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The Nebulous Contribution of Philosophy
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 3:45 am    Post subject: The Nebulous Contribution of Philosophy Reply with quote

In brief exchange of comments with a customer at work a few days ago (about a TV program we had both seen on Marx) he made the observation that the Philosophy had not made any positive contribution to the human condition over the course of it's long and convoluted history. I thought about this and mentioned it to another staff member who shook her head in disagreement "Take Seneca - he put forward the idea of stoic acceptance of what cannot be changed". But surely this cannot be true can it? Is stoicism never seen in individuals from indigenous cultures never exposed to western thought - is altruism or kindness for its own sake not?
Ok take the various systems by which we order our societies; do these spring only out of the philosophising mind, ready to be instituted after their cerebral construction - or do they develop naturally, organically according to the needs of the societies that institute them. We might put forward socialism or communism as political systems born of philosophy (though some would question their contribution as 'positive' for other reasons) - but again, wouldn't egalitarianism develop naturally in peoples anyway as a backlash against the rule of the strongman?

I probably am missing something very simple here - but can anyone actually come up with one question answered, one positive contribution that can absolutely and definitively be attributed to Philosophy........or has it all been so much wasted breath - and some of it highly dangerous and damaging to boot?
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 4:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

+JMJ+

Deleuze famously said that the essential work of philosophy (and here, I would also add theology) is to "impede stupidity".

The purpose is not to "solve" Reality. To reduce Reality to a formula. To explain-away. To conjure a Theory of Everything.

When people don't think stupidly -- when they don't short-circuit the heavy-lifting demanded by serious living -- their thinking necessarily unfolds within the sobering boundaries of the Real.

Philosophy keeps us honest.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Haha, or at least thoughtful. Very Happy

Agree though...it's not about solving things, it's about understanding the questions / problems.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 8:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wosbald wrote:
+JMJ+

Deleuze famously said that the essential work of philosophy (and here, I would also add theology) is to "impede stupidity".


This ^^^^

Brilliant but I would personally never say that ... to my mind its more about advancing knowledge. Though Im not sure that theology actually combats stupidity tbh .. Wink Nice try though Wink

Though I do acknowledge the role of rationalism in theological works to a point. Ive noted that in some of the articles that you post from various parts of Catholicism.

Though I do see philosophy and theology pursuing different goals and agenda.

I mean it wasnt that long ago that the Catholic church tried to impede science by insisting that the Sun revolves around the earth.

Wosbald wrote:
The purpose is not to "solve" Reality. To reduce Reality to a formula. To explain-away. To conjure a Theory of Everything.
But to some degree isnt it?

I mean dont both theology and philosophy seek to find meaning to how the world works, what the point and purpose of life is..

Yes we all know its .. 42 .. but ____ to put meat around those bones ____

Wosbald wrote:
When people don't think stupidly -- when they don't short-circuit the heavy-lifting demanded by serious living -- their thinking necessarily unfolds within the sobering boundaries of the Real.

Philosophy keeps us honest.


I truly believe this .. philosophy does keep us honest. Its about identifying the principles, values that ought to be pursued isnt it? And yes theology has its role in this too in these .. absolutely.

Pete when asking the question about the role of philosophy ,, my mind instantly goes to the Bacons. the Mills, Kants, Dworkins and the Hegels who have had so much influence over western legal systems.

And I acknowledge the influence that Christianity and ok more broadly theology has had on these developments.

Philosophy is and has been a key element in human development, human social organisations and human understanding.

