• Leontiskos
    1.7k
    However, with the diremption of philosophy and science since Bacon, and the ever-increasing hegemony of science (technology), has philosophy moved from being an "outlier" to a superfluous branch of study?Pantagruel

    I have been out of philosophical circles for some years now, but it seems to me that the confrontation between Hume and Kant dominates the philosophy that followed in its wake. In many areas there seem to be two incommensurable camps, Humeans and Kantians. Eventually philosophers tired of the interminable arguments between these two camps, and they effectively found ways to bracket that whole question (e.g. Peirce, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Ayer, Quine, Sartre).

    This seems to have contributed to a strong divorce of philosophy from science, but it also split philosophy into a number of distinct subdisciplines, many of which are more or less disconnected from the others. Many of the subdisciplines are recognized as being valuable and relevant, but philosophy as a whole is treated with suspicion. Today there seems to be no "first philosophy," and therefore we have philosophies rather than philosophy. It's not clear to me that philosophy can prescind from metaphysics without either becoming irrelevant or else transforming itself into something else.
  • Fooloso4
    5.7k
    so you would find philosophy's distinctiveness in the idea that it has a poetic admixture, whereas science does not?Leontiskos

    I am questioning the notion that philosophy has a distinctiveness that holds throughout its changes. What may be true of one philosopher may not be true of another.

    There is a great deal more agreement in science, but I think some scientists are poets in the same sense that some philosophers are; they are makers of images and concepts. Of ways of seeing.

    What distinguishes philosophy from science is, I think, changing again. I cannot say what that will look like though.
  • Pantagruel
    3.3k
    Today there seems to be no "first philosophy," and therefore we have philosophies rather than philosophy.Leontiskos

    That's funny. Hartmann laments that he cannot "reclaim" the use of the term "first philosophy" in his major work on ontology which I am just reading.

    "Why should we really return to ontology at all? Wasn't the foundation of the whole of philosophy at one time ontology? And hasn't this foundation crumbled beneath it, leading everything that depended on it to a state of utter collapse along with it?"
    ~Nicolai Hartmann, Ontology: Laying the Foundations. Opening paragraph.
  • jgill
    3.6k
    I had thought that Descartes’ discovery of algebraic geometry - the idea of dimensional co-ordinates - was of absolutely fundamental importance in the ‘new sciences’Quixodian

    Analytic geometry. Algebraic geometry is fairly recent and difficult to digest.
  • Wayfarer
    21.2k
    I stand corrected. But Cartesian coordinates, right? Pretty fundamental to all kinds of science, I had understood (per the book by Mario Livio ‘Is God a Mathematician?’)
  • Wayfarer
    21.2k
    I am questioning the notion that philosophy has a distinctiveness that holds throughout its changes.Fooloso4

    Etienne Gilson’s ‘The Unity of Philosophical Experience’ attempts to show that. In his words, ‘It is the proper aim and scope of the present book to show that the history of philosophy makes philosophical sense, and to define its meaning in regard to the nature of philosophical knowledge itself. For that reason, the various doctrines, as well as the definite parts of these doctrines, which have been taken into account in this volume, should not be considered as arbitrarily selected fragments from some abridged description of the medieval and modern philosophy, but as a series of concrete philosophical experiments especially chosen for their dogmatic significance. Each of them represents a definite attempt to deal with philosophical knowledge according to a certain method, and all of them, taken together, make up a philosophical experience. The fact that all those experiments have yielded the same result will, as I hope, justify the common conclusion...that there is a centuries long experience of what philosophical knowledge is - and that such an experience exhibits a remarkable unity.’ Although I will say that, having borrowed and read it, I found the promised ‘unity’ rather difficult to discern.
  • Leontiskos
    1.7k

    Exactly. Interesting quote!
  • jgill
    3.6k
    I am questioning the notion that philosophy has a distinctiveness that holds throughout its changes. What may be true of one philosopher may not be true of another.Fooloso4

