Advanced Search

People trying to defend philosophy often point out that the natural sciences (

People trying to defend philosophy often point out that the natural sciences ("natural philosophy") grew out of it. Does that really recommend philosophy, or does it just mean that we use the word "philosophy" much differently now than in Newton's time? Is it at all likely that philosophy as it is practiced today will result in the creation of significant new disciplines?

nice question! hard to predict of course ... but some might say that psychology and now cognitive science have partly grown out of 'philosophy' fairly recently ... and some would argue that philosophy is essential for the continued development of cognitive science .... but more importantly (and perhaps you're sensitive to his), one might probably make the case for the value of philosophy intrinsically, i.e. philosophy is valuable in itself, not (merely) in terms of what other (good) things it might produce -- after all, the 'creation' of new disciplines, even if it can legitimately be assigned to philosophy, is a relatively rare thing -- and hard to justify centuries of philosophizing by saying every half a millennium or so it sloughs off a new discipline .... So better to look for your defense of philosophy elsewhere!

hope that's useful ... great question!

ap

nice question! hard to predict of course ... but some might say that psychology and now cognitive science have partly grown out of 'philosophy' fairly recently ... and some would argue that philosophy is essential for the continued development of cognitive science .... but more importantly (and perhaps you're sensitive to his), one might probably make the case for the value of philosophy intrinsically, i.e. philosophy is valuable in itself, not (merely) in terms of what other (good) things it might produce -- after all, the 'creation' of new disciplines, even if it can legitimately be assigned to philosophy, is a relatively rare thing -- and hard to justify centuries of philosophizing by saying every half a millennium or so it sloughs off a new discipline .... So better to look for your defense of philosophy elsewhere! hope that's useful ... great question! ap

The ancient Greek philosophical schools taught comprehensive philosophies of

The ancient Greek philosophical schools taught comprehensive philosophies of life. For them, the whole point of doing philosophy was to determine how to live well. Why do contemporary philosophers not publish philosophies of life? Has the point of doing philosophy changed? If so, why?

or for another kind of response, you might still ask why many/most philosophers don't publish philosophies of life. You'd have to do an empirical survey there, but i'm guessing that for many, a philosophy of life is too big and hard to construct. Much easier to focus on some relatively narrow problem and work out a sophisticated view on it ... And I bet that professionally the incentive is to do the same. A "philosophy of life" is something that aims to the wider market, the general public, but the professional incentive is to impress the professional philosophers rather than the public. (Alternatively, perhaps many professional philosophers feel pretty confident that the main value in life, at least for them, is the very professing of philosophy -- so they are acting out their philosophy of life even without publishing their philosophy of life ....)

great question!

ap

or for another kind of response, you might still ask why many/most philosophers don't publish philosophies of life. You'd have to do an empirical survey there, but i'm guessing that for many, a philosophy of life is too big and hard to construct. Much easier to focus on some relatively narrow problem and work out a sophisticated view on it ... And I bet that professionally the incentive is to do the same. A "philosophy of life" is something that aims to the wider market, the general public, but the professional incentive is to impress the professional philosophers rather than the public. (Alternatively, perhaps many professional philosophers feel pretty confident that the main value in life, at least for them, is the very professing of philosophy -- so they are acting out their philosophy of life even without publishing their philosophy of life ....) great question! ap

or for another kind of response, you might still ask why many/most philosophers don't publish philosophies of life. You'd have to do an empirical survey there, but i'm guessing that for many, a philosophy of life is too big and hard to construct. Much easier to focus on some relatively narrow problem and work out a sophisticated view on it ... And I bet that professionally the incentive is to do the same. A "philosophy of life" is something that aims to the wider market, the general public, but the professional incentive is to impress the professional philosophers rather than the public. (Alternatively, perhaps many professional philosophers feel pretty confident that the main value in life, at least for them, is the very professing of philosophy -- so they are acting out their philosophy of life even without publishing their philosophy of life ....) great question! ap

After studying philosophy, I am now so skeptical of everything that I no longer

After studying philosophy, I am now so skeptical of everything that I no longer know what I should believe in. I have no idea whom I should vote for in election or whether I should be voting at all, what religion I ought to believe in if any at all, why I should bother getting married, or even why I should bother getting out of bed in the mornings. Have you found that philosophy leads to more skepticism and knowing nothing rather than clarification?

