Budding philosopher's dilemma

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Reply Mon 27 Jul, 2009 02:34 am
So applying Ockham's razor here, this is the long and short of it.

I want to be a philosopher. I love philosophy and feel without a doubt I am destined to be the father of post-modern western thought. Until then however I do have one dilemma. Why should people be interested in philosophy? Or, perhaps better, how do I defend philosophy from the ones who would ask, "where is the practical application"?

For example, a hand grenade of philosophical discussion would be, "If a tree falls...." and rightly so. But the more intriguing question that might follow is, "Well, why does it matter or who cares?".

All I am looking for really is another addition to my toolbox. If anyone knows a good response to give to someone who questions the usefulness of philosophy please help.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Mon 27 Jul, 2009 04:11 am
@Lost2ize,
Actually in this case, I would rather hear your answer than your question. Then I might have some suggestions.
 
RDanneskjld
 
Reply Mon 27 Jul, 2009 05:09 am
@Lost2ize,
There are lots of examples of the pratical application of Philosophy, one such example would be a lot of the work being done in the field of Cognitive science, a prime example would be some of the work done by Philosophers such as Dennett & Searle which certainly does have significant pratical implications. The same effect of Philosophy's influence over another subject would be some of the influence that Philosophy has over the field Psychology through the Philosophy of Psychology, dealing with the methods of Psychology & the conceptual confusions within the field of Psychology.

Also with some of the developments being made in Science there has been a significant in the growth of Bio-ethics, with some Philosophers being found ethics committees in the UK NHS. You will also find that Philosophy helps with other skills that are important for many jobs and much in demand, for example logic & written communication.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Mon 27 Jul, 2009 07:48 am
@Lost2ize,
I think the best answer to those who argue that philosophy has no "cash-value" immediately gained by society, and has no world-shaping force (as does for example, technology) is that it is by no means impotent or useless in what it can become for the individual. In this respect, philosophy is perhaps the greatest means for man to find his way to freedom and inner independence. And when this independence is gained, THEN the individual becomes himself a force in the world.
 
Lost2ize
 
Reply Mon 27 Jul, 2009 11:57 am
@Lost2ize,
My typical response to the philosophical nay-sayers is somewhat like jgweeds. I argue that philosophy is just as much a search for truth and reason as it is a quest for wisdom. And, the world is full enough of people who "do" without reason or knowledge of truth.

It is usually just the ones who would say that philosophy doesn't make a difference to the "average joe". These are usually are political scientist or civil engineers and the like.

I liken philosophy to what the scarecrow said to Dorothy when she asked how he could talk if he didn't have a brain.
"I don't know... but then again, there are a lot of people with no brains who do an awful lot of talking!"
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Mon 27 Jul, 2009 02:04 pm
@Lost2ize,
You're a little late if you want to be the father of post-modern philosophy. Post-modernism has been around since, roughly, the 1950's in the US.

Regarding you dilemma, in trying to explain and defend the value of philosophy, why not start with the classic?

the value of philosophy by Bertrand Russell
 
richrf
 
Reply Mon 27 Jul, 2009 11:32 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
I have studied Eastern philosophy extensively, and it has enormous practical value for me in the way I handle every day affairs in my life (dealing with life is not as easy as one might think), as well as maintaining my physical and mental health. Eastern philosophy is built around practical everyday advice for people based upon a perspective of the way the universe works. I find it enormously useful day by day - all through the day.

Rich
 
Theages
 
Reply Tue 28 Jul, 2009 02:19 pm
@richrf,
All non-philosophers make lots of philosophical commitments without realizing it. If you can reveal those commitments to them, they'll begin to grasp what you're doing.
 
prothero
 
Reply Thu 30 Jul, 2009 11:45 pm
@Lost2ize,
We are what we think.
Our actions reflect our beliefs.
 
