Sunday, October 7, 2007

What is the *value* of philosophy?

Sometimes, I hear something like the following:

"What is philosophy good for?"

This is usually attended with some attitudes of frustration or disenchantment.

I don't quite understand the question, partly because I wonder whether there is such a thing as "Philosophy," plain and simple. More often, when I think of philosophy, I think of all the sub-divisions and sub-specialties that the term "Philosophy" stands for.

So, if anyone has anything to add to help clarify what the question might mean, that would be a fun topic.


Tom said...

Philosophers love definitions.

Definitions help to clarify our thoughts.

Thoughts without definitions tend to be all jumbled together, like clothes in a dryer. Philosophy helps to separate the "socks" from the "pants" so that we don't end up inadvertently wearing underwear on our head.

Peter Kreeft likes to say, "Control the language and you control thought; control thought and you control action; control action and you control the world."

That's a simplistic way of putting it, but useful nevertheless.

My philosophy site (or follow the "posted by" link to see my personal blog) Cheers

Eric said...

Philosophy, understood socratically, might be the examined life. Aristotle says philosophy begins in wonder. So philosophy is something. A way to understand it is wonderment, reflection, and questioning regarding fundamental questions about being human, about the human good, about our mental life, about our life in communities, about reality and truth (or if there is reality or truth). The value? Bertrand Russell in The Problems of Philosophy suggested several values. Wittgenstein, if I remember correctly, thought that the worst chapter in Russell's book.

Maybe an annoyance to the What is its value? question is that often those who ask it are economic pragmatists at heart. They want to know how philosophy is going to help them make more money (or meet the most attractive people at the local cafe). An answer: if you want to meet another beer drinking bowler, go to the bowling alley and drink beer. If you want to meet a person who finds the life of cognition and mental challenge gripping, then engage in cognition and mental challenge. It never hurt me to take a copy of Nietzsche or Wittgenstein to a cafe.

Calvin said...

If there isn't such a thing as "philosophy", how can we have a word for it?