Saturday, January 29, 2005

Is philosophy relevant? This is a common question I get from people after I tell them I'm a philosophy major. That's right after they ask me, 'can you make any money with that?' Of course you can make money--you can make money doing just about anything. What they meant to ask, but sometimes don't, 'can you make enough money with that to support yourself?' I have no idea. I suppose if you go to graduate school and land a teaching job you could.

It is especially interesting to me how many people regard philosophy as being irrelevant in modern/post-modern times. Apparently science answers all questions. Take morality for example. There have been a number of books out that explain, scientifically, why humans are moral and what evolutionary advantage that gives us as a species. Why we are the only species with such a morality if it has such survival value is usually not explained. What is more interesting is that lack of inquiry into what exactly morality is. After all, it may be true that evolutionary forces intended for us to be moral--for its survival value alone. But that still doesn't answer what morality is. What is the good life? What ought I to do? Why should I be moral in my personal life?

Then there's the question of scientific methodology. How can we justify science? Does it not need justification? Science is a tool we use to gain new knowledge about the physical universe. Science rests upon some very basic principles. How are we to justify them? This is the area of epistemology or theory of knowledge. How do I know scientific knowledge is valid? How do I know my senses are not deceiving me? Can I have non-scientific knowledge? Mathematics seems to be independent of science, why not another subject like philosophy? If one objects and argues that science and the empiricism is rests upon are certain, they need to go back and read Descartes' Mediations On First Philosophy and Hume's Treatise On Human Nature.

There are numerous other issues science cannot fully answer. So is philosophy still relevant? Philosophy is more relevant now then it has ever been. Scientism is a very popular view. Religious fundamentalism is on the rise. We have such destructive power--unprecedented in human history. Ignorance is everywhere. How much more relevant could philosophy be?


Blogger steven andresen said...

I too am interested in the question whether philosophy is relevant.

You first raised the issue whether you could make money off philosophy. People are said to be interested in something only if they can make a buck off it. Well, I'm not sure this is where most people are. But, surely, the claim is made that if one is going to spend hard earned money to take college credit classes one can't be wasting one's time away in non-essential classwork.

Philosophy has been so woo woo that no wonder it's been considered non-essential by the poor.

People often don't have time to think things through on their own. Philosophy asks people to take time to do such a thing to just about every issue it deals with. A philosopher is asked to leave no stone unturned. Most people don't have the time to do such stone turning.

Do you think that philosophy is about anything that people cannot do without? Isn't it about stuff that anyone could or will be gripped by?

I think it's about asking questions about, mainly, the means and ends of life. This is a short way of putting it. maybe better, do we rely on force or on words to attain our life's goals?

Most every other question follows from the choices one makes on this one.

warum nicht?

August 30, 2006 at 7:49 PM  
Blogger thrik said...

Thank you for taking the time to write this. I have always known that Philosophy was important; but somehow I lacked the words to show it to be so.

So what did I do? I Google'd "Why Philosophy is Relevant". Yours was the second (and more relevant choice, I might add ^_^) to come up.

August 3, 2007 at 5:59 PM  
Blogger Aurelius said...

Interesting, That there hasn't been a post here in years. Yet, the site itself stands at number 2 on the google charts for "is philosophy relevant"

Do you suppose it's possible, that the very inactivity on this site is testamentary proof, that philosophy has lost all relevance?

Do you think it might perhaps be best to concede defeat?

I think, though, it's only speculation of course that people can't find interest in this subject because well...

1) There in no one properly educated or alerted to the fact that philosophy even exists, and when one is predisposed to seek her out, their interest if not properly wetted with the right material suddenly wanes, dissipates as it's swept away by an entire worlds opinions, on religion, science, and of course, all pervasive psychology. Never mind that at best psychology is pseudo psychology, a new science grasping for solid ground where none exists. Check the facts on how effective mental health is. Seeking facts it can apply to all, when we're all unique individuals, and generations of philosophers of the highest order, had already established the right questions and answers in this vein, long before freud fell out with Jung. Incidentally, Jung was the true genius, yet is ignored in modern teaching for fraud's practices, or expansions there of.

2) people are delibrately kept in the dark by a society so structured? Think on it some. Billions of people in the world, how many are torn to shreds by there own desires and insecurities that the present world structure encourages. At anytime someone with a computer and a phone, can sit infront of a computer, order pizza, watch endless movies, or watch the most stunning young women do the most extraordinary things to each other? who does it profit, for people to be thusly destroyed, striking out constantly in violence, destroying lives and relationships, to others especially themselves. And once there rejected for there failings, and are alone they can sit in front of a computer, and turn into a consuming mastubatory machine. To what end? Can no one see the way the western world is currently geared, have we not considered the moral and ultimately human cost of what it is we're doing?

3)should we even be looking at the technicality of modern philosophic enquiry, when the world in on the brink of falling into despair, and the worst deeds are commited often with impunity. So dire the need to revert to the basics of "the good life" and introduce them into every classroom.

How many lonely and damaged people in the world, how smug and convinced so many more are, that they can proceed to abandon moral conduct and sincere ethical display, sure they fit in just fine, they go to the football, go to the clubs, treat people with contempt, lie, abandon there very souls, yet feel safe within the confines of limmited thought, and selfishness to a spectacular degree. But hey, when and if such a person wakes up to their self, they can feel their guilt, while forgeting the people they've injured, and just go join green peace.

Bottom line. Everything. Must. Change.

April 25, 2010 at 11:54 AM  
Blogger Diosadentro said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

February 21, 2011 at 10:42 AM  
Blogger ard said...

So basically the job of a philosophy professor is to create more philosophy professors....

May 5, 2012 at 4:17 PM  

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