    Not being presumptuous, but perhaps that gives it vitality to survive. Academic incestuousness diminished.
  • Pantagruel
    3.3k
    It seems that what we mean by philosophy might be the glue that holds together all of the other formalizations of human understanding. For example, suppose we try to make scientific knowledge the gold standard of meaning. Even in the days when it was possible for one person to achieve a comprehensive scientific understanding (renaissance man), features of human life continued to be evident that defied scientific explanation (art, love, spirit, etc.). Today, scientific understanding is simultaneously so broad and detailed that even the most gifted scientists only really understand certain aspects of it. Even if your area of specialization is quantum cosmology, you could not claim to have a privileged ontological understanding, because dark matter and dark energy form explicit lacunae in that field of knowledge. Hence philosophy exists to constantly challenge simplistic reductions and to chart the boundaries of the unknown, relative to the project of human existence. If it were abolished as a discipline, people would still attempt to make sense of life. String theory, proven, would not help a single person make a more-informed moral decision.
  • Fooloso4
    5.7k
    Academic incestuousness diminished.jgill

    Yes, I agree. Cross-fertilization and interdisciplinary approaches are promising against ossification and border protection fortifications.
  • plaque flag
    2.7k
    If it were abolished as a discipline, people would still attempt to make sense of life.Pantagruel

    Indeed. It really doesn't matter if we call it 'philosophy' or 'fundamental ontology' of 'big picture synthesizing talk.' There's a mode of discourse that digs deepest, sees from the highest height --discourse at its most radical and abstract and synthesizing. If William James is right, the individual needs a vision of existence as a whole for sanity. Whether academia means anything in the first place is the kind of thing that might come up in this discourse. Whether longevity is the proper goal of a life. Basic questions about the meaning of being or logic or justification.

    Your glue metaphor is excellent, and I think priority and authority are also crucial.
  • Sam26
    2.6k
    Wherever you have systems of belief and the analysis of those beliefs, you'll have philosophy. In this sense philosophy will always be relevant. What will change is the refinement of the methods. Wittgenstein's method of linguistic analysis brought this into sharp focus.
  • RogueAI
    2.6k
    You can't get "ought" from science, so philosophy will always be around.
  • Pantagruel
    3.3k
    You can't get "ought" from science, so philosophy will always be around.RogueAI

    Yes, ethics is a pretty strong contender for 'practical philosophy', I agree.
  • 180 Proof
    14.5k
    It really doesn't matter if we call it 'philosophy' or 'fundamental ontology' [or] 'big picture synthesizing talk.'plaque flag
    :up:
  • plaque flag
    2.7k

    :up:
    I'm glad we seem to agree here. If I recall correctly, you don't love the phrase 'fundamental ontology,' but I am just reaching for something like 'big picture synthesizing talk.' As I see it, this kind of talk has to name and explicate itself, which is a big part of the weird metacognitive journey.
  • Paine
    2.2k
    Today there seems to be no "first philosophy," and therefore we have philosophies rather than philosophy. It's not clear to me that philosophy can prescind from metaphysics without either becoming irrelevant or else transforming itself into something else.Leontiskos

    Thinking of a single philosophy that 'rules them all' (or something of that kind) is different from the plurality of attempts to arrange the world according to such a rubric. Asking what are "first principles" is not an argument that they exist. For Plato and Aristotle, the arguments against Protagoras and Heraclitus were not over whether events were caused and natural but whether our attempts to learn more about them was a waste of time and virtue.

    Aristotle's practice of reviewing the opinions of his predecessors shows him agreeing with others on some things and opposing them for other reasons. Establishing a point of departure is not a zero-sum game where there can only be one. Making claims opens one up to them.

    The 'scholastic philosophers', however much or less they were devoted to supporting particular theological visions, were also committed to letting arguments vie for the highest place as arguments.

    From that perspective, the 'end of metaphysics' theme is not a result of a natural death but is the result of arguments based upon what that tradition allowed to be considered.
  • Leontiskos
    1.7k
    Thinking of a single philosophy that 'rules them all' (or something of that kind) is different from the plurality of attempts to arrange the world according to such a rubric. Asking what are "first principles" is not an argument that they exist.Paine

    But do not those rubrics presuppose first philosophy? And does not asking that question presuppose that there is an answer?

    I would want to say that the claim that there is a first philosophy and the claim that one has it in their hand are two different things. It seems that in the tradition Aristotle and others affirmed the first point without necessarily affirming the second, whereas today it is very common to deny the possibility of a first philosophy altogether.

    From that perspective, the 'end of metaphysics' theme is not a result of a natural death but is the result of arguments based upon what that tradition allowed to be considered.Paine

    Some who had "metaphysics" in their sights were only aiming at a particular tradition, but I should think that others really had metaphysics itself in their sights, and that it has not fared so well.

