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A recent questioner asked if there are any more dialogue-based--as opposed to

A recent questioner asked if there are any more dialogue-based--as opposed to strict question-and-answer format--places on the internet to discuss philosophy. The replies took the questioner to be implying a kind of unregulated "philosophical chat room" where anyone can throw out their dubious reasoning and call it philosophy. That may characterize many internet forums, regardless of the subject matter, but there is, I think, a middle ground between this site's ask-the-experts format (which I greatly appreciate, don't get me wrong!) and chats/blogs by people who are totally unqualified to comment meaningfully on philosophical issues. Are there any blogs that you would *recommend* for the level of discourse that, at least sometimes, is displayed there between professional philosophers and, perhaps, thoughful "lay-people" (i.e., where philosophically disciplined and thoughtful people talk to each other)?

Here are two suggestions. The first is less of a philosophy blog and more of a metaphilosophy blog, but it often has useful links to other blogs that you might like:

"Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog / News and views about philosophy, the academic profession, academic freedom, intellectual culture...and a bit of poetry"

http://leiterreports.typepad.com/

The second is also not quite a philosophy blog itself but a philosophy metablog, with summaries and pointers to other philosophy blogs:

"Philosopher's Carnival"

Its location seems to move around and is always posted on the Leiter Report. The current version is at:

http://ichthus77.blogspot.com/2012/02/philosophers-carnival-138.html

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.

What I remember from my philosophy courses is the spirited debate, lively

What I remember from my philosophy courses is the spirited debate, lively dialogue. For me this site is too question-and-answer, like the Stanford Online Encyclopedia that is often pointed to in the responses. Is there a place on the web where I can find a more dialogue-based form of philosophy?

I second Professor Smith's reply. I haven't participated in philosophy chat rooms either, but I've commented on blogs by non-philosophers who post on philosophical topics. I've found the quality of thinking in those totally unregulated forums to be so bad it's scary. There are people in the blogosphere who are allowed to drive and vote who couldn't reason their way out of a wet paper bag. Philosophy is a discipline, one that takes hard work to acquire. Would you want to discuss medieval history, or quantum mechanics, or set theory in a dialogue format with just anyone out there? I wouldn't. Philosophy is like those other disciplines except that its problems are harder and more fundamental to our intellectual lives. Why do so many people think that being competent at it takes no training at all?

Is the claim that education is a universal right a morally defensible claim? I

Is the claim that education is a universal right a morally defensible claim? I have heard many people claim that education is a priviledge or a commodity, and they have quite convincing arguments. They say that because teachers need to be paid, and books, computers, etc. need to be purchased, that only those people who can afford it (or who can borrow the money for it) should have access to education. Although this conclusion is unsettling, I cannot seem to think of any reason to deny its validity, nor can I find a solid argument defending education as a right.

There is a saying among philosophers: "ought" implies "can." The application of this maxim to your question is as follows: It seems that anything that deserves to be called a "universal right" would be something that ought to be provided to everyone--no exceptions. But this could not possibly be true about education (or anything else, under the maxim) if the way the world is, as a matter of fact, makes it impossible, as a practical matter, actually to provide what such a "right" requires. So we might think about the question of whether or not there are people whom we simply can't provide with the resources necessary for the kind of education we might reasonably wish we could provide to everyone.

Now, I think the question of whether or not we actually can educate everyone will depend on facts about sociology, psychology, and economics that I do not pretend to know. But I am inclined to think that the idea of educating absolutely everyone to the extent we might wish to educate them is something we simply can't do. If so, I think it cannot be sensible to hold education as a "universal human right." Some things are very valuable desiderata; but not all of these are "universal human rights."

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.)

Hi, I graduated from college a few years ago and have since developed an

Hi, I graduated from college a few years ago and have since developed an extremely strong interest in Philosophy. Although I have read a considerable amount of Philosophy on my own, as an undergrad I studied History, Literature and Spanish but not any Philosophy (aside from certain concepts that were relevant to my other studies). I was wondering what I could do to have a chance to get into a quality PhD program in Philosophy. I went to a very well regarded school and my grades were excellent, but I don't have the Philosophy coursework (or recommendations from Philosophy professors). Thank you in advance for any advice.

