• Jack Cummins
    2.9k
    I am raising this question because many of the fundamentals of philosophy, especially basic questions and attempts to answer the metaphysical and epistemological problems are open to challenge in the thinking of our time. It leaves me wondering if it will get to the point where philosophy is seen as an appendix of knowledge, especially that which is developed in science.

    My idea of a deadend is like a cul de sac, or point in a maze, where there is no way out, or no obvious way forward. It is equal to coming to stagnation, or a standstill.

    I am of the view that philosophy, including the ideas of past thinkers, ranging from the Greeks, Kant, Kierkergaard, Sartre and many other writers have so much to contribute to the understanding of life and the human condition. I am also aware that everyone who is using the site is interested in philosophy in some way or another, simply because they have decided to join the forum in the first instance. But, I do think that many people, in general, see philosophy as a rather abstract and futile activity, but it would be interesting if someone were able to provide evidence of such opinion and I am not able to do so at present.

    I believe that the questions and writings of philosophy are central to human existence. It is also questionable to what extent humanity will survive, especially with the environmental threats, including climate change? But, that is a separate area for questioning. I am thinking about how relevant the questions of philosophy will be for the human race. I believe that they will always be relevant, because human beings wonder about life and question the basis of their existence. But, I do think that such questions may be cast aside, especially if many see knowledge as having been reached. But, it is likely that individuals will still wonder about the issues arising in philosophy.

    I am not sure if my question will be seen as relevant, because some people may think that what is important is the development of frameworks of reliable and trustworthy foundations of knowledge. I am not sure that it is that simple, and I am left thinking to what extent will philosophy, as a discipline and pursuit, survive? TS Eliot spoke of the idea of a 'wasteland' and I wonder to what extent that idea is relevant for consideration of the culture of our time? What would be the point where it is seen as redundant or superseded by other disciplines, or will it endure, with the developments of the future? How will ideas develop further and be translated into culture?
  • Joshs
    1.5k
    It leaves me wondering if it will get to the point where philosophy is seen as an appendix of knowledge, especially that which is developed in science.

    My idea of a deadend is like a cul de sac, or point in a maze, where there is no way out, or no obvious way forward. It is equal to coming to stagnation, or a standstill.
    Jack Cummins

    From my vantage , the opposite is the case. It is the sciences that are in a kind of stagnation relative to philosophy, especially the physical sciences that are beguile so many on this forum as the ultimate authority on questions such as the nature of time and reality. The enslavement of physics to metaphysical, or at least empirical , realism keeps it frozen in late 19th century philosophical territory. The most promising developments in the sciences are coming from scholars who are being inspired by recent philosophy ( ‘ recent’ meaning beginning more than 100 years ago ) .
  • Jack Cummins
    2.9k

    That is a bit reassuring because while I am aware that there are some who view philosophy and thinking outside of science it often feels that is not the dominant way of seeing. I am not just talking about people on the forum, but include bookshops sections which I visit and a few other sources, which place such an emphasis on neuroscience.

    I don't believe that the sciences have all the answers, and I also think that the arts and literature have a lot to add. The reason I wrote this today was I was reading Iris Murdock' s writings on literature, and I do think that sources such as literature provide areas for exploring meaning. When the emphasis is on the physical sciences, above all else, it seems to me that philosophy becomes so flat.

    I am definitely of the view that philosophy will always be of importance because, and I feel that it is useful to think about how science draws upon the arts. I do see keeping the emphasis on the various disciplines as being essential, or else thinking becomes so lopsided.
  • Neuron420
    10
    As a holder of a degree in philosophy I completely agree, "When the emphasis is on the physical sciences, above all else, it seems to me that philosophy becomes so flat." I am of the opinion that philosophy needs a current champion of philosophy. Someone that can make philosophy more relatable to the average reader or thinker. When you ask the average person in the streets about their thoughts on philosophy and it's relevance to modern times, it is not uncommon to hear that philosophy is no longer useful or is outdated. When I was a student at university I wrote a paper on how philosophy has become obscured by academic philosophers only writing to an audience of other professional philosophers thus leaving out everyone else.
  • 180 Proof
    4k
    Popularized philosophy is sophistry. (Plato)

    Popularized science is PR for taxpayer-funded experiments and R&D.

