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Philosophy report final

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Why should we study philosophy?

Why should we study philosophy?

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    Philosophy report final Philosophy report final Document Transcript

    • PHILOSOPHY REPORTWHY SHOULD WE STUDY PHILOSOPHY? 1
    • PHI 114: Introduction to philosophy Title WHY SHOULD WE STUDY PHILOSOPHYPrepared Kaniz Kakon (Lecturer) for Group Member Serial Name ID 01 Jani Molla 09102166 02 Nazmul Huda 09102157 04 MD.Ali Mortuza 09102169 05 MD. Mehdi hasan 09102098 Date: 21 March 2011 LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL 2
    • Kaniz KakonFaculty,College of Arts and ScienceInternational University of Business, Agriculture & Technology4 Embankment Drive Road, Sector- 10,Dhaka -1230, Bangladesh.Dated, Dhaka,March 22, 2011Dear Madam,Thank you for giving us such an interesting report on “Why should we studyphilosophy ”. This project will help us to know about the philosophy, it’s meaningand the necessity . There were a lot of concepts which wasn‘t clear to us since itwas hard for us to imagine clearly. By working a lot about this topic will increaseour knowledge power and also our English language power. It will also help us toknow about the related topics including this topic. With our little knowledge of thesubject we tried to make it as interesting and as accurate as possible. The groupcompiled very well that is why we had really fun working with each other.Hopefully you will enjoy reading this project as much as we enjoyed making it.Thanking you once again.Group: Authentic ACKNOWLEDGEMENT 3
    • Definitely all praise to Allah. So, first of all, we express my deep gratitude toalmighty Allah who has created and natures us in these transient world. We alsohave to put my heartfelt respect and gratitude for the kindness and co-operationthat was provided to us to complete our report on “Why should we studyphilosophy”. In preparing our report we have taken great assistance and supportfrom some persons and Websites. We would like to express our gratitude andheartfelt thanks to all of them who helped us to get desired information. Weexpress our sincere gratitude to our teacher Kaniz Kakon, who showed usflexibility to choose the subject matter of the report and also guided us enough byproviding a thorough outline of the report and preparation. At last we would liketo express our thanks to the authors, article writers and friends who helped us inevery stage of the report by providing valuable information and suggestion inrespect of preparing these report. Table of Content 4
    • S.l. Content Page no. 1. Title page 1 2. Title fly 2 3. Letter of transmittal 3 4. Acknowledgement 4 5. Introduction 6 6. Background study 7-9 7. Branches of philosophy 9-12 8. Why it is so difficult to define philosophy? 12-13 9. Reason of philosophy 13-15 10. Objectivity (philosophy) 16 11. Objective vs. Subjective in philosophy 17 12. The aim of philosophy 17-19 13. Why is philosophy important? 20 14. Why should we study philosophy? 21-23 15. Conclution 23 INTRODUCTION 5
    • How can we define philosophy? Philosophy could be defined in many different ways. Sometimesone definition very easily overlaps another definition. In some instances, two differentdefinitions create a new definition. Using Hegels terminology, a "new synthesis." Furthermore,we can say that every definition of philosophy brings meaning and relevance into the humanpatrimony. However, we feel we need first of all to understand what is it we mean when wespeak of the word "definition." In its most simplistic meaning, definition is view as the act ofdefining, a statement of meaning. Such meaning needs to have relevance to the person who isreceiving the information. Such meaning could contain a set of different layers that woulddetermine the real significance its trying to convey. Things such as culture, language spoken orwritten, gender roles, prejudices, education, knowledge, personal interests, all of these items, arethe ones that constitute the real meaning of the word definition. Therefore, as one attempts todefine any term in contemporary language, one needs to comprehend the different coatings ofmeaning behind any word. At the same time, one needs to take into consideration the changes oflanguage through time. Language is living phenomena, a phenomenon that is constantlychanging. If we considered this element in the construction of our definition of philosophy, wewill understand that a definition only attempts to bring the student closer to the ultimate meaningHaving this in mind, philosophy could be defined as ones own ideas, attitudes or beliefs aboutcertain