities are P&Q, ~P&Q, and ~P&~Q. Here, P&~Q isn't possible.

Finally, P and Q might be equivalent. Suppose P is "The temperature is 32 degrees Fahrenheit" and Q is "The temperature is 0 degrees Celsius." In that case, P and Q are in effect the same proposition, expressed by different sentences. They are either both true or both false, leaving P&Q and ~P&~Q as the only possibilities.

All of this applies across the board, and in particular it applies in philosophy. Not all philosophical claims are independent, and so for some philosophical propositions, one or more of the four combinations won't represent possibilities. But at least some philosophical disputes are over the very question of what the logical relationship between two claims actually is. For example: consider "Paula's behavior is determined" and "Paula is responsible for her behavior." One important view is that these are contraries; they can't both be true. Other philosophers deny this, claiming, for example, that responsibility entails determinism, in which case "Paula is responsible, and her behavior is not determined" doesn't represent a genuine possibility. Other philosophers would claim that the two are independent, and so all four combinations represent genuine possibilities.

This kind of disagreement about the logical relations among philosophical claims is common in philosophy. But the larger point is that we can't simply assume in all cases that all four combinations represent genuine possibilities.

I'm not entirely sure I follow, but perhaps this will be of some use. Whether two propositions really have four possible combinations of truth values depends on the propositions. Non-philosophical examples make the point easier to follow. Suppose P is "Paula is Canadian" and Q is "Quincy is Australian." In this case, the two propositions are logically independent, and all four combinations P&Q, P&~Q, ~P&Q and ~P&~Q represent genuine possibilities. But not all propositions are independent in this way; it depends on their content. P and Q might be contradictories, that is, one might be the denial of the other. (If P means that Paula is Canadian and Q means that she is not Canadian, then we have this situation.) In that case, the only two possibilities are P&~Q and ~P&Q. Or P and Q might be contraries, meaning that they can't both be true though they could both be false. For example: if P is "Paula is over 6 feet tall" and Q is "Paula is under 5 feet tall," then we only have three...

Are answers to political questions less concrete than answers to questions of

Are answers to political questions less concrete than answers to questions of epistemology? Does this mean that even if 100% of philosophers think that Israel has no right to exist, it is no more valid than if 30% of philosophers agreed to the problem of other minds?

Not sure I follow, but by "concrete" I'm guessing you mean either "objective" or "easy to settle." If you do, then on either alternative I can't see why there would be any difference between the two.

In any case, the way you've put things suggests that nose-counting may be relevant. That's surely wrong. The percentage of philosophers who think Israel does or doesn't have a right to exist doesn't seem to me to tell us much of anything about whether that's the best view of the matter; likewise for questions about epistemology. What really matters are the reasons.

I'd add this, however: most philosophers have spent a fair bit of time thinking about epistemological questions; it's part of their training. And so if most philosophers held a particular epistemological view, that would be interesting and might suggest something about the weight of the arguments. However, most philosophers have not spent much of their training thinking about political philosophy; insofar as we can talk about expertise here, philosophers are more likely to have some expertise on questions about knowledge than on questions about geopolitics. And so I'd be less impressed by the fact that most philosophers held some particular view about Israel than if most of them held some particular view about knowledge.

Not sure I follow, but by "concrete" I'm guessing you mean either "objective" or "easy to settle." If you do, then on either alternative I can't see why there would be any difference between the two. In any case, the way you've put things suggests that nose-counting may be relevant. That's surely wrong. The percentage of philosophers who think Israel does or doesn't have a right to exist doesn't seem to me to tell us much of anything about whether that's the best view of the matter; likewise for questions about epistemology. What really matters are the reasons. I'd add this, however: most philosophers have spent a fair bit of time thinking about epistemological questions; it's part of their training. And so if most philosophers held a particular epistemological view, that would be interesting and might suggest something about the weight of the arguments. However, most philosophers have not spent much of their training thinking about political philosophy; insofar as we can talk about expertise here,...

Do philosphers think answers to questions always should mandate a philosophical

Do philosphers think answers to questions always should mandate a philosophical response or do they think there is no such hierarchy? For example, do philosophers think they should have any more say than a politician, a political scientist or a theologian to the answer to the question, "Should there be a United Ireland?"

