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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?

This is a really nice question, and one with a long pedgree: the British philosopher Mary Midgley once said that, if you really want to understand a philosopher, you need to ask what they are afraid of, what they loathe, what they love - of what goes deep with that philosopher, of what 'bone they are compelled to gnaw on', as Hamann once put it, or of what the philosopher wants to 'confess', for Nietzsche. Since this question might invite autobiographical answers, mine - for what it's worth - I find most pleasure in ideas that help to understand and articulate my hostility towards attitudes like arrogance, dogmatism, narrow-mindedness, and so on (what people nowadays call 'intellectual vices'), and, conversely, in ideas that present justice and openness and tolerance. I find beauty in that.

My question seems to be a simple one but I haven't been able to find a balanced

My question seems to be a simple one but I haven't been able to find a balanced answer to it so easily. As far as I can ascertain, there are two broad schools of philosophy, the Analytic school and the Continental school. Whilst Analytic philosophy focuses upon logic and reason and favours empirical or evidential arguments that focus to examine very clearly defined concepts, Continental philosophy tends to focus on a more abstract theorising that I am lead to believe, rejects the empirical and the rational as the means to discovering knowledge, and even treats knowledge, truth, and ideas in a much more relative manner. Therefore my question is as follows: "Does Continental philosophy really eschew logic and reason, if so then on what basis are credible arguments made? If this is not the case, then what is the general difference between the two schools and why should it be taken seriously in opposition to Analytic philosophy which at face value seems to be much more accessible and 'down to earth' in the...

Hi! the question you raise points to a very large set of historical and philosophical issues, and one that, so far, has sustained an equally large mass of scholarship! I'd offer three thoughts on this.

1. The characteristics often proposed for one of these two camps often apply equally as well to the other - for instance, enthusiasm for science, predilection for abstract theorising, careful attention to rational argumentation can be found on both sides of the divide (if there is one!) There is a nice discussion of this in Steven Burwood et al, 'Metaphilosophy: An Introduction' (Cambridge 2013).

2. The norms and forms of philosophical argumentation are not fixed - they are historically and culturally variable, even if, in many cases, they can survive 'de-contextualisation' to a high degree. So the Buddha, Socrates, Aquinas, Boyle, Nagarjuna, Dilthey, Quine, and Heidegger all argue, but the forms, presuppositions, presuppositions, etc., that inform and shape those arguments are very different - so a degree of historical understanding and sensitivity to context is - at least in my view - an essential component of good philosophical practice.

3. The analytic and Continental traditions - whatever they might be - are still both components of a larger philosophical tradition - namely, the Western philosophical tradition, and there are, historically, two other major philosophical traditions, namely the Indian and the Chinese. Even if the distinctions between the Western, Indian, and Chinese traditions is not more or less easy to mark out than that between analytic and Continental, it is worth emphasising that philosophy, both in the present and in the past, was not confined to the West.

What makes a good philosopher?

What makes a good philosopher?

So let's start with the most obvious part: "philosophy" comes from the Greek "philo" (love) + "sophia" (wisdom). Whether what we do now is all rightly conceived as wisdom might be a matter of debate, but it seems highly likely that no one will be a good philosopher unles he or she really loves philosophy. Moreover, although I don't believe a good philosopher has to love all philosophy, I do think it is important that he or she loves at least a lot of it. This is partly because the best philosophy makes connections to other areas of philosophy, and often brings in sophistication from more than a single narrow area in application to problems within that area. The other reason why such love is critical, I believe, is that philosophy is hard. Solving philosophical problems is a rarity, to be honest, and even understanding some of the solutions others have offered can take a great deal of effort and patience. One who does not love philosophy will find all that effort and patience quite difficult to come by. Love allows one to be comfortable, happy, avoiding the shortcuts and wanting "the real deal" out of involvement in really difficult problems. But this kind of work can be frustrating, anomic, tedious, and at times can feel like progress is nowhere to be found. Only love, I think, can help one to push through such obstacles.

Other than love, I suppose I would also claim that good philosophers generally need to be quite intelligent in analytical ways (though, alas, we can often also plainly embody the "absent-minded professor" stereotypes in ways that can be embarrassing!), and it helps for one to be a good philosopher that one is genuinely open to criticism and a good listener. In my experience, there can be quite gifted philosophers who do not have these traits, but I always think they could get even more from their gifts if they had them. Some years ago, in my APA-Pacific presidential address, I actually argued that the virtue of modesty is one that would be very valuable to those who wish to be good philosophers. I still believe that, but never believed that all good philosophers were modest. Rather, I think that if a good philosopher were also modest, the virtue would make him or her an even better philosopher. But to be at least good, I'm afraid modesty is not required--instead, just being good at philosophy will generally be a matter of having the love and also having great analytical skills. But even these are not quite enough, because to be good at philosophy, the analytical skills also have to be accompanied by an ability to "think outside the box" and to consider solutions from angles that others have not imagined before. Just having good analytical skills does not always guarantee intellectual originality. That, too, is necessary for one to be good at philosophy.

