• Jack Cummins
    I am asking about the purpose of philosophy as an underlying issue which arose for me as I was reading and replying to the thread about studying philosophy. It appears to me that generally speaking philosophy is not primarily aimed at the most material of goals and many people shy away from the subject altogether.

    My own position is that it may in itself be a vocation: a quest for truth and a deeper understanding of reality than people experience by just taking life and its conflicts at face value.

    Nevertheless, I would say that it can have great social value as well. It can be a means of questioning assumptions at the heart of politics itself. In this way it can be at the core root of social change. In this sense, it can be dangerous and perhaps this is why it is not a key part of most school curriculums.

    From my point of view, philosophy is about deeper awareness and examination of the assumptions and others. When I read threads on this site I come across writers who I believe come from a standpoint similar to my own. However, some response seem to be clever and quirky retorts or laboriously argued theories. Of course, I am not suggesting that their arguments are of any lesser value than that of others. I simply wish to ask the question of what is the purpose of philosophy?
  • Mayor of Simpleton
    I (at times) use philosophy to find ways of asking better questions.

    Then again, I didn't really answer the question of the OP of 'what is the purpose of philosophy', but rather addressed 'what is a purpose of philosophy'.

    I find the former to be a somewhat narrow scope; thus I can't answer it.
  • 180 Proof

    From an old thread, and to paraphrase the Mayor, this is 'the purpose of my philosophy':

    Only the unwise seek - love - wisdom, or strive to flourish from understanding - contemplating - the variety of ways in which we are unwise (i.e. confused, perplexed, frustrated, oblivious, sleepwalking-through-our-lives aka "foolish") that is broadly designated ontology, axiology & epistemology (prioritized by whatever schema (metaphysics) is deemed most illustrative, or illuminating). For an unwise few this becomes a way of life (ethos) - aka "thinking" - which consists in both reflective inquiries (logos) and reflective practices (mythos).180 Proof
  • Pfhorrest
    There are two important sub-questions: what use is philosophy to any given individual, and what use is philosophy to society as a whole.

    To the first sub-question I answer that doing philosophy is literally practice at being a person, exercising the very faculty (sapience) that differentiates persons from non-persons. Doing philosophy literally helps develop you into a better person, increasing your self-awareness and self-control, improving your mind and your will, and helping you to find meaning in the world, both in the sense of descriptive understanding, and in the sense of prescriptive purpose.

    It is much like martial arts for the mind: as the practice of martial arts both develops the body from the inside and prepares one to protect their body from attacks from the outside, both from crude brutes but also from more sophisticated attackers who would twist the methods of martial arts toward offense rather than defense, so too philosophy develops the mind and will from the inside, and also prepares one to protect their mind and will from attacks from the outside, both from crude ignorance and inconsideration but also from more sophisticated attackers who would twist the methods of philosophy against its purpose, into what might better be termed "phobosophy".

    In a perfect world, the latter uses of either martial arts or philosophy would be unnecessary, as such attacks would not be made to begin with, but in the actual world it is unfortunately useful to be thus prepared; and even in a perfect world, with no external attackers, martial arts and philosophy are both still useful for their internal development and exercise of the body, mind, and will.

    To the second sub-question, I answer that philosophy is the lynchpin of the entire chain of activities conducted by society, and so is instrumentally useful, in some distant way at least, toward any practical end whatsoever.

    Every practical activity involves using some tool to do some job. That work may be the original jobs of keeping our bodies alive using the original tools of our bodies themselves, i.e. medicine and agriculture. It may be the jobs of making new tools to help with that, i.e. construction and manufacturing. Or multiplying and distributing our power to do that, i.e. energy and transportation industries. Or multiplying and distributing our control over that power, i.e. information and communication industries.

    At the lowest level of abstraction away from the actual use of whatever tools to do whatever jobs, technological fields exist to maintain and administrate those tools, and business fields exist to maintain and administrate those jobs. A level of abstraction higher, engineers work to create the tools that those technologists administrate, while entrepreneurs work to create the jobs that those businesspeople administrate.

    Those engineers in turn heavily employ the findings of the physical sciences, which could be said to be finding the "natural tools" available from which engineers can create new tools tailored to specific needs. And though this step in the chain seems overlooked in society today, the ethical sciences that I envision could be said to find the "natural jobs" that need doing, inasmuch as they identify needs that people have, which we might also frame as market demands, toward the fulfillment of which entrepreneurs can tailor the creation of new jobs.