    Both will survive – philosophy and science will continue to thrive – because the elites automating the 'means of production' need the latter and the latter's increasing fundamental and emergent complexities require sorting out by the former. And until death becomes medically optional, religion will survive too, infantilizing the masses for whom "popularized philosophy" & "popularized science" will also continue to be commodified (e.g. YouTubed). Isn't this exactly what (e.g.) Schop & Freddy had diagnosed over a century and a half ago as 'modern nihilism'?
  • Jack Cummins
    2.9k

    Most people I know think that philosophy is from the past or is rather obscure, I think that this has been due to the way it has been in the hands of the academics. In England, this is particularly centralised in Oxford and Cambridge.

    However, even though I feel that friends think that I am ridiculous reading philosophy books, and even more so for writing on this site, with do feel that it is sometimes possible to get into discussions about some of the questions at times. I think that philosophy has inherited a bad image though and we live in such an image conscious society. In a way, psychology is a bit trendy in I have lost count of the amount of people I have met in the last few years with psychology degrees.

    But, I do think that part of the problem is that some of the writers, especially from the twentieth century did not write books which appealed to many people. I do believe that this needs to change. I also think that many people choose not to study it because they don't think that employers will be particularly impressed.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.9k

    I think that apart from the focus on science, the division between academic and popular is sometimes too absolute. When I go to shops the philosophy and science books are often grouped together under the category 'smart thinking'. These are mostly popular science books with some philosophy ones thrown in. If it is a bigger shop there are usually a few classics. I have found it much easier to get more academic books online. However, I often feel that sometimes the division between the academic and popular is still too strong because some of the philosophy ones in particular, seem to come from the perspective of imagining that readers have barely any knowledge or be written for specialised readers, and I looking for ones in between. Of course, reading the classic writers is often best, but it is useful to read others too.

    I think that it is true that many turn to religious beliefs instead of philosophy. Perhaps this is because it is the easiest option. There are far more churches to go to than philosophy discussion groups. Yes, the philosophers like Nietzsche recognized this. Also, I know that in England I was not taught any philosophy at school, but was taught religious studies. It may be that some religious studies tutors go into philosophy but I went to a Catholic school and was not taught anything about any other religions at all, and had to read for myself. Also, the science I was taught did not touch the philosophy questions, or I would have probably found it interesting. But, I do think many people are left in a lot of confusion because what they have been taught is superficial.
  • Tom Storm
    1.3k
    Most people I know think that philosophy is from the past or is rather obscureJack Cummins

    Well that may be because much philosophy is from the past and is rather obscure.

    Try getting even a well educated citizen to take an interest in Spinoza or Wittgenstein. What is in it for them? I certainly sympathize with this view. There's sometimes a flicker of interest in Nietzsche, but only because his gaudy prose is like a Marvel movie special effect.

    I think there is a limited interest in philosophy because it isn't especially relevant. Sure, people like ideas and snatch them in desultory manner - like a magpie picking shiny things. But few people have an appetite for building a coherent belief system based on rigorous study. I certainly don't.

    And also I see no real evidence that people are overly interested in science. It's just a word used as a synonym for 'credible' for the most part.

    And sure, we can point to best selling popular accounts of science and philosophy as partial evidence that some people are interested in the subjects. But take Stephen Hawking's famous 1980's tome A Brief History of Time. What was the joke? It was the best seller nobody read.

    I don't think there is a division between science and philosophy in many people's mind -they are both recondite subjects of limited appeal.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.9k

    I think that part of the problem is that people are not accustomed towards philosophy, although there are probably more people interested than one would imagine. I know that if I see a book in a second hand or charity shop by some obscure writer and don't buy it at the time, if I go back a couple of days later it has usually gone. Also, when I go to libraries, often the books which I am looking for are out, so some people are interested.

    But, I do think that if philosophy is to survive it will probably need a certain amount of demystifying to happen. Also, I think it would be too much for anyone to start reading writers like Spinoza and Wittgenstein without having read a certain amount of philosophy previously. It would be jumping in the deep end.

    But, I guess we all try to do different things. I haven't had any lessons to drive a car whereas most people are desperate to do this.

    But, yes, it does seem that Stephen Hawking was the best selling author that not many people read. I struggled my way through though. I think a lot of people wish to study science, but I guess that is partly related to career pathways.

