Lawrence Krauss and Roy Sorensen

Lawrence Krauss (left) and Roy Sorensen (right) on origins and nothingness.

How did our universe get to be the way it is? Has our universe always existed, or did it arise from nothing? Is it even possible for something to come from nothing? Lawrence Krauss has argued that physicists have discovered some of the answers to these ancient philosophical questions; Krauss’s ideas are controversial among certain philosophers. In this conversation, Roy Sorensen and Krauss consider the connections between Darwinian evolution and Krauss’s views (13:50), discuss whether the scientific worldview is particularly depressing (22:41), examine the meaning of questions about “something rather than nothing” (35:25), and explore the nature of nothingness (47:18).

Related works

by Krauss:
A Universe From Nothing (2012)
“The Consolation of Philosophy” (2012)
Video: Conversation between Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss

by Sorensen:
SEP entry on “Nothingness” (2003/2009)
Seeing Dark Things: The Philosophy of Shadows (2008)
Blindspots (1988)

See also:
Leiter Reports: “A Philosopher Defends Krauss”
What There Is And Why There Is Anything: “An Explanation From Nothing?”

59 comments to Lawrence Krauss and Roy Sorensen

  • Lively discussion! I know Dr. Krauss has ruffled some philosophy feathers with this topic, but I’m curious to gauge what folks on Philosophy TV think. Is progress in science making philosophy less relevant?

  • Rickard Vester Smetana

    Great Conversation!

    I ordered Krauss book immediately and I always enjoy what Sorensen is writing. There is also the interesting discussion from the Leiter Report: http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2012/05/a-philosopher-defends-krauss.html.

    Anyway: In the end when Krauss says that nothing is the absence of something, and because of that we need to know what something is in order to understand the concept of nothing. And that this means that they just are like one thing seen from two different aspects. It sounds to me that he is approaching some kind of Buddhistic conception of emptiness that Nagarjuna is talking about or what Graham Priest and Jay Garfield is talking about in the second edition of Beyond the limits of thought? Is there such a relation?

  • Kel

    It’s a shame that Krauss raised his objection to “why” questions so late in the discussion, it would have been interesting to see whether or not all “why” questions in evolutionary theory could reduce down to how questions. It seems at some point, the how of function and the how of evolutionary purpose look like two very different propositions such as to make trying to reduce all questions to how a somewhat misleading exercise.

  • I would have really liked to hear Sorensen elaborate more on nothingness from a philosophical perspective but it seems that they didn’t get to cover all that much from this angle. Krauss did not say many informative nor insightful things IMO and much of his later talk seemed not only confusing but confused (e.g. his insistence that “how questions” and “why questions” are somehow fundamentally different). It doesn’t seem to me that he thought about what he wanted to say carefully.

    Anyway, here are a few questions about Krauss’s talk I was left with.

    At an early point, Krauss mentioned that he was relying on a folk concept of nothingness and said that this concept is merely the absence of matter and radiation.

    But that is straightforwardly wrong. The folk do not have any such conception because the vast majority of the human race including most Americans believe in at least one of these immaterial things

    1. god or gods

    2. immaterial souls

    3. spiritual or magical forces.

    4. angels

    5. devils or demons

    So even if we destroy the matter and radiation in the universe, most people would still believe in the existence of at least one kind of the above immaterial things. So the folk has a notion of nothingness that is different from the one Krauss now claims he is relying on.

    Even more devastating. In Krauss’s new book, the description says that he is answering *philosophical and theological” questions when he answers how something can come from nothing. In subsequent interviews, Krauss seems to affirm this description of what he is doing in his book. So it is not even about folk intuitions but about philosophical (or theological) concepts of nothingness that matter. But I doubt the vast majority of philosophers believe that once you have destroyed all the matter and radiation in the universe, you necessarily have nothingness. Many philosophers believe in at least some abstract objects for example (numbers, universals, qualia, etc).

    So shouldn’t we take a survey of what philosophers (or perhaps just metaphysicians) think about nothingness?

    Krauss later says that the universe might have arisen out of some metalaws. He also says that there might have been multiverses before our universe. He says it might have been “turtles all the way down.” I will not speculate as to how many other mights there might be in this logical space but suffice it to say that there’s a lot.

    So it seems to me that his book does not answer the question how the universe could have arisen from nothing but merely supplies very speculative arm chair philosophical speculation on *these* questions and even begs the question because we can ask a further question whether metalaws, multiverses, turtles, etc are indeed a something.

    But in so speculating, the cosmologist is in no better position (at least for now) to speculate than the philosopher and we are on at least equal footing. In fact, because the philosopher has the conceptual tools and training to ask these more speculative, more conceptually exacting questions, of anyone, it is she who has an advantage in fruitfully asking them, scientific hubris notwithstanding.

  • James Hill

    I think what Krauss is worried about is that when one asks a why question, one is generally presupposing an answer that makes appeal to an agent as a cause. And that’s what he explicitly wants to rule out in explanations given in the physical and biological sciences–presumably, he doesn’t want to take that position in the higher level sciences of psychology, sociology, and history. I think his concern is a legitimate concern. But I think you can also interpret why questions so that when you do ask them, you’re not presupposing an answer that makes appeal to an agent as a cause. But, I think we’d be missing the point here. Krauss is just worried about the presupposition that explanations in the lower level sciences have to sometimes make appeal to agents as causes. He’s battling creationists in cosmology, and indirectly, creationists in biology. I think that’s all he wants to rule out. So, he wants to make sure when somebody asks a question in the lower level sciences, they’re not making that presupposition. I’m not at all sure if answers to how questions always provide full answers to why questions in the biological sciences. Someone asking, “Why does the heart pump blood?” might not just be asking, “How did it come about that an organ become an organ that pumps blood (and is now what we call “a heart”)?” He might also want to know, “Why did any organ become an organ that pumps blood?”. In other words, “Why is it not the case that no organ became an organ that pumps blood”? There’s a way of just giving a description of the events leading up to the state of affairs where hearts pump blood that does not provide an answer to these other questions. I think you can give full answers to these questions by making appeal to the theory of evolution by natural selection. Given that theory, certain outcomes are more likely to happen than others, given certain conditions–specifically, when there’s heritable variation in fitness, traits that increase fitness are more likely to predominate over time. Obviously: you can give an answer to the question of “How did Y come about?” by just listing all the events that happened leading up to Y, in their sequential causal order, without considering the whole process in the light of the theory of evolution by natural selection: “Y was caused by X; X was caused by W; W was caused by V; etc.”. This sort of answer does not give a full answer to the question, “Why does the heart pump blood?”, when interpreted in a certain (non-intentionalistic) way.

    Some off the cuff remarks on why questions. A popular way of understanding why questions: why questions often presuppose a concept of a contrast class. So, when I ask the question, “Why’s the sky blue?”, I’m wanting to know how it came about that the sky is blue, but I’m also wanting to know why the sky isn’t some other color (perhaps: red, green, orange) or why isn’t the sky no color at all? So the contrast class here is: some color other than blue, and a non-color. So, when I ask the question, “Why’s the sky blue”?, I’m asking you to give explanations that rule out all the members of the contrast class—in addition to asking you to tell me how it came about that the sky is blue. Now: what elements belong to a contrast class? It all depends on the context, and our shard background knowledge. Someone asking “Why does water boil at 100 degrees Celsius?” probably isn’t wanting you to rule out why water doesn’t turn into an Iphone, instead.

  • James Hill,

    But the question then is, “Is Krauss presupposing that philosophers such as Sorensen are presupposing that when they ask why there’s something rather than nothing, they are sneaking in agential assumptions?”

    I have serious doubt about *this* presupposition because most philosophers (including Sorensen, I believe) do not believe in agential creation theory. In fact, more philosophers, according to surveys I’ve seen, are atheists or agnostics than physicists.

    Most philosophers make no such presuppositions and simply use ‘why’ and ‘how’ interchangeably ASAIK.

    In short, I don’t think the dichotomy is interesting or even coherent at all in this context. it may be that some people sneak in agential presuppositions but what makes Krauss assume that Sorensen or other philosophers have done this? I don’t even believe people in general how and why in most circumstances including this one in fundamentally different ways and Krauss certainly hasn’t shown that they do. It just seems hair splitting and irrelevant to me.

  • James Hill

    NChen:

    I agree with much of what you said. But I’m not sure if why questions are generally interchangeable with how questions. Suppose I know very little about physics. But I do know that water comes in three forms: a liquid state (liquid water), a gaseous state (water vapor), and a solid state (water ice). And I find out that liquid water becomes a gas at 100 degrees Celsius. And I ask, “Why does liquid water become a gas at 100 degrees?”. And I want you to give me an answer that rules out why liquid water doesn’t just stay a liquid at 100 degrees, and why it doesn’t turn into ice at 100 degrees. Seems to me that if you interpreted my question as just a how question (“How does liquid water become a gas at 100 degrees?”), and if you gave me an answer to it, you wouldn’t be fully answering my why question. Telling me how liquid water becomes a gas at 100 degrees doesn’t tell me why it doesn’t become ice at 100 degrees. I think you also need to tell me what makes water be ice. It probably doesn’t even tell me why liquid water doesn’t stay a liquid at 100 degrees. I think you also need to tell me what makes water be a liquid.

  • The example you gave seems like a general question regarding what one means by the the question and not something that hinders on the meaning of ‘how’ and ‘why.’ It seems perfectly grammatically and semantically correct to switch between ‘how’ and ‘why’ in your example. In normal usage, I see no problems with this.

    Questions, whether they be in science of philosophy or in common contexts always presuppose certain epistemic spaces of inquiry to be informative. Take asking “Why did the house catch on fire”? In most circumstances we are familiar with, answering “because there was oxygen which then ignited” will not be informative at all. The context of conversation, not the meaning of the ‘why’ used, determines what is a meaningful answer. Now if we were normally in a oxygenless environment (such as in a airtight lab environment), it may be informative to answer with that answer because it would say that oxygen had leaked into the lab.

    I see no reason why a ‘how’ cannot be replaced where the ‘why’ is in that circumstance or in any analogous circumstances.

