A search for Abraham Lincoln's 1860 Cooper Union address turned up this question, which a philosophy professor once asked his class.

How would you have answered it?

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I'm not the first to say philosophers explain simple issues with complex language. When they communicate only with each other, it works.

Forcing folks to use well-defined terminology?

How much more authoritarian can philosophers be?

Sounds like a creationist complaining that they are expected to learn all that technical stuff about evolution..you know...stuff scientists make so technical just to confuse us. Statements above are highly cliche and show a stunning ignorance of philosophy and a poverty of reading and debating philosophical subjects. Its really not a difficult subject. Just stay away from the postmodernists and don't read too much of the older stuff and you are fine.

Only French philosophers and postmodernists consider these terms as favoured or even ever use then and nobody takes them seriously except other hack philosophers. Consider picking up philosophy books and reading them before making sweeping claims Tom. If you've only read Kant, Plato, Sartreand Nietzsche then you cannot possibly say you've read philosopy.

Second...essence is a bad translation. A combination of Nature and meaning are a close approximation... though translators sometimes just use essence as a way to avoid repeating having to write "something like meaning and nature in the same concept" multiple times.

Context is everything. Sartre wrote this in a time when secularism wasn't widely adopted and when modern humanistic ideals were only emerging. He was responding to conservative forces who insisted human nature never ever changes and that meaning only comes from dogmatic world views. Many of his ideas were revolutionary and they affect western culture to this day. That doesn't mean his latter stuff isn't bullshit.

Philosophy before the 20th century is mostly bunk (just as a lot of science is) yet we still study it for many reasons (both the history of philosophy and history of science).

Replace essence with a word being a sort of mixture of nature and meaning and Sartre's idea is not difficult to understand, in fact it is something obvious for us...not so much for people in his time. Our nature and meaning is totally apart from other animals especially when we realise we can consciously mold it ourselves. Its a no brainedlr for us, threatening and empowering for people then and in non-western countries now.

Davis, I see humor in your scholar's view of philosophy and layman's view of science. I hope you see humor in my scholar's view of science and layman's view of philosophy.

In my grad course in Philosophy of Science, a couple science grads audited the course and admitted that they had discovered, through a philosophy course, how science actually worked and evolved, and how/when change happened in science (we discussed Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions quite a bit). 

They were so impressed that they asked The Powers for a course credit.

BTW, the link above isn't to Kuhn's book but to an article about Kuhn's importance.

Did they get a course credit?

The closest I got to philosophy of science (after I retired) was a Teaching Company course of that name. Thanks for the Kuhn article. I've read more about him (paradigm shift) than by him.

Ahhh wow. A scientist critiquing philosophy and it being in good fun? That is a pleasant rarity! Seems I am the one this time not to pick up on sarcasm!

The late 20th century per philosophy of Science was dominated by three camps. One side represented "Science as an objective method for increasing reliable information" which is often represented by Popper. The other side however commented on science as subjective to some extent. kuhn was representative of the camp that thought science undergoes serious radical fundamental shifts from century to century where the scientific method itself changes and even our world view changes depending on how the scientific method is employed and the new revelations that come from it. The other "subjective" camp are the post-modernists Represented by people like Derrida, who claimed that science is as subjective and relative as any other method of producing information and that science is but one of many other tools and world views of which facts in themseles never existed until they were postulated by humans. For them, submitting to science and holding empirical inestigation and proof as the best system we have, is arrogant and foolish. They like to frequently point out how science got things wrong in the past, how scientists fudge their works based on ambition or who funds their research and how they apparantly follow each other like herds rather than all independently come to the same conclusion...and other stupid rediculous idiotic claims the post-modernists make.

As you can tell the last group is the despised relativists. They have clearly influenced thinkers including some scientists...one of note being Dr. Bob. They were the bad boys of philosophy but are thankfully now a dying pack of  hasbeens not because of their stupid claims but more because its hard to make sense out of anything they write (they claim that this is one of the strengths of their garbage philosophy).

in my opinon Kuhn is worth a read, though his more exaggerated claim that science so fundamentally changes by the centuries with totally different world views emerging that science itself cannot be as objective or reliable as we think. This is extreme and it has been well attacked by others and discredited in my opinon by the likes of Popper. its a definite good read with numerous grains of salt.

Popper is my favorite philosopher (both for his philosophy of science and his humanism "the open society". His theory of science as conjecture and refutation and his attack on pseudoscience is still one of the standards. It's pretty dense reading though and not particularly exciting stuff, so id recommend reading a biography or a "introduction to Popper" rather than his books. In any case, don't read kuhn without reading something about Popper.

I read Popper's Open Society and Its Enemies in the 1980s when I was writing on politics and liked it. I recalled faintly his saying Plato wanted to be the philosopher-king and just checked it in Wikipedia. Yep.

I'm glad some famous people also liked ir, such as George Soros who's funding Open Society groups around the world..

Human nature starts at Survival. That will never change as long as death is possible.

As an aside here is a short but interesting article that takes a somewhat philosophical look at science. I like the use of the word “attack” in the opening quotation.

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