The Value of Philosophy Discussion Forum

9 Responses to The Value of Philosophy Discussion Forum

  1. sceptical scot says:

    I dont see the point of philosophy. What has it contributed to anything? What use is to someone skint in these current economic times?

  2. philosophical canuck says:

    A good question. Not all philosophy is useful. However, historically the best philosophers have also been the best scientists, theologians, economists and mathematicians. Philosophy is a discipline that helps formulate better questions, and therefore get better answers.

    For this reason, those with a philosophical bent and formation are not just dreamers or absent-minded professors: they often solve problems that stump othes. The point of philosophy is not economic reward, but that often goes with the bargain.

  3. DAVID PRENTICE says:

    But that does not say much for philosophy itself, if all its best minds have to do other things: does it not? Don’t know much about the subject but the only one that made any sense to me was Hobbes. No point in believing in higher morality or theology. Are people not just selfish gits motivated by their own narrow self interests? Life’s a git and you die. No point in wasting time wondering if its real or what the point is. Is there?

  4. admin says:

    Well even if it were true that “there is no higher morality”, and “life’s a git and you die” those are themselves philosophical claims at least once you reflect on them. There really are no persons who don’t have in the broad sense some “philosophy” of life.

    What differentiates philosophers from others is that the philosopher is willing to examine carefully his own presuppositions about the good life, to try to justify them rationally, and look for other foundations if they do not hold up. After all how would we know the propositions that guide your life are correct if you never examine them?

    As Socrates said “the unexamined life is not worth living.”

  5. DAVID PRENTICE says:

    That’s all well and good but I want something that proves’s existence of god, what’s meaning of life etc, what actually is wrong. Part of the problem with philosophy is that it encourages moral relativism; i.e criminals and drug dealers are just victims of circumstance etc. This is what’s causing all the crime in the world just now.

  6. philosophical canuck says:

    I think it is a mistake to believe either that there is a life in which “higher morality or theology” is not a factor, or that our reality is ever untouched by ideas. Paraphrasing Chesterton, people never believe in nothing, but they will often believe in anything.

    Part of the point of philosophy, and classical learning more broadly is not rumination in your spare time, but rather taking ownership of your own thinking, so that it is not done for you by others. The classics help us align our thoughts and actions both with virtue, and with nature.

  7. admin says:

    David,

    On the issue of moral relativism there is no necessary link between philosophy and moral relativism. While a few philosophers have defended moral relativism most of the great thinkers in the canon have rejected it.

    That said, the challenge of relativism(the belief that truth is relative to things like culture or the individual)is certainly an important problem for philosophical ethics. It was first raised in ancient Greece by the Sophists. These were roving professional teachers of rhetoric whose goal was to train aspiring politicians in the art of persuasive speech. What they found was that notions of morality differed from one place to another and this affected what was persuasive in different contexts. Even today a political handler would no doubt recommend a different kind of speech in rural Mississippi than on a New York college campus – because obviously the values and notions of the good differ. In their time the Sophists as a result of their experience questioned whether one can speak of “the good” as such. From their perspective it made more sense to speak of”the good” relative to what what people thought it to be in Sparta, Athens, Persia, etc…

    Plato(424-347 B.C.) argued against the Sophists that simply because notions of morality differ among persons and cultures does not mean that moral truth does not exist. It is possible rather that there different levels of insight into moral truth – and some beliefs about ethics may be simply mistaken.The task of philosophy is precisely to find what is “the good”. But because the Sophists were not interested so much in truth as in persuasion, they did not pursue the matter further to a deeper level. As Leo Strauss argued in his work Natural Right and History the discovery that notions of morality differ from place to place, person to person, is the beginning not the end of philosophical reflection on morality. Moral relativism one could argue is the lazy solution to the difficult but vital problem of finding the good life for man and society.

  8. sceptical scot says:

    That may be true, but who came up with this post modernism then? (as far as I understand the meaning) As far as I know it means that all truths are valid and no-one is wrong. Is this not the same as moral relativism.

  9. admin says:

    Post-Modernism is a term that became fashionable with certain contemporary continental philosophers(e.g. Lyotard’s book The Post-Modern Condition.)

    I find the concept somewhat vague and ill defined, though you are correct that it is often associated in common discourse with the idea of moral relativism and relativism about truth generally.

    The fact that we have come full circle and the problem of moral relativism is again a question for us – as it was for the ancient Greek philosophers – is an interesting fact of history.

    But of course the mere fact that relativism has been proposed again does not mean it is the correct position about the nature of ethics and the good, any more than it was in the age when Plato sought to refute it. Perhaps classical philosophy is not so much the cause of this problem as the cure…

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