  • James Hill

    Nchen:

    If all you’re saying when you suggest, “why questions are interchangeable with how questions” is “you can say a why question, and speaker mean a how question”, then, yes, I agree with you! Because it’s a platitude that you can use any expression and speaker mean anything by it! So, yes, I have no argument against that position. And I completely agree with it! Just: good luck on being understood! You can, in principle, speaker mean anything by any expression that you utter—because what you speaker mean just depends on what’s going on inside your head. Good luck on being understood, if you’re going to be doing that all the time, and without any restrictions. Now, if you what you’re saying is something else, something more substantial, something like: “the standard meaning of a why question is the same as the standard meaning of a how question—so, you can interchange why questions with how questions , and you’ll have no problems being correctly understood–then, I disagree with that. They don’t have the same standard meanings. How do we know that? Because I could ask, as in the example I gave you, “Why did the water become a gas?”, and you could answer by just telling me the sequence of events leading up to the water becoming a gas, and you can fail to answer my question, precisely because you misunderstood the question—and that’s not a failing in my part—I didn’t fail to use language correctly—that’s a failure in your part—you failed to correctly understand the question. You answered the question, “How did the water become a gas?” but you didn’t answer “Why did the water become a gas?”. (You don’t even need to give me a CAUSAL sequence of events to answer the how question—you just need to give a sequence of events leading up to the water becoming a gas). This is why it’s okay, it’s perfectly reasonable for me to still ask the same question, even after you provided your attempted answer, “But why did the water become a gas?”. And if you give the same response, I can elaborate: “But why did the water become a gas, and not just stay water or become an ice?”.

  • I’m probably closer to your first interpretation but on your second, I don’t know what you mean by “standard meaning”. Words don’t have standard meanings. They just have meanings. The meanings are established by use. No single meaning is anymore standard than any other. Which meaning is in use is determined by the context and the conversational stage setting. I’m simply not convinced that there is any substantive difference in meaning between ‘how’ and ‘why’ in any of the examples you gave. It seems that you could replace either one and there is no difference meaning. If there is a difference then that is something that is which the example does not demonstrate as given.

    When you ask the further question, you disambiguate between what you wish to know instead of what you mean by “how’ and ‘why”. For example, you might say “No, I mean how does it becomes gas rather than steam or ice?” Now that does sound a little weird but I see no substantive difference in meaning. I certainly don;t think no great philosophical problem hinges on such a matter of unorthodox grammar.

  • Correction:

    I meant in the last sentence, “I certainly don’t think any great philosophical problem hinges on such unorthodox grammar”

  • James Hill

    NChen:

    Well, if you haven’t heard the distinction between speaker meaning and standard meaning, then you need to go out and get an introductory textbook in the philosophy of language or linguistics, and learn about it. Sometimes standard meaning is called “linguistic meaning” or whatever, but we’re getting at the same thing. Standard meaning is shared meaning—but that’s not all there is to it. I can share a meaning with you but don’t share with anybody else. And I can share a meaning with everybody else but don’t share with you. Which is the standard meaning here? Is it the standard meaning with us, but not with everybody else, in the first case? And is it the standard meaning for all of us but not with you, in the second? I think the right answer is: it’s the meaning that happens to be shared by most everyone in a natural language community. That’s the standard meaning—at least, I think that’s how the expression is used in the study of language. Speaker meaning doesn’t have to be shared. But if you want to be understood (at least, by the average person in your natural language community), your speaker meaning’s got to generally match standard meaning. Not only that. When you’re innovating, creating new meanings, non-standard meanings, but trying to get them to be shared (at least with your interlocutor, so he can understand you), you’re working off of standard meanings—you’re playing off of them. You’re not creating language out of thin air. (It’s interesting to consider here: what’s going on when you come across someone who doesn’t know anything about your language, and you don’t know anything about hers, and you’re trying to communicating with her for the first time. Usually what you try to do is teach her your own language, and she tries to teach you her own language—but you don’t both go about trying to create a new language for you two to uniquely share. So, you’re both working off of shared meanings). So, if you were to ask me to characterize the relationship between speaker meaning and standard meaning, I would say speaker meaning is parasitic on standard meaning.

    Now, what about why and how questions? Do you think there’s a difference in meaning between:

    1. Why did Hitler invade Poland?
    2. How did Hitler invade Poland?

    I do. I think there’s a big difference. How about between:

    3. Why did you cheat on your wife?
    4. How did you cheat on your wife?

    I think there’s a big difference there too. And it carries on to questions such as:

    5. Why did the water become a gas?
    6. How did the water become a gas?

  • Thanks for the suggestion but I studied the philosophy of language in graduate school. Can you offer some citations of philosophy of language papers that gives a substantive distinction between the semantics of ‘how’ and ‘why’? In what journal and by what author?

    Your examples simply are not convincing nor insightful. The question, if we are not to lose track of it, is nothingness. The question can be asked “why is there something rather than nothing”. The question can also be asked “How did it come to be that there is something rather than nothing”.

    Kraus and you seem to harp on Sorensen and other’s use of “why” first because the claim that they sneak in agential presuppsitions but this is not supported by any evidence. Philosophers use these interchangeably as far as I know in most contexts including I think this one.

    Now you are suggesting some substantive semantic difference and yet give no good reasons for the claim. It seems distracting and uninteresting to the central discussion.

    You also seem to be confused about what I meant by no standard meaning. Almost all words in the English language is ambiguous. We use context and conversational cues to disambiguate between meanings. To say that one of the many polysemous meaning is the “standard” meaning is erroneous. All of the commonly used meanings of a word are standard in the sense that they are justifiably used within the correct contexts. When e.g., Sorensen says “Why is there something rather than nothing”, it’s clear what he means by the context. He wasn’t using it in any special sense that is distinct from say, “How did it come to be the case that there is something rather than nothing”. Your insistence that there is a major semantic difference between these two questions seems to be confused.

    Your further examples with Hitler again, seem to go back to the agential distinction. Of course *sometimes* people distinguish why questions from how questions because why is sometimes used to find agential reasons. But the issue is whether Sorensen or other philosophers have done that *in asking the kinds of questions talked about here*. You have not given any convincing evidence that they have.

    Therefore, two examples you gave are not analogous to

    “Why is there something rather than nothing” and “How is there something rather than nothing” because in *this* case, the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ are used with pretty much the same meaning. Your insistence that they are not simply lacks any good reason.

  • I mean, can you show me some citations in philosophy journals that makes a substantive distinction between “standard meaning” and “speaker meaning” whatever they are?

    Maybe you are talking about “private language” and public language which was a topic Wittgenstein spoke about extensively in his Philosophical Investigations.

    But Wittgenstein said that private language is incoherent and there is only public language the meaning(s) of which is established by conventional use.

    Wittgenstein would have no problems with ambiguity in language which is disambiguated by context and conversational cues. He would have no problems with different words with the same meaning under certain contexts.

    But I don’t see how that is even that relevant to present discussion.s

  • James Hill

    NChen:

    You say:

    You’re missing the point of what said. I said it was a basic fact in the study of language that there’s a difference between standard meaning (or it’s cognates, “linguistic meaning”, “literal meaning”, “lexical meaning”) and speaker meaning. So, were we having a debate about whether there’s a difference in standard meaning between why questions and how questions? Yes. But, then, we started having ANOTHER debate about the ABCs of the study of language: that there’s a difference between standard meaning and speaker meaning. I say (and just about everybody else says) “YES”; you say “NO”.

    You say:

    This is a misrepresentation of my position. Reread what I wrote. I acknowledged that you could use why questions without making agential presuppositions. What I challenged was the bold claim that: why questions are interchangeable with how questions. If they’re interchangeable, then they have the same standard meanings, in all contexts. They don’t! Simple. Case closed. What you did is responded to what I said by saying: there’s only speaker meaning, there’s only speaker meaning! Well, that’s just an obvious falsehood. Is there speaker meaning? Sure, there is. But there’s also standard meaning—and that’s what makes language public, as opposed to just being a private thing, a private affair. And even if there were just speaker meaning, that’s not going to help you. Because there are contexts where I could speaker mean one thing by my why question, you could speaker meaning a completely different thing by the why question I asked, and as result, my question isn’t interchangeable with yours.

    You say:

    This is a mistake. I said that linguistic expressions have standard meanings. I didn’t make the claim that: for each linguistic expression, there is exactly one standard meaning. That would be idiotic. Of course, many expressions have more than one standard meaning. But for you to defend your bold claim, Why questions are interchangeable with how questions, you’d have to show that all the standard meanings of one are the standard meanings of the other. And that’s just false. Plain and simple.

    You say:

    You’re missing the point. You CAN use a why question and speaker mean a how question. This is trivially true because you can use any expression and speaker mean anything at all by it. So: can Sorenson utter a why question and speaker mean a how question? Absolutely! But that’ s not the issue. The issue is: (and this is the third time I’m stating it) Are why questions interchangeable with how questions. If they’re interchangeable, they have all the same standard meanings in all contexts. So, your example doesn’t help you prove your point.