Moe ME
 
Reply Fri 31 Jul, 2009 02:34 am
@Lost2ize,
If we look at philosophy historically, it can be seen as a substitute for the scientific method in the absence of science. Today, it seems like just about anything can be explained though the sciences, however those that can't- such as consciousness,morality, the existence of a God or other supernatural entities, are left to be argued using a logic-based philosophic method. Let us not forget the origin of the PhD. Not only is philosophy still relevant today, it's absolutely necessary to try and extend our understanding of the world in ways that today's technology has not yet been able to. One example is that of the more elaborate string theory (m theory, superstring theory ect). Since we lack the tools to test hypothesis, it's becoming more of an open discussion among theorists, based off mathematical and experimental premises.
 
mickalos
 
Reply Sat 1 Aug, 2009 09:52 am
@Lost2ize,
Lost2ize;79823 wrote:
My typical response to the philosophical nay-sayers is somewhat like jgweeds. I argue that philosophy is just as much a search for truth and reason as it is a quest for wisdom. And, the world is full enough of people who "do" without reason or knowledge of truth.

It is usually just the ones who would say that philosophy doesn't make a difference to the "average joe". These are usually are political scientist or civil engineers and the like.

I liken philosophy to what the scarecrow said to Dorothy when she asked how he could talk if he didn't have a brain.
"I don't know... but then again, there are a lot of people with no brains who do an awful lot of talking!"


I'm not sure you are correct. I can't think of a single demonstrably true proposition that philosophy has come out with, I can think of some elucidatory sentences, maybe, but none that are definitively true and provable. Even if philosophers could show that we have no free will, or that inductive reasoning is unwarranted, I hardly think it would make a practical difference to the way we live our lives; and frankly, philosophers shouldn't care.

There are many works of philosophy, from grand works like Principia Mathematica, to short articles like Strawson's Freedom and Resentment, that have intrinsic value. The clarity of thought, power of argument, and analytical rigour in these works is the kind of thing that truly wows you by the time you finish them. It's not the truths that I think these works show, or the added understanding of the world they afford us, that gives them value for me, but the way in which they do it. If philosophers came to their knowledge in the same way that, say, biologists or geologists do, then philosophy would not be a fraction as beautiful, and I would take little pleasure in it. I can't say I see much value in continental philosophy, but modern analytic work, early modern stuff like Descartes, Hume and Locke, and Greek philosophy, contains a richness and level of thinking that shouldn't need to have a practical application to justify it.

If you want to be a philosopher you should reconcile yourself with the near certainty that you will never change the world, for better or for worse. However, you will get the chance to create something worth creating, a new Tractatus or Republic, perhaps.

You might want to read GH Hardy's A Mathematician's Apology. It's a short essay that tries to justify the study of theoretical mathematics, but it is equally applicable to equally useless subjects like philosophy.
 
Theages
 
Reply Sun 2 Aug, 2009 02:36 pm
@mickalos,
Moe M.E.;80492 wrote:
If we look at philosophy historically, it can be seen as a substitute for the scientific method in the absence of science

The "scientific method" is philosophy. There's no substitution at play.

mickalos;80718 wrote:
I can't say I see much value in continental philosophy

That's probably because you've never looked very hard.
 
Moe ME
 
Reply Mon 3 Aug, 2009 12:29 am
@Theages,
Theages;80976 wrote:
The "scientific method" is philosophy. There's no substitution at play.


Philosophy lacks the experimentation component that makes the scientific method what it is,otherwise they are the same process. Though both use logic and reason, the scientific method starts with a hypothesis that is tested, and a validation or non validation of the hypothesis is reached. Philosophy starts with the information, (in this case, since non-experimental, known facts, and conclusions drawn from sound logic) and draws a conclusion from there.


Do you have any constructive input on the topic? What makes philosophy so relevant and important to you that you've bothered to become an expert in the field?
 
Theages
 
Reply Mon 3 Aug, 2009 09:55 am
@Moe ME,
Moe M.E.;81036 wrote:
Do you have any constructive input on the topic?

