Monday, April 04, 2005

Philosophy, or just semantics?


On the mailing list, someone brought up that I spend a lot of time discussing semantics, and being argumentative. My first response was: It's not just semantics, it's semantics!

What is the difference between a debate about semantics, and a debate about philosophy? Is an argument a good way of exploring an issue, or are there better ways? If so, what are they?

In fact, if two philosophers want to explore an issue together, what techniques should they use for finding a common view? Many pairs of philosophers will have quite different assumptions, and that will make finding a common position quite difficult. It might be that this can be useful, because you get a wider spread of debate on any given issue, but to what extent has each philosopher really improved their knowledge? What is the ultimate arbiter for such a philosophical debate, that people might come to agree on what the world is really like.

Most people have the common ground that the world has a nature, and that we can know a lot about it. When talking about politics, or morality, people tend to come to particular beliefs, although often they will be conflicted over their decision, or perhaps not even make one.

I will try to find out more about accepted methods for this, if any exist. Apart from the Socratic method, which is basically just to argue about semantics anyway, none come to mind.

Also, follow-ups to the urban planning posting are overdue, and will get posted this week hopefully.



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