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how global integration of cultures, including Eastern metaphysical influences,

how global integration of cultures, including Eastern metaphysical influences, affected contemporary philosophical thinking

Great question! I believe that the contemporary philosophical community is so expanding in scope that our traditional categories of what counts as "Eastern" and "Western" will come under considerable pressure. Sure, we will never abandon the idea that Confucianism and Taoism emerged in China, Hinduism and Buddhism in India, and we will probably persist in thinking about Socrates as uniquely a vital figure in the Athens of Ancient Greece. But in an increasingly global and diverse setting, I suggest we will become less attached to the importance of individual, unique histories and geographical / regional points of origin. For quite some time, so-called Eastern or Asian philosophy has been advocated by non-Asian European and American philosophers, living in "the West." Significant numbers of philosophers in China, India, southeast Asia, Japan, and South Korea are practicing philosophy in a way that is very much in keeping with Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Brown, Princeton, and so on. Part of the doorway that has made all this possible, is the increased availability of good translations between East and West, North and South. One person who led the way on this was a Jewish friend in graduate school with me at Brown University who was brought up in New York City but went on to become a leading translator and expositor of Buddhist philosophy. I suspect that the nineteenth and twentieth century interplay philosophically was often focussed on matters of religion or philosophy of religion. But over time, this work has expanded to comparing Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean (et al) philosophical work on metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, logic, aesthetics with work that has been and is being done outside of Asia. It should not be overlooked, as well, that there is increasing collaborative work among philosophers at work in Muslim cultures with those in other cultures.

I believe all this is headed in the right direction. Eventually, it will no longer be as compelling to say to someone "of course you are an X [Muslim, Christian, observant Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, secular, utilitarian, moral realist, etc] because you were brought up in culture or country Y. More and more, with the spread of universities and literature in good translations, persons will be exposed to greater diversity and more positions to philosophically reflect upon.

I assume that there are philosophical questions or problems that were once hotly

I assume that there are philosophical questions or problems that were once hotly debated but which have since been resolved, at least to the satisfaction of most contemporary professional philosophers. I wonder if any of the panelists could provide a few examples of such questions/issues.

Interesting question. Here is a possible example: In Plato's Protagoras, Plato has Socrates and Protagoras argue about whether there is just a single virtue (despite the different names for virtues, such as "justice" and "courage" and "wisdom" and so on), or whether there are several different virtues, corresponding with the different names. So one might think that Plato decided to take up this topic, because he thought it was one that was controversial or under discussion at that time. To the best of my knowledge, however, no one believes in "the unity of the virtues" anymore. But even if there is someone out there who does, I think it might still be true to say that the view is not taken seriously by "most contemporary professional philosophers," as you put it. I'm sure there are other instances of "dead" theories, as well.

I'm interested in the issue of whether people would have moral responsibility

I'm interested in the issue of whether people would have moral responsibility under determinism. So if a person in a deterministic universe would happen to commit murder, some people would say that they are morally responsible for the action, and others would disagree. When I speak of "moral responsibility" here I'm thinking along the lines of whether the person would deserve blame and retributive punishment. (If it actually happened that we lived in a deterministic universe, I assume that we would have to hold people morally responsible in some sense for practical reasons. We would have to punish to protect society and to deter future crime; but some might give up on the idea of retributive punishment and see criminals rather as unfortunate victims of the blind process of nature.) I'm not expecting a solution to the question, "Would people be morally responsible under determinism?". Rather I'm going to ask: could the issue be a conflict of opposing moral principles that may just be forever unsolvable...

You asked: "Could the issue be a conflict of opposing moral principles that may just be forever unsolvable by rational argument? So maybe you just can't produce arguments that can 'bridge the gap' between the two sides, i.e., the arguments just don't exist that would have the rational force and traction against the other side." I don't see it as a conflict of opposing moral principles. I think each side sees itself as trying to work out the implications of our shared concept of moral responsibility. One side thinks that our shared concept requires indeterminism; the other side thinks it doesn't. Or maybe our shared concept is inconsistent in both requiring and not requiring indeterminism, or we have two distinct concepts of moral responsibility, but even that I wouldn't classify as a conflict of moral principles. In any case, I'm not pessimistic about the possibility of making progress in this debate. Indeed, I think we've made progress in the last several years and will continue to. The new field of experimental philosophy may offer some help in resolving it.

You also asked: "Do some moral disputes...come down ultimately to people holding differing instinctive moral principles that can't be proved or disproved?" Some moral disputes might fit that description, but I don't see the compatibilism/incompatibilism debate as fitting it, again because I don't see it as a moral dispute. I'd also distinguish between (1) resolving an issue beyond reasonable disagreement and (2) getting everyone on the losing side of a debate to agree that they've lost. (1) can happen without (2).

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.

Do all philosophical problems reduce to the metaphysical question of "why"?

Do all philosophical problems reduce to the metaphysical question of "why"?

Not as far as I can see. Indeed, I highly doubt that we've discovered all of the philosophical problems there are, and I'd be very surprised if the problems we have discovered all reduced in that way. What makes you suspect that they might?

Consider, for example, the Paradox of the Heap: If we remove grains, one at a time, from a billion-grain heap of sand, when precisely does the heap cease to exist? The question has implications for much more serious matters than heaps of sand, and the answer is extremely controversial. I can't see how this paradox "reduce[s] to the metaphysical question of 'why?'." For starters, why what?

Are empirical questions inherently non-philosophical? If answers to those

Are empirical questions inherently non-philosophical? If answers to those questions can be determined by polling or science, should philosophers never address them?

Your question touches on a current debate within philosophy. You can find more about the debate by searching under "experimental philosophy" and "x-phi" on the web. Regardless of which side one takes, however, it's always important to know which kind of question (empirical, conceptual, logical, normative, or a mixture of those) one is trying to answer: the answer to "Which kind of question is that?" is a philosophical matter.

In my experience, philosophers too often fail to recognize that the question they're asking has empirical aspects -- aspects that, as philosophers, they're not trained to investigate. If a question can be answered by polling or some other empirical method, then any philosopher who tries to answer it had better be properly trained in the relevant empirical method. Once the empirical results are in, the implications of those results are something that philosophers, as such, are well-equipped to work on.

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.

As a professional philosopher; which philosophical idea brings you the greatest

As a professional philosopher; which philosophical idea brings you the greatest joy whenever you think about it?

What a lovely question! Thank you!

I'm going to punt for Kant's account of the beautiful as that which brings harmony among the cognitive faculties and 'enlivens' their mutual functioning. Now, why does this bring me joy? First of all, because I have found the idea enormously philosophically fertile (for example, it is important to my and Ole Martin Skilleas' work on the aesthetics of wine, and also to my way of interpreting the concept of affirmation in Nietzsche). Second, it still maps onto my experience of art and nature, despite my having subjected both the idea and my experiences to relentless self criticism. Third, as an idea, it is itself about beauty, pleasure and life. What more do you want?

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.

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.

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