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I'm not a philosopher. My background is in physics and engineering. Recently, I gave an answer to a question that I believed was just a request for opinions disguised as a philosophy question. The title of the question is the the comment I received:

https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/a/102838/67687

Is his comment true?

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    Why have you posted your question on PSE meta? Surely it would be good material for the main site. Jan 6 at 20:19

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As a PhD student in philosophy I feel qualified enough to respond (I normally never answer Meta-Questions on the SE websites).

Philosophy aims for objective answers to its problems, it’s not intended to be people hurling opinions at each other (otherwise it’d have no place in Universities). The problem is, as Kuhn puts it, philosophy is perpetually in a pre-paradigm state: there’s no consensus on how to solve problems or even which problems are worth solving.

To the layman on the outside they seem to quickly interpret this as “anything goes.” Thinkingman is one such example.

I think it’s an oversimplification. Sure the views that are popular in academic philosophy could be classified as “opinions,” but they are well researched and well defended positions. Truth is asymptotically approached by philosophy (so we hope) but so far, we never get there.

In short: maybe, but not all opinions are equal. Most in fact, are not taken seriously by philosophers. Even the positions of well respected philosophers (like Plato or Kant), very few actually accept most of their conclusions anymore in academia. Neoplatonism ended centuries ago and Neokantianism ended when Einstein’s General Relativity was experimentally confirmed early last century. People in those movements are now a small minority.

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If the comment were taken to mean: everything in philosophy is nothing more than opinion and no opinion is any more important or valuable than any other, then that would not be correct.

However, philosophy is concerned with questions of a very general nature that typically cannot be answered directly through empirical observation and experiment. Such questions are inevitably a matter of opinion to some extent and philosophers disagree a great deal. But opinions are not all equal. Those that are based on a great deal of critical thought and enquiry are worth more. This is why it is valuable to study the work of great minds.

In relation to your answer to the linked question, I would say that the probability that gods exist is not a math problem. There have been attempts to calculate such a thing, e.g. by Richard Swinburne in his book, "The Existence of God". The difficulties involved are not mathematical in nature, but in identifying and assessing the assumptions. We don't need help doing the calculations. In fact, if you are unfamiliar with modern analytical philosophy you might be surprised at how good some philosophers are at logic and mathematics. Rather, the problem lies with teasing out all the assumptions and seeing whether they hold up. For example, Swinburne assumes that it is reasonable to assign a prior probability of 0.5 to the existence of God, on the basis of the principle of indifference. This is highly controversial and might be challenged on many grounds. Assessing those grounds is where philosophers take an interest.

A similar consideration applies to many philosophical arguments. Philosophers are usually taught formal logic, but often the real difficulty in assessing an argument is not in producing a proof, but in understanding exactly what the issue is, how the problem should be formulated and knowing what an answer would look like if we had one.

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In my view, anyone who practises philosophy is a philosopher. If your question was the one about the probability of God, I think that this is a philosophical question. If you had asked "Does the Abrahamic God exist?", that would be inviting opinion. I would like to see a protocol to establish whether or not a question is a valid philosophical question.

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    There are several, which is why whether or not questions are closed and reopened is contentious. There are a number of posts in meta that deal with this, and as a gadfly, I have repeatedly pointed out that the community does things by committee with the concomitant results. One tends to get what one pays for.
    – J D
    Nov 22, 2023 at 20:56

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