    And those physical and ethical sciences each rely on philosophical underpinnings to function, thereby making philosophy, at least distantly, instrumental to any and all practical undertakings across society.

    I hold that the relationship of philosophy to the sciences is the same as that between administrative fields (technology and business) and the workers whose tools and jobs they administrate. Done poorly, they constantly stick their nose into matters they don't understand, and tell the workers, who know what they are doing and are trying to get work done, that they're doing it wrong and should do it some other, actually inferior, way instead, because the administration supposedly knows better and had better be listened to. But done well, they instead give those workers direction and help them organize the best way to tackle the problems at hand, then they get out of the way and let the workers get to doing work.

    Meanwhile, a well-conducted administration also shields the workers from those who would detract from or interfere with their work (including other, inferior administrators); and at the same time, they are still watchful and ready to be constructively critical if the workers start failing to do their jobs well. In order for administration to be done well and not poorly, it needs to be sufficiently familiar with the work being done under its supervision, but at the same time humble enough to know its place and acknowledge that the specialists under it may, and properly should, know more than it within their areas of specialty.

    I hold that this same relationship holds not only between administrators and workers, but between creators (engineers and entrepreneurs) and administrators, between scientists (physical or ethical) and creators, and most to the point here, between philosophers and scientists. Philosophy done well guides and facilitates sciences, protects them from the interference of philosophy done poorly, and then gets out of the way to let the sciences take over from there. The sciences are then to do the same for creators, they to do the same for administrators, they to do the same for all the workers of the world getting all the practical work done.
  • Jack Cummins

    I like your reply above and I hope a lot of people read it as it gives plenty of scope for thought.
  • Pfhorrest
    Also those are dolphins not porpoises.
  • Jack Cummins

    My phone could not key into the link you provided. Surely, philosophy can be about words and not just yet another aspect of techno glamour.
    What I love about this site is about communication in words. Could you have not this? The world is already abounding in web links Perhaps philosophy will only survive if it can engage in dialogue with writers fully, rather than just become links the glamour of techno sources.
  • Jack Cummins
    Sorry if my previous response had typing errors, but it is hard writing properly on a telephone and perhaps others using computers can bear with this. In this context, my own frustration with web links can possibly be understood more clearly and appreciated. I don't suppose that I am the only person using the site on a phone.
  • Ciceronianus
    Also those are dolphins not porpoises.Pfhorrest

    Dolphins they may be, but they're known as the porpoises of art and philosophy; porpoises, that is to say, for those purposes.
  • Jack Cummins

    Dolphin have profound awareness. In spite of my own wordy responses, and complaints of difficulties about writing on a phone, I the first person to admit to the limitations of words and language, a mystic truth.

    Perhaps, the dolphins engage in sophisticated philosophical debate. Unfortunately, for the present time I am stuck mostly in a verbal mode wondering about the purpose of philosophy in a strange historical debate, wondering about the foundations of everything we have hitherto taken for granted. Will we collapse amidst a myriad of chaos, or can the philospher kings lead the way forward as illusions of cultural progress shatter before our eyes?
  • mcdoodle
    I’ve found philosophy to be therapeutic. I had no idea that this would be so when I began to be obsessed with it. Some Austrian fellow felt the same. It clarifies the mind, even if you only find yourself interrogating the question, such as: ‘Purposes?’
  • Jack Cummins
    Yes, philosophy can be so therapeutic, better than psychotherapy perhaps. I have even heard of a school of therapy based on philosophy. Surely, life understanding goes beyond the mundane aspects of childhood. Of course all experiences are important but psychoanalysis sometimes gets stuck in the past and cognitive behavioral therapy in the present. The transpersonal therapists are more engaged with philosophy and this may be a bridge between psychology and philosophy which would be meaningful for so many who lack a helpful structure for understanding their lives.
  • bcccampello
    Philosophy is the unity of knowledge in the unity of consciousness and vice versa
  • Jack Cummins

