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8 Great Philosophical Questions That We’ll Never Solve
Posted: 25 September 2012 09:32 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Enough already!  You can’t win.  Move on.

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“In the end nature is horrific and teaches us nothing.” -Mutual of Omicron

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Posted: 25 September 2012 11:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Ok, here are the answers tongue rolleye :

1. Why is there something rather than nothing?
Here the author is perfectly right. But so now and then it needs a philosopher to point that out, especially when scientists are derailing here.

2. Is our universe real?
What a stupid question. Of course it is. And even when it is a simulation, it is real as simulation. For us it makes no difference. To suppose that we could break out of the simulation as happens in the Matrix is a logical absurdity. The Matrix is a great movie, but philosophically seen it is a catastrophe. There is no practical difference between solipsism and realism.

3. Do we have free will?
Yes. The author makes so many mistakes in his treating of the topic, it would need a new thread to discuss them tongue wink

4. Does God exist?
I am inclined to agree with Dawkins. It is an empirical question. And the answer is no, with nearly absolute certainty.

5. Is there life after death?
No. Just kill yourself, and you will see I am right.

6. Can you really experience anything objectively?
What does the question mean? The author needs sure a few introductory courses in philosophy.

7. What is the best moral system?
There is no best. Why trying to answer a question of which philosophy has shown that the question as such makes no sense already?

8. What are numbers?
Perfectly defined mathematical abstract objects. In what time is the author living? That of the old Greeks?

The author’s ideas are quite naive:

Philosophy goes where hard science can’t, or won’t. Philosophers have a license to speculate about everything from metaphysics to morality, and this means they can shed light on some of the basic questions of existence. The bad news? These are questions that may always lay just beyond the limits of our comprehension.

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Posted: 26 September 2012 05:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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There’s the additional question of what it means to “solve” a philosophical question. The underlying assumption from this guy seems to be that we’ve only “solved” or “resolved” such a question when the answer meets with universal approval. (Or worse, when it meets with his approval).

If that’s our criterion, then we’ll never solve any question.

OTOH if his point really is that “These are questions that [will] always lay just beyond the limits of our comprehension”, then it’s basically absurd. In order for him to know such a thing he would have to know each question’s real answer and the scope of our comprehension (or the scope of our possible comprehension!), in order to be able to compare the two and assert such a thing. But to do that is, of course, impossible. So if the assertion were true, it would not be something he could know, prove or even demonstrate.

I venture to say that all these questions have been given reasoned, reasonable answers over the years. (GdB has a few of them, above). It may be that there will always be new things to say about them, but then so too can that be said of physics and math.

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Posted: 26 September 2012 05:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Boy, I was expecting something a bit more challenging.  I’ve answered all of these questions to my satisfaction within my own ontology years ago.  I’m quite certain Doug is entirely correct that they’ve all “been given reasoned, reasonable answers over the years.”—by philosophers.  The only people who may think they are unsolvable are “philsosophers”, that is, pseudo-philosophers (a few of which show up on this forum occasionally. LOL )

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Posted: 27 September 2012 08:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Let’s see here.  So a philosophical question is “solved” so long as there’s an answer to it that’s reasonable to somebody?  Alright then, I guess.  What’s the point?  If any arbitrary load of BS serves as an answer so long as it makes sense to someone than what the hell purpose does any of it serve?  The whole field is meaningless.  And as far as I’ve observed, the difference between a ‘philosopher’ and a ‘pseudo-philosopher’ seems to be how well they can obfuscate their point with arcane verbiage.

blank stare

EDIT
Take a guess.

[ Edited: 27 September 2012 08:41 AM by Dead Monky ]
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Posted: 27 September 2012 08:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Dead Monky - 27 September 2012 08:34 AM

Let’s see here.  So a philosophical question is “solved” so long as there’s an answer to it that’s reasonable to somebody?  Alright then, I guess.  What’s the point?  If any arbitrary load of BS serves as an answer so long as it makes sense to someone than what the hell purpose does any of it serve?  The whole field is meaningless.  And as far as I’ve observed, the difference between a ‘philosopher’ and a ‘pseudo-philosopher’ seems to be how well they can obfuscate their point with arcane verbiage.

No, a philosophical question is solved so long as it’s been given a correct answer. Its being reasonable or making sense to someone is immaterial.

And if “the whole field is meaningless”, what exactly are you doing in making that claim? Hint: you aren’t doing physics.

I will agree with one point you’ve made, with a slight modification. A pseudo-philosopher (of whom we see a lot in public) is almost definable as being extremely good at obfuscating. Sometimes that’s done with arcane verbiage, sometimes it’s done otherwise. Although one does sometimes see pseudo-philosophers who are just incompetent.

But just because something is complex does not mean it’s been obfuscated. Some issues just are complex.