This is a terrific question/problem, and Stephen's response is a very good one. I merely want to point out that it's possible to have another kind of response to the situation you're confronting. I would characterize the situation as one where you realize that everything is ultimately connected to everything else, every belief has infinite implications that require exploring before they are rationally affirmed, to every position there is an objection, to every objection there is a response, and the whole process never ends ... Now if you believe that in order to know anything, or act in some rational way, the process of inquiry that produces that knowledge or action must be "completed", then you'll be in the bind you describe. But maybe THAT is the belief to be given up (and maybe the bind you describe is itself a key argument for giving up that belief). Instead recognize that deliberation and explanation must always come to a temporary end at some point -- and that you should always believe/act with the best set of principles that are available to you, with the information that is available to you, at the time of believing/acting, w/o pretense that the process is complete. Then, rather than feel frustrated, you might even feel exhilarated by realizing that the process of inquiry never ends: the world is infinitely richer, deeper, more interesting than we can possibly realize. (By way of rough analogy: if you find "life" interesting, beautiful, exhilirating, then when you discover that the number of possible life forms may be infinite, is that a source of frustration or exhilaration? Frustration if you believe that unless the process of cataloging life forms is complete then something is missing; exhilarating if you celebrate the infinite set of possibilities.)

Or from another direction. Suppose you realize that you have no better reason (ultimately) to get out of the bed in the morning than to stay in bed. If so, then that infinite process of deliberation is neutral with respect to whether you get out of bed. So don't bother undertaking it, at least not every morning. Instead do your ordinary, limited deliberation: "well sleeping is lovely, but so is keeping my job. So I better get out of bed." That is pretty darn good reasoning, if you ask me, even if it isn't "ultimate" or "completed" reasoning -- but it's also the only kind of reasoning that matters on a day-to-day basis. (And when you realize how awesome is the infinite set of deliberations that you could ultimately undertake, you might find it quite exhilarating to get out of bed -- because after you get off work today you can get home and do a little philosophy ....)

best,

ap

This is a terrific question/problem, and Stephen's response is a very good one. I merely want to point out that it's possible to have another kind of response to the situation you're confronting. I would characterize the situation as one where you realize that everything is ultimately connected to everything else, every belief has infinite implications that require exploring before they are rationally affirmed, to every position there is an objection, to every objection there is a response, and the whole process never ends ... Now if you believe that in order to know anything, or act in some rational way, the process of inquiry that produces that knowledge or action must be "completed", then you'll be in the bind you describe. But maybe THAT is the belief to be given up (and maybe the bind you describe is itself a key argument for giving up that belief). Instead recognize that deliberation and explanation must always come to a temporary end at some point -- and that you should always believe/act with...

How are branches ("or fashions") of philosophy created or are they created

How are branches ("or fashions") of philosophy created or are they created without consensus? For example, I see on Wikipedia, a philosophy a mind, a philosophy of science, a philosophy of pain, and so on. But why not a philosophy of the fashion industry, why not a philsophy of simple living and so on?

I agree with Andrew Pessin. If you agree with Plato that

The one who feels no distaste in sampling every study,

and who attacks the task of learning gladly and cannot

get enough of it, we shall justly pronounce the lover

of wisdom, the philosopher.

then, for any x, there can be a philosophy of x, which would be the philosophical investigation of the fundamental assumptions, methods, and goals of x (including metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical issues).

As Richard Bradley has said, "Philosophy is 99 per cent about critical reflection on anything you care to be interested in".

As to which values of x succeed in becoming an established part of philosophy, I think Pessin has it right: It's a question of how many other philosophers also want to study x philosophically; it's not a question of whether x is somehow antecedently "worthy" of being discussed philosophically. Anything has that worth potentially.

This is a terrific question and I look forward to seeing some of my colleagues' answers to this one ... no doubt many different factors are in play, from those designing courses and curricula, to those editing journals and anthologies and reference sites (such as wikipedia or Stanford Encyclopedia of PHilosophy), to marketers/publishers trying to sell books etc ... also as research progresses, things may begin to branch off in semi-'natural' ways ... there's 'philosophy of science' which historically was quite broad -- but now with hyper-specialization it's common to see philosophy of x, where x is some particular science (chemistry, biology, etc) ... I have a colleague who is working with just a few others to develop a whole new sub-discipline called 'philosophy of paleontology' (check out the book by Derek Turner of that name if it interests you) ... and of course one other factor is simply personalities: if someone became interested in 'philosophy of the fashion industry' and put his/her mind to it,...

Russell says, “The man who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life

Russell says, “The man who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual belief of his age or his nation, and from conviction which have grown up in his mind without the cooperation or consent of his deliberate reason.” What prejudices, habitual beliefs, and unreasoned convictions do you think Russell is referring to here? Do you see these things in people around you?