    I am not in any disagreement with you. My only contentioun would be that as philosophers we need to write as clearly as possible, in order for truths to be conveyed, free of jargon as possible, in order for philosophy to aid understanding of life rather than make it even more confusing than it is.
  • bcccampello
    I couldn't agree more with your commentary. Unfortunately, confusion in the language is very present in modern times due to the analytical school in an attempt to reduce philosophy to an internal logical technique, without any concrete basis, being far from reality. It is the analysis of the text by the text, when actually philosophy must be lived. For example, french was the most beautiful and clear language in the world. After the deconstructionists, it became the most obscure and repulsive.
  • Pfhorrest
    For example, french was the most beautiful and clear language in the world.bcccampello

    French is the most poorly pronounced Latin in the world.
  • Jack Cummins
    Perhaps we have a tower of Babel and not enough dialogue between cultures in the quest for what is important. Perhaps, greater engagement between nations and exposition of such philosophies would enable the most expansive worldperspectives to develop.

    Philosophy does not have to be about arguments always but about drawing out what lines of thought work, with a view to some kind of synthesis. But of course that is my view of a purpose of philosophy and others may see the purpose of the quest differently, with valid reasons.
  • Gnomon
    It is much like martial arts for the mind:Pfhorrest
    I liked the concept of philosophy as "martial arts for the mind". So I googled it. And sure enough that phrase is being used as a come-on for selling services for corporate training : "get off your butt, and let someone flip you on your butt, to relieve stress".

    I think teachers of college philosophy classes might increase their sign-ups, if they advertise the course as "martial arts for the mind". I'd show-up, as long as there is no actual butt-flipping. :smile:
  • David Mo
    Purpose? Many. But what philosophical purposes are based on reasonable means? Not many.

    The main (only?) use of philosophy is that it helps to question the unquestionable. That is why its tool is analysis.

    Other purposes are illusory and disproportionate to its real powers. When philosophy offers itself to be a guide for humanity it becomes a religion in disguise or falls flat on its face. It is the same thing.

    Philosophy can also be useful in rationalizing the life project that we have semi-consciously chosen. But this path can become an illusory one if we are not able to apply analytical criticism to ourselves. This is the main illusory use of philosophy: to convince us that if we are not Superman it is due to accessory circumstances.
  • Jack Cummins

    Yes, we need to get beyond justifying our life choices as that of a superman.

    Surely philosophy is about engaging with the large questions of reality and truth with freedom, with a view to trying to put together a way of seeing the world which makes sense, but with an open mind, watching life unfold with an open mind but spirit of critical analysis

    Philosophers have spent decades trying to make sense of the world. Surely, our task is to refine this and contribute to the unending search for truthful means of understanding the fuzz and chaos of life, death and the universe.
  • Olivier5
    Then again, I didn't really answer the question of the OP of 'what is the purpose of philosophy', but rather addressed 'what is a purpose of philosophy'.Mayor of Simpleton
    Yes, there could be many purposes to philosophy, as also pointed by Mo.

    Often we search in philosophy some ways to work on our weaknesses: to reassure ourselves by analysing away our fears, to buttress our confused thoughts, to strengthen our fledging morale, to calm down and get a grip on our anger, or to find the way out of a connendrum we often face.

    I think good philosophy can help solve such real-life problems, when you take it as a (modest, uncertain) self-improvement project. But it can also be treacherous. Bad philosophy can do harm.
  • Pop
    I have previously defined philosophy as information about the philosopher’s consciousness or mind activity. And I have recently defined consciousness as an evolving process of self organisation. These definitions satisfy scientific standards as they can be negated by providing an instance of philosophy that is not information about the philosophers mind activity, and likewise an instance of consciousness that is not a process of self organistion. I believe this is logically impossible.

    The two definitions put together would suggest:
    Philosophy is the expression of mind activity related to self organisation.

    Why should we need to express it?

    I think, so much of the information that surrounds humanity is anthropocentric. It is to do with concepts of value, meaning, love, connection and interrelatedness to friends, family, culture, etc.
    It only exists in relation to other humans, and in the absence of other humans would largely not exist. So any resolution to these concepts involves validation from other humans.

    This anthropocentric information is entangled in our belief systems and forms much of what we consider to be our life purpose. Much of this information is carried over from past generations. Amongst it are some truths, but a lot of it is beliefs, so half truths, and still a lot else is pure fantasy. Nevertheless it is all entangled into what we call culture or the collective consciousness, and we grow up surrounded by it, so we breathe it in and it becomes a part of who we are.

