Dava asked:

I have previously submitted this question in relation to participation (not by me) in the London Marathon… If my feet were bigger would it be over sooner?.

What does the nonadoption of this idea on this website say about the state of contemporary philosophy in terms of the kind of questions it will consider? So my next question is this… why do some philosophical questions get responses whilst others are discarded with the supplemntary question of does this tell us anything about how we should understand ‘hubris’?

Answer by Shaun Williamson

Your question is not a philosophical question. If you think it is then you are mistaken. We answer questions that we find interesting. It has nothing to do with hubris.

If you could even be bothered to do some basic research, you would find:

1. There is no scientific evidence of a relationship between foot size and running speed.

2. You have finished a marathon when your upper trunk (chest) meets the finishing line. The race is not over because your feet are over the line. If you can ignore your own hubris, perhaps you would like to read some books about the history of philosophy. I recommend Bertrand Russell’s one volume History of Western Philosophy.

Answer by Jürgen Lawrenz

I’ve not seen the question; but since you now ask it for the second time, I will provide you with an answer. It is up to you, however, whether you like it or not.

Philosophy seeks answers to intelligent questions about problems with which intelligent people have great difficulties. For example: what does it mean to exist? Existence and especially conscious existence are a great puzzle for us, so this is an issue on which philosophers are likely to exert their ingenuity.

The question about the feet, however, is so trivial that no-one would be bothered. After all, you need only find two men, one with small and one with big feet, let them walk 100 metres and make your comparisons.

So you can see that hubris is quite an inappropriate word. The questioner asked the wrong people. You don’t ask your local policeman for a statement on the second thermodynamic law, a physicist how to grow tomatoes in your garden or an actor how to fix a leaking tap.

In short, when you put questions to a philosopher, keep to philosophical issues. If you want an answer about sporting issues, ask an athlete or physio. Asking the right person, and if possible asking the right question, is a good way to ensure that you get an answer.

Answer by Geoffrey Klempner

I did answer this question last week. As Shaun says, foot size is not a determinant of running speed. (That depends on length of stride and number of strides per minute.) You might think otherwise, but you’d be wrong. Was that it?!

I like to think that the problem of the truth conditionals for counterfactual statements was at the back of the questioner’s mind, even if they did not explicitly say so. Otherwise, the question is pretty trivial. However, it wouldn’t be the first time that I have stooped to answer a trivial question.