Yes -- I've just written a book on this theme, and wish I hd the Russell quote handy as an epigram: Uncommon Sense: the strangest ideas from the smartest phiosophers (available website: www.andrewpessin.com!) he has in mind, perhaps, religious beliefs, but also moral beliefs, and also common sense beliefs about ideology -- basically believing that religion is false, that our metaphysic might take the structure of a sense-data one out of which physical objects are contstructed , and so on (depends on what time frame of R you're discussing). So much of what people ordinarily belief does not match well with the results of his philosophical analysis -- and what favors his results over common sense, of course, s the passage you quote -- and which clearly is alive and well today, as philosophers develop views very far removed from common sense and thus develop Uncommon Sense to replace them ....

hope that helps!

ap

Yes -- I've just written a book on this theme, and wish I hd the Russell quote handy as an epigram: Uncommon Sense: the strangest ideas from the smartest phiosophers (available website: www.andrewpessin.com!) he has in mind, perhaps, religious beliefs, but also moral beliefs, and also common sense beliefs about ideology -- basically believing that religion is false, that our metaphysic might take the structure of a sense-data one out of which physical objects are contstructed , and so on (depends on what time frame of R you're discussing). So much of what people ordinarily belief does not match well with the results of his philosophical analysis -- and what favors his results over common sense, of course, s the passage you quote -- and which clearly is alive and well today, as philosophers develop views very far removed from common sense and thus develop Uncommon Sense to replace them .... hope that helps! ap

What do philosophers mean by "a philosophical move"?

What do philosophers mean by "a philosophical move"?

Not sure this is a standard expression, and so it's not likely to have an particular definition ... However I could imagine using such an expression when I am complimenting a student, with stress on the 'philosophical' part -- it takes a certain kind of philosophical talent to appreciate certain issues, problems, arguments etc., and while the majority of (let's say beginning) students can make 'moves' in a discussion, only a small subset of these can make the 'philosophical' moves -- by raising the kinds of ideas, comments, objections, arguments that someone more trained and experienced in philosophy might make ... Perhaps more specifically, I might be inclined to use that adjective "philosophical" when someone in the course of discussion calls into question what most people would never even think to call into question, some fundamental tenet of common sense perhaps ....

Not sure this is a standard expression, and so it's not likely to have an particular definition ... However I could imagine using such an expression when I am complimenting a student, with stress on the 'philosophical' part -- it takes a certain kind of philosophical talent to appreciate certain issues, problems, arguments etc., and while the majority of (let's say beginning) students can make 'moves' in a discussion, only a small subset of these can make the 'philosophical' moves -- by raising the kinds of ideas, comments, objections, arguments that someone more trained and experienced in philosophy might make ... Perhaps more specifically, I might be inclined to use that adjective "philosophical" when someone in the course of discussion calls into question what most people would never even think to call into question, some fundamental tenet of common sense perhaps ....

In a good philosophical argument, must the premises be highly plausible, or

In a good philosophical argument, must the premises be highly plausible, or merely more plausible than their negations, and must the conclusion be highly plausible, or merely more plausible than its negation? Thanks.

It's a "good" question, suffering only from the very common problem that all its terms are rather vague! ... Surely you want your premises to be more plausible than their negations, but wouldn't it be rather arbitrary to define "good" by that cut-off point? I mean we could ... but what would be the purpose -- everyone already aims to produce "good" arguments, and everyone aims to make their premises as plausible as possible (often by defending them with further arguments) -- should one stop that effort once they pass the 'more plausible than their negation' level? No doubt, too, in different contexts different criteria might apply. What counts as "good" to professional philosophers may well, perhaps ought to be, different from what counts as "good" to (say) undergraduate philosophy majors, and different again from what counts as good in ordinary public discourse, or political discourse ... (In popular politics these days it's rare enough that people even make arguments at all, much less arguments where the premises are 'more plausible than negations' ....) ... Rather than try to arbitrary settle on a cut-off point (which itself would be vague -- exactly what constitutes plausibility?), why not just say: "aim to make your premises as plausible as you can" .....? That seems to me to be a useful (if vague) maxim, and all we should really care about ....

hope that's useful ...

ap

It's a "good" question, suffering only from the very common problem that all its terms are rather vague! ... Surely you want your premises to be more plausible than their negations, but wouldn't it be rather arbitrary to define "good" by that cut-off point? I mean we could ... but what would be the purpose -- everyone already aims to produce "good" arguments, and everyone aims to make their premises as plausible as possible (often by defending them with further arguments) -- should one stop that effort once they pass the 'more plausible than their negation' level? No doubt, too, in different contexts different criteria might apply. What counts as "good" to professional philosophers may well, perhaps ought to be, different from what counts as "good" to (say) undergraduate philosophy majors, and different again from what counts as good in ordinary public discourse, or political discourse ... (In popular politics these days it's rare enough that people even make arguments at all, much less arguments...

