• Brett
    3k
    I read an anecdote the other day about Wittgenstein giving a lecture and how he would stop in mid sentence to deal with a thought that had suddenly occurred to him. His whole concentration went into it, as if the others were not in the same room. Most of us probably don’t have the inclination or ability to keep on burrowing down like that. Most of our time is spent on more immediate matters, some important, some trivial, but most of them chaotic and messy. So, typical day to day life.

    The philosophers throughout history (though my understanding is very rudimentary) who have addressed big and small questions and written so much about how they reached their conclusions, powerful intellects in action, also lead such messy, emotional lives.
    But their intellect seems to be like an attached section of the brain that operates independently, like a hat they put on and take off. Because despite their intellectual prowess they don’t seem to connect the logic or honesty of their thoughts with their actions.

    Heidegger snuggled up to the Nazis, Sartre treated young women as objects, Schopenhauer had a problem with Jews and looked down on women, Aristotle thought women were “deformed men”, Hume and Kant were racists, Nietzsche despised sick people, Rousseau abandoned his children, Wittgenstein beat his students, Mill condoned colonialism, Hegel disparaged Africans and Frege was anti-Semitic. (https://1000wordphilosophy.com/2018/07/17/responding-to-morally-flawed-historical-philosophers-and-philosophies/).

    Obviously some of these attitudes were social norms of the times, but it begs the question, why, with their powerful intellect, could they not discern the wrong and if they did why go along with it? They don’t appear to have applied their thinking and discrimination to themselves.

    Which makes me wonder if it’s possible that philosophy has nothing to do with life or how ones mind operates. Like I said, it’s as if philosophy is attached to the mind inorganically, that it’s completely alien to what we are.
    Is it a useless development like wings on a frog? It throws up more questions than answers and creates doubt about all possibilities. Is it an aberration that holds respect and meaning because of its attachment to the mind, the intellect being superior to all other things, like emotion or intuition? Which, of course, would be the position of the intellect.

    Is philosophy good for us?
  • Outlander
    869
    Wittgenstein beat his studentsBrett

    Lol. Hey teachers used do that allover. Meet "Ol' Spanky" the paddle. You either teach them actions have consequences in a controlled, safe manner or life will take over that role for you, and it can often be fatal.

    Nietzsche despised sick people ... Mill condoned colonialismBrett

    I'm not saying either of these things are good. Just, are you willing to coddle up with a plague victim or give your house back to whoever lived there before and live on the street? No? One quickly loses the ability to chastise and weight of argument toward what inclinations or rather beliefs behind inclinations one himself would have done. Sure, it's now passive vs. active (ie. plague is virtually non-existent/we have vaccines and as far as nations and borders, someone already did all the hard work for you). Still, just like one who uses medical research from Josef Mengele should not criticize him... Well, more broadly speaking in regards to these flawed philosophers you mention, you learn to separate the art from the artist.

    Which makes me wonder if it’s possible that philosophy has nothing to do with life or how ones mind operates. Like I said, it’s as if philosophy is attached to the mind inorganically, that it’s completely alien to what we are.Brett

    It can be a tool to unleash new methods and avenues of discovery, not just in debates, concepts, and other non-physical ideas but even science and innovation. There are quite a few parallels between how thoughts and ideas form and interact with one another and the physical world in which we dwell.

    Is philosophy good for us?Brett

    I like to think so.
  • five G
    37
    Obviously some of these attitudes were social norms of the times, but it begs the question, why, with their powerful intellect, could they not discern the wrong and if they did why go along with it? They don’t appear to have applied their thinking and discrimination to themselves.Brett

    As a Hegelian thinker might say, it takes time for the social human mind to make progress. For the most part, 'men are as the times are.' Most of the time, I am anyone, no one, a mere follower of conventions that I've perhaps never even become conscious of as conventions. These invisible conventions, too obvious to even notice and therefore criticize, and perhaps the most important. A philosopher can become great by becoming aware of only a little of taken-for-granted mass and winning some distance from it, and therefore the possibility of changing it.

