Lack of Philosophy

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Reply Wed 9 Jun, 2010 05:05 pm
Exactly when did it occur that one could no longer be a philosopher by profession?

Why is our society so obsessed on utilitarianism and practical intelligence that we've forgotten what it is that creates the heart of our society? Philosophy shapes, solely, the mindset of our culture, the way we use science, the way we treat others, etc. Why has it disappeared? People scoff when a college student says he's a philosophy major. Does anyone else feel that this is a disgusting trait in our society, and perhaps the cause of many of our problems? Science can't advance our society, only thought can. In schools, we're not taught to think, we're taught to solve meaningless problems that are given to us. Why isn't philosophy being taught in public high schools?

Sorry, just a structureless list of thoughts, I know. This just strikes me as a bigger problem than people think.
 
Ding an Sich
 
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 08:15 am
For starters, philosophy is hard. Ever try reading Kant? How about Hegel (I almost died reading him, metaphorically speaking)? Even Plato and Aristotle are difficult. Compared to the other subjects presented in Schools (Math, Histroy, Literature, Sciences, etc.) Philosophy is a whole other ball game.

However, I do agree with you that it should be taught, but perhaps an introductory course (half a semester) for one's senior year, or maybe junior year. Ethics (which is a branch of philosophy) is probably the best course to teach for public schools. Good luck with that though.

Another reason that philosophy might not be brought up (and if it is, it is usually anecdoctally) is because it has no practical usage in the job market, which is something that schools try to prep students up for, so that they will have success in getting a job. However, eventhough philosophy proper may not be practically useful, Logic, which is a fundamental part of philosophy, is incredibly useful in the job market.

Perhaps we should teach students philosophy, but keep in mind that there are a plethura of other subjects the students need to know as well, which makes it incredibly difficult fitting philosophy into a curriculum.

Hope this helps.
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 08:18 am
@Ding an Sich,
Actually, philosophy has a key practical usage in the job market. A degree in philosophy suggests that you can read, write, think, and talk better than the majority of the people. Sure, its hard to go out and get a job as a philosopher, but there are plenty of fields where the skills learned are directly applicable.
 
Victor Eremita
 
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 08:46 am
@Theaetetus,
One might argue that one would learn critical thinking and analysis in more practical humanities/social science disciplines than philosophy. Economics, Politics, and Psychology require similar critical exposition and similar transferable skills to Philosophy
 
Huxley
 
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 08:57 am
Even supposing an educational outlook that would favor the teaching of philosophy (The "three-R" school of thought would likely frown on it, tout court, though I think there is an argument from the "Utility"-driven school of thought) a key difficulty, as Ding_an_Sich mentioned, would be fitting it into the curriculum. If at all, I think a "pure" philosophy course might be taken as an elective for students who favored a "humanities" approach to their senior year (again, if the school were set up in such a way that students were allowed to choose their 'focus' in their late curriculum)

I do think ethics and logic important enough to cover in SOME way for everyone, but usually it is thought that these things can be learned informally through the other subjects (Logic: Mathematics, Language/Ethics: English (through stories and "What do you think?" responses), Government).
 
dyslexia
 
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 08:58 am
@dharma bum,
the protestant ethic is, in essence, antagonistic to philosophy due to its lack of utilitarian value.
 
Shapeless
 
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 09:05 am
@dharma bum,
Quote:
Science can't advance our society, only thought can.


Why? Is there a quota on the number of forces that are allowed or able to advance society?

Quote:
In schools, we're not taught to think, we're taught to solve meaningless problems


If someone ever manages to use science to fix the BP oil spill, would you consider that "meaningless"? Too "utilitarian"? I think so long as philosophers maintain that issues like these are of lesser importance than, say, epistemology, then its marginalization by the world at large will be as much its own responsibility as anyone else's.

I don't actually disagree with you when you say that philosophy is undervalued. But I also don't think it is helpful to polarize the issue so strictly to the point where philosophical problems are on one side of the spectrum, "utilitarian" ones on the other, and never the twain shall meet. You may be right that "our society [is] obsessed on utilitarianism and practical intelligence," but I don't think utilitarian and practical issues are therefore "meaningless." Surely there's a middle ground? It seems to me that the marginal role philosophy plays right now is a result of refusing to see that middle ground, and that's something people on both sides of the issue are guilty of.
 
Mad Mike
 
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 12:13 pm
@Victor Eremita,
Quote:
One might argue that one would learn critical thinking and analysis in more practical humanities/social science disciplines than philosophy. Economics, Politics, and Psychology require similar critical exposition and similar transferable skills to Philosophy


Economics, politics and psychology all originated as sub-disciplines of philosophy, as did theology. In my opinion, they were handled better by the philosophers than they are by the current practitioners.