issues. This implies that the way we feel about life, death, sex, marriage, politics, andreligion is philosophy, a philosophy that has gone from the personal belief towards thecommunal belief as a society. Any educational institution has a "philosophy of education." Apolitical party has a specific philosophy dealing with the way a nation should be ruled, "politicalphilosophy." Even when a young man or woman decides to take a step in relationship to his/herown sexuality, such an action is the implementation of an individual philosophy about sex; thisin turn has created the American attitude towards sex. A good example would be to look at theattitude of the Baby Boomer. It is very inetersting to see the generation from the late 60s andearly 70s. Their belief about sex was the foundation for our contemporary attitude towards it. Allof these attitudes we see in common people today, is a direct result of the philosophy our societyhas created. Therefore, as we attempt to make an honest analysis of the condition of our culture,we must take into account the many different ways people "feel" about life. Without philosophy, without questioning, we would be condemning ourselves to spend the restof eternity in the limbo of conformity. Where would we be without Galileo claiming the earthwas round? How far could Christianity have gotten without the revolutionary mind of MartinLuther? How many individuals could still be considered demon possessed without Pasteur?Where would the world be without the minds of Nietzsche, Sartre, Kierkegaard or Marx?Philosophy, therefore, should be studied for the sake of discovering how we arrived at ourpresent way of thinking. We need to study philosophy if we are serious about understanding thehuman condition. Todays world is so diverse; one can get lost in it. However, as we approachthe issues of the world with a clear understanding about where those ideas came from, we canhave a clearer picture of the world we live in today. And, we might also discover what directionswe might seek in the future. BACKGROUND OF PHILOSOPHY 6
    • Western philosophy: Western philosophy has a long history, conventionally divided into four large eras - theAncient, Medieval, Modern, and Contemporary. The Ancient era runs through the fall of Romeand includes the Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle. The Medieval period runs untilroughly the late 15th century and the Renaissance. The "Modern" is a word with more varieduse, which includes everything from Post-Medieval through the specific period up to the 20thcentury. Contemporary philosophy encompasses the philosophical developments of the 20thcentury up to the present day.Ancient philosophy: Western Philosophy is generally said to begin in the Greek cities of western Asia Minor(Ionia) with Thales of Miletus, who was active around 585 B.C. and left us the opaque dictum,"all is water." His most noted students were Anaximenes of Miletus ("all is air")and Anaximander (all is apeiron).Other thinkers and schools appeared throughout Greece over the next couple of centuries.Among the most important were Heraclitus ("all is fire", all is chaotic andtransitory), Anaxagoras (reality is so ordered that it must be in all respects governed by mind),the Pluralists and Atomists (the world is composite of innumerable interacting parts),the Eleatics Parmenides and Zeno (all is One and change is impossible), the Sophists (becameknown, perhaps unjustly, for claiming that truth was no more than opinion and for teachingpeople to argue fallaciously to prove whatever conclusions they wished). This whole movementgradually became more concentrated in Athens, which had become the dominant city-statein Greece.There is considerable discussion about why Athenian culture encouraged philosophy, but apopular theory[which?] says that it occurred because Athens had a direct democracy. It is knownfrom Platos writings that many sophists maintained schools of debate, were respected membersof society, and were well paid by their students. Orators influenced Athenian history, possiblyeven causing its failure (See Battle of Lade). Another theory explains the birth of philosophicaldebate in Athens with the presence of a slave labor workforce which performed the necessaryfunctions that would otherwise have consumed the time of the free male citizenry. Freed fromworking in the fields or other manual economic activities, they were able to participate in theassemblies of Athens and spend long periods in discussions on popular philosophical questions.Students of Sophists needed to acquire the skills of oration in order to influence the AthenianAssembly and thereby increase respect and wealth. In response, the subjects and methods ofdebate