Quote:
What is Philosophy
At its simplest, philosophy (from the Greek philosophia or philosophia, meaning 'the love of wisdom') is the study of knowledge, or "thinking about thinking", although the breadth of what it covers is perhaps best illustrated by a selection of other alternative definitions:

.. the discipline concerned with questions of how one should live (ethics); what sorts of things exist and what are their essential natures (metaphysics); what counts as genuine knowledge (epistemology); and what are the correct principles of reasoning (logic) (Wikipedia)

.. investigation of the nature, causes, or principles of reality, knowledge, or values, based on logical reasoning rather than empirical methods (American Heritage Dictionary)

.. the study of the ultimate nature of existence, reality, knowledge and goodness, as discoverable by human reasoning (Penguin English Dictionary)
the rational investigation of questions about existence and knowledge and ethics (WordNet)

.. the search for knowledge and truth, especially about the nature of man and his behaviour and beliefs (Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary)
the rational and critical inquiry into basic principles (Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia)

.. the study of the most general and abstract features of the world and categories with which we think: mind, matter, reason, proof, truth, etc. (Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy)

..careful thought about the fundamental nature of the world, the grounds for human knowledge, and the evaluation of human conduct (The Philosophy Pages)

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 1:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gaining understanding of ourselves and our reality, or even striving to gain such understanding, is a positive contribution.

The entertainment it provides is a positive contribution. What is music's contribution, after all? It entertains us. Perhaps it answers some need, or compulsion, within us. Philosophy seems much the same in that regard.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 5:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is not philosophy about considering "the big questions"? And is there any example where we are one jot or iota closer to answering them by virtue of the activity?

The -isms of philosophy seem to have a chequered history at best (don't they?) when it comes to positive contribution roll call.

I know it must have made a contribution somwhere: I'm just damned if I can say what it is. In respect of it "keeping us honest"....... mmmm? Not so sure about that. The 'noble savage' seemed to do pretty well in the honesty stakes in cultures like the Asmat of Papua New Guinea; their complex and sophisticated cultural system virtually eliminated theft, internecine violence - even the problem of coveting your neighbors wife had an accepted method of resolution to difuse the damage it could potentially cause (and an intertribal 'war' consisted of hours of insult throwing followed by a brief skirmish after which everyone went home to brag and get drunk). No - I don't believe philosophy has a monopoly on the honesty stakes; we have to do better than that.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 5:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes. Philosophy teaches us how to think. Knowing how to think, we can do everything else. Not knowing how to think, we can't do so much.

Would you say 'science' made a positive contribution to civilization? Science arose from the scientific method. The scientific method was derived from scholasticism, which is a philosophical system emphasizing the use of reason. And the use of formal reasoning comes to us from the Greek philosophers.

Would you say that 'law' made a positive contribution to civilization? Laws are derived from notions of the common good and natural rights. These are derived from philosophy.

What more do you need?

You might well ask, what valuable contributions to civilization can you claim required no philosophical ideas at all in order to come about?
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 7:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with Wayfriend .. we have provided a significant number of examples of philosophys contribution to human thought, systems etc.

And FFs entertainment point is another good one .. imagine where we wouldnt be ... but for the presence of philosophy. 🤷‍♀️
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 7:42 pm    Post subject: Re: The Nebulous Contribution of Philosophy Reply with quote

peter wrote:
do these spring only out of the philosophising mind, ready to be instituted after their cerebral construction - or do they develop naturally, organically according to the needs of the societies that institute them.


What the hell makes you think that philosophizing minds and their cerebral constructions AREN't natural/organically developed?

What makes you think any society can pre-exist to institute them? IS there any society you are aware of that is not grown from philosophical earth?

Maybe you have good answers/thoughts on those. I hope you do, actually. Keep things lively.

The instant two humans meet, there are two possibilities [not really, but close enough on the large scale]...violence, or engagement that, by nature, demands philosophical queries/topics.
And, contrary to the tooth-and-claw school's tie/lie, violence is not the preferred, the most common, the most successful, the most natural.

[[and, fun fact that I've mentioned elsewhere:
there are very few kinds of learning/training/educational realms/regimes that generalize, cross-train, make people better thinkers broadly [as opposed to better geometers, or better in-flight missile repairmen, for instance], and philosophy seems to be one of those few]].

