Settled questions in philosophy

Philos­o­phy is no­to­ri­ous for not an­swer­ing the ques­tions it tack­les. Plato posed most of the cen­tral ques­tions more than two mil­len­nia ago, and philoso­phers still haven’t come to much con­sen­sus about them. Or at least, when­ever philo­soph­i­cal ques­tions be­gin to ad­mit of an­swers, we start call­ing them sci­en­tific ques­tions. (Astron­omy, physics, chem­istry, biol­ogy, and psy­chol­ogy all be­gan as branches of philos­o­phy.)

A com­mon at­ti­tude on Less Wrong is “Too slow! Solve the prob­lem and move on.” The free will se­quence ar­gues that the free will prob­lem has been solved.

I, for one, am bold enough to claim that some philo­soph­i­cal prob­lems have been solved. Here they are:

  • Is there a God? No.

  • What’s the solu­tion to the mind-body prob­lem? Ma­te­ri­al­ism.

  • Do we have free will? We don’t have con­tra-causal free will, but of course we have the abil­ity to de­liber­ate on al­ter­na­tives and have this de­liber­a­tion effect the out­come.

  • What is knowl­edge? (How do we over­come Get­tier?) What is art? How do we de­mar­cate sci­ence from non-sci­ence? If you’re try­ing to find sim­ple defi­ni­tions that match our in­tu­itions about the mean­ing of these terms in ever case, you’re do­ing it wrong. Th­ese con­cepts were not in­vented by math­e­mat­i­ci­ans for use in a for­mal sys­tem. They evolved in prac­ti­cal use among mil­lions of hu­mans over hun­dreds of years. Stipu­late a co­her­ent mean­ing and start us­ing the term to suc­cess­fully com­mu­ni­cate with oth­ers.

There are other, smaller ques­tions that I think are solved, too, but for now I’m cu­ri­ous: Which philo­soph­i­cal prob­lems do you think are solved, and what is the an­swer?