became highly developed by the Sophists.The key figure in transforming Greek philosophy into a unified and continuous project - the onestill being pursued today - is Socrates, who studied under several Sophists. It is said thatfollowing a visit to the Oracle of Delphi he spent much of his life questioning anyone in Athenswho would engage him, in order to disprove the oracular prophecy that there would be no manwiser than Socrates. Through these live dialogues, he examined common but critical conceptsthat lacked clear or concrete definitions, such as beauty and truth, and the virtues of piety,wisdom, temperance, courage, and justice. Socrates awareness of his own ignorance allowedhim to discover his errors as well as the errors of those who claimed knowledge based uponfalsifiable or unclear precepts and beliefs. He wrote nothing, but inspired many disciples, 7
    • including many sons of prominent Athenian citizens (including Plato), which led to his trial andexecution in 399 B.C. on the charge that his philosophy and sophistry were undermining theyouth, piety, and moral fiber of the city. He was offered a chance to flee from his fate but choseto remain in Athens, abide by his principles, and drink the poison hemlockMedieval philosophy: Medieval philosophy was greatly concerned with Christianity, the nature of God andthe application of Aristotles logic and thought to every area of life. Attempts were made toreconcile these three things by means of scholasticism. One continuing interest in this time wasto prove the existence of God, through logic alone, if possible. The point of this exercise was notso much to justify belief in God, since in the view of medieval Christianity this was self-evident,but to make classical philosophy, with its extra-biblical pagan origins, respectable in a Christiancontext.One early effort was the cosmological argument, conventionally attributed to Thomas Aquinas.The argument roughly is that everything that exists has a cause. But since there could not be aninfinite chain of causes back into the past, there must have been an uncaused "first cause." This isGod. Aquinas also adapted this argument to prove the goodness of God. Everything has somegoodness, and the cause of each thing is better than the thing caused. Therefore, the first cause isthe best possible thing. Similar arguments were used to prove Gods power and uniqueness.Another important argument for proof of the existence of God was the ontological argument,advanced by St. Anselm. Basically, it says that God has all possible good features. Existence isgood, and therefore God has it, and therefore exists. This argument has been used in differentforms by philosophers from Descartes forward.Modern philosophy: As with many periodizations, there are multiple current usages for the term "ModernPhilosophy" that exist in practice. One usage is to date modern philosophy from the "Age ofReason", where systematic philosophy became common, excluding Erasmus and Machiavelli as"modern philosophers". Another is to date it, the way the entire larger modern period is dated,from the Renaissance. In some usages, "Modern Philosophy" ended in 1800, with the rise ofHegelianism and Idealism. There is also the lumpers/splitters problem, namely that some workssplit philosophy into more periods than others: one author might feel a strong need todifferentiate between "The Age of Reason" or "Early Modern Philosophers" and "TheEnlightenment"; another author might write from the perspective that 1600-1800 is essentiallyone continuous evolution, and therefore a single period. Wikipedias philosophy section thereforehews more closely to centuries as a means of avoiding long discussions over periods, but it isimportant to note the variety of practice that occurs.A broad overview would then have Erasmus, Francis Bacon, Niccolò Machiavelli, and GalileoGalilei represent the rise of empiricism and humanism in place of scholastic tradition. 17th-century philosophy is dominated by the need to organize philosophy on rational, skeptical,logical and axiomatic grounds, such as the work of René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, and ThomasHobbes. This type of philosophy attempts to integrate religious belief into philosophicalframeworks, and, often to combat atheism or other unbeliefs, by adopting the idea of materialreality, and the dualism between spirit and material. The extension, and reaction, against thiswould be the monism of George Berkeley(idealism) and Benedict de Spinoza (dual aspect 8