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The positive contribution of science to humanities future is still very much a case where the jury is out; in the 300 years of its activity it has done more damage to our home than any other single 'event' since the dawn of time. it will have much work to do in the very near future is the scales are to be reset in its favour. Besides - we in our hubtris are often blind to the positives that other systems have enjoyed , so convinced are we of the merits of our own. Orang Asking culture of Peninsular Malaysia lived in balance with their environment for many thousands of years with systems for dealing with all aspects of human living from medicine to law with no ill effects on either. (And as anyone knows who has had any kind of dealing with the law as practiced in the west, it's outcomes have little to do with justice and more to do with money, much vaunted though it is.)

I agree that minds are organically developed (I wasn't aware I'd said they weren't actually) and that discourse in its looser sense can be regarded as philosophy - if only in order to cover up the failings of the 'discipline' in its more strict sense (the one i mean in the context of this topic) - but I suspect that if philosophy has had any influence, it is more in terms of creating the way we think (today) rather than teaching us how to do so......the rest is simply window dressing.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 7:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

peter wrote:
Is not philosophy about considering "the big questions"?


No, it's about all questions. Very Happy

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 11:38 am    Post subject: Re: The Nebulous Contribution of Philosophy Reply with quote

peter wrote:
I agree that minds are organically developed (I wasn't aware I'd said they weren't actually)
You did not say minds are not organically developed. You said the systems by which we order our societies, if they spring only from the mind, are not organic:
peter wrote:
do these spring only out of the philosophising mind, ready to be instituted after their cerebral construction - or do they develop naturally, organically according to the needs of the societies that institute them.


I believe the topic is fairly complicated. Many people say humans are natural. True enough. They say, therefore, anything humans do came about by a natural process. True? Yet everybody knows that, when we we say "naturally occurring", we mean NOT the result of human effort. We've had the opposing categories "man-made" and "natural" for a long time, and the dichotomy is not without merit.

Further, can opposing systems of thought both be organic? They can both have merit. Maybe the problem is when other aspects of humanity - frailties - get involved. Yet, are these frailties not also organic?

I also suspect a big problem is the nebulous use of the word "organic".

Vraith had another good response. How can a society exist without a system by which it is ordered, then institute a system? A society might change the system by which it exists; but it would have to have had one in the first place, or it would not have been a society.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

peter wrote:
The positive contribution of science to humanities future is still very much a case where the jury is out; .... it will have much work to do in the very near future is the scales are to be reset in its favour.

Well, that's an unfair comment on so many levels.

If, as you propose, science has done some good things and some bad things, then it has done some good things; if it has done some good things, then philosophy has made a contribution. QED.

However, when science is used by the greedy and the tyrannical to gain at others' expense, the fault lies not with science, but with greed and tyranny. We blithely leave science in the hands of people for whom "fast buck" and "domination" are supreme goals.

And from time to time these depredations are corrected, and destructive courses are changed. Doing so first requires recognition of unfairness, and then it requires a duty to act. From whence does notions of unfairness and duty come? Philosophy.

You could not be aware of which contributions are positive and which are negative, nor of the tilt of the scales, were it not for Philosophy.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 2:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

peter wrote:
The positive contribution of science to humanities future is still very much a case where the jury is out;


in the 300 years of its activity it has done more damage to our home than any other single 'event' since the dawn of time.


Well, the first is false all by itself. Just one small example: if we were still pre-medical science, at least 1/3rd [and probably well over half] the people now alive wouldn't be. And at least 1/3rd of the living would have life-altering medical issues they don't have now.

Adding the second moves it from false to absurd.
At LEAST 5 times, over half---and at least once, over 95% of SPECIES were wiped out by "naturally developed, organic" events.

And is it ok to make a distinction here?
Science has done practically nothing about which the jury is still out.
Dickheads, who generally are NOT scientists, have put certain products/knowledge to bad uses...and those dickheads, strangely enough, are exactly the kinds of folk who have no use for philosophizing.
[---they have great use, often, for Ideologizing, Authoritizing, and such---which some people confuse for a philosophical enterprise, much like some people confuse a hammer for a weapon---]
[[I say practically and generally on purpose, cuz there are some exceptions.]]