    Which makes me wonder if it’s possible that philosophy has nothing to do with life or how ones mind operates. Like I said, it’s as if philosophy is attached to the mind inorganically, that it’s completely alien to what we are.Brett

    I can understand a certain slice of professional philosophy being viewed as inorganic artifice, but you mention Schopenhauer, Hegel, Hume, Heidegger,... Those guys seem very involved with life, issues of grave concern for human beings. In some ways, though, I see how philosophy is alien, transgressing, transcendent. But instead of making philosophy inhuman, it reveals the disruptive core of the human being. Humans are haunted. That's our glory and curse.
  • khaled
    2.1k
    Is philosophy good for us?Brett

    In moderation. Would be the boring straightforward answer. Also the one I'm going to give.
  • counterpunch
    337
    I have a philosophy that's quite at odds with the society, and world I live in. I cannot live in accord with my philosophy - because society doesn't work that way. The world is ideological - I'm more scientific. People draw their identities and purposes from these overlapping, religious, political and economic ideologies - and these are beyond my ability to correct because they exist in a kind of collective consciousness. If someone comes to me and starts talking about moving to another country - I can't tell them, as a matter of scientific fact, there are no countries. The earth is a single planetary environment.

    I do think in those terms for the purposes of addressing the climate and ecological crisis, but for everyday use - I'm stuck with the ideological description, everyone else seems to believe is true. Thinking about things in terms of a scientific understanding of reality necessarily takes me out of the world. Conversely, I have to form opinions about things that are purely the products of the ideological world, today. Those views say nothing about the validity of my philosophy, perhaps because philosophy is about how the world could be and should be - and not so much about how it is.
  • Brett
    3k


    I find it difficult to think of things specific that philosophy might have had a major part in creating. It might help in disentangling difficult issues but it doesn’t actually give an answer that one can act on, confident that it is the answer. It doesn’t help in deciding how many soldiers it’s worth sacrificing for a cause, or how many civilian deaths are acceptable, or if euthanising is ethical, or abortion, or if God is real, or if all men are equal.

    The whole subject about philosophy has not been about creating morality but understanding it. If philosophy has addressed morality then morality already existed. Nor has philosophy, as far as I can see, actually nailed down anything substantially true about morality. I know I can read a book on morality and the writer will lead me through their rational argument until I reach their conclusion, but in the end it’s their conclusion which will differ from others.

    Someone could refer to the American Constitution as a philosophical driven argument but isn’t it more the case that it’s based on a sense of morality, cultural to be sure, that was already present in the minds of the men who wrote it and that, as a consequence, determined right from wrong. And once again we have this dichotomy of men stating that all men are equal while at the same time owning slaves. Not to mention that many historical acts that may have been philosophically driven or influenced are later repealed or ditched because they were considered flawed. That might, again, be due to variance of social norms over time, which then suggests that philosophy is not universal. If it’s cultural then fine, but what use is it if it can’t be applied universally?

    Kant’s ideas about phenomena and noumena are very interesting, but in what way can people apply them to knowledge and their life?
    Philosophy never created anything, it just shone a light on things. But once seen it became impossible to define.

    I was thinking about Zen Buddhism and koans.
    “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”
    Your intellect will not solve this puzzle, your philosophy is not up to it.

    Though I do see, for instance, how a law may be drawn up, based on a set of morals , that addresses the guilt or innocence of an act. When it’s then decided just how the law should be applied, how it addresses nuances and other subtleties then that would be philosophy in action. But this is reasoning and argument, which logic, a field of philosophy, studies. So they do not appear to be the same thing.
  • Olivier5
    1.5k
    Philosophies are like everything else: there are good ones and bad ones. The good ones help you go through the day. The bad ones make life more miserable than it is already.
  • Brett
    3k


    The good ones help you go through the day.Olivier5

    In your experience which ones have helped you through the day?
  • Olivier5
    1.5k
    It kind of depends on what issue is bugging you at a certain point in time. Spinoza, Voltaire, Marx, Popper, Freud, Merleau-Ponty and Bateson are some of my favorite.
  • Brett
    3k


    It kind of depends on what issue is bugging you at a certain point in time.Olivier5

    Okay, but can you give me an example of philosophy in action!
  • Pussycat
    360
    What good is it to lose oneself in pointless arguments? I guess it helps pass the time, avoid real problems, before you die.
  • Brett
    3k


    I’m not sure of your meaning.
  • Olivier5
    1.5k
    can you give me an example of philosophy in actionBrett

    I can give you a few.