According to Wikipedia, "any definition that attempts to set out the essence of"

According to Wikipedia, "any definition that attempts to set out the essence of" a concept "specifies the necessary and sufficient conditions for a thing being a member of" the set corresponding to that concept. Ok. But I wonder if it wouldn't be great if, for some more difficult concepts, we could at least specify some sufficient conditions in a way that we would pick most things that are members a the corresponding set. For instance, wouldn't it be a nice philosophical progress if we could get a "definition" (?) of beauty that would cover most beautiful things and no non-beautiful thing? I mean a definition that is not circular, of course.

I haven't looked at the wikipedia article, but the view it expresses is VERY old-fashioned. Since Wittgenstein's "family resemblance" concept, and especially since cognitive scientists such as Eleanor Rosch's work in the 1970s, it's far more fashionable to think of concepts (and categories) as constituted not by "necessary and sufficient conditions" but by prototypes and similarity relations, far more befitting "fuzzier" concepts -- for example the way we think about "dogs" is not to generate an "essence" of necy/sufficient conditions, but by having in mind some prototypical dog at the center and then linking it to less familiar, less central, other examples ... This is far more in keeping with your nice suggestion, that what we seek (as I'd put it) are some "characteristic" properties of the paradigmatic members of the set, recognizing that other creatures may share these properties to various degrees and still count as members of the set in question ... So unless the wikipedia article was specifically using the word "essence" to mean what it used to mean (necy/suffic condns), and to distinguish essences from concepts, then I'd say your view is far more on the right track than the wiki's view ....

hope that's useful--

ap

I haven't looked at the wikipedia article, but the view it expresses is VERY old-fashioned. Since Wittgenstein's "family resemblance" concept, and especially since cognitive scientists such as Eleanor Rosch's work in the 1970s, it's far more fashionable to think of concepts (and categories) as constituted not by "necessary and sufficient conditions" but by prototypes and similarity relations, far more befitting "fuzzier" concepts -- for example the way we think about "dogs" is not to generate an "essence" of necy/sufficient conditions, but by having in mind some prototypical dog at the center and then linking it to less familiar, less central, other examples ... This is far more in keeping with your nice suggestion, that what we seek (as I'd put it) are some "characteristic" properties of the paradigmatic members of the set, recognizing that other creatures may share these properties to various degrees and still count as members of the set in question ... So unless the wikipedia article was...

A philosopher pointed out the the big questions of philosophy are also the ones

A philosopher pointed out the the big questions of philosophy are also the ones asked by all children. I'm thinking Quine, or Bertrand Russell But I can't remember. Anyone know?

I've made the same point in my book "The 60-Second Philosopher," though I think it has to made with some finesse to count as being particularly accurate. Young children seem quick to recognize questions about basic principles -- that there is a causal order -- that there may be a supreme being of some sort -- basic moral principles -- but that's still pretty far from saying they ask the same questions as the big questions from philosophy. (Tom Wartenburg has a recent book out on doing Philosophy with Children and on focus groups he's done, which might offer support for your question ....)

hope that helps--

ap

I've made the same point in my book "The 60-Second Philosopher," though I think it has to made with some finesse to count as being particularly accurate. Young children seem quick to recognize questions about basic principles -- that there is a causal order -- that there may be a supreme being of some sort -- basic moral principles -- but that's still pretty far from saying they ask the same questions as the big questions from philosophy. (Tom Wartenburg has a recent book out on doing Philosophy with Children and on focus groups he's done, which might offer support for your question ....) hope that helps-- ap

Do you think that the caveman had philosophers?

Do you think that the caveman had philosophers?

Why would you think he wouldn't? By "caveman" do you mean a creature before language? (Then maybe; perhaps philosophy requires language.) Of course, you'd need to be more specific about what constitutes philosophy. If a philosopher is one who thinks reflectively, carefully, asks certain kinds of questions -- then I wouldn't doubt that even very primitive humans, if they have language, might well count as philosophers. (Haven't the earliest humans wondered why we're here? What controls the world? Aren't those philosophical questions?)

hope that's useful--

best, ap

Why would you think he wouldn't? By "caveman" do you mean a creature before language? (Then maybe; perhaps philosophy requires language.) Of course, you'd need to be more specific about what constitutes philosophy. If a philosopher is one who thinks reflectively, carefully, asks certain kinds of questions -- then I wouldn't doubt that even very primitive humans, if they have language, might well count as philosophers. (Haven't the earliest humans wondered why we're here? What controls the world? Aren't those philosophical questions?) hope that's useful-- best, ap

Pages