    • theory). It was during this time period that the empiricism was developed as an alternative to skepticism by John Locke, George Berkeley and others. It should be mentioned that John Locke, Thomas Hobbes and Edmund Burkedeveloped their well known political philosophies during this time, as well. The 18th-century philosophy article deals with the period often called the early part of "The Enlightenment" in the shorter form of the word, and centers on the rise of systematic empiricism, following after Sir Isaac Newtons natural philosophy. Thus Diderot, Voltaire, Rousseau,Montesquieu, Kant and the political philosophies embodied by and influencing the American Revolution and American Enlightenment are part of The Enlightenment. Other prominent philosophers of this time period were David Hume and Adam Smith, who, along with Francis Hutcheson, were also the primary philosophers of the Scottish Enlightenment and Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson who were philosophers of the American Enlightenment. The 19th century took the radical notions of self-organization and intrinsic order from Goethe and Kantian metaphysics, and proceeded to produce a long elaboration on the tension between systematization and organic development. Foremost was the work of Hegel, whose Logicand Phenomenology of Spirit produced a "dialectical" framework for ordering of knowledge. The 19th century would also includeSchopenhauers negation of the will. As with the 18th century, it would be developments in science that would arise from, and then challenge, philosophy: most importantly the work of Charles Darwin, which was based on the idea of organic self-regulation found in philosophers such as Adam Smith, but fundamentally challenged established conceptions. Also in the 19th century, the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard took philosophy in a new direction by focusing less on abstract concepts and more on what it means to be an existing individual. His work provided impetus for many 20th century philosophical movements, including existentialism. BRANCHES OF PHILOSOPHY I.What is Philosophy? A.The derivation of the word "philosophy" from the Greek is suggested by the following words and word-fragments. philo—love of, affinity for, liking of philander—to engage in love affairs frivolously philanthropy—love of mankind in general philately—postage stamps hobby phile—(as in "anglophile") one having a love for philology—having a liking for words sophos—wisdom sophist—lit. one who loves knowledge sophomore—wise and moros—foolish; i.e. one who thinks he knows many things sophisticated—one who is knowledgeableB.A suggested definition for our beginning study is as follows.Philosophy is the systematic inquiry into the principles and presuppositions of any field of study. 9
    • 1.From a psychological point of view, philosophy is an attitude, an approach, or a calling to answer or to ask, or even to comment upon certain peculiar problems (i.e., specifically the kinds of problems usually relegated to the main branches discussed below in Section II). 2.There is, perhaps, no one single sense of the word "philosophy." Eventually many writers abandon the attempt to define philosophy and, instead, turn to the kinds of things philosophers do. 3.What is involved in the study of philosophy involves is described by the London Times in an article dealing with the 20th World Congress of Philosophy: "The great virtue of philosophy is that it teaches not what to think, but how to think. It is the study of meaning, of the principles underlying conduct, thought and knowledge. The skills it hones are the ability to analyse, to question orthodoxies and to express things clearly. However arcane some philosophical texts may be … the ability to formulate questions and follow arguments is the essence of education." II.The Main Branches of Philosophy are divided as to the nature of the questions asked in each area. The integrity of these divisions cannot be rigidly maintained, for one area overlaps into the others.A.Axiology: the study of value; the investigation of its nature, criteria, and metaphysical status.More often than not, the term "value theory" is used instead of "axiology" in contemporarydiscussions even though the term “theory of value” is used with respect to the value or price ofgoods and services in economics. 1.Some significant questions in axiology include the following: a.Nature of value: is value a fulfillment of desire, a pleasure, a preference, a behavioral disposition, or simply a human interest of some kind? b.Criteria of value: de gustibus non (est) disputandum(i.e., (“theres no accounting for tastes”) or do objective standards apply? c.Status of value: how are values related to (scientific) facts? What ultimate worth, if any, do human values have? 2.Axiology is usually divided into two main parts.Ethics: the study of values in human behavior or the study of moral problems: e.g., (1) therightness and wrongness of actions, (2) the kinds of things which are good or desirable, and (3)whether actions are blameworthy or praiseworthy. i.Consider this example analyzed by J. O. Urmson in his well-known essay, "Saints and Heroes": "We may imagine a squad of soldiers to be practicing the throwing of live hand grenades; a grenade slips from the hand of one of them and rolls on the ground near the squad; one of them sacrifices his life by throwing himself on the grenade and protecting his comrades with his own body. It is quite unreasonable to suppose that such a man must 10