    But, it may be that philosophy will remain a minority interest but I do think that the issue is to what extent will it survive at all. I think that it partly depends if it can be a bit less abstract and obscure in some ways. But, even if a lot of people don't read it much I think that the questions will still remain as long as human beings survive.
  • Valentinus
    1.2k
    In regards to Eliot, some regard for the generation(s) lost at war(s) merits notice. The dry voices of the Hollow Men come from victims of trauma who are required to change the subject to talk at all. The appearance of automatons doesn't inform the necessity of becoming one.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    881
    But, it may be that philosophy will remain a minority interest but I do think that the issue is to what extent will it survive at all. I think that it partly depends if it can be a bit less abstract and obscure in some ways.Jack Cummins

    Certainly in the foreseeable future it will survive, other posters have pointed to the role it plays alongside and in edifying scientific progress... but even more concrete and urgent is the ethical, value, and socio-political questions that will arise in the wake of developments in artificial intelligence and bio-technology.

    In a way philosophy has never been this concrete and 'timely' as now because of technological advancement. As an example I'd point to the thread of guest philosopher David Pearce, if gene-editing becomes a thing (which is an ethical question in itself), then philosophy seems very relevant in trying to formulate answers to the question of what directions we should take. Another very concrete example is the question of moral and legal responsibility and AI etc...
  • Kenosha Kid
    2.4k
    But, I do think that many people, in general, see philosophy as a rather abstract and futile activity, but it would be interesting if someone were able to provide evidence of such opinion and I am not able to do so at present.Jack Cummins

    On the contrary, for the most part it's more practical than science. Okay, philosophy outside of science isn't going to produce agriculture, bridges, boats or space rockets, but neither do most people. These are beyond the day-to-day, whereas a philosophy is something everyone can wear.

    Sartre (whom you cited) is hugely important in how I understand something that science can barely approximate at present. My philosophy has moved on somewhat... perhaps Sartre is no longer an overcoat, but he's still a perfectly serviceable vest. Quantum theory (my field) is interesting and creates interesting technologies, but it doesn't have quite the same mundane practicality.

    I never get why so many philosophers put science outside of philosophy -- perhaps a reaction to the scant philosophical education of scientists. An anti-scientific philosophy is about as tenable as a geocentric modern astronomy: it is obliged to ignore too many things that are in our world to be feasible. Likewise a fruitful, useful philosophy is going to have to deal with science just as a robust science has to deal with philosophy. Divide and conquer doesn't apply.
  • Janus
    10.3k
    I am of the view that philosophy, including the ideas of past thinkers, ranging from the Greeks, Kant, Kierkergaard, Sartre and many other writers have so much to contribute to the understanding of life and the human condition.Jack Cummins

    Is the same not true of literature, music, poetry, dance, science and the arts and crafts in general; in fact is it not true of any and all human activities?

    It seems plausible to think that philosophy will continue to evolve as long as it is possible to come up with new ideas, with new ways of modeling and understanding life, no?

    I take it you are not imagining any final answer?
  • jgill
    1.3k
    Partly, philosophy at present supervenes on enormous amounts of knowledge - scientific and otherwise - unlike anything philosophers of the 18th century could imagine. When a physicist talks about string theory, I consider that modern day philosophy, although others might not. Even philosophical discussions on subjects like race require in-depth studies involving considerable data analysis to be substantial.
  • Janus
    10.3k
    Partly, philosophy at present supervenes on enormous amounts of knowledge - scientific and otherwise - unlike anything philosophers of the 18th century could imagine.jgill

    Yes, philosophy, just like the other arts and sciences must be of its time; it cannot be of its time if it ignores the current knowledge, the current science and the current state of the other arts and culture generally.
  • unenlightened
    5.7k
    Philosophy is like painting: there has been no progress since the cave painting of prehistory {as Picasso I think said}. In an age that is addicted to accumulation and progress, everything has to pretend to be new and improved. This is my brand new and improved meta-philosophy and is far better than all the posts that preceded it. Now available in bite-size packages and delivered to your devices for today's man in a hurry.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.9k

    I am glad to see you back on the site because I had missed your presence in the last few months. I have to go out for an appointment this afternoon, but I am hoping to reply to you and the other people who have made comments later today.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.9k

    I do agree with your likening of philosophy to painting but that is partly because I enjoy painting. But, about a week ago, in some thread or another, I said that philosophy without clear use of concepts and language is like trying to paint a picture with brushes which have been left soaking in dirty water. I do see it as being like painting pictures because it is a bit like creating new, unique pictures which are often just a little bit different from other ones from the past.