    1. You can't deny that Marxism had an effect on the world, good or bad.

    2. Whitehead and Russel founding modern math and the computer revolution in Principia Mathematica.

    3. More generally, the scientific method was developed by philosophers, historically. Science is an off-shot of philosophy.

    4. Popper's political philosophy (and many others' eg Raymond Aron) is at the root of modern social democracy. George Soros' Open Society Institute openly refers to Popper.

    5. Freud's hypothesis of the existence of unconscious thoughts and desires has generated a whole industry of shrinks of all kinds (some good some bad).
  • Brett
    3k


    That’s fine, but how do you apply them throughout the day with issues bugging you at the time?
  • Hippyhead
    1.1k
    Is philosophy good for us?Brett

    That's a good question. My answer would be, in moderation. A good analogy might be our relationship with food. Some is clearly necessary, but more is not automatically better, and can in fact be fatal.

    You mentioned some famous philosophers and their personal problems etc. Their deep immersion in thought and their personal issues are related, a product of the same process.
  • Brett
    3k


    a product of the same process.Hippyhead

    What is that?
  • Hippyhead
    1.1k
    In moderation. Would be the boring straightforward answer.khaled

    Oops, someone beat me to it...
  • Olivier5
    1.5k
    how do you apply them throughout the day with issues bugging you at the time?Brett

    Personally? This stuff helps me deal with all sorts of issues: professional, emotional, sexual, social... Professionally it helps me keep calm and understand my capacity of action, ie where I can more usefully contribute to stuff I care about. Emotionally, I am a bit autistic and deficient, raised by rationalists who did not display their emotions, so thinking about the limits of rationality and the usefulness of emotions has helped ground me a little more. Let's not get into sex... Socially, navigating widely different social and ethnic groups is part of my job and life, so I need to know who I am socially, where I come from and how people may perceive me because of that, but I also need to know how to bracket my culture for a period, to 'chamaleon' into another self so to speak. Thinking about the universality of man (we're all the same, deep down in spite of skin color and cultural differences) helps me tread that line. Eg I can interview a Trumpian madman intent on civil war, and understand him, in spite of being at core his opponent. Philosophy helps there.
  • Garth
    112
    Heidegger snuggled up to the Nazis, Sartre treated young women as objects, Schopenhauer had a problem with Jews and looked down on women, Aristotle thought women were “deformed men”, Hume and Kant were racists, Nietzsche despised sick people, Rousseau abandoned his children, Wittgenstein beat his students, Mill condoned colonialism, Hegel disparaged Africans and Frege was anti-Semitic. (https://1000wordphilosophy.com/2018/07/17/responding-to-morally-flawed-historical-philosophers-and-philosophies/).Brett

    We tend to think of our own moral intuitions as being universal and objective. But can you prove that they aren't a product of your own culture? I am not saying that any of these things were right. I am saying that we have no guarantee that people 500 years from now won't look back at some of the things we are doing and say "Wow... I can't believe they did X".
  • Brett
    3k


    Do you use just one branch of philosophy for all these situations? Because I can’t imagine myself going into a room full of executives and thinking “Hmmm I might need to use some of that Nietzschen will to power in this room.” and then meeting a girl and applying the same thing.
  • Brett
    3k


    We tend to think of our own moral intuitions as being universal and objective. But can you prove that they aren't a product of your own culture?Garth

    That wasn’t really the point I was trying to make. The list of philosophers was in reference to their intellectual abilities, their deep questioning, and yet they couldn’t resolve their personal issues with that intellect. So my thoughts had turned to the idea that philosophy is not really relevant or helpful to our lives.
  • Olivier5
    1.5k
    Because I can’t imagine myself going into a room full of executives and thinking “Hmmm I might need to use some of that Nietzschen will to power in this room.” and then meeting a girl and applying the same thing.Brett

    And what do you go by in those situations, if not some 'philosophy'? (explicit or implicit)
  • TheMadFool
    8.4k
    Aristotle thought women were “deformed men”Brett

    :rofl: Reminds me of the joke about how a priest talks to his congregation about god first creating Adam, the first man, and then Eve, the first woman. Someone in the crowd goes "ah well, everybody makes mistakes the first time round" :lol:

    Obviously some of these attitudes were social norms of the times, but it begs the question, why, with their powerful intellect, could they not discern the wrong and if they did why go along with it? They don’t appear to have applied their thinking and discrimination to themselves.Brett

    HIndsight is always 20/20. The philosophers you mentioned didn't have the benefit of facing the consequences of their beliefs - the ideas were still incipient, just born in a manner of speaking, and didn't have adequate time to reveal their malignant nature - some ideas are as insidious as cancers, remaining hidden until it's tool late to do anything about it. Too, my hunch is that beginnings of the antidotes for the pernicious ideas that spawned in the minds of some philosophers are to be found in these very same philosophers or their contemporaries.

