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Can studying philosophy help one to become more creative? What percent of the

Can studying philosophy help one to become more creative? What percent of the first year undergrads you've taught have had original thoughts in their heads at any time?

Yes. And 100%.

OK, perhaps those answers are too short and uncreative.

But yes, I think reading philosophy, thinking about philosophical questions, and trying to come up with and write about philosophical issues can stimulate creative thinking and improve one's creativity (perhaps not artistic creativity but new ways of thinking about things, new ideas, etc.). I think philosophy students tend to become better at imagining different options and solutions and at writing new types of arguments. I'm allowing my current senior major students to do a creative project to engage with the topic we're discussing (death and the meaning of life), and we'll see what they come up with, but music, drama/dialogues, short films, and video games are possibilities.

And it's 100% because original thoughts happen all the time. Each one of us experiences things in ways no one else has. If you meant original answers to philosophical questions, well, then it's probably much lower, but those are not so easy to come up with.

Yes. And 100%. OK, perhaps those answers are too short and uncreative. But yes, I think reading philosophy, thinking about philosophical questions, and trying to come up with and write about philosophical issues can stimulate creative thinking and improve one's creativity (perhaps not artistic creativity but new ways of thinking about things, new ideas, etc.). I think philosophy students tend to become better at imagining different options and solutions and at writing new types of arguments. I'm allowing my current senior major students to do a creative project to engage with the topic we're discussing (death and the meaning of life), and we'll see what they come up with, but music, drama/dialogues, short films, and video games are possibilities. And it's 100% because original thoughts happen all the time. Each one of us experiences things in ways no one else has. If you meant original answers to philosophical questions, well, then it's probably much lower, but those are not so...

I currently study philosophy at an undergraduate level at Trinity College Dublin

I currently study philosophy at an undergraduate level at Trinity College Dublin, and I am interested in pursuing philosophy of mind at a graduate level – certainly with a PhD. That's the hope anyway. I have considered perhaps doing something like an MPhil at Cambridge. Yet, I am concerned that a lot of work in philosophy of mind doesn't seem to take into account where it sits on the boundary between science and philosophy, and a lot of what we get is some sort of babble that doesn't fit into what we know from science. Often, there is a lot of stuff that thinks it is informed by science, but really isn't – out of simple ignorance. I like David Chalmers's views on this: "Everything I say here is compatible with the results of contemporary science; our picture of the natural world is broadened, not overturned." I have considered completing an MSc in Neuroscience that doesn't take things from a philosophy perspective. There are quite a few programs, such as one at my own university, that accept students...

Well, I think your plans sound great. But of course I would, since I helped develop the Neurophilosophy Track in the MA program in philosophy at Georgia State University (www.gsu.edu/philosophy). I'm not just advertising! (though you might consider our program.) I'm suggesting that your view of philosophy of mind as continuous with the cognitive sciences is a prominent one (and the right one to boot!). Many PhD programs in philosophy (including MIT, but also Washington University's PNP program, UC San Diego, CUNY, Pitt HPS, Indiana, and others) have people and programs focusing on empirically-informed philosophy of mind. Most of them would appreciate your taking some time to study neuroscience or other cognitive sciences. Most of them would allow you to pursue such courses while doing your PhD in philosophy (and some have certificates in cog sci). So, go get an MSc in neuroscience and/or apply for MA or PhD programs that would allow you to get some rigorous training in the relevant sciences. And then join the wave of researchers in philosophy and some of the relevant sciences who see our fields as a joint project aimed at figuring out how the most complex thing in the universe (the brain) does all the remarkable stuff our minds do.

Well, I think your plans sound great. But of course I would, since I helped develop the Neurophilosophy Track in the MA program in philosophy at Georgia State University (www.gsu.edu/philosophy). I'm not just advertising! (though you might consider our program.) I'm suggesting that your view of philosophy of mind as continuous with the cognitive sciences is a prominent one (and the right one to boot!). Many PhD programs in philosophy (including MIT, but also Washington University's PNP program, UC San Diego, CUNY, Pitt HPS, Indiana, and others) have people and programs focusing on empirically-informed philosophy of mind. Most of them would appreciate your taking some time to study neuroscience or other cognitive sciences. Most of them would allow you to pursue such courses while doing your PhD in philosophy (and some have certificates in cog sci). So, go get an MSc in neuroscience and/or apply for MA or PhD programs that would allow you to get some rigorous training in the relevant...

Is AskPhilosopher.org an anti-intellectual website because it is predicated on

Is AskPhilosopher.org an anti-intellectual website because it is predicated on the idea that basic questions about life can be answered in two easy-to-read paragraphs via a panel of philosophers?

Well, I don't see any evidence that AskPhilosophers.org or the philosophers on the panel think they are answering the big questions in two paragraphs. Most of the responses suggest the beginnings of an answer, one or two of the many answers that philosophers have offered, more questions, further reading, etc. Sometimes panelists, including me will offer what we take to be the best answer to a question, but I suspect we rarely think we've said all there is to say. But sometimes the questions aren't that philosophical or basic (like this question!). So, sometimes we can offer a pretty definitive answer, like this one:

No, this website is not "anti-intellectual." (I hope it is accessible, even fun, but that doesn't rule out being "intellectual," or at least, philosophical!)

