September 22nd, 2014
Or, Why I Have No Use for Philosophers
This is my grandfather’s axe. My father replaced the handle, I replaced the head. This is my grandfather’s axe.
Every time I try to discuss anything of substance with a professional philosopher, and often even with someone trained in philosophy, I find myself in an argument over semantics – the meaning of words.
I think this is why philosophy is generally held in such low regard.
The Ship of Theseus is a more elaborate version of the Grandfather’s Axe story that has supposedly been the subject of much debate by classical and modern philosophers (the ship is maintained by replacing planks as they age, until none of the original planks are left – is it still the same ship?).
The thing I find incredibly frustrating is that these philosophers argue about nothing. There is no dispute whatsoever regarding what has actually happened – are any of the parts original? (No.) Is it the same design? (Yes.) We can answer any factual question about the ship unambiguously.
Yet the philosophers keep arguing about it – for millennia.
These people are far worse than useless – they are actively creating confusion and argument where none exist.