Abbott: Put that out. There’s no smoking in here.
Costello: What makes you think I’m smoking?
Abbott: You’ve got a cigar in your mouth!
Costello: I’ve got shoes on…. It doesn’t mean I’m walking.” – One Night in the Tropics, 1940
“Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.” – Phaedrus, 428-348 B.C.
Usually, when I hear someone refer to a “philosophical problem,” it is safe to assume they have stumbled upon something contested or murky. Anything without clean borders and an obviously correct side that good people can agree on is often dismissed as a “philosophical problem.” Also consigned to this fate are questions that seem simple until you look closely and discover a thicket of overlap and conflicts. In my experience this is usually because what appears to be the question is either not the real question or not the whole question. I’m going to try to untangle a situation that falls into the latter category, but before you chuck this column onto the philosophical slash heap, stay with me, and let’s talk timber.