Well, I don't see any evidence that AskPhilosophers.org or the philosophers on the panel think they are answering the big questions in two paragraphs. Most of the responses suggest the beginnings of an answer, one or two of the many answers that philosophers have offered, more questions, further reading, etc. Sometimes panelists, including me will offer what we take to be the best answer to a question, but I suspect we rarely think we've said all there is to say. But sometimes the questions aren't that philosophical or basic (like this question!). So, sometimes we can offer a pretty definitive answer, like this one: No, this website is not "anti-intellectual." (I hope it is accessible, even fun, but that doesn't rule out being "intellectual," or at least, philosophical!)

Besides the problems surrounding various applications of biomedical science and

Besides the problems surrounding various applications of biomedical science and neuroscience (including questions of the nature of the mind), are there any other major new fields of philosophical inquiry, or any major new insights, that have been opened up by social and/or technological change over the past century? Or are most new problems just old problems rehashed with new examples or with greater magnitude?

Yes, yes, no. There are new fields and insights and its not just old problems rehashed (though the new fields certainly contribute to the old problems). Google "neuroethics"; check out discussions of artificial intelligence or extended mind; look at the way most of the problems considered in philosophy of mind intersect with discoveries in the sciences of the mind. You'll see many ways that new scientific discoveries and technologies raise new philosophical questions and influence the answers to old philosophical questions.

Yes, yes, no. There are new fields and insights and its not just old problems rehashed (though the new fields certainly contribute to the old problems). Google "neuroethics"; check out discussions of artificial intelligence or extended mind; look at the way most of the problems considered in philosophy of mind intersect with discoveries in the sciences of the mind. You'll see many ways that new scientific discoveries and technologies raise new philosophical questions and influence the answers to old philosophical questions.

I am a first year Philosophy teacher at a private high school. Do you have any

I am a first year Philosophy teacher at a private high school. Do you have any suggestions for where I can find age-appropriate excercises and activities? I teach high school juniors and seniors.

Also, see resources being put together by Mitchell Green at UVA. See here: http://www.virginia.edu/uvatoday/newsRelease.php?id=12739

I am in the midst of applying to a master's program in philosophy and am

I am in the midst of applying to a master's program in philosophy and am wondering if a 5 page writing sample will necessarily disqualify me.

It might not disqualify you at some programs, but it will certainly count against you at most. The writing sample is the primary way of distinguishing applicants' philosophical talents, at least once they have been narrowed down using other criteria (such as coursework in philosophy and grades, letters--though for the competitive candidates, they tend to be equally gushing--and perhaps GRE). A 5-page sample is unlikely to provide evidence that you can develop an argument responding to a particular position that you have adequately and charitably explained. (Of course, Gettier's famous paper is quite short!)

I say all this with empathy--I was a philosophy minor (not major) and did not have a good, long piece of writing to submit when I applied to grad school. I had to use a mediocre, long piece, and was lucky to be accepted in the few places I was. But that was (too) many years ago when the competition was a little less fierce. I would try to work with one of your professors to develop one of your short papers into something more substantial (12-18 pages).

(On the other hand, people should NOT submit pieces longer than 20 pages.)

It might not disqualify you at some programs, but it will certainly count against you at most. The writing sample is the primary way of distinguishing applicants' philosophical talents, at least once they have been narrowed down using other criteria (such as coursework in philosophy and grades, letters--though for the competitive candidates, they tend to be equally gushing--and perhaps GRE). A 5-page sample is unlikely to provide evidence that you can develop an argument responding to a particular position that you have adequately and charitably explained. (Of course, Gettier's famous paper is quite short!) I say all this with empathy--I was a philosophy minor (not major) and did not have a good, long piece of writing to submit when I applied to grad school. I had to use a mediocre, long piece, and was lucky to be accepted in the few places I was. But that was (too) many years ago when the competition was a little less fierce. I would try to work with one of your professors to develop one of...

Recently a question was asked about the nature and value of philosophy. I was

Recently a question was asked about the nature and value of philosophy. I was surprised that only one panelist chose to respond. In his response, Gordon Marino wrote the following: "There are people who make their living doing philosophy who are really into it because they enjoy unlocking intellectual puzzles and building models." By not replying, is the implication that the other panelists agree with this assessment of what professional philosophy is? And if this is an accurate characterization of professional philosophy, why is it a department at the college level? It sounds more like the description for one of the many enrichment activities offered after school at the local elementary and middle schools. It seems to me that this cannot be an accurate description of the field, as the amount of professional philosophy done would not thereby be accounted for by the economic demand for it. Thoughts?