    You say:

    1. The standard meanings of why questions and how questions are the same for philosophers as they are for everybody else.
    2. The examples I gave (in the previous post) refuted your broad claim (4th time I’m stating it) that: Why questions are interchangeable with how questions.
    3. Now: did Krauss answer the question that philosophers, theologians, and other people have been asking for centuries (for millennia, actually): Why is there something rather than nothing?. No, he didn’t. What he answered is the question, How is there something rather than nothing? He explained how some things came to arise from the absence of all those things. And there’s a way of understanding “something” (the unreflective way of understanding it), so that he told us how everything that exists came from the absence of everything existing. But then there’s the reflective way of understanding “something”: X is something if there’s something true about X. So, you’re ontologically committed to the existence of X, to the view that X is something, if you’re committed to the view that there’s something true about X. What Krauss did was appeal to Xs (fields, or laws of the multiverse, or whatever.) to explain the coming into existence of everything else, while also being committed to the view that there’s something true about those Xs. Since there is something true about those Xs, those Xs are something. And since he’s committed to the view that there is something true about those Xs, he’s also committed to the view that they are something. So, what he did was explain how something came from something. He didn’t explain why those Xs came into existence—Why those Xs as opposed to the absence of those Xs (or something else). Now: I don’t think science can answer the question, Why is there something rather than nothing? Now, there are at least two ways of immediately responding to that. One is: if science can’t answer it, it’s not a meaningful question to ask. Two is: it could very well be a meaningful question, even if science can’t answer it. I think the right, intellectually modest response is the second one. Krauss seems to think it’s the first one. Now, you and I are having a much broader dispute. Our dispute is over (again): whether why questions are interchangeable with how questions. One of the big differences between the two is: there’s a standard meaning of “how is there X?” such that you can answer the question by not explaining how X came about, but by just describing what makes up the X. For example, “How is there water in Lake Erie?”—there’s a standard meaning to that question so that a reply that just describes what makes up the water in Lake Erie answers the question. But there’s no standard meaning to “Why is there water in Lake Erie?”, so that such a reply works as an answer. So: why questions always demand an explanation for an answer; how questions need not. (This distinction is easier to see at higher levels of description. For example, “Why did you cheat on your wife?” (that demands an explanation) and “How did you cheat on your wife” (that need not demand an explanation, but just a description of what makes up the cheating)). So, the standard meanings are different—they’re not all the same. And that’s all I need to prove my point. Another difference has to do with explaining why certain other outcomes didn’t happen. There’s a standard meaning of a why question such that a reply doesn’t answer it unless it explains why certain other outcomes didn’t happen. So, “Why do humans have 10 fingers”? There’s a standard meaning to that question such that a reply that doesn’t explain why humans didn’t end up getting more or less than 10 fingers doesn’t answer the question. There’s no such standard meaning to “How do humans have 10 fingers?” (This might be more obvious at higher levels of description too. There’s a standard meaning to “Why did she win ‘American Idol’?” such that an answer requires explaining why certain other competitors didn’t win. There’s no such standard meaning to “How did she win ‘American Idol’?”. In fact, there’s a standard meaning to that question such that an answer could just be a description of what her winning consists of, “She got the most votes”.) So, again, the standard meanings are not all the same. And I met my burden of proof yet again.

  • James Hill

    NChen:

    Guess it didn’t include the passages of yours that I quoted after saying “You say”. Must be because I enclosed them in angle brackets. Sorry for the confusion. Everything in the previous post is what I’m saying in response to passages that you wrote in your previous post.

  • James Hill

    By the way, the fact that an expression is ambiguous presupposes that there is standard meaning. You can’t have ambiguity without standard meaning. Because “expression E is ambiguous” just in case there is more than one standard meaning to E. So: “I’ll meet you at the bank” is ambiguous just because “bank” has the standard meaning of financial institution and the standard meaning of side of the river.

  • James Hill,

    I’m still waiting for evidence of your claim that your distinction of “speaker meaning” and “standard meaning” has along well-known substantive history in the philosophy of language and linguistics.

    Please provide citations.

  • “By the way, the fact that an expression is ambiguous presupposes that there is standard meaning. You can’t have ambiguity without standard meaning.”

    Please provide a definition of “standard meaning”. You’ve yet to do that.

    Look, words tend to have many meanings, all of them correct in certain circumstances. For the word ‘why,’ one such common meaning is essentially the same as one such common meaning for ‘how.’

    I don;t know why this is so difficult to understand. Your whole response seems to be based on an inability to see that.

  • In the merriam-webster dictionary,

    ‘why’

    -reason or cause

    example:

    “”

    Oxford English Dictionary

    (with reference to a reason) on account of which; for which:

    “the reason why flu jabs need repeating every year is that the virus changes”

    ‘How’ (in merriam webster)

    1.a : in what manner or way
    b : for what reason : why

    That’s basic usage of ‘why’ and ‘how’ in English. So it would appear that your whole response is really just based on ignorance of the common meanings of these two words in assuming that they only have one usage which differs but as the above shows, they have common standard usages that are essentially the same in meaning.

  • I don’t know why it didn’t show in the above post the example from merriam-webster but this is the example

    “how one decides that a certain he or she is ‘the one’ is one of the great whys of life”

  • James Hill

    Nchen:

    I shouldn’t have to provide citations. The arguments I made should be enough to move you. Making the same arguments, but quoting somebody else’s name (someone’s name other than “James Hill”, shouldn’t make a difference whatsoever. If arguments aren’t enough to move you, nothing will—dropping names won’t make a difference either—at least, it shouldn’t, if you got any shred of intellectual integrity.

    You say:

    “By the way, the fact that an expression is ambiguous presupposes that there is standard meaning. You can’t have ambiguity without standard meaning.”
    Please provide a definition of “standard meaning”. You’ve yet to do that.

    I DID PROVIDE A DEFINITION OF “STANDARD MEANING”. YOU IGNORED IT. REREAD WHAT I WROTE, AND USE SOME OF YOUR MEMORY SKILLS. STOP LETTING DOGMATISM AND PIGHEADEDNESS BLIND YOU FROM SIMPLE TRUTHS.

    YOU SAY:
    Look, words tend to have many meanings, all of them correct in certain circumstances.

    YOU JUST ACKNOWLEDGED (OR PRESUPPOSED) THAT THERE ARE STANDARD MEANINGS IN WHAT YOU JUST SAID IN THAT SENTENCE. SO, YOU ‘RE HOLDING AN INCOHERENT POSITION, OR YOU’RE JUST DICKING ME AROUND (ALONG WITH EVERYONE ELSE HERE)—WHO KNOWS?

  • You said

    “I shouldn’t have to provide citations.”

    That’s convenient isn’t it? I’ve studied the philosophy of language seriously for a while. I can tell you I have no idea what you are referring to. No philosopher of language or linguist have used the specific phrases you used. So you must be confused or simply are making it up.

    You said

    “The arguments I made should be enough to move you.”

    The problem is that you haven’t made any relevant arguments. You’ve only provided some examples which I’ve shown using counterexamples are erroneous.

    I’m really getting sick of all this petty bickering from you. It’s clear that what you are saying is wholly without merit.

    I think that your main mistake is the same as Krauss’s. Namely, you *assume* that ‘how’ has only one meaning and ”why’ only has one meaning (and that both meanings are fundamentally different).

    But even in your example with Hitler, you can replace the ‘why’ with a ‘how’. “Why did Hitler invade Poland?” can be rendered without any substantive change in meaning to “How come Hitler invaded Poland?”

    You inability to see this results in serious confusion on your part as it did for Krauss. English, like all natural languages, is highly fluid and the vast majority of words are highly ambiguous including ‘how’ and ‘why.’ It often is the case that ‘how’ can be used in place of ‘why’ and ‘why’ can be replaced with ‘how’. It is erroneous to assume that ‘how’ only has this meaning while ‘why’ only has that meaning.

    Understanding this is a basic fact of linguistics. If you have any doubts I suggest you look up the dictionary. Again,

    Merriam Webster

    ‘how’

    1. a. In what manner or way
    d. For what reason: why

    4. how come, how does it happen that: why

    ‘why’ (noun)

    1. :Reason, cause

    Examples of why

    “how one decides that a certain he or she is “the one” is one of the great whys of life”

    So your ALL CAPS response seems wholly deficient in rebutting these basic facts of the English language that often, these two words can be used interchangeably. I’ve already provided with examples to prove that so the dictionary was superfluous but since you seem to intent on distraction and intellectually bankrupt bunkum, it provided the coupe de grace for your rigid conception of language.

    I don’t know, maybe English is your second language. It is mine but at least I know the meaning of these two common words as it is used. But I doubt it is your second language. rather I think that many things philosophers take for granted as obvious are no so obvious to many laymen (or physicists/cosmologists for that matter). It takes a philosophical education to understand the nuances and complexity of language. Most people, I’d wager, have very simplistic and rigid conceptions of language and we we see here, it causes then to end in confused, erroneous beliefs.

  • I’ll repeat what I said in a post that is ‘still waiting moderation” since it contains links to the dictionary

    “I’m beginning to think that you (falsely) believed that I said that it is *always* interchangeable. I never said that. Reread my what I wrote. I always made qualifying statements that in circumstances such as *these* (namely discussions by philosophers on the question about why is there something rather than nothing) it is interchangeable. So it seems that your whole responses to me are based on a mistaken understanding of what I said. I made it very explicit several times that I was talking about certain contexts that are common in conversations when the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ are interchangeable. You *assumed* despite all I said, that I was making a absolute claim about them *always* being interchangeable.

    I suggest you reread my posts top see where your misunderstanding originated.

    You said

    “This is trivially true because you can use any expression and speaker mean anything at all by it. So: can Sorenson utter a why question and speaker mean a how question? Absolutely! But that’ s not the issue.”

    Wrong. It’s not trivial at all. It’s the whole basis for your confusion, which you are still confused over. Sorensen meant what he meant as with most philosophers which is the same meaning as the ‘how’ Krauss insists that he use. That usages *is* standard. It’s standard in that context. Again, look at the dictionary.

    Your mistake is in assuming that there is only one correct usage (the “standard” one in your words) for the word. That is a mistake that an understanding of basic linguistics ought to have corrected. Most words have more than one correct “standard” meaning. ‘Why’ is one among many which has different meanings. One *can* often use it to ask questions in the same way as asking a ‘how’ question.”

  • James Hill

    NChen:

    You say:

    Look, words tend to have many meanings, all of them correct in certain circumstances. For the word ‘why,’ one such common meaning is essentially the same as one such common meaning for ‘how.’

    You really are deceitful. You’re changing your original claim, and you’re not even acknowledging you’re doing it—all this to avoid having to acknowledge that you were wrong—which is a basic stepping stone to acquiring wisdom. Your original claim was:

    1. Why questions and how questions are generally interchangeable

    What 1 implies is 2

    2. Why questions and how questions are generally interchangeable in all contexts.

    Now, you’re saying:

    3. Why questions and how questions are interchangeable, but only when they have one and the same standard meaning—they have more than one standard meaning, and more than one of them is not the same, but there is one of them that is the same, and when it is the same, in a context in which it is the same, then they are interchangeable.