    However, the whole way past and present come together is not just about seeing the newer ones as more accurate, but just about the picture in the present. I think that it is organic, and you speak of it with reference to thread creation. I am sure that each person would like to think that theirs is the best possible way of seeing. It is most likely about taking things apart and recreating them, or reframing questions and thoughts.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.9k

    I am definitely not asking for any final answers because we don't know the future, but can think of it as a speculative area. I do think it applies to other areas of thought including the arts and humanities.

    One obvious example to me although it may be remote from the topic of philosophy is about music. I know so many people who barely listen to music beyond the 80s, or beyond the time of Oasis and Blur. I know people who are in their teens who come from that perspective. It is based on the idea that most of what can be created has already been done before.

    I am sure that philosophy is far more complex than rock and pop music, but we have had the rise of postmodernism and beyond, so I am interested in what comes next and, what can the future bring? Will it be novelty, or more synthetic forms of understanding?
  • Jack Cummins
    2.9k

    I see your point about the hollow men as being those who have been through trauma, but I see it as being more metaphorical, in ways which apply to us all in some ways.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.9k

    The question of practical really and philosophy is an interesting slant. I have to admit that I am so much more philosophical than practical, relying on microwave meals and watching my piles of washing accumulate, because I am so busy reading my books and writing on this site. That may seem a bit trite but I do think that the way in which we juggle the practical and the philosophical is an important aspect of life.

    It comes down to the way we live our lives. I do believe that many push the questions of life out to the picture, or settle for the easiest answers, while focusing on the practical realities of life. I think that Western culture is going in the direction of focusing on practical tasks, but I wonder if there will some kind of resurgence. It may even be happening now, because the pandemic has turned so many lives upside down. I am really saying that people may think that they don't need to think about the big questions, but I am not convinced that we have reached that deadend completely.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.9k

    I am not sure to what extent science stands out or is the dominant paradigm. There is a whole thread devoted to the praise of science, but apart from whether we praise science or not, it does seem to come down to how this is viewed and evaluated within knowledge and its practical applications in life.
  • Kenosha Kid
    2.4k
    I am really saying that people may think that they don't need to think about the big questions, but I am not convinced that we have reached that deadend completely.Jack Cummins

    Need for what though, to what end? If that has an answer, that's practical enough. How you think about the world either has an effect on how you interact with it, in which case it's practical in the sense I meant, or it does not, in which case it's merely diversionary. Not to diss the diversionary, but it's harder to argue for the importance of something with no real world impact.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.9k

    I do agree that the way in which philosophy survives in the technology of our times opens up questions and many more questions. Sometimes, I think that many look to Wikipedia as if it is a living philosopher. I do believe that almost anyone can go into it and edit. Of course, this site gives us the scope for expressing our views. Otherwise, I would probably just be reading alone in my room. So, it is hard to see directions, for better or worse, and the whole spectrum of artificial intelligence and how all this will lead to results in the world of ideas. I think it such an unknown realm, daunting and exciting, which is why I raise it, as a way of thinking beyond deadends.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.9k

    Ultimately, I think that the purpose of such questions probably comes down to survival, individually and for humanity. Personally, I am just about surviving, but I have found the examination of self and life to be the important aspects of this quest.
  • Kenosha Kid
    2.4k
    Exactly. Therefore of practical value. Even theology serves a purpose. Meanwhile the lay interest in science is largely diversionary (viz the aforementioned unread copies of A Brief History of Time). Plenty of scope to champion the importance of philosophy.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.9k

    I think that the interest in philosophy, including debates in science, includes the whole spectrum of the layperson and the academic. I am not sure which has the most power in the current system, let alone the cultural and political aspects of the future.
  • Judaka
    1.3k

    Society debates philosophy now more than ever, and people think philosophically now more than ever. It's just that philosophy as a standalone subject, especially as in reading books written in difficult to read language, is so woefully outclassed as a product by alternative means to discuss "philosophy". Aren't you just asking why centuries-old books are being outclassed as products by podcasts, videos, television, news media, politics, economics, movies, music and any other field which discuss with varying degrees of complexity and depth philosophical subjects? Have I misinterpreted OP or is this a valid response?
  • Valentinus
    1.2k

    It does apply to all of us. I didn't mean it only related to those who experience war directly. There is the alienation between those who do and don't. And there are people who are missing.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.9k

    You may be right, that with podcasts, videos and so much information we are far from being at a deadend at the present, at least. It may be that this is part of a process of making philosophy far less obscure. This site in itself is so much more about live debate 24 hrs a day, so it may be an exciting time really, and perhaps philosophy and the future of ideas depends on us to some extent, as parts in the chain in the process.
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