No, my not replying was not tacit agreement with Gordon's assessment of professional philosophy, and I suspect some other panelists also disagree. We're philosophers--you'll always find differences of opinion. But, looking back at his answer, he simply said there are some people who enjoy the puzzle-solving aspect of philosophy, not that all or most of professional philosophy works that way. I suspect that many or most professional philosophers enjoy both the puzzle solving and the engagement with the big questions about the meaning of life, morality, what we are, etc., and many probably like the intersection of the puzzles with the big questions. But trying to find a single accurate description of philosophy or philosophers or even academic philosophy is like trying to find a single accurate description of the meaning of life. Ain't gonna happen. Having said all this, I am sometimes disappointed at the rarity of professional philosophers who are able to connect their academic...

What are the three characteristics of a philosophical question?

What are the three characteristics of a philosophical question?

Hmm, I don't know why you think there are exactly three characteristics, but since you asked it that way, I'll give it a go:

1. Philosophical questions tend to concern (to paraphrase Led Zeppelin) what is and what should be (and also how we can know what is and what should be)--that is, they tend to be about metaphysics (what exists and how it exists), ethics (what we ought to do and what a good life is), and epistemology (what can we know and how). They are the questions kids ask: "Why?" and "Why should I?" (and "How do you know?")

2. Philosophical questions typically look like they are (a) not objective (such that we know just what it would take to figure out the one right answer), (b) not subjective (such that the answer depends just on whatever someone thinks about it), and (c) difficult. As we discover agreed-upon methods for finding objective answers to questions, they tend to migrate into the sciences (and become "easy"--just kidding, scientists!). But philosophers do agree a lot about better and worse ways (methods) of answering philosophical questions and about better and worse answers and defenses of them. Some philosophers think that some questions (such as what is good or just) are relative or subjective, or that some questions are unanswerable or badly formed, but they agree that reaching such conclusions requires good arguments.

3. Philosophical questions tend to be important. They seek answers that are fundamental (hence underlying many of our, and our society's, other beliefs and our, and our society's, actions and policies) and comprehensive (aiming to unify our beliefs and actions into a coherent whole).

OK, I cheated and put in a lot more than just three characteristics. But what do you expect from a philosopher? (if I could add more, I'd say that philosophical questions are typically both frustrating and fun!)

Hmm, I don't know why you think there are exactly three characteristics, but since you asked it that way, I'll give it a go: 1. Philosophical questions tend to concern (to paraphrase Led Zeppelin) what is and what should be (and also how we can know what is and what should be)--that is, they tend to be about metaphysics (what exists and how it exists), ethics (what we ought to do and what a good life is), and epistemology (what can we know and how). They are the questions kids ask: "Why?" and "Why should I?" (and "How do you know?") 2. Philosophical questions typically look like they are (a) not objective (such that we know just what it would take to figure out the one right answer), (b) not subjective (such that the answer depends just on whatever someone thinks about it), and (c) difficult. As we discover agreed-upon methods for finding objective answers to questions, they tend to migrate into the sciences (and become "easy"--just kidding, scientists...

I'm interested to know about the capability of philosophize. Because in my own

I'm interested to know about the capability of philosophize. Because in my own experience, noticed that when I were a teenager (13-15) I had a strong insight and I started to feel and thought the philosophie even did not reading books, only by my experience of just living. However after had grown up, this ability became even more weak until it disapeared. Today, when I can read the text of the philosophers, I can see all that I thought but not feel as I could feel. Now it seems that the poetic powers are gone. My question is if we can philosophize again (as Schopenhauer says that the Philosophy that chooses the time to come and show us the world in its inner) or just reproduce the quotes of other writers?

I begin my Introduction to Philosophy classes by saying that philosophical questions are those that children ask, "Why?", and those that adolescents ask, "Why should I?" I share your feeling that there is an energetic curiosity in children (and "pre-adults") that is often drained as we age--alas, in some cases by our educational system and media. I think we should try to fight having that philosophical feeling sapped by trying to explore new questions and fields, reading widely, talking with others about the big questions, and reminding ourselves how each thing we learn also illuminates how much we have yet to learn. But it is hard to force oneself to feel. So, we just have to inculcate the best habits we can and hope the feeling of love of wisdom (philo-sophia) will wash over us occasionally as we age. (It always helps to engage philosophically with children too and hope some of their questioning curiosity is contagious!)

I begin my Introduction to Philosophy classes by saying that philosophical questions are those that children ask, "Why?", and those that adolescents ask, "Why should I?" I share your feeling that there is an energetic curiosity in children (and "pre-adults") that is often drained as we age--alas, in some cases by our educational system and media. I think we should try to fight having that philosophical feeling sapped by trying to explore new questions and fields, reading widely, talking with others about the big questions, and reminding ourselves how each thing we learn also illuminates how much we have yet to learn. But it is hard to force oneself to feel. So, we just have to inculcate the best habits we can and hope the feeling of love of wisdom (philo-sophia) will wash over us occasionally as we age. (It always helps to engage philosophically with children too and hope some of their questioning curiosity is contagious!)

Do you have to be smart to become a philosopher? Or can you be one even if you

Do you have to be smart to become a philosopher? Or can you be one even if you have average intelligence?

I think you have to be pretty smart. But then again, I may be biased!

I think you have to be pretty smart. But then again, I may be biased!

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