It is said that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different

It is said that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is stupid and or insane - but is it? My teenage son occasionally truants from school and when does he is punished by suspension - which suits him as he does not like school. However, missing school sets him further back with his studies, which makes him like school less, so he truants more frequently, then he is given more suspension and the cycle continues. When I discuss the matter with the school Principal and Vice Principal their attitude is that these are the rules and cannot be changed to suit a particular student as, among other things, that would be unfair to the other students. I said that treating all the students the same is not necessarily fair; that students should be treated according to their needs. I asked the school to use a different form of punishment (detention, extra homework, not allowed on school trips, etc. for a while - but to no avail (there is no point getting on to the School Board as both...

I am afraid your argument is a bit too subtle for the school, and one can see why. They are working on the principle perhaps that eventually something will click in the young man's mind and he will benefit from the "punishment". There is in fact some evidence that young offenders who constantly get into trouble often just stop offending, and it could be the punishment that does it. I understand that right now he does not see it as punishment, but hopefully the school is working on the assumption that one day he will, and perhaps they are right. Frankly, why should they care, if they can exclude an awkward student they will.

If you could make his exclusion less pleasant this would back them up and make him less ready to go for that option.

If I am very interested in philosophy to the point where I would one day like to

If I am very interested in philosophy to the point where I would one day like to write a philosophical treatise or take part in the global exchange of philosophical ideas, but have little or no interest in teaching, would seeking a Ph.D in philosophy be unneccesary? This is putting aside the need for the discipline of setting one's mind to undertaking a thesis as I would likely obtain graduate education in a different, yet supplementary field?

But isn't there an odd tension between saying that you would like to write and take part in the exchange of philosophical ideas and saying that you have no interest in teaching? Isn't teaching In a university (the kind of teaching for which a PhD is required) one sort of exchange of ideas? And isn't it a particularly valuable one for the teachers who are thereby forced to make their ideas as clear and accessible as they can and to respond to the challenges of their students who in turn can teach them so much? How many philosophers can do good work without the constant challenges thrown up in their teaching?

Could you suggest an introductory book on metaphysics. thank you

Could you suggest an introductory book on metaphysics. thank you

I think the best introductory book on metaphysics published in the last 40 years is: Metaphysics by Richard Taylor. I think it is outstanding in its clarity and structure. For slightly more challenging, but more recent books, check out the books on metaphysics by E.J. Lowe (a British philosophy at the University of Durham) and Michael Loux (an American philosopher at the University of Notre Dame).

Is it fair to force someone to learn even if it is for their own good?

Is it fair to force someone to learn even if it is for their own good?

Well, in many countries attending school up to a given age is not voluntary; penalties are in the offing for not doing so. The justification is often articulated in terms of the good of the person who is forced to learn --such education will enable her or him to work, make a living, make decisions for themselves, the education might help the person not to be exploited, and so on. But the justification is sometimes more in terms of the good of a society at large. In a healthy democracy, for example, it is good to have citizens who are sufficiently educated who can understand political, economic, and social policies and vote in light of an informed, reasonable evaluation of the alternatives. I personally think that this practice and enforced education is defensible, but your question raises interesting further questions. How far can a nation state go in terms of imposing instructions? In the USA and the UK, it seems that the state is virtually compelling tobacco users to learn that smoking causes cancer. Again, I am inclined to think this is good or at least permissible, but I am not sure how far this can or should extend. If someone buys a lot of alcohol, should they have to listen to three lectures on the dangers of abuse? How long can or should a nation state compel students to remain in school? Until they can read and write or until they know the law and history of their society? Maybe each citizen should learn some world history? Also, most fundamental question of all: can one really force a person to learn something, if they do not wish to learn it or actively resist the instruction? I certainly do not have all the answers, let alone suggestions here, but I hope that raising these additional questions might help one to see the terrain better and what needs to be addressed.

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