Answers to philosophical questions must be reasoned

My friend wrote a short guide on what makes a question philosophical. The 3 conditions for a question to pass the philosophical test are interesting.

Has not been answered by science

The obvious reason is that, if it’s answered by science, there’s no point in answering it (philosophically).

For example, “Can penguins fly?” is answered by science. It’s “no”. Their bodies aren’t made for flying. Although…

More than one possible answer

If there’s only one answer, there’s no point in answering it.

For example, “Is 1+1 = 2?” has the answer “yes”. There’s no other answer.

Unless you’re talking about base 2…

Cannot be answered by conducting an experiment

“Can common salt be produced by mixing two liquids together?” can be answered with experiments. After laborious testing, you find that if you mix sodium hydroxide and hydrochloric acid, you get sodium chloride (and water), or more commonly known as salt.

If a question can be answered with experiments, then there’s no point arguing about it. Just do the experiment to test the answer.

So I conclude…

that my friend doesn’t like science. *smile*

No, it’s that when a question can only be answered by reasoning it through, then it’s considered a philosophical question.

Do beer ladies need a career path?

Beer ladies, in the Singapore context, are women who serve beer at the local coffee shops. They generally chat with the (generally male) customers so they are more likely to buy more beer. Maybe it’s obvious to you, but it still needs to be said.

And we’re talking about this because I went to a philosophy cafe session recently. And that was the topic. We generalised the term “beer ladies” for our discussion (including child stars and air stewardesses). And you can add in your comments on the original post “Do beer ladies need a career path?“.

Be careful. My friend is a Toastmaster and a philosopher. Your points had better have some backing to them, or be prepared to be scathed by words.

I brought up the point about entrepreneurs and was quickly shot down. Entrepreneurs don’t fit into the “career path” kind of thing. Their point was that entrepreneurs start up a business and if it fails, that’s the end of the story. If it succeeds, they become managers, and that’s also the end of the story (or career path). I don’t think it’s that simple, but entrepreneurs are a complex bunch anyway.

At the start of the session, we were supposed to come up with 6 plausible topics, and the final topic would be decided by votes. On a whim, I suggested “How many digits to PI does it have to be, before you think it’s real?“. My philosopher friend absolutely loved it. I was joking! Luckily no one took it up…

My philosopher friend had 2 things he forbade: no photos of the attendees (especially of him) and nothing regarding Singapore. His argument is that, we can always generalise the topic to the world at large. So even if you’re not from Singapore, you are welcome to join us, since the topics won’t be localised.

The venue is at Nook, 15 Chu Lin Road, held from 8pm to 10pm, on the 3rd Wednesday of every month. The next one is on 17 February 2010.

Since he forbade me to take photos, this was all I could capture:


It’s called Almoncino, and I think it’s a blend of almonds and cappuccino.

“So what’s the answer to the question? Do beer ladies need a career path or not?”

Well, go take a look yourself. And share your thoughts while you’re there. Did we miss out anything? Were any assumptions wrong?