    • be impelled by the sort of emotion that he might be impelled by if his best friend were in the squad." ii.Did the soldier who threw himself on the grenade do the right thing? If he did not cover the grenade, several soldiers might be injured or be killed. His action probably saved lives; certainly an action which saves lives is a morally correct action. One might even be inclined to conclude that saving lives is a duty. But if this were so, wouldnt each of the soldiers have the moral obligation or duty to save his comrades? Would we thereby expect each of the soldiers to vie for the opportunity to cover the grenade? b.Æsthetics: the study of value in the arts or the inquiry into feelings, judgments, or standards of beauty and related concepts. Philosophy of art is concerned with judgments of sense, taste, and emotion. i.E.g., Is art an intellectual or representational activity? What would the realistic representations in pop art represent? Does art represent sensible objects or ideal objects? ii.Is artistic value objective? Is it merely coincidental that many forms in architecture and painting seem to illustrate mathematical principles? Are there standards of taste? iii.Is there a clear distinction between art and reality? B.Epistemology: the study of knowledge. In particular, epistemology is the study of the nature, scope, and limits of human knowledge. 1.Epistemology investigates the origin, structure, methods, and integrity of knowledge. 2.Consider the degree of truth of the statement, "The earth is round." Does its truth depend upon the context in which the statement is uttered? For example, this statement can be successively more accurately translated as … "The earth is spherical" "The earth is an oblate spheroid" (i.e., flattened at the poles). But what about the Himalayas and the Marianas Trench? Even if we surveyed exactly the shape of the earth, our process of surveying would alter the surface by the footprints left and the impressions of the survey stakes and instruments. Hence, the exact shape of the earth cannot be known. Every rain shower changes the shape. (Note here as well the implications for skepticism and relativism: simply because we cannot exactly describe the exact shape of the earth, the conclusion does not logically follow that the earth does not have a shape.) 2.Furthermore, consider two well-known problems in epistemology: a. Russells Five-Minute-World Hypothesis: Suppose the earth were created five minutes ago, complete with memory images, history books, records, etc., how could we ever know of it? As Russell wrote in The Analysis of Mind, "There is no logical impossibility in the hypothesis that the world sprang into being five minutes ago, 11
    • exactly as it then was, with a population that "remembered" a wholly unreal past. There is no logically necessary connection between events at different times; therefore nothing that is happening now or will happen in the future can disprove the hypothesis that the world began five minutes ago." For example, an omnipotent God could create the world with all the memories, historical records, and so forth five minutes ago. Any evidence to the contrary would be evidence created by God five minutes ago. (Q.v., the Omphalos hypothesis.) b. Suppose everything in the universe (including all spatial relations) were to expand uniformly a thousand times larger. How could we ever know it? A moments thought reveals that the mass of objects increases by the cube whereas the distance among them increases linearly. Hence, if such an expansion were possible, changes in the measurement of gravity and the speed of light would be evident, if, indeed, life would be possible. c. Russells Five-Minute-World Hypothesis is a philosophical problem; the impossibility of the objects in the universe expanding is a scientific problem since the latter problem can, in fact, be answered by principles of elementary physics. B.Ontology or Metaphysics: the study of what is really real. Metaphysics deals with the so-called first principles of the natural order and "the ultimate generalizations available to the human intellect." Specifically, ontology