    I would agree with 3. 3 is completely uncontroversial. But 3 is a completely different claim from 1, and 1 is what we have been having a disagreement about. According to your logic:

    4. “X is a property of Y” and “X is owned by Y” are generally interchangeable.

    For example: “This car is a property of James Hill” and “This car is owned by James Hill” are interchangeable. That’s true. But 4 is false, because “Roundness is a property of the Earth” does not mean the same thing as “Roundness is owned by the Earth”. So, they’re not generally interchangeable. So, 4 is false. But, then, instead of acknowledging that your claim is false, you try to pretend that a different, watered down claim is your original claim.

    5. “X is a property of Y” and “X is owned by Y” are interchangeable, but only when they have one and the same standard meaning—they have more than one standard meaning, and more than one of them is not the same, but there is one of them that is the same, and when it is the same, in a context in which it is the same, then they are interchangeable.

  • James Hill said,

    OK, I’m split between whether you are simply not intellectual honest or just really, really confused. How else would you ex-plain this bit of sophistry?

    You said

    “1. Why questions and how questions are generally interchangeable

    What 1 implies is 2

    2. Why questions and how questions are generally interchangeable in all contexts.”

    Do you see how incredibly asinine this reasoning is?

    No, 1 does not imply 2. First of all, I explicitly said that they were not interchangeable in all contexts. I always made use of qualifiers such as “in some contexts,” “often,” “commonly,” etc. Sorry that you keep (purposely?) misrepresenting my views.

    Being interchangeable in *some* context (general) do not imply that they are interchangeable in *all* contexts. I don’t know why this is so difficult for you to understand. unless you are being purposefully ignorant or perhaps you have a learning disability that prevents you from understanding basic English terms and grammar.

    But it would also appear that you simply cannot handle being proven so wrong. You are simply having a little tantrum. This has clouded your judgment even more than it was before.

  • Sorry, but you simply do not know how basic English words are used. Generally does not mean nor imply “always” as you mistakenly think.

    Again, consult the dictionary (Merriam Webster)

    :In disregard of specific instances and with regard to an overall picture.

    :as a rule: usually

    I don’t know how anyone with basic understanding of the English language can mistake thinking that when I said generally they are interchangeable that “implies” I said that they are always interchangeable. How incredibly fallacious is that?

  • Again,

    From the Merriam Webster English dictionary

    Merriam Webster

    ‘how’

    1. a. In what manner or way
    d. For what reason: why

    4. how come, how does it happen that: why

    ‘why’ (noun)

    1. :Reason, cause

    Examples of why

    “how one decides that a certain he or she is “the one” is one of the great whys of life”

    Please, James, this is getting pathetic. Please cultivate some common sense or some intellectual maturity. Your “objections” are getting ever more petty and fallacious (which was already incredibly so to begin with)

  • James Hill

    NChen:

    You say:

    I don’t know how anyone with basic understanding of the English language can mistake thinking that when I said generally they are interchangeable that “implies” I said that they are always interchangeable. How incredibly fallacious is that?

    That’s not gonna help you. You’re just trying to wiggle your way out of having to acknowledge that you were mistaken—God forbid you made a mistake! Your trick’s not gonna work. Now, you’re just saying:

    1. Why questions are USUALLY interchangeable with how questions

    That’s false. Because usually when we utter why questions and how questions, we are asking questions about people and social and historical events. And in those circumstances, usually the standard meanings aren’t the same. So, you can’t just substitute one for the other.

    You can keep citing the dictionary all you want. None of it helps you refute anything that I said. It’s just a smokescreen.

  • James Hill

    NChen:

    Now, what’s your next trick? I can already anticipate where you’re gonna go, cuz I know enough con acts to know how they work. Next is:

    1. Why questions are USUALLY interchangeable with how questions FOR PHILOSOPHERS

    Well, that’s not gonna work. Because philosophers are just like other people. They don’t live their whole lives in the ivory tower. They don’t only use language inside the ivory tower. Usually when they ask why questions and how questions, they are asking questions about people and social and historical events. And in those circumstances, usually the standard meanings aren’t the same. So, you can’t just substitute one for the other.

    Next trick?

    2. Why questions are USUALLY interchangeable with how questions FOR PHILOSOPHERS, when they are asking questions when they’re doing their philosophizing.

    Golly, I have no idea if 2 is true. It’s an empirical claim. It’s an interesting empirical claim. But I have no idea if this is true. Have you done any empirical research to back this shit up? Nope. None. You’re just trying to wiggle your way out of acknowledging that you made a mistake. You’re ego is getting in the way of your being intellectually honest.

    Now: I suppose 2 is true for some restricted domain of utterances that philosophers make—and that would be true for some restricted domain of utterances ANYONE makes! You’re ending up just making a trivial claim–you preserve the illusion that you never made a mistake by trading nontriviality for triviality. Because now the claim your making is just:

    3. There’s a restricted domain of utterances that philosophers make such that the why questions they ask have a standard meaning, the how questions they ask have a standard meaning, and the standard meaning of the first is the same as the standard meaning of the second.

    Well: NO KIDDING! That’s a triviality! It’s also true that:

    4. There’s a restricted domain of utterances that philosophers (or auto mechanics or nurses or street hookers or burglars) make such that the “X is a property of Y” type of expression has a standard meaning, and the “X is owned by Y” type of expression has a standard meaning, and the standard meaning of the first is the same as the standard meaning of the second.

  • James Hill,

    How do you reconcile the fact that the dictionary and my examples show that even in your examples, ‘how’ and ‘why’ can be interchangeable?

    Is Merriam Webster wrong?

    No, it is you that is wrong. You simply lack the intellectual maturity and honesty to admit that.

  • Again, your example which you claim shows that “why” and “how” questions cannot be replaced “Why did Hitler invade Poland”

    was proven to be false by the counter example

    “How come Hitler invade Poland” which has essentially the same meaning.

    Also

    Merriam Webster

    ‘how’

    1. a. In what manner or way
    d. For what reason: why

    4. how come, how does it happen that: why

    ‘why’ (noun)

    1. :Reason, cause

    Examples of why

    “how one decides that a certain he or she is “the one” is one of the great whys of life”

    I’ll reiterate what I said above:

    Please, James, this is getting pathetic. Please cultivate some common sense or some intellectual maturity. Your “objections” are getting ever more petty and fallacious (which was already incredibly so to begin with)

  • Textbook example of verbal sophistry and why we need philosophy to be taught rigorously starting from at least high school.

    By James Hill

    “1. Why questions and how questions are generally interchangeable

    What 1 implies is 2

    2. Why questions and how questions are generally interchangeable in all contexts.”

    This is shockingly stupid and unacceptable.

  • According to James Hill, his own examples are “FOR PHILOSOPHERS” [sic]

    According to his fuzzy and confused mind, the Merrian Webster dictionary only has words with meanings for philosophers.

    I sick and tired of the illiteracy modern education system instills in people. Worse, I’m sick of the disgusting lack of intellectual maturity and lack of accountability it fails to teach people.

  • Why can’t you just admit that you were proven wrong? Is it that much of a blow to your fragile ego? is your self esteem hurting that bad?

    First you claimed that ‘why’ questions always has an agential presupposition which is wrong as was shown by the many examples I gave. Of course, with ever more contorted verbal sophistry, you managed to get yourself into more trouble when you then claimed that you can never replaced ‘why’ questions’ with ‘how’ questions which is false because your own examples was shown to be susceptible to the replacement with ‘how’.

    Then you managed en EPIC sophistical argument with this nugget of wisdom

    “1. Why questions and how questions are generally interchangeable

    What 1 implies is 2

    2. Why questions and how questions are generally interchangeable in all contexts.”

    And now you are saying that the Merriam Webster dictionary only offers definitions for philosophers.

    It would appear that sometimes the truth can induce a mental breakdown.

  • James Hill

    AS long as you keep changing what the disagreement is about, so you never come out to be wrong, you’re going to deceive yourself that you’re never wrong—precisely because you changed what the disagreement was about. But that doesn’t mean you weren’t wrong. You were wrong, and that’s precisely why you changed what the disagreement is about. Because you can’t admit that you were wrong, because you’re an intellectual coward. And you’re going to use every rhetorical trick, every fallacy, every sleight of hand, to try to deceive yourself and everyone else that you weren’t wrong. Not gonna work. We know your tricks. The disagreement was originally about whether:

    1. Why questions and how questions are interchangeable.
    1 implies 2.

    2. There is no standard meaning that a why question has that a how question does not have.

    2 is false. I showed that by (among many other things):

    3. Why did Hitler invade Polland?

    4. How did Hitler invade Poland?

    There is a standard meaning that 3 has that 4 does not. Therefore: there is a standard meaning that a why question (that’s 3) has that a how question (that’s 4) does not have. Therefore: 2 is false. Simple argument. Unrefuted. What you did do was another trick. You said:

    5. How come Hitler invade Poland? [sic]

    It’s true that: There is a standard meaning that 3 has that 5 also has. So, there is a standard meaning that a why question (that’s 3) has that a how question (that’s 5) has. But that doesn’t show that there is no standard meaning that a why question has that a how question does not have. The reason is: you need to properly spell out the truth condition of 2, it’s:

    6. There is no standard meaning that a why question (with a certain propositional content) has that ANY how question (with the same propositional content) does not have.

    Now: 3, 4, and 5 all have the same propositonal content. It’s:

    7. That Hitler invaded Poland.

    Well, gosh, if the propositional contents are all the same, what the hell makes the difference in the meanings? They all don’t have the same meanings—-you yourself acknowledge that–so, what makes the difference in their meanings? IT’S THE FACT THAT 4 IS A HOW QUESTION WITH A CERTAIN STANDARD MEANING, AND THAT STANDARD MEANING IS DIFFERENT FROM THE STANDARD MEANING OF THE WHY QUESTION THAT IS 3, OR THE HOW QUESTION THAT IS 5. What this shows is: what makes the difference in the meaning is the very grammatical form in which the question is asked—-it’s not the propositional content. So: there is a standard meaning that a why question with content 7 has that some how question with content 7 does not have. So, again, 2 is false. And therefore 1 is false. Q.E.D.