More people are familiar with the ideas of Camus and Sartre, two examples of

More people are familiar with the ideas of Camus and Sartre, two examples of continental philosophers who wrote of the need of philosophy to be applied to the human condition, than are aware who Quine and Wittgenstein were. Does it bother analytic philosophers that most people consider analytic philosophy to have zero relevance in their lives yet regard many continental philosophers as public intellectuals?

I suppose I count as a'continental' philosopher. It is worth pointing out that thisanalytic/ continental distinction, however you want to draw it, andfor whatever it is worth, is mainly internal to philosophy. 'Mostpeople' would not be aware of the distinction. Heck, there are signsin businesses that say 'Our philosophy is to provide an excellentcustomer experience'. So, I fully support the need for publiceducation and some kind of large-scale PR exercise. However, thereare hopeful signs. The book market is virtually flooded withintroductions to this or that philosophy, theme or topic, most aimedat a general audience. Experts at judging their markets, publishers clearly see a wide interest in philosophy. This is not an entirely new phenomenon, ofcourse, but its scale is unprecedented. Also there are a very fineset of materials for doing philosophy with children (indeed, even mydaughter's school uses them), and this could be encouraged much more.

I've heard philosophers talk about "dissolving" problems and questions. What

I've heard philosophers talk about "dissolving" problems and questions. What does it mean to dissolve questions/problems and how do philosophers do it?

Dissolving a philosophical problem involves challenging the presuppositions -- often unrecognized presuppositions -- that give rise to the problem. Consider two examples near to my own heart. Newcomb's Problem in decision theory has generated enormous controversy since it was first brought to the attention of philosophers in 1969, and the dispute over the "correct solution" to the problem shows little sign of being settled anytime soon. But some philosophers think the problem is unsolvable because it's ill-posed. On their view, it's a pseudo-problem, perhaps because it's based on the false presupposition that we can understand the set-up of the problem in the first place. They think the problem is therefore one to be dissolved rather than solved. A second example is the perennial question "Why is there something rather than nothing at all?" Many philosophers have spent tremendous energy concocting elaborate metaphysical answers to that question. But I think the question, as it's usually intended by those who ask it, is based on a confusion that makes it ill-posed and therefore unanswerable, as I argue here. So I think the question (again, as it's usually intended) is to be dissolved rather than answered at face value. I hope these examples help.

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

For a philosophy student, what is the best language to learn? Particulary, a

For a philosophy student, what is the best language to learn? Particulary, a student interested in moral and political philosophy, and epistemology too. I think is english, and that's why I'm already learning it. If I'm right, what is the best after english? I'm a spanish native speaker.

Great question! Your choice of language may depend on your philosophical interests. If you are interested in Greco-Roman and philosophy in late Antiquity and Medieval philosophy, then Greek and Latin would be excellent. If you are interested in Indian or Hindu philosophy sanscrit would be best. Your Spanish will be good for reading a very fine, dynamic Spanish philosopher and essayist, Jose Ortega Y Gasset. Spanish philosophy (that is, philosophy in Spain, not just in Spanish) experienced hard times after the defeat of democracy in 1939, but after the restoration of democracy in 1978, Spain has been a place of multiple, alternative philosophical debates. Two outstanding philosophers to consider (AFTER you have read some Ortega, who is fabulous), I suggest you consult J.L. Lopez Aranguren and J.M. Valverde.

I think your pursuit of English is a great choice. I could be wrong, but I believe that probably the most number of philosophical works available today are accessible in English, more than any other single language. This is not just do to the works that are first published in English, but due to the wide ranging works that have been and are being translated into English. English is also more easy to learn than, say, Chinese in terms of numbers of characters and punctuation. When I was in graduate school (long, long ago...), after English the languages of choice were French and German. Because life is short, and in mastering English and reading current Spanish speaking philosophy (which also is flourishing in Mexico, Central and South America; on this, see Latin American Philosophy Today, edited by Jorge J. E. Garcia), I suggest choosing French or German, depending on your interests. If you want to read Heidegger in the original, go with German, if you want to read Sartre in the original, I suggest you go with French.

Having the opportunity to learn and discover philosophy is in my mind a

Having the opportunity to learn and discover philosophy is in my mind a privilege. Learning and understanding philosophical matters can be enlightening, clarifying, reassuring and ultimately life-changing. Although this may appear as a personal issue but relevant to all those who are interested in philosophy, my question is why might someone feel inadequate or not worthy of gaining such knowledge? I'm very interested and want to expand on the knowledge I already have but I feel guilty at the same time. Why should I get this and not someone else? I think philosophy should be taught in all schools and branched out to all corners of the world.

