Why is a philosopher a philosopher?
It seems to defy practicality. Of course, practicality is not the only issue.
What about matters of memory? Can wisdom be forgotten? If so, did we waste our time with philosophy?
First, I believe that no one can not have at least some philosophy (the reasons 'why', how they view life, existence, etc.). What differentiates the philosopher is a conscious desire and willingness to explore these things. They wanna preach, listen, read and explore
I used to believe this but now I don't. Talking to my friends I have asked them all why not take some time to be alone with your thoughts and think. But no; everybody just wants to talk and text and talk and text.
Why is a philosopher a philosopher? It seems to defy practicality. Of course, practicality is not the only issue. What about matters of memory? Can wisdom be forgotten? If so, did we waste our time with philosophy?
You are dead on when you say that philosophy bears little practical fruit. It is knowledge, but it is rarely applicable knowledge. Knowing the difference between a priori and a posteriori knowledge is about as useful as knowing the winner of the World Series in 1938 (the Yankees blanked the Cubbies, 4 games to 0). Yet as I stated above, we do this because we want to know. No form of knowledge is more pure. This is it, this is the pinnacle.
I think the skills learned by studying philosophy are far more important than the knowledge contained in the subject. Sure knowing what a priori and a posteriori knowledge is not very useful, but understanding how they work can enhance one's abilities to think and reason. Typically the student of philosophy develops excellent critical thinking, reasoning, reading, writing, and communicating skills, which would go a long way to solving many problems the world faces. I think the culture of today--especially in the U.S.--stresses what knowledge to know rather than developing the skills necessary to discover knowledge for oneself.
This is why I don't even like applying the term "philosophy". Why use this term? Frankly, it has preconceived notions written all over it, and it's just inviting ignorance by those that don't want to "philosophize". Our culture is influenced heavily by the Florentines whom believed in the secular, here and now. This is why there is a larger majority worrying about immediate planning, instead of knowledge that has the potential to guide us into a healthier direction. Critical thinking can solve many problems as you note, but perhaps we should consider replacing "Philosophy" with something else not so shaded. Hah, I'm sure this could be a new thread.
The problem with arriving at a new term for the same old thing is that it would quickly have the same pejorative connotation that philosophy does now. In truth, I think the issue at hand is not so much an issue with philosophy as it is with 'intellectualism' and all related topics. I cannot speak for any country outside of my own, but there is a strong anti-intellectual sentiment in America today. Philosophy's connotation is pretty neutral when compared with other terms like "ivory tower", "egghead", "liberal university" and "intellectual elite". I think it has a lot to do with our heavily religious background as a nation; generally speaking what I've seen of less faith-based societies is more openness towards intellectualism and learning. I'm not trying to turn this into a philosophy vs. religion debate, I just thought I should mention the elephant in the living room.
There are times when one should insist on the values of civilisation: the search for truth, of knowledge for its own sake, the creation of beauty, the pursuit of excellence, and the independence of the spirit and mind.
Philosophy is, in many ways, the cradle and ground for these values, and it is important that we remind ourselves of this, lest these great potentialities are stifled under the heavy hands of utility, concupiscence of the moment, and ignorance.
This is not to demand that everyone be a Beethoven, a Kant, or a Michelangelo, but it is to demand that such people be allowed to exist and flourish, and be respected for their greatness and contribution to the future of mankind.
William, great post, and it completely concurs with my experience.
It does not seem possible to escape "ego" or "self" for that matter. It is with us, it is what essentially drives us to function -we are products of consistent desires, one desire after another, creating action. If we had no desire, if we didn't "perch" from time to time, every motivation to exist would be removed. I don't think it's possible to escape this, so this is why I'm interested when you say that there are those that have reached this neutral plane - it made me think of the quote "Beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there" - who, that you've even heard of, as escaped this "ego", and allowed the consciousness to view through this neutral lens?
Your reading the words of one who has made that transition. I promise you in this reality, it is not something I would encourage anyone to try to do. It is not easy to survive in this world negating self, but it is universally rewarding because it does provide that "neutral ground" where bias doesn't exist and understanding takes it's place. Yet there are those who when hearing the truth, especially if it differ's from their own personal truth, that is designed by the ego, will most certainly accuse one of being biased. In my opinion the ego is disrespective of anything that is counter to it's "survival". The ego can get really nasty, when threatened. And the truth does exactly that to those who are "ego driven". Hurt's like hell. I am not saying I "know the truth", I just know what I was meant to know. Now add that to what you have learned not driven by the "ego" we both benefit, and so on and so on. Which is exactly what we are doing now.
Your desire to escape ego is still ego itself. Even though you're more apt to discover the world around you, negate bias, and reach a universal understanding, you're only this because: That is the you you desire to be. It is what drives you, it is the ego. Again, we are the products of our desires; even the deviation from the norm and attempt to reach a "neutral plane" is still a desire. This is not to say the humbling rewarding perspective you achieve through your attempt at a "neutral plane" is any less meaningful, but it is to say we do not transcend human emotion, that we can never truly overcome ego, as it is, in many respects, us. This is what I mean when I state "ego" - not so much an influence towards self-interest that we must overcome, but a concept that is truly intertwined in who we are as human beings.
And I'm glad you've advanced in thought, that's the whole idea of this philosophy forum. I, myself, have advanced in thought tenfold from when I began using this site. Truly, this forum is the only remnant of unbiased reason in my life; quite literally, there is no other forum, event, group, place that allows thought to flourish as much as I've seen in this forum.
William, I'm always open to new perspectives, so if you can somewhere articulate this epiphany/journey you've had, I'm open ears. Maybe you could even make a thread concerning it? I'm extremely curious as to what you speak.
Thanks again for your kindness,
I partially agree with you. Yes, philosophy helps develop higher communication and learning skills. Those skills are not particularly useful in day to day life in modern America however. Most people just simply don't care. They don't care if they're precise and clear in what they say, they certainly don't care to read or think critically about anything. Philosophy develops skills that are useful in intellectual pursuits and when dealing with other intellectuals. This is only minorly useful, since intellectuals necessarily make up a small portion of the populace.