  • Why do you keep playing these silly word games? Do you seriously think that people that have actually studied philosophy will be tricked by them? It’s got to the point that I don’t even think that you are convinced of your own silly nonsense.

    The reason you keep going on is because you are embarrassed that what you maintained is false and demonstrably so.

    Your despicably childish attitude is unfortunately incredibly common among people today. It’s an attitude that views bullshit as acceptable and moreover, when called up on it, will try every distraction technique and fallacy to avoid accountability. I’m thoroughly disgusted. It’s people like James Hill that make me doubt that philosophy can ever be made accessible to the public.

  • Just to reiterate the actual debate before it was hijacked by this troll,

    The “how” and “why” in questions are often interchangeable. The minimalist thought would bear this ought (or simply consulting a dictionary). Many of the meanings of these two words are overlapping and each can be used with or without certain presuppositions. Two examples

    In the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” can be rendered “How is it the case that there is something rather than nothing?” There’s no substantive change in meaning. Many people such as philosophy ask these questions without any presupposition that the universe was created by an agent.

    In the question “Why did Hitler invade Poland?” the “why’ can be replaced with a “how” such that the sentence becomes “How come Hitler invaded Poland?”

    Again, no substantive meaning is lost in the translation. Anyone who is a native English speaker and is honest with himself can see that.

    All sophistry and distraction techniques aside, nothing has been shown to prove this interchangeability theses wrong.

    • PeterB

      NChen,

      I’m late to this exchange (and I will have to reread it all since my brain is now fried :)) but a couple of things did occur to me, and if I may, I’d like to offer a brief perspective on “how” and “why”.

      From where I stand, “how” questions require an answer that describes a mechanism, whereas “why” questions require an answer that describes a purpose.

      When you use the phrase “how come” that’s really just a “why” in disguise, and a feature of colloquial language. To place my interpretation in the context of your Hitler/Poland question:

      1. Why did Hitler invade Poland?
      2. How did Hitler invade Poland?

      Answering “With tanks” to (1.) and “Because he wanted its resources” to (2.) demonstrates the fundamental difference, I think, because anyone observing those responses would undoubtedly respond with an immediate “whaaaat?” question.

      Of the two responses, the former is a mechanism, the latter a purpose, and I think you can see that they are not interchangeable.

      • “PeterB”

        You’re simply reiterating much of what has already transpired.

        To repeat, my view is that ‘how’ questions *sometimes* ask for mechanistic or causal explanations as you stated. But, they also *sometimes* can be used to ask for “purpose” questions as with my example of “How come Hitler invaded Poland?”.

        Similarly, “why” can also be used in these two ways. In the case of when a philosopher or a scientist asks “Why is there something rather than nothing?” or in my example of when a chemist asks “Why did solution X turn blue?” they are not asking for agential “purposes.” They are asking for causal mechanistic explanations using the “why”. It would be RIDICULOUS to conclude that these people are asking what purpose, in the same sense as what purpose Hitler had for invading Poland, did solution X had for turning blue. It has no purpose because it is a chemical solution, not a person.

        So again, both “how” and “why” can be used in many normal circumstances to ask questions that are either asking for mechanistic or causal explanations or can be used to ask for purposes. It doesn’t make ANY sense linguistically to say that one has this meaning while the other has that meaning and it’s not “standard” or whatever to use them for the same basic purpose. That makes absolutely no sense. Both have overlapping meanings and usages. “How” can be used to ask either kinds of questions and so can “why”.

        • PeterB

          OK, I think I can make some sense of what you’re saying.

          “How come” is slang. It is not the same as “How”. Linguistically it is the same as “Why”. For example: “How come you didn’t get up early this morning?” means “Why didn’t you get up…?” It asks for a purpose, not a mechanism.

          “How” could be rephrased as “In what manner…?” You should be able to see that “In what manner didn’t you get up early…” does not make sense – it is not a valid question.

          “How” and “How come” are not synonymous. “How come” means “Why” not “How”.

          • “How come” is just one example. And I don’t think it is “slang”. Even if it is, it still wouldn’t detract from what I said.

            If you look into the dictionary examples I gave from Merriam Webster which has commonly accepted definitions, and only some slang, you’d see that “how” and “why” are used interchangeably in many contexts as I maintained.

            Like I said, “how” in some circumstances is “the same” (the same meaning) as “why” is sometimes used.

            ““How” could be rephrased as “In what manner…?””

            But your error is in thinking that that is the *only* “rephrasing” of “how” when there are different “rephrasings.” That’s because how has different usages, just like why.

            I’m tired of making this same point over and over. Words don’t simply have one correct usage. That’s not how natural languages work. Ask a linguist. Almost all words in all natural languages have multiple meanings and correct “rephrasings” and the meanings often diverge substantially and sometimes subtly.

        • PeterB

          The nesting only goes so far here, sadly, so I have to reply to your later post here :(

          I consulted multiple dictionaries (onelook.com) to check that I was correct in my recollection that “How come” is definitely slang and found sufficient support for me to feel confident that it is so.

          Building a linguistic argument using a slang term is unsure footing, but either way, if the underlying meaning is “Why” then you cannot argue with any degree of strength that it is equivalent to “How”.

          As a professional writer I have never seen a situation where “How” and “Why” can be used interchangeably. They address two different aspects of any situation.

          I reasoned that if the two words *can* be used interchangeably, there should be another language besides English in which this would be evident. I examined “How” and “Why” translated into 64 other languages. There was no instance in which the translation of the two different words yielded the same word or symbol.

          That’s not conclusive but it does rather undermine the argument that in some cases the two are synonymous. It would be unusual if English was the only language in which that occurred.

          In slang terms, you do have an argument. For example, “bad” can mean “good”. Under those circumstances “good” and “bad” have essentially the same meaning and are interchangeable.

          But if you want to conduct a reasonable discourse and ensure that meaning is preserved, using slang is the worst possible way to go about it.

          • Are you James Hill?

            Doesn’t matter, you are just as mistaken. Even if it was slang, it wouldn’t matter. Slang terms are as “sound” as any other. Again, consult a linguist.

            Anyway, “how come” is not slang. It is an accepted usage though mostly in informal contexts.

            But there are other ways to render “why” questions as “how” questions even in more formal ways. I gave many examples of this.

            So you made several mistakes here. “How come” is not slang. It is somewhat informal but that does not mean it is slang. Second, even if it was slang (or informal) it still wouldn’t affect the argument’s soundness as you seem to think. You can have debates in whatever topic in informal and slang language as people often do in both real life and in published scientific and philosophy journals (I’ve seen slang used often in these publications). Third, there are other rendering that are more formal which interchange ‘how’ with ‘why’ so it doesn’t matter.

            “As a professional writer I have never seen a situation where “How” and “Why” can be used interchangeably. They address two different aspects of any situation.”

            “Professional writer”? You don’t need to be a “professional writer” to see the fallacy you’ve made. You simply need to be a familiar English speaker with sufficient reflective ability. How and why are *often* used correctly interchangeably.

            It’s ferocious ignorance not to see that basic fact of the English language.

            You said,

            “I examined “How” and “Why” translated into 64 other languages. There was no instance in which the translation of the two different words yielded the same word or symbol.”

            Sorry, but now you are starting to bullshit, James. I am fluent in a foreign language. In some languages there is only one word that is used in place of both how and why. So please don’t insult people’s intelligence by your bullshitting. And even if it weren’t interchangeable in other languages, that has no bearing on the ENGLISH language. We;ring not talking about other languages. We’re talking about usages in English.

          • Please educate yourself on what slang is,

            from the wiki on “slang”

            “Even within a single language community, slang, and the extent to which it is used, tends to vary widely across social, ethnic, economic, and geographic strata. Slang may fall into disuse over time; sometimes, however, it grows more and more common until it becomes the dominant way of saying something, at which time it usually comes to be regarded as mainstream, acceptable language (e.g. the Spanish word caballo or the English word ain’t), although in the case of taboo words there may not be an expression which is considered mainstream or acceptable. Numerous slang terms pass into informal mainstream speech, and sometimes into formal speech, though this may involve a change in meaning or usage.”

            Yes, “how come” has passed into mainstream informal and maybe even formal speech because it has been used so often. Consult again, a dictionary (I used the Merriam Webster but all dictionaries I’ve seen bare this out).

          • Again, please educate yourself, James

            “how” from dictionary dot com

            “4. For what reason: why?”

            In Oxford English dictionary

            “how”

            Phrases: “How come”

            Don’t you think this is getting stupid? Do you really think that you are right and the hundreds of millions of native English speakers and the dictionaries (Webster, dictionary dot com and Oxford) wrong?

            I’m sick of this petty quibbling. Please educate yourself.

        • PeterB

          NChen

          I’m going to answer all your replies in one. Take “=” to mean either equal or interchangeable with.

          No, I’m not James Hill, and I don’t believe I know him. I am a professional writer (meaning that I earn my keep through wordsmithing), working primarily in the science and technology fields, these days specifically medical science (pharmacology, medical devices). I am not an author of scientific publications (except as a co-author on a couple of reports from the Health Services Research Unit, University of Oxford) but I have ghost-written countless papers in collaboration with scientists whose first language was not English and conformed them to various journal requirements. I am also a published author (one informal book), a creative writer and a software engineer (but not in that order).

          I am genuinely interested in your claim that “How” and “Why” are often interchangeable because it does not agree with my own experience of the English language (being a native speaker of some 59 years and counting, these days based in and around Los Angeles and having spent the last seventeen years getting to grips with American usage of the language) and I am always keen to learn new nuances.