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Posted: 27 September 2012 08:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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dougsmith - 27 September 2012 08:43 AM

No, a philosophical question is solved so long as it’s been given a correct answer. Its being reasonable or making sense to someone is immaterial.

Sure, but what makes it a “correct” answer?  The answer to that seems to vary from person to person.  I mean, if the same question can be answered by multiple people multiple ways all with the varying levels of satisfaction or “correctness” (again, depending on who you ask), then how can any question actually be answered correctly?  At least in any meaningful way.  (I think I jut had a stroke.)

And if “the whole field is meaningless”, what exactly are you doing in making that claim? Hint: you aren’t doing physics.

What am I doing?  I am pondering the philosophy and merits of philosophy itself for my own ironic amusement.  Sort of meta-irony or something.  cheese

I will agree with one point you’ve made, with a slight modification. A pseudo-philosopher (of whom we see a lot in public) is almost definable as being extremely good at obfuscating. Sometimes that’s done with arcane verbiage, sometimes it’s done otherwise. Although one does sometimes see pseudo-philosophers who are just incompetent.

But just because something is complex does not mean it’s been obfuscated. Some issues just are complex.

And I know some issues are complex and so on.  In fact, many are.  But that’s not really what I was getting at there.

EDIT
Fixed some tag errors.

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Posted: 27 September 2012 09:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Dead Monky - 27 September 2012 08:55 AM
dougsmith - 27 September 2012 08:43 AM

No, a philosophical question is solved so long as it’s been given a correct answer. Its being reasonable or making sense to someone is immaterial.

Sure, but what makes it a “correct” answer?  The answer to that seems to vary from person to person.  I mean, if the same question can be answered by multiple people multiple ways all with the varying levels of satisfaction or “correctness” (again, depending on who you ask), then how can any question actually be answered correctly?  At least in any meaningful way.  (I think I jut had a stroke.)

Well ... one issue is whether the question is given a correct answer, another issue is whether (and how) we know it’s a correct answer. Is it well-argued? What is the evidence? How does it deal with counterarguments? Etc. There is no royal road to knowledge, unfortunately.

You’re right to point out that ‘what makes X a correct answer’ seems to vary from person to person, and that the same question can be answered by multiple people multiple ways, etc. But here’s the thing. That’s true of all questions, not just “philosophical” ones. For example: some people have different criteria for what makes a correct answer re. human evolution. The same question (why there are humans) can be answered by multiple people multiple ways. Some folks seem to think that they were created by God in 10,000 BCE. Their way of answering the question involves revelation and the Bible.

So if those kinds of issues lead you to ask, “how can any question actually be answered correctly?” or “... meaningfully”, then you will have to say the same about all questions, for example questions re. human evolution.

Dead Monky - 27 September 2012 08:55 AM

And if “the whole field is meaningless”, what exactly are you doing in making that claim? Hint: you aren’t doing physics.

What am I doing?  I am pondering the philosophy and merits of philosophy itself for my own ironic amusement.  Sort of meta-irony or something.  cheese

Right. And I’m just thick-skulled enough to take you seriously rather than ironically.  tongue wink

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Posted: 27 September 2012 09:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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dougsmith - 27 September 2012 08:43 AM

No, a philosophical question is solved so long as it’s been given a correct answer.

So is compatibilism the correct answer to the problem of free will?

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Posted: 27 September 2012 09:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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dougsmith - 27 September 2012 09:16 AM

Well ... one issue is whether the question is given a correct answer, another issue is whether (and how) we know it’s a correct answer. Is it well-argued? What is the evidence? How does it deal with counterarguments? Etc. There is no royal road to knowledge, unfortunately.

You’re right to point out that ‘what makes X a correct answer’ seems to vary from person to person, and that the same question can be answered by multiple people multiple ways, etc. But here’s the thing. That’s true of all questions, not just “philosophical” ones. For example: some people have different criteria for what makes a correct answer re. human evolution. The same question (why there are humans) can be answered by multiple people multiple ways. Some folks seem to think that they were created by God in 10,000 BCE. Their way of answering the question involves revelation and the Bible.

So if those kinds of issues lead you to ask, “how can any question actually be answered correctly?” or “... meaningfully”, then you will have to say the same about all questions, for example questions re. human evolution.

Hmm, true.  Though I think it bothers me when it comes to philosophy and the like because there aren’t really any quantifiable facts you can gather, measure, etc.  It’s just endless, circling, debate.  It seems meaningless.  Especially since no appreciable progress ever seems to be made.

Right. And I’m just thick-skulled enough to take you seriously rather than ironically.  tongue wink

Heh, it didn’t start that way.  About halfway through I realized that my complaining and picking at philosophy in attempt to get people to ponder it rather than its questions is really just engaging in philosophy itself.  I come to those sorts of realizations a lot.

