Philosophy

Most of the things I would call "philosophy" are in the main section "Topics of Social Importance". This section will be for discussions that probably wouldn't be as interesting to a general audience.


Related websites

  • Edge.org To arrive at the edge of the world's knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves.
  • The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
    • This was the best resource I discovered while studying philosophy in college. I frequently raved about it to classmates and teachers. For any given topic I was curious about, it usually offered a much more in-depth treatment of a subject than I could find anywhere else.
    • That being said, it is not written for the casual reader. You may need to put in some work to understand a given section.
  • Reddit - Explain Like I'm 5 ← The questions here are generally not typical philosophy questions, but I like the concept of getting easy-to-understand answers.


Important Foreword:

  • it seems to me that a lot of philosophical debates end up boiling down to semantics. that is to say, a lot of the ideas people talk about ("truth", "justice", "love") are just words people use to refer to fuzzy things that don't have clear borders; people then argue about whether X qualifies as one of those words (based on their intuitions about the word in other situations) and there's no way to settle the debate.
  • here's BF Skinner saying what seems to me to be a very similar point:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47tNyyqQoSU&t=6m52s



Misc Links:
Scott Aaronson (MIT EE/CS Prof) on Philosophical Progress
http://intelligence.org/2013/12/13/aaronson/

As for the “social value” of philosophy, I suppose there are a few things to say. [...] [T]he Enlightenment seems like a pretty big philosophical success story. Philosophers like Locke and Spinoza directly influenced statesmen like Thomas Jefferson, in ways you don’t have to squint to see.
whenever it’s been possible to make definite progress on ancient philosophical problems, such progress has almost always involved a [kind of] “bait-and-switch.” In other words: one replaces an unanswerable philosophical riddle Q by a “merely” scientific or mathematical question Q′, which captures part of what people have wanted to know when they’ve asked Q. Then, with luck, one solves Q′.

Of course, even if Q′ is solved, centuries later philosophers might still be debating the exact relation between Q and Q′! And further exploration might lead to other scientific or mathematical questions — Q′′, Q′′′, and so on — which capture aspects of Q that Q′ left untouched. But from my perspective, this process of “breaking off” answerable parts of unanswerable riddles, then trying to answer those parts, is the closest thing to philosophical progress that there is.

…A good replacement question Q′ should satisfy two properties: (a) Q′ should capture some aspect of the original question Q — so that an answer to Q′ would be hard to ignore in any subsequent discussion of Q, [and] (b) Q′ should be precise enough that one can see what it would mean to make progress on Q′: what experiments one would need to do, what theorems one would need to prove, etc.




Q: Should people pursue truth above all other considerations?

Probably not



Q: What should I do? How should I behave?



Q: What can a person really ever know for sure? How do I know I'm not in the Matrix?

FYI, in case you're interested: Philosophy has a division called "epistemology" that deals with this question.