To say that all questions demand a philosophical response (whatever exactly that is) would be at best a very controversial philosophical view. And a philosopher who thought that philosophers should have more say on large practical questions than anyone else would be hard pressed to justify his or her position. To take your example, the question of whether there should be a united Ireland has many parts. Some of those parts no doubt call for philosophical reflection but some don't. (For example: what people in Northern Ireland and in the Republic actually think is surely relevant; but isn't something we can sort out by doing philosophy.) And even the philosophical aspects (having to do, say, with how we balance competing values) needn't be addressed by professional philosophers; philosophers don't have a monopoly on philosophical thinking.

Of course, there's a more straightforward way to deal with questions of the form "Do philosophers think X?" If X is something controversial (and often even if it isn't) the answer will be "Some do; some don't." But in this case, as a matter of sheer nose-counting, I'd think the answer is "Some may; most don't, and thank goodness for that!"

To say that all questions demand a philosophical response (whatever exactly that is) would be at best a very controversial philosophical view. And a philosopher who thought that philosophers should have more say on large practical questions than anyone else would be hard pressed to justify his or her position. To take your example, the question of whether there should be a united Ireland has many parts. Some of those parts no doubt call for philosophical reflection but some don't. (For example: what people in Northern Ireland and in the Republic actually think is surely relevant; but isn't something we can sort out by doing philosophy.) And even the philosophical aspects (having to do, say, with how we balance competing values) needn't be addressed by professional philosophers; philosophers don't have a monopoly on philosophical thinking. Of course, there's a more straightforward way to deal with questions of the form "Do philosophers think X?" If X is something controversial (and often even if it...

If a philosophy is widely considered difficult to understand and even more

If a philosophy is widely considered difficult to understand and even more difficult to put into practice, then what good is it? Is not overthinking philosophy creating problems where none exist? For example, I sometimes read that Marxism, despite all its failures these past 150 years, has never been correctly implemented and must be given more chances to succeed. Since so many varieties of Marxism have already been tried at the cost of tens of millions of lives and an immeasurable amount of personal and economic freedom lost, why can't we say that history has "disproven" Marxist philosophy?

I'd like to pause over the first half of your first sentence (the 'if' bit): the idea that philosophy is difficult to understand and difficult to put into practice. I'd suggest that this isn't the best way to put things.

Philosophy may or may not be difficult to understand, but no more so than any number of other subjects. Philosophy can be difficult to follow because when done well, it depends on careful arguments and subtle distinctions. That means there's a lot to keep track of, even if the writing is crystal clear. Compare: each step in a math proof might be clear by itself; seeing the argument entire might not be easy.

The next bit is supposed to be that philosophy is difficult to "put into practice." What's striking here is that very few of the philosophers I know think of philosophy as something you "put into practice" in the way that, for example, I might put the Golden Rule into practice. By and large, philosophy isn't in the business of giving practical advice.

For example: some philosophers think about how best to understand the relationship of cause and effect. Some of them have detailed views on what it means for one thing to be the cause of another. But none of them (or none that I know of) would find it very natural to talk about putting this view into practice. They might apply their view to the discussion of more specific problems (such as how best to understand questions about so-called "quantum entanglement") but my hunch is that this isn't what you mean by putting philosophy into practice.

I picked this example for a reason: it's an abstract issue, and it's mainly concerned with understanding something rather than applying it or putting something into practice. That's the kind of discipline philosophy is: one that tries to understand things at a very general level rather than offer practical advice. Whether that's any "good" depends on what sort of good you're looking for, though clear distinctions and careful arguments (the tools of philosophy) have their practical side too.

Still, philosophy is not easy. One reason is that careful thinking in general is not easy. Loads of research bears out what we instinctively recognize: human beings have a strong tendency to be sloppy thinkers. (On this topic, I recommend Thinking Fast and Slow by the social psychologist Daniel Kahneman.) Another reason is that the questions philosophers grapple with (What is cause and effect? Is there a God? Is there such a thing as free will?...) are hard questions. But surely we don't doubt that something is worthwhile just because it's difficult.

That's the general answer to your question, but I'd like to add a couple of comments about your Marxism example. There certainly are philosophical aspects to Marxism, but it's misleading to describe Marxism as a "philosophy." Marxists make a lot of claims about how economies and societies actually work and about how they would work if they were organized in certain ways. Those are claims about empirical matters of fact, even if very abstruse ones. As such, they don't count as philosophical claims. Your instinct that we need to look at the world itself to find out if they're true is right on target. But for exactly that reason, we're no longer simply in the realm of philosophical debate.