          However, I have to say that I’m not convinced by your arguments, primarily because:

          (i) you’re reliant almost exclusively upon the Merriam Webster dictionary definition (I have looked at a number of other dictionaries online and so far not one equates “Why” with “How”, least of all the bible of dictionaries, that of Dr Samuel Johnson), which is itself internally inconsistent since it defines “Why” as a secondary meaning of “How” but does not reciprocate – and it would have to, in order to support your argument,

          (ii) your usage of “How come” to justify the claim relies upon a slang and therefore informal interpretation of the “How” construct or phrase (it is indeed slang, and no reputable scientific journal would publish a paper in which an author used it in place of “Why”; it is a vernacular form of “Why” more often associated with speakers in the south-west of England),

          (iii) James is correct in that there are “standard” interpretations of any given word, more often known as primary meanings, and “How” is not a primary meaning of “Why” even in the Merriam Webster; there is no circumstance under which all meanings of a given word are correct (quantum meaning?), especially if some meanings are contradictory (such as “bad” = “good”) or have contextually sensitive interpretations (“boil”),

          (iv) you are trying to make an argument for equal weight to be given to the meaning of two different words under circumstances where it is such a stretch – you’re essentially arguing that an outlier in a distribution should be regarded exactly the same as any value closer to the mean, and that’s not a tenable position; (a better example: I can legitimately claim to have been on the staff of Oxford University and a member of the National Union of Teachers but does that mean I should be accorded a stature equal to that of Professor Roger Penrose?),

          (v) “How does it happen that…” would be a stronger candidate for equating “How” with “Why” but this is an incredibly circuitous way to ask a “Why” question and again no editor would allow that to stand (reason: “weasel words”), and

          (vi) your insistence that “How” = “Why” under special circumstances and therefore “How” should be regarded as equal to “Why” under all circumstances for the purposes of your argument is IMHO never going to be taken seriously by any scientist.

          Some words have changed their primary meaning over time – “fittest” is a good example – but “how and “why” have not. Not yet, anyway.

          I’d be interested to know which language has the same word for “How” and “Why”. I’ve looked at:

          Afrikaans, Albanian, Arabic, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Basque, Belarusian, Bengali, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Esperanto, Estonian, Filipino, Finnish, French, Galician, Georgian, German, Greek, Gujarati, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Kannada, Korean, Latin (dead but just in case), Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malay, Maltese, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russuian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Ukranian, Urdu, Vietnamese, Welsh and Yiddish

          and all of them translate “How” and “Why” as two different words or symbols.

          Why would I accord that some weight? Because languages are related and if English did what you claim with regard to “How” and “Why” then it would show up in at least one or two other languages (since English has borrowed from so many others).

          With regard to the use of “ain’t” as mainstream acceptable language: not in professional scientific discourse it ain’t. You can quote mine “ain’t” in journals and find it used exceptionally rarely, and then only as a quote for the purpose of illustrating a point; by no means is it acceptable usage in formal discourse (as opposed to gossip or an argument down the pub – in which case, in such an informal setting, then yes, I agree that “How” and “Why” can be conflated, but usually by speakers who are either poorly educated or exceptionally careless (or drunk)).

          I’m skeptical that there are “hundreds of millions of native English speakers”, primarily because England (whence cometh native speakers) has but 51 million inhabitants. If you’re including forms of English that exist all over the world in other countries then you might have a leg to stand on, but it wouldn’t be a native English leg.

          My birth county was Berkshire, England, and local dialect in the 1950s could sometimes be as far removed from comprehensible English as you can get. “B’ain’t ‘e be frit” for example, means “Don’t be afraid”, and I be frit that you be a troll. I be just sayin’.

          Otherwise, I was once told that the best definition for Philosophers is “a bunch of guys who make up shit” and while that’s funny it’s never going to fly as a serious definition (nor should it), but by going out on a limb (as you are) I can only hope that you have some deeper purpose in mind or you may lock in that definition…

          • “you’re reliant almost exclusively upon the Merriam Webster dictionary definition ”

            Sorry, this is disingenuous. I used Oxford English dictionary and dictionary dot com as well as Merriam webster. while you have cited no credible sources rebutting what I have said. None.

            You say that your 59 years have suggested to you that ‘why’ and ‘how’ are often not interchangeable? Well, it could be that you just lack sufficient reflective ability to notice that they are interchangeable. But I haven’t seen one single case you and your alter ego “James” presented so far to suggest otherwise anything I’ve said (again, I’m not doubting there are the occasional case out there). Why is that?

            If they are usually not interchangeable then it should be rather easy to find a counter example. You and “James” have not done that in all this time.

            You said,

            “(ii) your usage of “How come” to justify the claim relies upon a slang and therefore informal interpretation of the “How” construct or phrase (it is indeed slang, and no reputable scientific journal would publish a paper in which an author used it in place of “Why”; it is a vernacular form of “Why” more often associated with speakers in the south-west of England),”

            Stop with the the bullshit. Again, “how come” is not slang. You simply don’t know what slang means. Slang is not the same thing as informal speech. And more relevantly, the sentence can be rendered with “how” more formally. e.g., “How did Hitler come to decide to invade Poland?” and “Why did Hitler invade Poland” has basically the same meaning. Both can be answered correctly “Because he wanted more lebensraum.”

            Anyone familiar with the English language can see that these are two equivalent ways of asking for the same answer and has the same basic meaning.

            So you are making mistake on top of mistake. Informal speech, such as the kind we are engaged in in this discussion and with the video dialogue with Krauss and Sorensen, as a legitimate a venue as more “formal” speech. If it wasn’t then what you are doing, what I am doing, what Sorensen and Krauss are doing would simply lack all substance and that is clearly ridiculous.

            You said,

            “(iii) James is correct in that there are “standard” interpretations of any given word, more often known as primary meanings, and “How” is not a primary meaning of “Why” even in the Merriam Webster; there is no circumstance under which all meanings of a given word are correct (quantum meaning?), especially if some meanings are contradictory (such as “bad” = “good”) or have contextually sensitive interpretations (“boil”),”

            This is stupid. It’s asinine. I never said that there weren’t usually accepted modes of speaking. You have IMAGINED me as saying otherwise due to your poor literacy skills.

            Again, I was asking what James meant by “standard” because there are different ways of interpreting it and I didn’t know what he was referring to by his dichotomy of speaker meaning and standard meaning.

            I now think (though I’m not sure because he never gave a a clear definition) that he meant something like generally accepted definition.

            But there are almost always many (more than one) accepted definitions for any one word. That’s because words in natural language are almost always what linguists call polysemous (google it).

            So yes, words have correct and incorrect definitions in the sense that certain definitions are accepted in normal relevant contexts. These definitions are established by the different usages of the word through its history.

            You can see many of these (though sometimes not all) in dictionaries. Your basic mistake, as well as “James’s” and Krauss’s is thinking and assuming that ‘how’ and ‘why’ each has one and only one meaning and that the two never overlaps in accepted usages. That, as I’ve repeatedly shown at least 10,000 times now, is wrong.

            You say that Merriam Webster is wrong. But you give no evidence and reason why they are.

            You are simply carping and engaging in stupid verbal sophistry to avoid the obvious.

            BTW, I never said that all the definition of some word is correct at *the same time* like a quantum particle has a superposition that is at once here and there.

            Again, your lack of literacy skills interpreted what I have said (quite clearly) as something else. I said that all of the generally accepted definitions of a word is correct. that doesn’t entail they are correct at the same time (I don’t even know what that means). It means that the word has correct usages in certain contexts to correctly mean one or some other definition.

            Take for example ‘bat’. ‘Bat’ can mean “blunt wooden instrument used to hit a ball” or it could mean “a flying mammal of the family…”

            Both are accepted definition. Does that mean that ‘bat’ means both these definitions at the same time? Think about it.

            What it does mean is that in some conversational contexts such as e.g., when one want to talk about baseball, ‘bat’ is used (correctly) to mean the first definition. In some other conversational contexts, such as in talking about vampires, it is used (correctly) to mean a flying mammal.

            Now as for ‘how’ and ‘why’. In some conversational contexts, both words can be used without agential presuppositions. That is, when asking using either word, one is not asking for subjective reasons but causal, mechanistic or naturalistic explanations. I already provided an example of the chemist asking why or how did the solution turn blue.

            Now, some other contexts does ask for agential presuppositions. In these contexts, both words used in a different way, are also acceptable.

            Again, “Why did Hitler invade Poland?” is basically the same question as “How come Hitler invaded Poland?” or more formally, “How did Hitler come to decide to invade Poland?”

            You can carp and carp and say that these are different questions with different meanings but you simply show your ignorance of the English language. They can used to mean the same thing, they serve the same purpose, they basically mean the same thing.

            You said,

            “(vi) your insistence that “How” = “Why” under special circumstances and therefore “How” should be regarded as equal to “Why” under all circumstances for the purposes of your argument is IMHO never going to be taken seriously by any scientist.”

            Get this through your goddamn thick skull, James, I NEVER SAID THEY WERE INTERCHANGEABLE IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES.

            I said they were interchangeable in most or general circumstances or often. There might be some circumstances were they are not. You are simply arguing against a strawman and that is your one of your problems.

            You said,

            “I’d be interested to know which language has the same word for “How” and “Why”. I’ve looked at:”

            You need to look again. Those other language are either analogous to English in this regard or they have only one word which is used for both ‘how’ and ‘why’ such as in Mandarin Chinese.

            You are a LIAR. You have not “looked at” those languages at all.

            You said

            and all of them translate “How” and “Why” as two different words or symbols.”

            Hey moron, even in English ‘how’ and ‘why’ are different words. The question is not whether they are different words (which they obviously are) but whether they can have the same meaning. So you don’t even know what we are arguing about. Different words can have the same meaning both within the same language and across different languages. They are called synonyms (google it).

            You said,

            “With regard to the use of “ain’t” as mainstream acceptable language: not in professional scientific discourse it ain’t.”

            Who said anything about scientific discourse? This is not scientific discourse. This is informal discourse. And besides slang is sometimes accepted in scientific discourse. Many words (‘quark’ just as one famous example) in physics is from slang.

            And are you THAT stupid to think that I don’t know how to use a search engine? Your example of “ain’t” as a word that is never used and never acceptable in science is wrong in spectacular way.

            In the most respected science journal in the world Nature, I found this peer-reviewed article titled

            “Physics Ain’t What it Used to Be”

            Nature 438, 739-740 (8 December 2005) | doi:10.1038/438739a

            How bloody stupid are you? There MANY other are many examples of just this word used in peer reviewed journals in published Nature. A simple search using their search engine will show this.