I don't know how closely you've been following this topic, but you might have noticed that already have provided constructive input to this topic. I'll remind you of what I said:

Theages;80049 wrote:
All non-philosophers make lots of philosophical commitments without realizing it. If you can reveal those commitments to them, they'll begin to grasp what you're doing.

What I meant here was that if you listen carefully to the way non-philosophers talk, you'll find that they smuggle in philosophical terms of discourse and modes of thought into their everyday speech. This happens without their realizing it (if they realized it, they would be philosophers). Here's an example of what I'm talking about:

Quote:
Philosophy lacks the experimentation component that makes the scientific method what it is,otherwise they are the same process. Though both use logic and reason, the scientific method starts with a hypothesis that is tested, and a validation or non validation of the hypothesis is reached. Philosophy starts with the information, (in this case, since non-experimental, known facts, and conclusions drawn from sound logic) and draws a conclusion from there.
Here are some of the phrases that this persons uses without having thought them through: "experimentation", "validation", "known facts", "sound logic". This person bandies these phrases about with such confidence because neither their meaning nor their genealogy is understood. Non-philosophers do this all the time, and the best way to fight skeptics of philosophy is to reveal these uses.

Moe M.E. wrote:
What makes philosophy so relevant and important to you that you've bothered to become an expert in the field?
When did I ever claim to be an expert? I don't think I ever did. However, there is one person in this thread who seems to understand all of philosophy. Here's what that person said:

Quote:
If we look at philosophy historically, it can be seen as a substitute for the scientific method in the absence of science
Clearly this person understands all philosophers who have ever lived, at all places and at all times, and understands their work completely. If you want an "expert in the field", you should talk to this person.
 
richrf
 
Reply Mon 3 Aug, 2009 10:08 am
@Theages,
My own sense is that Western Philosophy lost its way the moment it steered itself in the direction of Finding the Truth. A noble marketing pitch, but for most people they get this from their religious affiliations.

Eastern Philosophy (what is left of it after the Chinese Revolution), is much more involved in understanding how what we think applies to what we do and vice-versa. In other words, it is very practical. Someone who studies Daoism, for example, and see the practical manifestations in every day living, e.g. health practices, relationships, dealing with the questions of life, designing a home (Feng Sui), etc. In other words, the philosophy is a manifestation of everyday living, because the early Daoists were primarily observers of life. In Western Philosophy, there were philosophers such as Heraclitus that embraced the obervation of Nature.

Eastern philosophy is not a great way of making a living, but it is a great way of living a life.

Rich
 
Moe ME
 
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 12:06 pm
@richrf,
I am sorry you did not understand my terminology. I will be sure to elaborate in a private message.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 5 Aug, 2009 03:21 pm
@mickalos,
mickalos;80718 wrote:
I'm not sure you are correct. I can't think of a single demonstrably true proposition that philosophy has come out with,
You might want to read GH Hardy's A Mathematician's Apology. It's a short essay that tries to justify the study of theoretical mathematics, but it is equally applicable to equally useless subjects like philosophy.



Here is a philosophical truth.

True justified belief are necessary conditions of knowing.

And, here is another. Fatalism is false, and is not the same as determinism.

What should philosophy be useful for? You must know, since you say it is useless.
 
mickalos
 
Reply Thu 6 Aug, 2009 05:46 pm
@Theages,
Theages;80976 wrote:
Quote:
I can't say I see much value in continental philosophy

That's probably because you've never looked very hard.


One shouldn't have to look very hard for value in a decent work of philosophy. Good philosophy is characterised by clarity, precision and analytical rigour, even when it requires us to think about the highly abstract. The works of philosophers in the continental tradition are all too often vague, incomprehensible, and full of meaningless psuedo-statements. Here, for example, is a passage from Hegel's Philosophy of Nature (a seminal work of nonsense!):

"Sound is the change in the specific condition of segregation of the material parts, and in the negation of this condition; -- merely an abstract or an ideal ideality, as it were, of that specification. But this change, accordingly, is itself immediately the negation of the material specific subsistence; which is, therefore, real ideality of specific gravity and cohesion, i.e. -- heat. The heating up of sounding bodies, just as beaten or rubbed ones, is the appearance of heat, originating conceptually together with sound."