I'd like to pause over the first half of your first sentence (the 'if' bit): the idea that philosophy is difficult to understand and difficult to put into practice. I'd suggest that this isn't the best way to put things. Philosophy may or may not be difficult to understand, but no more so than any number of other subjects. Philosophy can be difficult to follow because when done well, it depends on careful arguments and subtle distinctions. That means there's a lot to keep track of, even if the writing is crystal clear. Compare: each step in a math proof might be clear by itself; seeing the argument entire might not be easy. The next bit is supposed to be that philosophy is difficult to "put into practice." What's striking here is that very few of the philosophers I know think of philosophy as something you "put into practice" in the way that, for example, I might put the Golden Rule into practice. By and large, philosophy isn't in the business of giving practical advice. For example: some...

Why are personal religious beliefs more respected and legally protected than

Why are personal religious beliefs more respected and legally protected than personal philosophical beliefs? Could this be because religious metaphysics are more irrefutable than secular metaphysics?

I'm guessing that by "personal philosophical beliefs" you mean not just philosophical beliefs that someone might happen to hold (such as the belief that numbers exist as Platonic objects, for example) but beliefs and commitments about matters that someone takes to be of great personal significance—the kinds of things one might build one's life around. To clarify: I might think that numbers really exist as abstract objects, but if I were talked out of that belief, not much about how I live my life would change. For many religious people, on the other hand, religious beliefs are part of their core. A committed Christian, for example, might well think that if she lost her Christianity, there's an important sense in which she wouldn't be the same person. However, as you apparently recognize, religious beliefs aren't the only ones in that category. Ethical commitments are a good example. Many people with deep ethical commitments are not religious, and yet those commitments are every bt as important to those people as the explicitly religious beliefs of committed believers.

I agree with Prof. Maitzen that if we want to know how it cam about and why it persists that religious beliefs get more social deference than other kinds of deep commitments, philosophers as such have nothing special to say. But there's a nearby question that may be part of what you have in mind: is there any good reason for giving special treatment to religious as opposed to secular commitments?

I'm inclined to say that for the most part, there isn't. Some people think that without belief in a supernatural being, one can't have truly deep commitments. They may think, in particular, that without belief in God, one can have no basis for distinguishing right from wrong. I think (I suspect most of my co-panelists agree) that that's a serious confusion. However, I can think of one possible reason that might carry some weight. Being a member of a religious group sometimes makes people targets of hatred and abuse. Religious hate crimes are real and serious. They may have occasional parallels based merely on people's secular commitments or associations, but there's a marked difference in scale. And so one possible reason for being especially careful to give special protection to religious beliefs is that as a matter of historical fact, religious beliefs are especially likely to make someone a target of abuse. The point, in other words, is not that there's anything intrinsically special about religious commitments as opposed to secular commitments. It's that there's a practical reason having to do with the actual kinds of bad behavior that people all to often engage in.

I'm guessing that by "personal philosophical beliefs" you mean not just philosophical beliefs that someone might happen to hold (such as the belief that numbers exist as Platonic objects, for example) but beliefs and commitments about matters that someone takes to be of great personal significance—the kinds of things one might build one's life around. To clarify: I might think that numbers really exist as abstract objects, but if I were talked out of that belief, not much about how I live my life would change. For many religious people, on the other hand, religious beliefs are part of their core. A committed Christian, for example, might well think that if she lost her Christianity, there's an important sense in which she wouldn't be the same person. However, as you apparently recognize, religious beliefs aren't the only ones in that category. Ethical commitments are a good example. Many people with deep ethical commitments are not religious, and yet those commitments are every bt as important to...

In the rare event that all the professional philosophers in the world agreed on

In the rare event that all the professional philosophers in the world agreed on the answer to a philosophical problem, would that mean it is solved? If not, what good is philosophy anyway?

In the event—rare or otherwise—that all physicists in the world agreed on the answer to a physics problem, that wouldn't mean that the problem was solved. It wouldn't mean that because it's at least possible that all the physicists could be mistaken or could be missing some crucial piece of information. So if a discipline's being worthwhile requires that universal agreement among its practitioners amounts to a problem being solved, then there likely aren't any worthwhile disciplines.

Perhaps the preceding remarks show that philosophy can at least provide us with useful distinctions, and that's surely worth something. But forget about agreement; if the criterion for a discipline being worthwhile is that it provide definitive answers to its problems, then deck is already stacked against philosophy. It traffics in exactly the kinds of problems where it's unreasonable to expect definitive answers. However, why think that's the criterion for a discipline's being worthwhile? Definitive answers to interesting questions are a lot less common than you may suppose. And philosophical questions (many of them, anyway) are interesting, as their persistence would seem to indicate.