            If you really are from England, I’m sad to see that its education system has degraded so much as to produce fuzzy-thinking, ignorant cretins like you.

        • PeterB

          NChen

          I’ll take your points in sequence.

          1. You indeed are almost totally reliant upon the Merriam Webster definition. It’s the only one (so far) that I have encountered that conflates “How” with “Why” as a secondary meaning and I’m not sure why it does that. In that regard I believe that you are the one being disingenous; you’re relying on an outlier and pretending it’s close to the mean, when it clearly is not.

          “How come” on the other hand is not synonymous with “How”. It is indeed slang, informal, and especially idiomatic. It is – in comparison with “Why” – a rare way to ask that question.

          Not all dictionaries provide a classification of the phrase “How come” but enough do:

          WordNet: non-standard variant for what is the reason (i.e., why)
          Collins: informal: what is the reason that (i.e., why)
          Wordnik: why; why is it; for what reason or purpose
          Cambridge Advanced Learner’s: (informal) used to ask about the reason for something
          Wiktionary: (idiomatic, informal) why; why is it; for what reason or purpose
          Dictionary.com (from American Heritage): (idiom, informal) how come – follows a statement and asks the question “why” or “in what way”
          Rhymezone: question word; what is the reason (“how come” is a non-standard variant)
          Look Way Up: what is the reason (non-standard variant)
          Idioms at FreeDictionary.com: How did that come about? Why?
          Urban Dictionary: slang; why
          Merriam Webster: how does it happen that; why

          Definition of idiom, just to make sure you understand that word:

          “an expression whose meaning is different from the meaning of the individual words; the language peculiar to a people or district, community or class” (the latter is from Merriam Webster, your preferred resource).

          So, plenty of support for the claim that “How” is not equivalent to “Why” but that the idiom “How come” is. Informal and slang occupy pretty much the same end of the spectrum.

          2. Regardless of the number of years I have under my belt, I have never encountered a situation where “Why” and “How” have been synonymous, whether in formal or informal communication. Please don’t try to advance the argument that “How” and “How come” are somehow synonymous because they both contain the word “How”; it is established and well recognised that “How come” is idiomatic and so the meaning of the phrase differs from the meanings of the constituent words.

          James is not my alter ego. I’m not sure why you would continue to assert that. Even a cursory examination of James’ writing shows that he and I use language in entirely different ways. I accept that you don’t have access to IP addresses, for example, to try and obtain evidence that would distinguish us. I can provide evidence of my footprint online but unless James does likewise that would give you nothing really substantial to use as a comparison.

          At times you demonstrate exactly the characteristics of a troll but since I’ve seen evidence of your posts in other areas I won’t do you the discourtesy of dismissing you outright as one. You do exhibit a tendency to make exaggerated statements about the frequency of occurrence of the interpretations of “How” and “Why” that you espouse, and of course the use of personal abuse is not acceptable in any discourse short of a preamble to an actual fight.

          You claim that neither James nor I have provided examples that demonstrate that “How” and “Why” are NOT interchangeable, which seems a little odd since I know I have pointed out that one asks for a purpose or reason while the other requests details of a mechanism. As Krauss says in the conversation, “Why” questions presuppose a purpose.

          But “How” questions do not always presuppose a mechanism – they ask that if there is one, what it might be.

          As another example: “How are you?” and “Why are you?” address two distinctly different aspects of being; one asks your status (health, well-being, whatever), the other asks the reason for your existence (in a slightly awkward way).

          3. The question “How did Hitler come to decide to invade Poland” is not answered by “Because he wanted more lebensraum”. The answer would more correctly be “He was having dinner with some friends and a conversation ensued in which Hitler had an epiphany; the answer to his problems would be to invade Poland.” The phrase “How did…come to…?” asks for the steps taken to arrive at some position.

          I suspect you may not be conversant with some of the subtleties of English – or you may just have chosen a poor example again.

          Krauss points out the fallacy involved in asking “Why” questions in the realm of science (“It’s turtles all the way down”) because of the inbuilt presupposition. Sloppily phrased questions have as much (or as little) validity in informal as in formal discussions.

          4. Accepted modes of speaking is a term you have only now introduced, and it is not the same as primary meanings. You have explicitly argued that there is no “standard” meaning for words and that is just not true. The word “fit” for example has had its primary meaning changed over time; back in Darwin’s day it meant “suitable” as a primary meaning, and it still has that meaning today, but not as a primary meaning.

          “How” and “Why” have not changed their primary meanings so that they are interchangeable. Not yet, anyway.

          The distinction between meanings is usually given by context.

          5. Multiple meanings or definitions for a word are a given; I doubt if there is genuinely a monosemous word in the English language. I have non-English friends who have told me that it’s one of the harder languages to learn precisely because it’s not only hard to pin down some meanings but because the pronunciation is so varied.

          This is quite adequately demonstrated IMHO in the anomalous word “ghoti” which, using rules of English pronunciation, can be pronounced “fish” if you ignore the fact that “gh” is usually only pronounced as an “f” when it appears at the end of a word. Wikipedia’s entry for it points out there’s a way to make the word totally silent if the right rules are followed.

          The problem is that the word doesn’t actually have meaning…

          6. You haven’t shown 10,000 times (exaggerate much?) that “How” and “Why” overlap in meaning. What you have definitely done is to conflate “How” with “How come”, which is not a valid stance to take.

          7. You mention “bat” and quote two different meanings for the word. That’s a common mistake – to assume that the one word means two or more different things. However, there is no way to distinguish “bat” (Old French batte or batre, meaning a pounding instrument or to flail) from “bat” (Middle English bakke, a flying mammal) because they have both progressed to be spelled and pronounced the same way.

          They are however not the same word and only context allows you to determine which is the appropriate one. To all intents and purposes, though, both meanings are correct (in that neither is wrong). If we always capitalized the word for meaning baseball stick (BAT) and always kept the lowercase usage for the flying mammal (bat) then the phrase “Guys with bats attacked me” means something different from “Guys with BATS attacked me”.

          An example of a word that is spelled one way but pronounced in two different ways to give two different meanings that don’t even overlap, is “minute”. One pronunciation means small or tiny, the other means a measure of sixty seconds. This is not one word with two meanings. It is two different words.

          If you could find a way to pronounce either “How” or “Why” so that the two became interchangeable you might have a leg to stand on, but I doubt that you can.

          8. I think you have misunderstood the meaning and usage of the two English words “How” and “Why” when used idiomatically. Your claim that the idiomatic form “How come” is equivalent much of the time to “How” and since “How come” means “Why” then therefore “How” means “Why” is absolutely not valid. Moreover, “How come” is not used in common parlance in place of “Why” except in special circumstances that I have already mentioned.

          9. You called me a liar when I stated that I have looked at “Why” and “How” in languages that I then took the trouble to list. At the time I didn’t bother to formally record every single comparison that I made, but you (or any reader) can replicate what I did very easily.

          Go to Google Translate, choose English as the originating language, type in “Why? How?” into the text box, and then click on the drop-down To: list and choose each language one by one, viewing the results after each selection.

          The result for Armenian was a little odd, in that “How?” seems to translate as “How?” but it’s an artefact – if you remove the question mark you’ll get a translation.

          This is by no means a definitive test but it’s good enough for my purposes.

          One of the languages I looked at was called “Standard Chinese”, also known as Mandarin. I didn’t see a translation that showed “How” and “Why” to be the same.

          My search was for a language that gave the same translation for “How” and “Why” to try to find circumstantial support for your contention, and I was unable to. It would be unusual if English was the sole language in which your claim was true.

          10. I too Googled the use of “Ain’t” and also found the same paper. You are being incredibly disingenuous to claim that “ain’t” is therefore acceptably used in formal scientific discourse. The usage of “ain’t” is something of a joke in the title, playing as it does on the colloquial expression “Fings ain’t wot they used ta be”. The word “ain’t” is not otherwise used in any journal by any author to mean “is not” in the content of any paper. I don’t know why you would claim otherwise.

          11. I really am from England, but we tend not to resort to name calling as part of reasoned discourse (although we do indulge in dry humor as a way to deprecate someone who is being silly :)). I had hoped to learn something useful from you about an aspect of my native tongue, but so far you have been singularly unimpressive.

          You can respond to this post if you wish, but it’s unlikely that I will respond to you again. If you are not a troll then you may well be suffering from some form of mental illness and it would be pointless to continue the discussion until you receive treatment.

          • You are a despicable liar. You’ve lied about being fluent in 65 languages. You’ve lied about those languages. You’ve lied about being knowledgeable about the phil of language and linguistics. You’ve lied about not being the same person as “James Hill” and now you are lying about me “relying” on Merriam Webster when I have used countless examples and two other well respected dictionaries while you have supplied NO credible sources.

            Longman’s dictionary

            “How come

            -used to ask why something has happened or why a particular situation exists, especially when you are surprised by it:
            How come Dave’s home? Isn’t he feeling well?”

            Under wiktionary

            for “why”

            “synonyms -How come”

            Under American Heritage dictionary

            “How”

            -”For what reason or purpose; why:”

            “The how of research is generated by the why of the world”

            Under “why”

            “For what purpose, reason, or cause”

            Under thefreedictionary dot com

            “how”

            “4. For what reason or purpose; why:”

            Under

            “why”

            “For what purpose, reason, or cause”

            Every single dictionary I have seen supports that a common translation of “why” used in asking the causal or mechanistic questions can be replaced with a how and in asking what reason some agent had in doing something can be replaced with a “how come”. But that is already overkill since I’ve already show with repeated examples that you can often exchange a ‘why’ with a ‘how’ to which you have not responded with a single rebuttal.

            You are now lying once again about the sources you have used which supports what I have been saying as the direct quotes above PROVE. You are proven a liar repeatedly.

            Your ignorance of the English language is astounding. Your despicable character is on display. I am making an example out of you.

            You said,

            “As another example: “How are you?” and “Why are you?””

            These are “slang” according to you, moron. Even by your own standards, these do not count.

            Your incredible functional illiteracy prevents you from seeing that none of these “examples” have anything to do with my original claim.