I'm going to read your question not as a psychological one (that as "What would cause someone to feel inadequate or unworthy or learning philosophy?") but rather as a question about whether there could be good reasons for feeling this way.

Before we go on, an important preliminary: what I'll say is intended to be perfectly general and not to be a diagnosis of your particular case. Since I don't know anything about your case beyond the question I've asked, I couldn't possibly speak to its particulars.

As for why someone might justifiably feel inadequate, one obvious answer is that they might lack the requisite talent. For example: if someone paid for me to do a PhD in mathematics, I would feel inadequate for the very simple reason that I don't have enough mathematical talent to be a serious part of the community of students in a PhD mathematics program. And if it turned out that my being part of the program meant I was taking the place of someone with real talent, that would reasonably make me feel not just inadequate but unworthy. I'd feel guilty for making poor use of a scarce resource.

That would be a reasonable worry. But there's another kind of worry. Suppose I actually had real mathematical talent. And suppose that this got me into a math PhD program. On the one hand, I would be worthy of being in the program. But on the other hand, I might be aware that it wasn't just talent but also some measure of luck that got me there. In fact, it would be virtually certain that someone equally talented didn't get the opportunity that I got. That might make me feel bad. Indeed, it would probably be true that many people were all things considered more worthy than I, even though I met the (demanding) standard for being in the program.

Suppose all that's true. What should we say?

There's no doubt that our good fortune often involves a real measure of good fortune -- of luck. The same often goes for one's bad fortune. The world shows no signs of making desert and reward line up neatly and there's no reason to think it ever will. In some cases, the mismatch amounts to real injustice; in those cases, the right thing might be to something about it, even if that means giving up something we care about. For example: if you ended up in your place by way of a head-to-head competition with somebody who was clearly more deserving, that would be an injustice, and might make a case for stepping aside. But if the worry is more in the nature of existential discomfort about the general unfairness of life, it's not clear that there's anything to be done. You ask "Why should I get this and not someone else?" There may be no good reason. But if you stepped aside to have your place taken by someone no more deserving, that wouldn't right any wrong.

Still, the fact that you have this concern could count indirectly in favor of your having the privilege. If you get a good philosophical education, you'll not only be intellectually equipped to bring philosophy to a wider circle of people; you may be much more motivated to do so than others with the same skills. That may be the best way for you to think about your good fortune.

I've read many here who say that everyone alive who thinks critically is a

I've read many here who say that everyone alive who thinks critically is a philosopher, not just those who have published academic articles and books. Isn't this a dangerous and incorrect notion since it gives credence to the fact that Mao Zedong is just as much a philosopher as Kant? Many PhD holders in science wouldn't consider themselves a scientist if they don't work in science. How frustrated are professional philosophers in that the masses throughout history have accepted so much "bad philosophy" and cannot recognize exactly what philosophy IS and what its aims (if any) are?

A good question! Or rather, two good questions - the first about whether a desire to philosophise is innate in human beings, the second about what being a philosopher in contemporary society means.

Taking the first, many philosophers have argued that a desire to philosophise is inherent in all human beings - but, of course, this is different from saying that (1) everyone has the ability to philosophise (or at least, to philosophise well) and that (2) any philosophical ability that they do have has been trained and cultivated. So perhaps everyone wonders about the nature of good and evil - well, that might be the case, but perhaps not everyone has the inclination to work up those wonderings into systematic reflection, and perhaps not everybody will seek out the sorts of rigorous intellectual training that makes someone a professional philosopher.

Regarding the second, much also depends on how one wants to define 'philosopher'. If by that you mean an academic philosopher, then activities like publishing peer-reviewed journal articles and teaching graduate seminars will be part of being a philosopher - but of course, academic philosophy in this sense is a rather recent phenomena - at least when considered in the wider context of the history of philosophy - and that history offers other senses. One of the most important of these is the conception of a philosopher as someone who is deeply committed to rigorous intellectual conduct - who demands the provision of articulated arguments, who has high standards of intellectual performance, and so on. If so, many more people will count as philosophers!

Is it true that no computer, no matter how sophisticated humans construct it in

Is it true that no computer, no matter how sophisticated humans construct it in the future, will ever be able to solve philosophy problems because fundamentally a computer cannot function without initial human input programming? Even something as simple or mundane as an everyday moral dilemma?

I do no think it is true that a computer cannot function without initial human input programming. There is nothing in the nature of computation that implies this. I believe, along with most cognitive scientists, that human minds are, or include as components, computers... for example, the visual system is understood very well in computational terms. I also do not see why a computer that did require initial human input programming should automatically be unable to solve philosophical problems - such computers can, after all, solve other kinds of problem. What is so special about philosophy?

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