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Socrates and Fool

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Do dogs have beliefs?

With reference to the A Level Philosophy syllabus, HOT columnist Sean O’Shea  gives examples of some of the questions discussed by philosophers without hesitation, but with enough repetition and deviation to get him thrown off Just A Minute.

What would you think of a person who asked you, “Do dogs have beliefs?” What would you feel if they went on to ask you what kind of beliefs dogs might have if they had beliefs? What would you do if they then asked whether a dog’s beliefs were like your beliefs?

Do you think that you have a mind and, if so, is it yours? Can you be sure that your mind is yours? How might you prove it? Do you believe in other minds? Are other minds a problem for you? If there was no matter would you mind? Is it true that if there was no matter no one would mind?

If you were studying A Level Philosophy would you have to think about these matters? Would it matter to you to have to think about mind? Would you learn the recommended answers given by the experts to the prescribed questions and follow the examiners’ tips? If you were advised that you can present your own views in an exam, but you mustn’t let them outweigh philosophical argument, what would you make of that advice? Is it a warning to you not to tell them anything that they have not already told you?

What is your view of the “mind body problem”? For who is it a problem? Is your body a problem? Who has the right to decide if your body is a problem? Do you own your body? Where does your body begin or end? Do you like your body? Do you hate your body? Is it a burden?  Are you your body? Is there anything left of you when your body is gone? Has your body ever left you? Has it ever threatened to leave you, or waved at you from a distance? Did you always have a body?

How would you describe your body? Does it look like other bodies? Is it beautiful? Does it conform to the required standard for bodies? Who sets the standard for bodies? What is the basis of their authority for deciding what is to be the standard applicable to bodies? Who pays the people who decide this? To whom are they accountable? How many enforcers do they have? If you wanted to get rid of them could you do so?


Jean-Leon Gerome 1824 – 1904 - www. of Sinope

Mind the gap

What is your opinion of the alleged “fact-value gap”? Do you believe that there is a fact-value gap? Do you mind the gap? Is it the business of philosophers to determine the boundary between facts and values if there is such a boundary? Are all moral propositions meaningless nonsense as some philosophers have maintained? Who has the authority to decide what propositions are to be regarded as meaningless nonsense? Is not the setting of such a standard itself a moral proposition?

Do you think that philosophers should be kings as the Greek philosopher Plato argued in his famous book called The Republic? Do some contemporary philosophers already imagine that they are kings? Might that account for how some of them wish to dictate to us which propositions are meaningful and which are allegedly meaningless?

Do other people exist? What famous philosopher said, “Hell is other people”? Do you agree with whoever said that? Why might a philosopher regard other people as hell?

What is the cosmological argument? Could you argue with it? Do you think that everything refers to a single thing or everything? What is the cause of everything? Is there an uncaused cause?  What is a prime mover? Is it a shaker or a groover?

Consider the proposition, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”  Who said that, and do you agree with them?

The practice of dying

Why didn’t Socrates – reputedly the most famous philosopher of all time – write anything down? Why was he condemned to death by the citizens of Athens? Why did he describe philosophy as “the practice of dying?” Why did he regard the senses as a source of delusion? Might some contemporary physicists agree with him?

Is it true that to live is to endure loss repeatedly? If we weren’t able to bear this would anything new exist? Is it the case that we are what we are not, and that we are not what we are? What was “the sickness unto death” referred to by the lugubrious Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard?

Do words murder time?

What philosopher said, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” Why has this exhortation been so widely ignored by so many philosophers?

Dogs and philosophy

What is the link between philosophy and the canine kingdom? What philosopher lived in a barrel with only dogs for company and ate only onions? If I was to give you a clue would I say it was a long time ago, maybe in ancient Greece, when this philosopher was wandering about? Why did he wander around entirely naked with a lamp during the day? Was he searching for an honest man, as some historians allege? Was his name Diogenes? Did he come from Sinope? Might this account for why some contemporary philosophers still speculate on the question of whether dogs have beliefs or not?

SOS 1st April 2014


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Posted 22:04 Sunday, Mar 30, 2014 In: SOS

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