            You said,

            “7. You mention “bat” and quote two different meanings for the word. That’s a common mistake – to assume that the one word means two or more different things. ”

            This is the level of your ignorance and sophistry. You are now claiming that words like “bat” only have one meaning when they clearly have multiple and which I have already given two examples. I’m starting to wonder if this is a result of severe brain damage to the language centers of your brain.

            And no shit “ain’t” was used informally in that paper’s title. That’s the whole point! The fact that it was used informally shows that informal speech (ain’t) can be used in scientific publications which destroys your claim that “ain’t” cannot ever be used in those contexts.

            “You can respond to this post if you wish, but it’s unlikely that I will respond to you again.”

            So you are saying that not only are you a liar and deeply confused but you are also a coward? I take this as an admission that you now realize that you are wrong.

            You have you received head trauma in the past? I’m serious. I don’t know of one person that would ever assert that words can only have one single meaning. That’s incredible cognitive deficiency. Even children as young as 4 years old know that ‘bat’ can mean very different things. When it’s a noun, it can mean blunt instrument used to hit a ball or it could mean a flying mammal. But you think that words can only have one single meaning. This is a sign of severe brain damage in the language centers of the brain. You should really have an MRI done.

            I now see you not as a troll but as someone in serious need of neurological examination and treatment for your traumatic brain injury.

          • Instances of the word “ain’t” within articles published in the peer reviewed science journals proving once again, what a fraud “PeterB” AKA “James Hill” is.

            Devaluing the kudos

            P. Ramsay-Baggs

            BDJ 212, 521-521 doi:10.1038/sj.bdj.2012.478

            Genomics: A complex code

            Virginia Hughes

            Nature 484, S3-S3 doi:10.1038/nature11105

            Nor custom stale

            Anatoly Belilovsky

            Refine your chakras via the oral cavity

            BDJ 212, 265-265 doi:10.1038/sj.bdj.2012.241

            Nature 484, 282-282 doi:10.1038/484282a

            And so on with over three hundred others.

            This is what the kids call EPIC OWNED.

            Use of slang words in Nature (and no, ‘ain’t’ is not a slang term but merely informal version of ‘is not’).

            “bogus”

            Obesity discrimination: the role of physical appearance, personal ideology, and anti-fat prejudice

            K S O’Brien, J D Latner, D Ebneter & J A HunterInternational Journal of Obesity doi:10.1038/ijo.2012.52

            International groups move to criminalize fake drugs

            Katherine Rowland
            Nature News doi:10.1038/nature.2012.10159

            Clear up this fuzzy thinking on brain scans
            Olivier OullierNature 483, 7-7 doi:10.1038/483007a

            Time to Kill Off CaptchasDavid PogueScientific American 306, 23-23 doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0312-23

            And so on (at least 300 more)

            “dude”

            The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks FREEDan M. Kahan, Ellen Peters, Maggie Wittlin, Paul Slovic, Lisa Larrimore Ouellette, + et al.Nature Climate Change doi:10.1038/nclimate1547

            Increased Erythropoiesis in Mice Injected With Submicrogram Quantities of Pseudouridine-containing mRNA Encoding Erythropoietin OPEN
            Katalin Karikó, Hiromi Muramatsu, Jason M Keller & Drew Weissman
            Molecular Therapy doi:10.1038/mt.2012.7

            Increased Erythropoiesis in Mice Injected With Submicrogram Quantities of Pseudouridine-containing mRNA Encoding Erythropoietin OPEN
            Katalin Karikó, Hiromi Muramatsu, Jason M Keller & Drew Weissman
            Molecular Therapy 20, 948-953 doi:10.1038/mt.2012.7

            Nucleofection induces transient eIF2α phosphorylation by GCN2 and PERK
            B R Anderson, K Karikó & D Weissman
            Gene Therapy doi:10.1038/gt.2012.5

            And so on (at least 80 others)

            “geek”

            Books in brief
            Nature 485, 173-173 doi:10.1038/485173a

            Our Baby is Turning 1: How I met its parents #SoNYC FREE
            Nature-Network-Team
            Of Schemes The Shadow Web
            Julian Dibbell
            Scientific American 306, 60-65 doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0312-60

            And so on (at least 100 others)

            “goof” or “goofing off”

            The new gatekeepers: reducing research misconduct FREE
            Brendan-Maher
            Nature News BlogDust Up

            Brendan Borrell
            Scientific American 306, 80-83
            doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0112-80

            Optically pure, water-stable metallo-helical ‘flexicate’ assemblies with antibiotic activity
            Suzanne E. Howson, Albert Bolhuis, Viktor Brabec, Guy J. Clarkson, Jaroslav Malina, + et al.
            Nature Chemistry 4, 31-36 doi:10.1038/nchem.1206

            Synthesis and low-temperature dehydrating imidation polymerization of 1,4-dihydro-1,4-diarsininetetracarboxylic acid dianhydride
            Kensuke Naka, Manabu Arita, Tatsuo Shimamoto, Yasuhiro Morisaki & Yoshiki Chujo
            Polymer Journal 43, 358-363 doi:10.1038/pj.2010.148

            And so on and so on and so on….

            How many times have you been exposed as a fraud now by me?

        • PeterB

          I strongly recommend that you talk to a medical specialist. Soon.

          • You are a despicable liar. You are probably a sociopath with the way that you lie without any hesitation repeatedly.

          • Running list of “PeterB” AKA “James Hill”s lies and outright falsehoods.

            1. Claiming that his neologisms “speaker meaning” and “standard meaning” has a long history in the literature of philosophy of language and linguistics. And when asked to provide references, cowardly that he won’t give them.

            2. Claiming that he is fluent in 65 languages.

            3. Claiming that in those languages that “how” and “why” have desperate meanings and can never be used interchangeably like they can be used in the English language.

            4. Claiming that he and “James Hill” are two different people.

            5. Claiming that I said that ‘how’ and ‘why’ are interchangeable “in all” contexts.

            6. Claiming that I have only used Merriam Webster as my only source when I have used countless examples definitively showing him a liar as well as Oxford English dictionary, dictionary dot com, Longman’s dictionary, American Heritage dictionary and wiktionary dot com to support my claim that ‘how’ and ‘why’ are often interchangeable.

            7. claiming that “ain’t” and slang words are never acceptable in scientific works.

            8. Claiming that ‘how’ and ‘why’ are never interchangeable in the English language.

            More to come

          • 9. claiming that he is making his last post and then posting several more times.

        • PeterB

          You are ranting and raving – even you should be able to see that. Seek the help of a medical specialist.

          • I really do pity you. You still think that your lying will be passed over by other readers when you have been clearly exposed by me as fraudulent. You are a troll with severe reading and other language difficulties and a terrible attitude. You’ve been caught.

          • Just a run down. I claimed that ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions are often interchangeable without loss in meaning. I gave countless examples such as

            “How did the chemical solution turn blue?” and “Why did the chemical solution turn blue?”

            And

            “Why did Hitler invade Poland?” and “How come Hitler invaded Poland?”

            And, as if it was overkill but it still wasn’t enough to get through to the mentally defective and unhinged PeterB’s skull, I posted these well accepted dictionary definitions proving that I was right.

            Under Merriam Webster

            ‘How’
            1.a : in what manner or way
            b : for what reason : why

            Example:

            “Why is the sky blue?” (webster’s example) can also be asked “How did it come to be that the sky is blue?”

            ‘why’

            Reason or cause

            Example: “how one decides that a certain he or she is ‘the one’ is one of the great whys of life”

            Under dictionary dot com

            ‘how’

            4. for what reason; why?

            ‘why’

            for what reason, cause

            “wherefore, how come?”

            synonyms:

            “how”

            Under oxford English dictionary

            ‘why’

            (with reference to a reason) on account of which; for which:

            “the reason why flu jabs need repeating every year is that the virus changes”

            Under Longman’s dictionary

            “How come

            -used to ask why something has happened or why a particular situation exists, especially when you are surprised by it:

            How come Dave’s home? Isn’t he feeling well?”

            Under wiktionary dot com

            for “why”

            “synonyms -How come”

            Under American Heritage dictionary

            “How”

            -”For what reason or purpose; why:”

            “The how of research is generated by the why of the world”

            Under “why”

            “For what purpose, reason, or cause”

            Under thefreedictionary dot com

            “how”

            “4. For what reason or purpose; why:”

            Under

            “why”

            “For what purpose, reason, or cause”

            You’re silly carping and confused claims have been TOTALLY dismantled.

  • Just to highlight again, how incredibly confused this James Hill is what a a complete bullshit artist he is, consider this statement of his

    “Now: 3, 4, and 5 all have the same propositonal content. It’s:

    7. That Hitler invaded Poland.”

    But his “3, 4, and 5″ are all QUESTIONS and his 7 is an assertion!

    Also, he said

    This is only the salient asinine mistakes he made in one post, namely his most recent one. There are other major mistakes in that post and there are so many incredibly confused mistakes all all his other posts that it would require an entire textbook in critical thinking to list them all.

    As for this asinine “inference”

    “1. Why questions and how questions are interchangeable.
    1 implies 2.

    2. There is no standard meaning that a why question has that a how question does not have.”

    Get this through your thick skull, I never said that ‘why’ questions and ‘how’ questions are always interchangeable. I said that they are generally or often interchangeable. I said this with these qualifiers many times. You have simply imagined me saying that they are always interchangeable because you lack basic literacy skills.

    Now even if you managed to find one example that shows they are not interchangeable, that still would not show that I was wrong since I never said that they are always interchangeable. But you haven’t even found *one example* in which the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ are not interchangeable despite your stupid insistence that your “Why did Hitler invade Poland” is one such example.

    Even in that example, the ‘why’ is interchangeable with a ‘how’ as was shown by this example which I already gave

    “How come Hitler invaded Poland?”

    These two questions have the same substantive meaning in most circumstances.

    Now you are just going around and around in circles confusing yourself even more than you already are.

    Take some responsibility for your ignorance of philosophy. Take some responsibility for your lack of basic literacy skills. How will you learn when you refuse to take responsibility for your ignorance?

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