We find ourselves asking philosophical questions. There's no reason to think that's going to change. Some of these questions deal with things we care deeply about. It's also pretty clear that some attempts to grapple with those questions are more plausible and more intellectually satisfying that others. Since we're not likely to stop caring about philosophical questions, it's hard to see what could be wrong with trying to tackle them as carefully and well as we can.

In the event—rare or otherwise—that all physicists in the world agreed on the answer to a physics problem, that wouldn't mean that the problem was solved. It wouldn't mean that because it's at least possible that all the physicists could be mistaken or could be missing some crucial piece of information. So if a discipline's being worthwhile requires that universal agreement among its practitioners amounts to a problem being solved, then there likely aren't any worthwhile disciplines. Perhaps the preceding remarks show that philosophy can at least provide us with useful distinctions, and that's surely worth something. But forget about agreement; if the criterion for a discipline being worthwhile is that it provide definitive answers to its problems, then deck is already stacked against philosophy. It traffics in exactly the kinds of problems where it's unreasonable to expect definitive answers. However, why think that's the criterion for a discipline's being worthwhile? Definitive answers to...

Will computers ever be able to solve philosophy problems and should they? If

Will computers ever be able to solve philosophy problems and should they? If they could, would they give better answers than humans?

I think the best answers to your questions are, in order, we don't know, why not, and we don't know.

A bit less tersely: you're asking about the capabilities that computers might one day come to have. In particular, you're asking whether they'll ever be able to pass a philosophy version of the Turing Test (that is: will they ever be able to give response that a philosopher couldn't distinguish from the ones given by flesh-and-blood philosophers.) I'd be very skeptical of any a priori argument meant to show that this is impossible. And I'd keep in mind that it's a mistake to think that the only way this could happen is for the answers to be "programmed into" the computer.

I think the best answers to your questions are, in order, we don't know, why not, and we don't know. A bit less tersely: you're asking about the capabilities that computers might one day come to have. In particular, you're asking whether they'll ever be able to pass a philosophy version of the Turing Test (that is: will they ever be able to give response that a philosopher couldn't distinguish from the ones given by flesh-and-blood philosophers.) I'd be very skeptical of any a priori argument meant to show that this is impossible. And I'd keep in mind that it's a mistake to think that the only way this could happen is for the answers to be "programmed into" the computer.

Does the amount of suffering in the world that is caused by man's misbehavior

Does the amount of suffering in the world that is caused by man's misbehavior towards each other indicative of a failure of philosophy to create meaningful solutions or rather an ignorance of philosophy?

I'd say neither.

Ideas can inspire, but knowing philosophy doesn't mean you won't be cruel. Theoretical understanding need not change our dispositions and sympathies. The extent to which it does is an empirical matter, but I'd guess that a sociopath could also be a skilled and brilliant philosopher. Even more important, people don't need philosophy to treat each other well. Whether someone is kind decent, and whether they understand Kant are two quite different questions.

There's a related point: even if we have the right theory of goodness and justice, the question of how to get people to be good and just isn't one that philosophy can answer. It depends on all sorts of difficult factual questions that call for psychology, sociology, economics and a great many other kinds of empirical knowledge.

In short: on one end of the question, I fear you may be overestimating the need for philosophy; on the other end, I fear you may be overestimating its power.

That said, there's a problem I haven't mentioned and that I think is worth worrying about: the power of bad ideas. People in the grip of a bad theory can do a lot of harm even with the best of intentions. Philosophy has produced its share of bad theories but it's also helped to puncture many. And so I don't want to give the impression that philosophy has nothing to contribute; it's just that we need to have appropriate expectations

I'd say neither. Ideas can inspire, but knowing philosophy doesn't mean you won't be cruel. Theoretical understanding need not change our dispositions and sympathies. The extent to which it does is an empirical matter, but I'd guess that a sociopath could also be a skilled and brilliant philosopher. Even more important, people don't need philosophy to treat each other well. Whether someone is kind decent, and whether they understand Kant are two quite different questions. There's a related point: even if we have the right theory of goodness and justice, the question of how to get people to be good and just isn't one that philosophy can answer. It depends on all sorts of difficult factual questions that call for psychology, sociology, economics and a great many other kinds of empirical knowledge. In short: on one end of the question, I fear you may be overestimating the need for philosophy; on the other end, I fear you may be overestimating its power. That said, there's a problem I haven...

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