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Ten Philosophical Questions
(With Answers!)

Mark I. Vuletic

Last updated 08 February 2010

Introduction

It's nice, from time to time, to take stock of which philosophical questions matter most to you, what you think about them, and how confident you feel about your thoughts about them. If nothing else, doing so helps to highlight possible tensions in one's overall perspective, thereby motivating further critical thought. Here, I have considered the ten philosophical questions (in no particular order) that I believe I have spent the most time on from all the way back when I first dipped my toes into the field, even before I became a philosophy major.

You may notice that there are many questions about which I feel near certainty; but don't let that fool you into thinking that I consider those questions settled, and no longer worthy of study. My ultimate goal, after all, is not mere fixation belief, but proximity to truth—for that goal, the questions about which I feel confident require as much continued critical sifting as the questions about which I do not. If I ever need a reminder, all I have to do is take note of the fact that there are intelligent people who disagree with me on every point.

I should also just note that my purpose here is to be as brief as possible. There are a lot of nuances that I run over completely in my answers; where there are distinctions to be made that lead to very different answers, I try crudely to strike the average.

I encourage you to make your own list, too, or compare your answers against mine.

The ten questions

1. What are the most fundamental constituents of reality?

My answer: Whatever our final physical theory says.

My degree of confidence: Not very confident.

2. Is the mind a material phenomenon?

My answer: Yes.

My degree of confidence: Not very confident; nothing in philosophy of mind makes any sense.

3. Are there categorical moral facts?

My answer: No.

My degree of confidence: All but certain.

4. Is there a god?

My answer: No.

My degree of confidence: All but certain.

5. What is the solution to the problem of induction (or, more generally, underdetermination)?

My answer: There isn't one; we just have to go along with Hume.

My degree of confidence: Very confident.

6. How does one prove that there is an external world?

My answer: One can't.

My degree of confidence: Very confident.

7. Do states have moral authority over their citizens?

My answer: Barring an explicit contract, no.

My degree of confidence: Very confident.

8. What is the solution to the measurement problem?

My answer: Hell if I know.

My degree of confidence: I am absolutely positive that I have no idea.

9. Does life have any fundamental meaning?

My answer: No.

My degree of confidence: All but certain.

10. Do people have free will?

My answer: No.

My degree of confidence: All but certain.

 

Appendix: The PhilPapers survey

The PhilPapers survey asks a lot more questions than I have considered above, so I'm putting my responses in this appendix, because I'm interested in collating what I think, and setting my views out for critique.

A priori knowledge: yes or no? Yes; very confident.

Abstract objects: Platonism or nominalism? Nominalism; not very confident.

Aesthetic value: objective or subjective? Subjective; all but certain.

Analytic-synthetic distinction: yes or no? Yes; not very confident.

Epistemic justification: internalism or externalism? Internalism; not very confident.

External world: idealism, skepticism, or non-skeptical realism? Skepticism; all but certain (except this really puts me in the minority, so it gives me a meta-uncertainty—I feel a significant worry that I have missed something, but I have no idea what it could be).

Free will: compatibilism, libertarianism, or no free will? No free will; all but certain (except I rate my difference of opinion with compatibilists to be a purely semantic matter of no real importance).

God: theism or atheism? Atheism: all but certain.

Knowledge claims: contextualism, relativism, or invariantism? Contextualism or invariantism; all but certain (between the two, I have no opinion at all).

Moral motivation: internalism or externalism? Internalism; not very confident.

Newcomb's problem: one box or two boxes? No opinion.

Normative ethics: deontology, consequentialism, or virtue ethics? Consequentialism; not very confident.

Perceptual experience: disjunctivism, qualia theory, representationalism, or sense-datum theory? Representationalism; not very confident.

Personal identity: biological view, psychological view, or further-fact view? Biological view; not very confident.

Politics: communitarianism, egalitarianism, or libertarianism? Philosophical anarchism; all but certain. In practice, I have no idea.

Proper names: Fregean or Millian? No opinion.

Science: scientific realism or scientific anti-realism? Scientific realism; not very certain.

Teletransporter (new matter): survival or death? Death; all but certain.

Time: A-theory or B-theory? B-theory; not very confident.

Trolley problem (five straight ahead, one on side track, turn requires switching, what ought one do?): switch or don't switch? Switch; all but certain.

Truth: correspondence, deflationary, or epistemic? Correspondence; all but certain.

Zombies: inconceivable, conceivable but not metaphysically possible, or metaphysically possible? Conceivable but not metaphysically possible; not very confident.

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