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 4:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well - I'm not going to get you to get that if we kill ourselves with nuclear holocaust, or with lab created gene fucked about hyper virulent disease, or super-advanced AI that decides we're superfluous to requirements, or simply by cooking on a dying planet choking to death on CO2 generated coz we were to frikin lazy to walk to the supermarket .......then it won't be the Asmat, or the Orang Asli, or the Andaman Jarawa that will be to blame - it will be philosophy! (You made the connection not me.)

But I'm surprised that no-one actually picked up on what I think was the most interesting thing I said in my previous post - that philosophy actually 'created the way we think' (no evidence of a positive contribution I hasten to add given the quality of my argument to date which seems to have yeilded the score, Philosophy 6 : Peter 0 Wink ) and I'd like to elaborate on what I meant by this........

but unfortunately I can't coz I've got to get up and go and stand behind a f***** shop counter for the next nine hours selling crap to you idiots, so you'll just have to wait until tomorrow for my next 'interesting installment'! Laughing
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

No, philosophy will not be to blame. Anything we do, good or bad, is done because of choices that were made. Philosophy helps us understand our choices. That doesn't mean we can't make bad choices. And it doesn't mean philosophy is the cause of the bad choices. No more than the road is the cause of auto accidents.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 1:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

peter wrote:
Well - I'm not going to get you to get that if we kill ourselves with nuclear holocaust, or with lab created gene fucked about hyper virulent disease, or super-advanced AI that decides we're superfluous to requirements, or simply by cooking on a dying planet

and I'd like to elaborate on what I meant by this........


Well---on the first---the thing is, we could do ALL of those things at the same time [but one] and STILL not do as much damage as a single asteroid did. [[if, as you seem to be, you are counting the entire planet---not just people.

Take all those things [but the one] away...no science/philosophy for the last 500 years or whatever.
We couldn't have had two world wars or two nuked cities...
But we'd have had way more regular wars...and how many instances of plague? All the dead that we now vaccinate against? Any idea how much waste and damage and pollution is done by PRE-scientific human endeavors?

BTW---the "but one" is a malevolent super AI. Which I don't really believe in.

And, seriously, it is science/scientists fighting AGAINST all those things you mention. It's the other dicks that are the problem.
Most of the things you mention, [but the one] the world can and will recover. People might not---but they'll deserve it.

Is science bad? Fuck no.
Has it sometimes been used badly? FUCK YES.
But the jury is not out [at least on what's happened so far, and much of what is predictable]...the good massively outweighs the bad. It's not even close.

on the second...please do elaborate.
I tend to think philosophy is just one of the ways we think.
It's also the best way [in practical/pragmatic, aesthetic/ethical, and almost all other realms] and is ignorantly and maliciously ignored, derided, and under-practiced.
Take almost any knowledge-field you can think of, replace 1/3rd or 1/4th of the tech/field-specific education with good solid philosophy ed., and those fields will be faster, stronger, smarter, AND more human/life-forward.
[[toss in life-long arts and play-time ed/practice for a fully enriched and valuable and MORE EFFECTIVE existence]]

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 3:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vraith wrote:
peter wrote:
The positive contribution of science to humanities future is still very much a case where the jury is out;


in the 300 years of its activity it has done more damage to our home than any other single 'event' since the dawn of time.


Well, the first is false all by itself. Just one small example: if we were still pre-medical science, at least 1/3rd [and probably well over half] the people now alive wouldn't be. And at least 1/3rd of the living would have life-altering medical issues they don't have now.

Adding the second moves it from false to absurd.
At LEAST 5 times, over half---and at least once, over 95% of SPECIES were wiped out by "naturally developed, organic" events.


Exactly. Drop a 21st century human into the world 20,000 years ago, and he'd be dying (literally!) to get back to this "damaged" world. I don't understand how improvement can be seen as damage. We've vastly improved this world -- from our perspective. It's more hospitable to humans than it has ever been!