More generally, our culture as a whole is teaching a kind of philosophy to everyone through the messages of advertising and other forms of mass media. What they're not teaching is how to analyze and evaluate the "axioms" they're broadcasting.
 
djjd62
 
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 12:19 pm
did anybody actually make a living as a philosopher?

weren't a lot of them simply sponsored, living off of family money or dying in dingy attics

 
Robert Gentel
 
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 12:30 pm
@djjd62,
 
djjd62
 
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 12:37 pm
@Robert Gentel,
exactly
 
Shapeless
 
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 12:58 pm
@djjd62,
Quote:
did anybody actually make a living as a philosopher?


These folks are making a decent go of it:
http://www.philosophersguild.com/
 
Dosed
 
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 01:21 pm
Philosophy was never really a "profession."
Socrates had rich friends that paid his way through life. In fact, in order to do philosophy properly you need a lot of time to think and write. In order to do that, you need to be free from the responsibilities of a job. And in order to do that, you need to have money readily available from another source. So yeah, philosophy was never actually a real "job," so to speak.

And as for philosophy being taught in public schools, I whole heartedly agree that it should be offered as an elective. It is an important topic, especially ethics.
 
Huxley
 
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 01:47 pm
@Shapeless,
Shapeless wrote:

Quote:
did anybody actually make a living as a philosopher?


These folks are making a decent go of it:
http://www.philosophersguild.com/


That is the coolest website. Thank you.
 
Ding an Sich
 
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 02:02 pm
@djjd62,
djjd62 wrote:

did anybody actually make a living as a philosopher?

weren't a lot of them simply sponsored, living off of family money or dying in dingy attics




Well Kant is the first one to start the trend of professional philosophers so yes you can make money and be a philosopher. Not a whole lot of money, but nevertheless money.
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 10:41 pm
@Ding an Sich,
Many writers are really philosophers. For example, David Foster Wallace could run around many "Philosophers" in his knowledge of the subject, but he was a journalist, novelist, professor of creative writing, and great thinker in his own right. So really what it amounts to is that you can really be a philosopher in many fields, but generally you have to be something else as well. The philosophers that get paid to teach are also educators so they are not just a philosopher.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Tue 15 Jun, 2010 08:15 am
Personally I reckon philosophy SHOULD be difficult and unrewarding. If you went around subsidizing it or giving it social recognition, it would immediately attract no end of useless bludgers and fakes. Furthermore there should be no reward or recognition required to want to study it. If you study it for any reason other than to understand it, your motivation is questionable. As Aristotle said somewhere, it is a perfectly useless subject, which in a world dedicated to making a buck out of anything, is what it must remain.

Oh yes and the Unemployed Philosophers Guild is a classic too thanks.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Tue 15 Jun, 2010 09:54 am
John Stuart Mill worked at the East India Company for most of his life; Descartes was a soldier and private tutor; Jaspers worked for a time as a psychologist.
 
Classic Red
 
Reply Tue 15 Jun, 2010 10:10 am
@dharma bum,
I would think that the typical person who scoffs at someone who is majoring at philosophy automatically assumes just philosophy. Realistically someone with a major in philosophy will not be called a philosopher by profession but something else.

Philosophy should definitely be taught in schools. I would think also as a compulsory course in highschool as well.
 
Thomas
 
Reply Tue 15 Jun, 2010 11:55 am
@dharma bum,
dharma bum wrote:
Exactly when did it occur that one could no longer be a philosopher by profession?

I'm not sure what you're talking about. Universities employ plenty of philosophers in their faculties. And outside of university faculties, I don't know that there ever had been a lot of professional philosophers in the first place.

dharma bum wrote:
Why is our society so obsessed on utilitarianism and practical intelligence that we've forgotten what it is that creates the heart of our society?

Don't diss our society. Apart from employing philosophers in its universities (see above), it has produced much philosophically interesting work by pursuing practical matters. Among the publications by non-philosophers that had deep philosophical impact were:
  • Darwin's work on biological evolution--developed to make sense of zoology,
  • Freud's work on psychology--developed to heal mental illnesses,
  • Einstein's theory of relativity--developed to make sense of light, gravity, and speed,
  • Schroedinger et. al's quantum mechanics--developed to make sense of some weird experimental results
  • Goedel's impossibility theorem: every framework for mathematically proving something contains true propositions that cannot be proven within it,
  • Turing's and von Neumann's works on the nature of computation and its implications about the human mind--developed to make calculation engines,
  • Shannon's work on the nature of information--developed to give AT&T's billing department a meaningful unit of what it was billing its customers for,
  • Skinner's behavioralism--developed to interpret animal behavior with logical rigor,
  • Chomsky's and Pinker's work on language and its connection to human thought...

... and I'm not even touching on the Utilitarians you so detest. (On Liberty, a central text of 19th-century political philosophy, was written by an economist.) But you get the point: Much interesting philosophy isn't developed by philosophers. It is stumbled over by non-philosophers pursuing non-philosophical objectives.

I would have said today's society and philosophers are living in a pretty productive symbiosis.
 
 

 
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