    ---

    It seems that what we mean by philosophy might be the glue that holds together all of the other formalizations of human understanding. [...] Hence philosophy exists to constantly challenge simplistic reductions and to chart the boundaries of the unknown, relative to the project of human existence.Pantagruel

    So would you say that the one who calls science (or any other field of knowledge) to account for its overreach is, by definition, a philosopher?
  • Wayfarer
    21.2k
    Some who had "metaphysics" in their sights were only aiming at a particular tradition, but I should think that others really had metaphysics itself in their sights, and that it has not fared so well.Leontiskos

    Let’s not forget Auguste Comte. It was Comte, founder of the Social Sciences, who coined the term ‘positivism’. The ‘positive phase’ comes after the ‘metaphysical phase’ and superseding it, in effect. It is characterised by scientific approach and attitude, distinguished from the rationalism of scholastic philosophy with it’s search for ‘first philosophy’ now associated with ‘revealed truth’ and deprecated on those very grounds. And accordingly, the science in the Enlightenment was characterised by the determination to start from observable facts and hypotheses drawn from them and elaborated in mathematical form - which was to become the sphere of ‘natural philosophy’. Aristotle and his teleological philosophy were among the casualties of the ‘new philosophy’, whence the exaltation of the ‘purposelessness’ amongst the natural philosophers. Only that which could be accounted for by mechanical principles and codified in mathematical terms amounted to real science.

    Welcome to modernity.
  • Pantagruel
    3.3k

    Ignoring metaphysics and invalidating it aren't the same thing though. Same thing for teleology. As Nicolai Hartmann says, it is an error to believe that the reasons for an illusion are themselves illusory.
  • GRWelsh
    185
    Has our civilization evolved to the point where philosophy can be dispensed with? At its inception, Philosophy was really an amalgam of all knowledge. However, with the diremption of philosophy and science since Bacon, and the ever-increasing hegemony of science (technology), has philosophy moved from being an "outlier" to a superfluous branch of study? Specific "tangible" areas, such as formal logic, could be assimilated into sciences such as math. While others could become the stuff of history? Does philosophy still contribute? When you are reading it, do you feel you are contributing?Pantagruel

    I've seen this topic come up repeatedly over the past thirty years or so, since I've developed an interest in reading philosophy for pleasure (early 90's) and then taking philosophy courses (late 90's). The gist usually seems to be along these lines:

    "While philosophy may have given birth to useful and valuable disciplines, it is now sort of like the old man on the porch, toothless and talking a lot, but no longer contributing in a practical way."

    "Since the 'important' parts of what was once known as natural philosophy have spun off to become disciplines in their own rights, like physics, biology, astronomy, etc. all philosophy is left with is navel-gazing."

    "Philosophy is now just a relic of history."

    These are the sentiments I see expressed over and over again. But what I would point out is that we can never really get away from doing philosophy. This discussion topic and the OP is itself, doing philosophy. By asking if philosophy is still relevant, we are engaging in philosophy. Philosophy means "the love of wisdom" and at its core is about thinking deeply and asking questions and following the argument where it leads, and that is always going to be relevant to the human experience.
  • Mww
    4.7k
    ….we can never really get away from doing philosophy.GRWelsh

    Same as it ever was, huh?

    “…. Human reason has never wanted a metaphysic of some kind, since it attained the power of thought, or rather of reflection; but it has never been able to keep this sphere of thought and cognition pure from all admixture of foreign elements. The idea of a science of this kind is as old as speculation itself; and what mind does not speculate—either in the scholastic or in the popular fashion?….”
  • Paine
    2.2k

    The attempt to understand first principles comes from looking at the world as caused, not by the Wily Nilly of converging mythological agents, but through the order we encounter in life. Presuming that some order was involved does not preclude how that is happening or how confident we could be in efforts to explain it. Whether through the indeterminacy expressed by Plato or the role of 'accidental' causes in Aristotle, the adequacy of any model of ruling principles invites what does not fit to the party.

    And yet here we are, centuries later, trying to figure out what distinguishes the 'normative' uses of language from the horizon created through scientific methods.