Philosophy gives us everything else. Math, science, civilization, etc. Each human has a particular world view. Every choice made by humans is made in the context of their world views, without which those choices would be random and meaningless (much like the actions of animals, not rational beings). Sometimes this world view is unexamined, but that doesn't mean it's not there. Humans are inherently metaphysical. They cannot escape
"doing philosophy" to the extent that they cannot escape being-in-the-world. And for the people who have the most sway in historic events, their world view is usually not unexamined. A conscious, intentional, examined world view is an explicit philosophy. So the choices that matter most, that have had the greatest effect on history, are the choices made by people who consciously enact a world view. The contribution is only "nebulous" in as much as it has not been examined _ in other words, in as much as philosophy has not yet rendered it explicit!
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 4:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mmm.......

I'm having my doubts whether what I'm going to say will have sufficient coherence not to embarrass me but here goes.

Lets start with a couple of analogies; When you watch the Paris Catwalks and all those skinny models walk out in fully outrageous costumes that no-one would ever be seen dead in - you'd think that it was all a waste of time; what does it have to do with the High Street or the Mall. But a few months later what happens is that what those flamboyant costumes put out in excessive display are paired down, pulled back into real life practicality and clothes start appearing on the racks that take the core essence of the originals and make it the standard for the year. same in the case of haute cuisine as in haute couture; the food of fine dining excess is normalised and brought into the ranges that supermarkets start developing for the mass market.

Now in the case of Philosophy [or this is how my thought runs] is not the same true; the ideas that are formed in the minds of the high practitioners of the discipline, over years filter down into acedemia more generally and thence down into the society at large [and nb - this tahes decades if not generations] untill they imbue the thinking of the masses without them even being aware that what they accept as the framework upon which they hang the unconscious beliefs, the framework upon which 'their reality' hangs is not just a natural random affair - but is the construct of those thinkers of ages past. The perception and understanding and how their mind actually thinks, has been imprinted upon the tabula rasa of their neural hardware from birth as a framework entierly dependent on the cultural beliefs in which they are raised - and these in turn have their basis on the percolated
down reasonings of great thinkers of time gone before. So as an example we have Christian and Monoitheistic belief, philosophy so immersive in the society that we are born into that it becomes almost impossible for us to think in any other way, even if we latterly reject the belief system on say the basis of rational science. I, for example, cannot become a Hindu. It is simply impossible for me to deconstruct the cultural framework within which my thinking first developed - that of a christian monotheistic society - to the poin where I can think as a person raised in the polytheistic tradition does. I am a prisoner of the all pervading western Christian tradition whether I like it or not. It has not taught me to think - it has created the way I think. And is not the same true for every human mind that ever developed [save those poor kids raised by fluke chance by animals or whatever], it is formed by the beliefs and traditions into which it emerges - and in our case, jn the west, it is the Christian Monotheisitic culture which developed as Christianity rose in power and influence over the last thirteen hundred years and over which the heavyweight thinkers of the Church exerted such influence.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 6:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

peter, your describing a process whereby successive generations don't have to re-invent everything that their ancestors invented. For example, your children don't have to reinvent a spoken language, or mathematics, instead they are taught it from their forebears. Similarly, they get philosophy and religion and culture etc.

The alternative is that every human being starts off as a caveman, so to speak, and drags things around until they re-invent the wheel for themselves, poking their neighbors with sticks until they re-invent the notion of a tribe.

And yet you call this process of passing on knowledge from one generation to the next "being trapped" by the previous generation. I know what you mean exactly - everyone (whether they know it or not) has the choice of taking advantage of our progenitors knowledge or striking out in search of our own.

But calling it "trapped" seems to be an overly cynical view of the matter - the advantages of leveraging past knowledge seem to outweigh the advantages of constant re-invention. Not to mention that "common" points of view are what tie us together - head off to re-invent spoken language and you won't find many people to share it with.

Consider what the world would really be like if none of us were "trapped" so. No common conceptions, no common grounds, no shared ideals.

Frank Herbert spoke of these things. He said that, as soon as you think you understand something, you become blind. What he's saying is that accepting one framework of knowledge or thought shuts you out to others. But how long can one function without picking one and adopting it?
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