seeks to indentify and establish the relationships between the categories, if any, of the types of existent things.1.What kinds of things exist? Do only particular things exist or do general things alsoexist? How is existence possible? Questions as to identity and change of objects—are you thesame person you were as a baby? as of yesterday? as of a moment ago? 2.How do ideas exist if they have no size, shape, or color? (My idea of the Empire State Building is quite as "small" or as "large" as my idea of a book. I.e., an idea is not extended in space.) What is space? What is time? 3.E.g., Consider the truths of mathematics: in what manner do geometric figures exist? Are points, lines, or planes real or not? Of what are they made? 4.What is spirit? or soul? or matter? space? Are they made up of the same sort of "stuff"? 5.When, if ever, are events necessary? Under what conditions are they possible? II.Further characteristics of philosophy and examples of philosophical problems are discussed in the next tutorial. Why It Is So Difficult To Define Philosophy? 12
    • 1) Philosophy does not have any specific subject matter and hence cannot be defined with regardto any particular area of investigation. It may deal with every dimension of human life and canraise questions in any field of study or endeavor (owing to this circumstance we have a variety ofphilosophies-of discipline and philosophies-of-subject). Hence trying to tie philosophyexclusively to one or any specific sphere would be an unjustified limitation of its reach.2) Philosophy pursues questions rather than answers. The responsibility of philosophy is not somuch to answer our questions as to question given answers. It is not an exaggeration to say that aphilosopher is someone who can make a riddle out of any answer. A true philosopher is notbound by any particular "truths" that set limits to his/her urge to continue asking questions.Hence philosophy cannot be defined with recourse to some accepted tenets, beliefs andestablished class of propositions.3) Philosophy changes historically both in respect to its content and its character. Over thecenturies it has assumed very different forms (wisdom, science, art, piety, critique, analysis,linguistic game, literary genre) and has been practiced in very different settings (market place,temple, monastery, studio, university, institute, conference, the Internet). The only overridingnotion that could encompass all these manifestations of philosophy is something like "mentalactivity", but it is too general to give an informative definition of what philosophy is. Thus wecannot find a definition of philosophy that would be both essential and sensitive to its historicalvariety. REASON OF PHILOSOPHY:Most students entering university are unfamiliar with philosophy. Although high school studentsare intellectually capable of studying philosophy, they are seldom given the opportunity.Consequently, the students impressions about philosophy - impressions widespread in oursociety - are often uninformed or misinformed. They may well wonder: "Why should I studyphilosophy?"Here are some possible reasons: • Philosophy helps us understand that things are not always what they seem. P • Philosophy helps us learn about ourselves and the world. It teaches us how to grapple intelligently with basic questions such as: o "Who am I?" o "Does God exist?" o "How should I live?" o "Should I do what society tells me to do?" o "Can I be sure of any of my beliefs? o "Does my life have meaning? o "Are values just a matter of opinion?" o "What is the nature of mind, language, and thought?" 13
    • Philosophy makes us more critical. It shows us that what we take for granted may be false --or only part of the truth. Philosophy develops our ability - to reason clearly - to distinguish between good and bad arguments - to think and write clearly - to see the big picture - to look at different views and opinions. These skills are highly prized by employers and by graduate / professional schools. Theyare never outdated. They enrich our lives and our relationships. OBJECTIVITY (PHILOSOPHY):Objectivism" is a term that describes a branch of philosophy us Objectivity that originated in theearly nineteenth century. Gottlob Frege was the first to apply it, when he expounded anepistemological and metaphysical theory contrary to that of Immanuel Kant. Kants rationalismattempted to reconcile the failures he perceived in realism, empiricism, and idealism and toestablish a critical method of approach in the distinction between epistemology and metaphysics.Ethical subjectivismThe term, "ethical subjectivism," covers two distinct theories in ethics. According to cognitiveversions of ethical subjectivism, the