    Your accusing philosophers of coming up with dangerous ideas, ideas that can lead and have led to disasters of epic proportions. However, approaching it as a disinterested observer, how good are the arguments in favor of such "...dangerous ideas..."? If it doesn't go down well with someone, it's only fair that that someone make it a point to show why the relevant arguments are flawed. Without good justifications, any criticism is empty and will likely fall on deaf ears.

    That said, philosophy is a work in progress and we should expect some mishaps along the way. My suggestion is we continue our quest for understanding reality and our place in it. There's no guarantee that the truth will make us happy but there's no necessity that we should be imprisoned by truths in such ways and to such a degree that we're completely helpless.
  • Brett
    3k


    Your accusing philosophers of coming up with dangerous ideas, ideas that can lead and have led to disasters of epic proportions.TheMadFool

    This isn’t in my post. It’s not even the subject.

    This is:

    “Which makes me wonder if it’s possible that philosophy has nothing to do with life or how ones mind operates. Like I said, it’s as if philosophy is attached to the mind inorganically, that it’s completely alien to what we are.
    Is it a useless development like wings on a frog? It throws up more questions than answers and creates doubt about all possibilities. Is it an aberration that holds respect and meaning because of its attachment to the mind, the intellect being superior to all other things, like emotion or intuition? Which, of course, would be the position of the intellect.”
  • Jack Cummins
    1k

    If you really think philosophy is such a waste of time why do you keep writing posts? As it is, I think that many people do regard philosophy as a waste of space. Surely, the best way forward is to try to make philosophy a meaningful and enjoyable activity, which engages with the dilemmas and struggles of life.
  • Brett
    3k


    If you really think philosophy is such a waste of time why do you keep writing posts?Jack Cummins

    That is not the subject of the post.
  • Jack Cummins
    1k

    Okay, you have written three paragraphs but reading through them, that is what appears to be the subtle underlying message. I am also answering the title of your thread question. However, I am not really sure what you are actually trying to say or ask.
  • Brett
    3k


    Well stop trying to read “ the subtle underlying message” because there isn’t one.

    Just because we like philosophy and just because some people have the intellect to drive down into questions then present a rational theory about what they think doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the best way of addressing problems. It may well be, but for one, not everyone possesses this ability to this degree. Many cannot keep a number of ideas in their head at the same time. That doesn’t mean they’re stupid, it means it doesn’t come naturally to them. So it’s interesting, if I’m right,that this is not a universal ability. As I said, it seems to me we already had an understanding of morality before philosophy began taking it apart to see what it “really” was. Philosophy is a tool, it’s not the answer. In fact evolutionary wise it may be that it’s not a very good tool, it may be the wrong tool for us.
  • Jack Cummins
    1k

    What do you propose as a better tool than philosophy? I would certainly say that we need other disciplines but surely philosophy is one which can lead the way on the subject of reason. You say that there was morality before philosophy, but we are talking about primitive society. Also, surely we need to go forwards not backwards. I am not saying reason alone is important but, at the same time, surely we need more reason rather than less of it in these chaotic times.
  • Brett
    3k


    surely we need more reason rather than less of it in these chaotic times.Jack Cummins

    So you think it’s lack of reason that’s behind the whole violent, tangled up, troubled world? Just keep piling on more reason, eventually it’ll work. Is it working?
  • Jack Cummins
    1k

    You write very good thread questions and I think that you should take pride in that. But, I think that you need to look into yourself more rather than project all your anger outwards. Of course, I am not saying that the need for self examination applies just to but to every one of us.

    Actually, I think part of the problem of our time is that people project onto others. Sometimes all the problems are projected as political ones and perhaps we need to examine ourselves and our own assumptions more as a starting point, whether or not this is viewed as the territory of philosophy.
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