    What should we call such an enterprise?
  • Tom Storm
    8.6k
    These are the sentiments I see expressed over and over again. But what I would point out is that we can never really get away from doing philosophy. This discussion topic and the OP is itself, doing philosophy. By asking if philosophy is still relevant, we are engaging in philosophy. Philosophy means "the love of wisdom" and at its core is about thinking deeply and asking questions and following the argument where it leads, and that is always going to be relevant to the human experience.GRWelsh

    Except that this doesn't seem to gauge whether the philosophy being conducted is any good or not, whether it is systematic or not, whether it builds purposefully on established traditions or not, whether it has learned from mistakes or not. Philosophy may come down to 'thinking about thinking' but if it isn't taking any notice of previous work, just how philosophically useful is it? I'm sure there are any number of neophytes out there who imagine that have discovered solipsism and relativism and will likely remain energetically ignorant of any previous discourse from the tradition.
  • jgill
    3.6k
    Except that this doesn't seem to gauge whether the philosophy being conducted is any good or not, whether it is systematic or not, whether it builds purposefully on established traditions or not, whether it has learned from mistakes or not.Tom Storm

    I know the brother of this gentleman: Patrick Derr is an academic philosopher who has definitely contributed to society. He is relevant.

    Professor Derr received a B.A. from Seattle University in 1972 and a Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame in 1976. He has been at Clark since that time. He is a research professor with the George Perkins Marsh Institute and with the programs in Ethics and Public Policy, Environmental Science and Policy(ES&P) and Peace Studies. In 2007, Derr was awarded Clark’s Senior Faculty Fellowship for excellence in teaching and research.
    Current Research and Teaching

    Derr’s research interests are in the areas of medical ethics and health policy, philosophy of science, and environmental ethics and policy. As a member of the CENTED Hazards Group, he has been involved in interdisciplinary studies of radioactive waste management, occupational hazards, environmental hazard management and hazardous technology transfer.

    Much of Derr’s work is directed to the explication and analysis of ethical issues, particularly issues of justice or equity. Derr’s current writing focuses on ethical issues related to the conduct of biomedical research on human subjects in less developed countries, on questions of justice related to national energy policy, and on the application of emerging veterinary reproductive technologies to human beings. Derr teaches the graduate course on Philosophy of Science which may be selected by ES&P M.A. students. Derr has been a mentor to several ES&P graduate students and has served as an advisor for MA theses. Derr is also available for graduate level reading courses on ethical issues.
  • Tom Storm
    8.6k
    Sorry, I’m not sure what your point is.
  • jgill
    3.6k
    Does philosophy still contribute?Pantagruel

    . . . gauge whether the philosophy being conducted is any good or not . . .Tom Storm

    Depends upon how "any good or not" is interpreted. Clearly, Derr - a professor in the philosophy department at Clark - has done some good for humanity in his consulting. But if you mean just a philosopher arguing a point made by Aristotle for the umpteenth time, perhaps not.

    Derr proves that the answer to "Is Philosophy still Relevant?" is yes. At least some philosophy.
  • Tom Storm
    8.6k
    So I was responding to a specific point about the average person ‘asking questions’ about life and how philosophical this might be.
  • GRWelsh
    185
    Except that this doesn't seem to gauge whether the philosophy being conducted is any good or not, whether it is systematic or not, whether it builds purposefully on established traditions or not, whether it has learned from mistakes or not. Philosophy may come down to 'thinking about thinking' but if it isn't taking any notice of previous work, just how philosophically useful is it? I'm sure there are any number of neophytes out there who imagine that have discovered solipsism and relativism and will likely remain energetically ignorant of any previous discourse from the tradition.Tom Storm

    That's true, it doesn't. I was only responding to the OP question of "is philosophy still relevant?" and pointing out that is a philosophical question, and so we can't really get away from doing philosophy. As a friend of mine once defined it: a philosophy is just a way of looking at the world. And we all have worldviews and we're all capable of making errors and improving our worldviews. So, there is always value in critical thinking. Now, I think when one becomes interested in philosophy one is likely to be drawn to reading the literature and educating oneself on what has come before; and that is when you get into answering whether the philosophy being conducted is "any good or not" as you say. We're standing on the shoulders of giants, or at least we should be, since we can avail ourselves of everything that has come before. And that is why I would say it is still relevant to study philosophy academically.
  • Pantagruel
    3.3k
    One thing that I suggested was that the value of philosophy lies both in the academic body of knowledge, and in the quality of the minds and personae produced by exposure to the philosophical milieu. Aristotle was the tutor of Alexander and may have contributed to the shape of history significantly in that way. The sophists were highly regarded as teachers and probably exerted much influence independent of the content of their philosophies.
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