Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The Ask-a-Philosopher web site

I discovered this web site a few months ago. In general, I think it's a neat idea -- people (mostly students, I think) write in with philosophical questions, and people who know some philosophy and read the questions submit answers. I've answered a few questions since discovering the site. But lately, I'm noticing a particularly high crap-to-good-question ratio. Here are a few samples from the current question posting, selected to demonstrate the good, the bad, and the absurdly bad: Sometimes, people submit interesting questions that are likely to benefit from answers by readers:
Teddy asked: Does Socrates believe that in order to be a human being one must reason and question? Where does he state this if this is true? Phil asked: If the behaviourist theory is accurate, if you lose the ability to speak, or express yourself in any other physical way, does the mind cease to exist?
Other times, people submit absurdly broad questions -- questions that define entire subsets of philosophy and have occupied generations of attention without any resolution:
Peter asked: What is meaning? Moustapha asked: What should we change in our today'society in order to live a good life?
Occasionally, I find what are obviously test questions or essay assignments:
Stephanie asked: Which of the following types of arguments are evaluated with the terms strong and weak? A) Deductive B) Inductive Which of the following types of arguments are evaluated with the terms valid and invalid A) Inductive B) Deductive
And my favorite of all are the questions that have nothing to do with philosophy whatsoever (that is, as much as anything can fail to have anything to do with philosophy):
Tobias asked: How did Kennedy's assassination affect the American Psyche? Jade asked: If you have said something about your boyfriend and then he breaks up with you but you still like him and you think he might just might still like what do you do? Especially when you think you might love him.
Apparently, you ask a philosopher, Jade.

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