Skip to main content

Comments on the Survey

Image result for philosophers

That is the cliched "School of Athens" image for a discussion of philosophers, followed by a link to the complete set of questions and data of the survey I excerpted from yesterday.

What strikes me is that there are some questions on which nothing remotely approaching consensus exists -- there are almost as many "nominalists" (or those leaning that way) as there are "Platonists," and a sizeable though smaller proportion of "other."

Likewise on normative ethics "other" is dominant, yet even that catch-all category is a minority. The Big Two -- deontology and teleology -- are closely split for second/third.

Personal identity, too, is a matter of very sharp split, and a matter where "other" wins. Fortunately, the results page (link above) lets one get more granular on "other" when one has a mind to. The most popular "other" answer for Personal Identity is "agnostic/undecided." But there were also philosophers in respectable numbers saying "there is no fact of the matter" as to personal identity -- an answer that just sounds odd to me.

Surely there is SOME fact of the matter??? We do see ourselves as having identity. A philosopher arriving at his university for another work day sees himself as the same fellow who arrived yesterday, and who is entitled to pick up the check that will bear THAT fellow's name. If the official responsible for cutting the check is genuinely that THIS fellow claiming to be the faculty member is a fraud, then he wants to inquire into identity.

So the result of the exercise is that I end up curious why anyone would check "no fact of the matter" for this one. Not a bad result. Good philosophy should try to resolve questions of the sort that only bad philosophy generates, by showing that there is no "fact of the matter." But it shouldn't try to dissolve questions that real life generates! Should one cut the check or not?


Popular posts from this blog

Great Chain of Being

One of the points that Lovejoy makes in the book of that title I mentioned last week is the importance, in the Neo-Platonist conceptions and in the later development of the "chain of being" metaphor, of what he calls the principle of plenitude. This is the underlying notion that everything that can exist must exist, that creation would not be possible at all were it to leave gaps.

The value of this idea for a certain type of theodicy is clear enough.

This caused theological difficulties when these ideas were absorbed into Christianity.  I'll quote a bit of what Lovejoy has to say about those difficulties:

"For that conception, when taken over into Christianity, had to be accommodated to very different principles, drawn from other sources, which forbade its literal interpretation; to carry it through to what seemed to be its necessary implications was to be sure of falling into one theological pitfall or another."

The big pitfalls were: determinism on the on…

A Story About Coleridge

This is a quote from a memoir by Dorothy Wordsworth, reflecting on a trip she took with two famous poets, her brother, William Wordsworth, and their similarly gifted companion, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

We sat upon a bench, placed for the sake of one of these views, whence we looked down upon the waterfall, and over the open country ... A lady and gentleman, more expeditious tourists than ourselves, came to the spot; they left us at the seat, and we found them again at another station above the Falls. Coleridge, who is always good-natured enough to enter into conversation with anybody whom he meets in his way, began to talk with the gentleman, who observed that it was a majestic waterfall. Coleridge was delighted with the accuracy of the epithet, particularly as he had been settling in his own mind the precise meaning of the words grand, majestic, sublime, etc., and had discussed the subject with William at some length the day before. “Yes, sir,” says Coleridge, “it is a majestic wate…