Give me your philosophical questions!

I’ve decided to try an experiment with blogging a lot more about philosophy. How long this experiment goes on will depend in part on the response to it. If after testing the waters there seems to be not much demand, I’ll probably pack it in. If there turns out to be a huge amount of demand, however, it may motivate me to return to my past blogging schedule of many blog-posts per week.

So please: if you like learning about philosophy, but have questions you can’t find good answers to, let me know! Ask me questions in the comments! Also: please share this post as widely as you can, because the more attention this gets, the more time I’m likely to put into this project. That’s what the “share” buttons at the bottom of this post are for!

Note that my goal mostly won’t be to advocate any particular answer to the philosophical questions I talk about. I can be opinionated about philosophy at times, but mostly my opinion is that nobody has the answers to most of these questions. What I want to do is address the problem that amateur philosophy buffs all too often only hear one side of any given question, because nobody is bothering to present the other sides in an accessible fashion.

So please: send me send me those questions! And don’t forget to tell all your friends!

  • Vladimir Nesov

    I’d appreciate recommendations of sane first textbooks in any of the main topics, including history.

  • MNb

    1. Is it meaningful to assume we live in more than one reality, given for instance the many worlds interpretation of quantummechanics?

    Also consider that we seem to assume a flat Earth when travelling from home to work, a spherical Earth when flying from New York to Tokyo and a curved time-space when using a GPS. If this is meaningful, what possible meaning(s) could a multifold reality have?
    2. What is your position on the postulation of an immaterial, transcendetal, supernatural reality and why? Also if you’re inconclusive, why? What are the consequences for metaphysics?

    • urbster1

      In the spirit of question #2, what is the ontological status of mathematics, and what is the ontological status of the physical laws of nature? Is Platonism a realistic possibility?

  • bshlegeris

    1. What do you think about metaethics?

    2. How do you deal with the mind-body problem? Are other humans conscious? Dogs? Bugs? Bacteria? Simulated minds? Laptops?

  • Schwarzwald

    Are there compelling reasons to follow philosophies of life that *aren’t* Stoicism/Buddhism?

  • ZenDruid

    What weight is given the “Corpus Hermeticum” that surfaced in the Florentine Renaissance? Does it represent Stoicism? Did it, or could it have, influenced Spinoza et al?

  • GCBill

    Is hylemorphic dualism taken seriously at all outside of Thomistic circles in philosophy of mind?

    Which theories of consciousness yield distinguishable, testable predictions? Have any of these predictions been tested?

    What are the current trends/attitudes in AI research with regards to the embodied cognition thesis?

  • Evan Gaensbauer

    What are the schools of thought regarding what constitutes personhood for a being, or agent, especially those who aren’t human? Otherwise, what are counter-intuitive arguments for what qualifies one for moral agency, or moral patiency.

  • Evan Gaensbauer

    - What are the best secular counter-arguments to the is-ought problem?

    - If solipsism, or Cartesian skepticism, or the simulation argument, is true, what should anyone do to practically update their lives in light of this realization? Is there any sort of empirical, Bayesian, anthropic evidence we could use to generate worthwhile inferences about the basement universe?

    - Philosophical traditions other than those the Western, and Abrahamic religions, traditions don’t seem to place as much emphasis on the idea that time is naively linear, and has a definite beginning. Contemporary physics seems to dissolve questions with that definition of time implicit in them. Is this any different for conceptions of time from other traditions, e.g., Hindu mythology, and Indian philosophy, which considered time cyclical.

    - How does classical political philosophy, and economics, bear upon political traditions from outside the Western world, such as ‘Islamic economics’, or the tradition of philosophy of China, as a continue imperial state for thousands of years?

    - What are the orders of formal logic which are most relevant to the formal epistemology being practiced by, e.g., the Machine Intelligence Research Institute?


  • Evan Gaensbauer

    Is there a well-unified body of literature detailing how progress in epistemology has been practically instrumental in the advancement of fields such as empirical science, or law?

  • Daniel Filan

    What do you think about chance/propensity theories of probability?

  • Luke Breuer

    Ockham’s razor: does the ontological version have any justification whatsoever? Phil.SE’s Justify Occam’s Razor may be of help. I say ‘ontological’ to reference what really exists, which is quite different from the methodological razor which basically says: understand systems one step at a time—don’t bite off more than you can chew. To put it another way:

         ontological razor: discovering the thing-in-itself
         methodological razor: developing a picture of the thing

    If we realize the deep truth illustrated by Ceci n’est pas une pipe., we will realize that it is invalid to jump from methodological to ontological on the basis that the methodological razor works well.

    Let’s take Atomism as a possible example of an attempt to employ the ontological razor. What are the indivisible ‘atoms’? We found out that they weren’t the chemical elements. We found out that they weren’t what are now called ‘atoms’. We found out that they weren’t protons and neutrons. Are electrons an example? Well, you can get holons, orbitons, and spinons, which are all ‘quasiparticles’ which represent the distinct parts of an electron: its charge, orbital location, and spin, respectively. The electron can ‘split’ into these separate components in some circumstances. Furthermore, you can get fractionalization, where those things that were supposed to come in whole numbers—like charge—can come in fractional numbers. So what’s the indivisible atom?

    Are we justified in using the ontological razor to say that quarks are probably ‘just’ quarks, and not e.g. some bound state of more fundamental particles? If we aren’t justified in doing this (and I think we aren’t), then are we justified in deploying the ontological razor in arguments about the existence of God?

  • Dante

    What’s philosophy good for?
    What’s philosophical theism good for?

  • Dante

    What are the most important things to know for life , in general?
    Who are your favorite philosophers , ancient and modern?

  • gsastry

    What are examples of progress in philosophy? Do you think that Solomonoff on Induction and Kolmogorov on Complexity are examples of progress on important philosophical progress? Can you say something about what sorts of philosophical problems are “solved” to whatever degree of solved, and the techniques used to solve these problems?

  • D Rizdek

    Rant follows: I’m trying to read up on philosophers of the past…famous ones who lots of people quote and apparently admire. Some of them ask questions like, “how do we really know there is a real world out there?” and “how can we know anything?” and there’s Hume’s “even if the sun rises every morning for a billion years, he can think of no logical reason to think it’s gonna rise tomorrow.” I sometimes wonder how they were able to go to the bathroom…as uncertain as they seem to have been. I sometime fantasize inviting one of ‘em out to my workshop and giving them blindfold and asking them to put it on and then tell them to hold their hand…just so (right over my anvil). I’d get my 22 oz framing hammer and whap their hand a good one and then ask them if they think they exist and believe there’s a real world out there and do they know what I just did. Of course it’s an absurd fantasy, but I must not understand how they use words like “know” and “real world” and “logic,” because lots of smart people think they were pretty smart.

    And the question about how to find the truth…some say it’s all rationale and reason…that’s the only way. Others say it’s primarily experience and observation. I mean, come on, it has to be both parsed out in pretty much equal parts with iterative thinking and seeing what works. Survival and a modicum of comfort is the way we find out if we’re sensing the real world and reasoning correctly…IMHO.