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Posted: 27 September 2012 10:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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George - 27 September 2012 09:19 AM
dougsmith - 27 September 2012 08:43 AM

No, a philosophical question is solved so long as it’s been given a correct answer.

So is compatibilism the correct answer to the problem of free will?

Basically, yes. For a fuller answer, I’d say that the folk concept ‘free will’ (at least as most people use it) is confused. One thing people mean by the term is basically ‘libertarian free will’, which appears worthwhile at first glance but deeper thought reveals is incoherent. There are, however, a large constellation of free-will ideas—e.g., the ones Dan Dennett discusses in his book Elbow Room—that should be analyzed compatibilistically.

But that said, I’m really not going to get into yet another discussion of free will.

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Posted: 27 September 2012 10:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Dead Monky - 27 September 2012 09:24 AM

Hmm, true.  Though I think it bothers me when it comes to philosophy and the like because there aren’t really any quantifiable facts you can gather, measure, etc.  It’s just endless, circling, debate.  It seems meaningless.  Especially since no appreciable progress ever seems to be made.

Well, as to progress, I’d disagree with you there. I think that good philosophy does progress along with progress in the sciences. I mean, yeah, we have in a sense always had the debate about mind/body or free will, but nowadays brain science has really refined those questions to where we can say quite a bit more.

You might say that the progress therefore is just due to the sciences. But after all, historically the sciences sprung from “natural philosophy”; as questions get nailed down and people can think of ways to quantify them and gather facts, etc., they get science-ized. It will not happen that all questions get such treatment, because at the end there will always be questions as to what constitutes “science”, what constitutes “evidence”, “knowledge”, etc.

So to an extent philosophy does have some quantifiable facts to gather and measure: it just looks over at the sciences and uses their facts when appropriate. It also looks at logic and math when appropriate (two clearly valid, useful studies that are purely rational, without really ‘measurable’ facts).

As to endless, circling debate: again, that depends on where you sit. Yeah, debate does go on, but that’s just because some people are stubborn and refuse to see reality. There are also some physicists who don’t believe in the constant speed of light. So one might just as well say there is endless, circling debate in science as well.

I think one can say that in philosophy there’s less of a sense of ‘consensus’ than in science; though that’s just a guess on my part. It certainly seemed to me in a good, science centered, analytic philosophy department that (e.g.) most people were atheistic and compatibilistic, to take two examples. Maybe that overly constrains what counts as philosophy, but then I don’t consider a lot of so-called “post-modernism” to be real philosophy, since it lacks clarity and rigor.

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Posted: 27 September 2012 10:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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dougsmith - 27 September 2012 10:00 AM
George - 27 September 2012 09:19 AM
dougsmith - 27 September 2012 08:43 AM

No, a philosophical question is solved so long as it’s been given a correct answer.

So is compatibilism the correct answer to the problem of free will?

Basically, yes. For a fuller answer, I’d say that the folk concept ‘free will’ (at least as most people use it) is confused. One thing people mean by the term is basically ‘libertarian free will’, which appears worthwhile at first glance but deeper thought reveals is incoherent. There are, however, a large constellation of free-will ideas—e.g., the ones Dan Dennett discusses in his book Elbow Room—that should be analyzed compatibilistically.

But that said, I’m really not going to get into yet another discussion of free will.

No worries, it wasn’t my intention to turn this into another free will soap opera.

What about moral realism? Is this also the correct answer to the problem of morality?

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Posted: 27 September 2012 10:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I don’t have time right now to read the above posts, but my answer to DM’s quesion is:  When I recognize that a question is bullcrap, that’s answer #1.  And when I recognize that the answer to a question is so obvious that all it’s going to do is generate nitpicking babble, that’s answer #2.  All of those eight fit one or the other of those two categories.

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Posted: 27 September 2012 11:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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dougsmith - 27 September 2012 10:10 AM

It certainly seemed to me in a good, science centered, analytic philosophy department that (e.g.) most people were atheistic and compatibilistic, to take two examples.

It’s easy to be an atheist (or at least a deist) since we have Epicurus and Plato’s Euthyphro. (I think philosophy here did a great job answering the question of God’s existence.) I just wish somebody came up with something as clever to show me that compatibilism (or moral realism) is true. I already know you will say that some things are more complicated than others, so don’t say it.  smirk What I want from you is to come up with something as clever as Epicurus’s and Plato’s arguments against the existence of God, to show me that compatibilism and moral realism are true. I’ll pay you…

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Posted: 27 September 2012 11:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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...and it should be no longer than fifty words, and in plain, simple English. I should be alive for about another thirty years, so don’t rush it. You have plenty of time.

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