Quote:
Here is a philosophical truth.

True justified belief are necessary conditions of knowing.

And, here is another. Fatalism is false, and is not the same as determinism.

What should philosophy be useful for? You must know, since you say it is useless.


Hardly clear-cut truths are they? Do Goldman's causal theory of knowing, or Nozick's truth-tracking theory agree with those conditions? I suppose it rather depends on what you mean by 'justification', but I don't think it could be the same meaning given in the traditional interpretations of the JTB account of knowledge. As for fatalism not being the same as determinism, this is a linguistic fact; and as to it's falsehood, I would hardly say that this has been proven by philosophy. I maintain, philosophy elucidates; it shows rather than says.

I didn't say philosophy should be useful for anything. Why should it be? All I say is that if you seek to justify most of the great works of philosophy by their usefulness, their practical application, then we will have to deem them to have been pointless, and that would be a tragedy.
 
Theages
 
Reply Thu 6 Aug, 2009 08:10 pm
@mickalos,
mickalos;81665 wrote:
The works of philosophers in the continental tradition are all too often vague, incomprehensible, and full of meaningless psuedo-statements.

This sort of statement is a surefire sign of someone who does not understand and who has not made even the slightest effort understand anyone in the "continental tradition". I know thinkers like Hegel and Derrida make you feel stupid, but spewing this kind of brainless dogma isn't going to make you any smarter.
 
mickalos
 
Reply Thu 6 Aug, 2009 10:32 pm
@Theages,
Theages;81690 wrote:
This sort of statement is a surefire sign of someone who does not understand and who has not made even the slightest effort understand anyone in the "continental tradition". I know thinkers like Hegel and Derrida make you feel stupid, but spewing this kind of brainless dogma isn't going to make you any smarter.

My dear fellow, I study philosophy at a university that is regarded as having probably the finest philosophy department in the world; I don't need to plough through mountains of incomprehensible drivel to vindicate my own sense of intelligence when it comes to this subject. People like Quine, Armstrong, Searle, and even Foucault, have criticised Derrida specifically, on the same grounds as I: that his incomprehensible drivel is amongst the most incomprehensible, and the most drivellous. The fact that you resort to ad hominem attacks straight off the bat either tells me something about yourself, that you are a child, or it tells me something about your argument, that you have none. However, as I'm fairly magnanimous, I'm willing to forgive you and talk about philosophy with you, for as long as you can keep yourself from descending to the level of petty insults.

The Hegel passage above is fairly typical of most of his writings, even in German it is gibberish (you might be interested to know that this translation is given by Karl Popper, a native German speaker, in volume 2 of his The Open Society and Its Enemies); Schopenhauer is well known to have feuded with Hegel over his "stupefying verbiage". You will note that the only sentence that even barely conforms to the grammatical standards of any language that we know is the final one. So what great mystical truths has Hegel revealed to us here? What powerful secrets has his dialectic method unlocked? "The heating up of sounding bodies... is... heat... with sound." And he couldn't even say this clearly. Nothing but banalities behind incomprehensible prose.

Derrida's work, too, is littered with examples of his nonsense. A 1993 paper opens with this explanation of deconstruction: "Needless to say, one more time, deconstruction, if there is such a thing, takes place as the experience of the impossible". Derrida's "work" is primarily valued not by philosophers (you would struggle to find a philosopher in a leading department today who thinks he writes anything but nonsense), but by Professors of film studies and literature, and this is because he does not meet the accepted standard of rigour and clarity demanded by philosophy; indeed, there was a massive fuss kicked up in the early 90s when Cambridge gave him an honorary degree (even the man who sweeps the streets after the honorary degree ceremonies has an honorary degree from Cambridge).

People like Derrida and Hegel made their livings dressing up vacuous statements and claims with language that makes them sound profound and insightful. They are not worth-while philosophers.
 
 

 
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