Progress in Philosophy? Well, I Never!

I finally got around to looking at the recent Philosophers’ Carnival and I was struck by Richard Chappell’s post at Philosophy, etc where he lists what he takes as ‘examples of solved philosophy’. He offers these up as counter-examples to claims made, by people like me, that there are no solved problems in philosophy. He says that by ‘solved’ he means that they are ‘as established as ordinary scientific results’. This in itself causes problems, for one might wonder how well established scientific results are… 

Now, I tend to think that every one of the so-called ‘solved’ issues really begs some question somewhere and so all we can mean by ‘solved’ is ‘generally agreed to be true by philosophers/philosopher X’ but it was number eight that got my hackles up.  This is the claim that it is metaphysically necessary that cats are animals, though ‘cats are animals’ is not analytically true (i.e. that Kripke is right). The ‘evidence’ for this is that, should we find out that what we call ‘cats’ were not animals but demons instead we wouldn’t want to say that we had found out that cats don’t exist. We must surely think that we have found out something new about cats; viz. that they are not animals. But since we have (already) found out that they are animals, we must conclude that they are necessarily animals. But why must we agree with the intuition that ‘we have found out something new about cats’. No reason for this is ever given. It has always seemed to me that we would have found out that there were no cats. So, until intuitions are reliable guides to semantic/metaphysical truths gets ‘solved’ number eight isn’t either; and this is no where near happening any time soon.

So, are there examples of solved philosophy? Well, only in the sense that Richard actually points out. That is, only in the sense in which ordinary scientific clams are thought of as ‘solved’ and that amounts only to this: Given certain assumptions about what counts as evidence at all and what it means for some kind of evidence to be better evidencethan some other kind, there is more evidence for claim a than claim b. But this will always involve substantial begging the question. This is why, I take it, that David Chalmers has recommended that with respect to the dualist/materialist debate the best thing to do is just for each camp to retire to their corners and try to develop their respective theories (I actually forget where he says that at, though…so I may be misremembering the jist of the passage). These issues are only solved from a theoretical standpoint, and no particular standpoint is forced on us.

Word Up

I was watching this commercial recently that depicted a family playing scrabble and the young daughter and hip Grandmother are spelling out ‘rofl’ and ‘lol’ and the like. The mother is exasperated and protests that ‘rofl’ is not an English word.

This was sunrising to me.  I had never thought about it before but I found myself disagreeing with this mother (I know it’s supposed to be a joke to sell phones, but you know philosophers!). Apparently I had been implicitly assuming that they were English words. I mean, aren’t acronyms words? ‘FBI’ is a word in English, right? I think so, though I guess we could debate this. But ‘laser’ is an English word and it is an acronym so there is nothing fundamentally at odds with ‘lol’ being a word.

So does anyone have any reason for thinking that ‘lol’ isn’t an English word?