truth of moral statements depends upon peoples values,attitudes, feelings, or beliefs. Some forms of cognitivist ethical subjectivism can be counted asforms of realism, others are forms of anti-realism. David Hume is a foundational figure forcognitive ethical subjectivism. On a standard interpretation of his theory, a trait of charactercounts as a moral virtue when it evokes a sentiment of approbation in a sympathetic, informed,and rational human observer. Similarly, Roderick Firths ideal observer theory held that right actsare those that an impartial, rational observer would approve of. William James, another ethicalsubjectivist, held that an end is good (to or for a person) just in case it is desired by that person(see also ethical egoism). According to non-cognitive versions of ethical subjectivism, such asemotivism, prescriptivism, and expressivism, ethical statements cannot be true or false, at all:rather, they are expressions of personal feelings or commands. For example, on A. J. Ayersemotivism, the statement, "Murder is wrong" is equivalent in meaning to the emotive ejaculation,"Murder, Boo!" 14
    • Ethical objectivism:According to the ethical objectivist, the truth or falsity of typical moral judgments does notdepend upon the beliefs or feelings of any person or group of persons. This view holds that moralpropositions are analogous to propositions about chemistry, biology, or history: they describe (orfail to describe) a mind-independent reality. When they describe it accurately, they are true—nomatter what anyone believes, hopes, wishes, or feels. When they fail to describe this mind-independent moral reality, they are false—no matter what anyone believes, hopes, wishes, orfeels. There are many versions of ethical objectivism, including various religious views ofmorality, Platonistic intuitionism, Kantianism, utilitarianism, and certain forms of ethicalegoism and contractualism. Note that Platonists define ethical objectivism in an even morenarrow way, so that it requires the existence of intrinsic value. Consequently, they reject the ideathat contractualists or egoists could be ethical objectivists. OBJECTIVE VS. SUBJECTIVE IN PHILOSOPHY:Differentiating Between the Objective and the Subjective: Distinctions between objectivity andsubjectivity lie at the heart of debates and conflicts in philosophy, morality, journalism, science,and more. Very often "objective" is treated as a vital goal while "subjective" is used as acriticism. Objective judgments are good; subjective judgments are arbitrary. Objective standardsare good; subjective standards are corrupt. Reality isnt so clean and neat: there are areas whereobjectivity is preferable, but other areas where subjectivity is better.In philosophy, the distinction between objective and subjective normally refers to judgementsand claims which people make. Objective judgements and claims are assumed to be free frompersonal considerations, emotional perspectives, etc. Subjective judgements and claims,however, are assumed to be heavily (if not entirely) influenced by such personal considerations.Thus, the statement "I am six feet tall" is considered to be objective because such precisemeasurement is presumed to be uninfluenced by personal preferences. Moreover, the accuracy ofthe measurement can be checked and re-checked by independent observers. In contrast, thestatement "I like tall men" is an entirely subjective judgment because it can be informed solelyby personal preferences - indeed; it is a statement of personal preference THE AIM OF PHILOSOPHY: Philosophy does not stay by pure bewilderment and amazement. Philosophers articulate theirinitial amazement by formulating questions (mostly what- and why-questions) that guide theircuriosity toward comprehension of the problem. This does not mean that they seek a simple 15
    • formula for all the puzzles of the world (the proverbial "philosophic stone"). Philosophy aims atunderstanding and enlightenment rather than shorthand answers. While striving to bring somelight into the complexity of human life and the universe it pursues the old longing for the truthabout the whole. Philosophy is absolutely committed to the truth, "the whole truth and nothingbut the truth". However, the truth of philosophy is never given and complete as we cannotdefinitely close out the totality it strives to capture (as Lacan says: I always speak the truth butonly partail). Therefore the search for truth is rather like perpetual striving for more insight thanfor the final word on the matters of life and the world. Whenever one is engaged inphilosophizing the chances are that things will become more complex and difficult than before. Philosophic Questioning Type of Asked by Answered