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Three philosophical problems for curious people [reading list]

It is part of human nature to be curious and to want to know or learn something. There are papers that fulfil this yen for knowledge and explore some of the more unusual philosophical questions that you never knew you wanted to know the answer to, for example; What did the tortoise say to Achilles about logic, propositions, and conclusions? Why the peculiar spelling of the logical term intension? Which came first – the chicken or the egg? Below are some excerpts from the accessible classic papers that explore these important and quirky questions for you to ponder.

  1. What the Tortoise Said to Achillesby Lewis Carroll
    Achilles had overtaken the Tortoise, and had seated himself comfortably on its back.”So you’ve got to the end of our race-course?” said the Tortoise. “Even though it does consist of an infinite series of distances? I thought some wiseacre or other had proved that the thing couldn’t be done?””It can be done,” said Achilles. “It has been done! Solvilur ambulando. You see the distances were constantly diminishing; and so—””But if they had been constantly increasing?” the Tortoise interrupted. “How then?”

    “Then I shouldn’t be here,” Achilles modestly replied; “and you would have got several times round the world, by this time!”

    “You flatter me—flatten, I mean,” said the Tortoise ; “for you are a heavy weight, and no mistake! Well now, would you like to hear of a race-course, that most people fancy they can get to the end of in two or three steps, while it really consists of an infinite number of distances, each one longer than the previous one?” Read the rest of the article here.

    2. “Why the “S” in “intension”? by Mary Spencer
    The peculiar spelling of the logical term “intension” has always given pause to laymen readers of English logical prose. From time to time, in fact, even the initiate tend to become confused. Peter Geach, for instance, in his admirable book Reference and Generality, insists on the spelling “intentional”:

    This is the etymologically correct spelling: the adjective in this use refers to the intention of a term, i.e. what we intend by it. The spelling ‘intension(al)’ came in from a characteristic muddle of Sir William Hamilton, who thought the intention of a term was a sort of intensive magnitude, the Scholastio intensio; the spelling of ‘extension’ has no doubt been influential too. Hamilton’s misspelling has ousted ‘intention’ from its application to terms, except when preceded by ‘first’ or ‘second’: the spelling of the adjective or adverb ‘intentional(ly)’ and of ‘intentionality’ in current philosophical literature is merely chaotic. Read the rest of the article here.

    3. “The Chicken and the Egg” by Robert Teichmann
    Human experimentation aside, every chicken is hatched from an egg. And every egg from which a chicken might be hatched is laid by a chicken. Equally and correspondingly commonplace is the fact that every chicken is born of chicken.

    Unless one believes in miracles, one may well deem such generalizations as the above to be unsusceptible of particular qualification, as: “… except for Smith’s prize bantam”, even if they are susceptible of general qualification, as: “… except for chickens born in vitro“. If this is so, then we cannot qualify “Every chicken is born of chicken” by “… except for the first ever chicken.”

But now a problem arises, the problem raised by the old chestnut: “Which came first—the chicken or the egg?” Read the rest of the article here.

Featured Image Credit: ‘Books on bookshelf’ by Alfons Morales via Unsplash

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