    Philosophy gives us a chance to unentangle some of this information - to see what can be relied upon and what can not – to self organize in a more realistic way. Perhaps this is its purpose.
  • dussias
    What is the purpose of philosophy? — Jack Cummins

    To me, it's simpler.

    Philos: To love
    Sophos: Wisdom.

    To love wisdom.
  • 180 Proof
    The main (only?) use of philosophy is that it helps to question the unquestionable. That is why its tool is analysis.

    Other purposes are illusory and disproportionate to its real powers. When philosophy offers itself to be a guide for humanity it becomes a religion in disguise or falls flat on its face.
    David Mo
    Agreed. Other than 'showing the fly how to get out of the fly-bottle', proposing ("self help" or "utopian") plans recipes & rituals for ("successfully") living inside or beyond (e.g. the fly-bottle) amounts to nothing but sophistry.

    To love wisdom.dussias
    In other words - as I've always reflected on this "love of" - to seek what 'the wise' seek: not merely "to be wise", but understanding how to live - judge & practice - less unwisely (especially in circumstances where and when folly - misjudgment & malpractice - is easier aka "the fly-bottle").
  • deletedmemberdp
    Jack Cummins ; " I simply wish to ask the question of what is the purpose of philosophy?"

    Without philosophy we descend into a biased truth, a truth that is simply "my" version of the truth. The interesting problem seems to be that for the truth to be unbiased it is necessary for that person seeking the truth to have his/her memory banks erased. That way the truth can be investigated from a zero start.
    Philosophy has to be used from that zero start standpoint and this creates as many problems as it solves
  • Jack Cummins

    Yes, I do agree with you that philosophy can be seen as a 'zero start' for examination of truth,
    even if this creates many problems.

    I suppose this is the beginning of the quest of the philosophers and if it was too easy there would be no work left to be done. Perhaps the constant refinement of truth allows for the evolution of ideas. The art of philosophy does not allow for a static picture.

    Of course, even then we have biases based on our life experiences and personal inclinations. But, hopefully, the more aware we can be of our biases, the more thorough we can become in the process of searching for underlying truths.
  • Punshhh
    Of course, even then we have biases based on our life experiences and personal inclinations. But, hopefully, the more aware we can be of our biases, the more thorough we can become in the process of searching for underlying truths.

    I would add the caveat that these truths are restricted to what we are able to consider from our limited perspective as animals with a recently emerged intelligence. The truths about existence and any purposes being carried out through our being here are beyond our grasp. This is why some folk turn to religion, spirituality or mysticism to address these issues. Philosophy is to an extent mute on these paths. I am not saying that these truths are necessarily beyond our understanding, but that they are veiled from us and were they to be shown to us, we might understand perfectly well. Madame Blavatsky and Djwal khul, the source of Alice Bailey's writings give an esoteric route to an understanding, although such ideas cannot be analysed philosophically as to any truths therein. So it's up the the reader to decide whether it is worth studying.
  • Jack Cummins

    I personally have read Blavatsky and Alice Bailey and other esoteric writers, especially Rudolph Steiner.

    I think these views have a lot to contribute to philosophy, but I have mentioned the esoteric traditions on a couple of other threads. I am not going to be put off by a couple of negative responses I got because I think an open mind is what is needed.

    Rather than narrowing down the perspective which can be incorporated into the philosophical arena, I think we should reading as widely as possible and not worrying too much about whether we can analyse them accordingly to conventional philosophical methods.
  • 180 Proof
    I do not want to found anything on the incomprehensible. I want to know whether I can live with what I know and with that alone. — Albert Camus

    :death: :flower:
    Philosophy is to an extent mute on these paths.Punshhh
    Perhaps because "these" esoteric "paths" make it easier to mystify & stupify than to clarify & edify; which, thereby, is probably why Western philosophy - reflective inquiry, freethought - began in Ionia with pre-Socratic proto-scientists (i.e. natural philosophers) such as Thales, Pythagoras, Anaximander, Heraclitus, et al critically deconstructing the esoteric woo-of-the-gaps (i.e. begging questions of Origins, Values, Explanations with 'mysteries' ... and fallacies) of local myths & ritual cults. Logos striving against (yet never without) Mythos.

    I don’t want to believe, I want to know. — Carl Sagan
  • Punshhh
    The only alternative to philosophy is myth, when it comes to the mind.
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