by Questions Common Sense, Little Questions All Human Beings. Everyday Experience. Scientists, Collecting Data, Big Questions Experts, Analyzing Facts, Technocrats. Advancing Hypotheses, Providing Explanations. Analyzing Concepts, Children, Assessing Consistency, Fundamental Curious Individuals, Suggesting Alternatives, Questions Reexamining Framework, Philosophers. Evaluating Standards, Raising New Issues.Science - PhilosophyScience is the methodical study of the universe in its various aspects (physical, chemical,biological, social, mental). Science deals with questions that can be decided by experiment andobservation. Consequently, it can attain a "definite body of truths" ("positive results") at least insome domains. Says Russell: "If you ask a mathematician, a mineralogist, a historian or anyother man of learning what definite body of truths has been ascertained by his science, hisanswer will last as long as you are willing to listen." Wherever science is effective, it achievesnot only "well defined" but accurate and valid knowledge as well. Scientific knowledge advancesby accumulation constantly superseding its previous historical stages. Scientific language isunivocal and its propositions have unambiguous reference.However, science has its limits. It cannot tell us what is beautiful, good or just, what is the 16
    • meaning of life, and what we can hope for. Science does not provide evaluative and interpretiveknowledge. Moreover, science does not include full knowledge about itself. As Russell pointsout, the sciences cannot attain the unity of scientific knowledge by themselves. For that purposethey need to turn into a meta-study, which surpasses their methods and competence and leads tophilosophy.Art – Philosophy Art is a very diverse phenomenon which resists any simple and exhaustive definition. Likephilosophy, the concept of art is also an open one both historically and in terms of its possiblecurrent applications. Hence, different definitions only stress different dimensions of art: formalsignification, emotional expressiveness, intuitive character, meaningful organization ofinterrelated parts, etc. We are on the safe ground if we say that art is a creative activity aimed atproducing objects of appreciation. No matter what is its form or content, art is oriented moretoward subjective expression of views, unconscious desires, and emotions than towardargumentation, cognition or transmission of information. It emits powerful messages but thelanguage of art is more visual, acoustic, metaphorical, allusive and therefore more ambiguousthan the language of philosophy.What is the Value of Philosophy?Why it is necessary to consider the question of value with regard to philosophical thinking?Simply put, because its value is not self-evident. On the contrary, philosophy is under suspicionof being not only practically useless but of being deprived of any value. We have admitted thatphilosophy is not useful in producing tangible, immediate results. It is so helpless that it cannoteven pull a dog out of its house (Hegel). The fact is that philosophical questions do not bringincome, do not fix broken gadgets, and do not help us attract the person we may like. But theyare not worthless for that matter. They satisfy intellectual and spiritual needs (the "needs of themind"). They achieve their value indirectly, through their effect "upon the lives of those whostudy" philosophy. WHY IS PHILOSOPHY IMPORTANT?Why should anyone, including atheists, care about philosophy? Many think of philosophy as anidle, academic pursuit, never amounting to anything of practical value. If you look at the worksof ancient Greek philosophers, they were asking the same questions which philosophers asktoday. Doesnt this mean that philosophy never gets anywhere and never accomplishes anything?Arent atheists wasting their time by studying philosophy and philosophical reasoning?Certainly not — philosophy is not simply something for egghead academics in ivory towers. Onthe contrary, all humans engage in philosophy in one form or another because we arephilosophizing creatures. Philosophy is about gaining a better understanding of ourselves and our 17
    • world — and since that is what humans naturally desire, humans quite readily engage inphilosophical speculation and questioning.What this means is that the study of philosophy is not a useless, dead-end pursuit. It is true thatremaining with philosophy does not afford an especially wide range of career options, but skillwith philosophy is something which can be readily transferred to a wide variety of fields, not tomention things we do every day. Anything which requires careful thinking, systematic reasoning,and an ability to ask and address difficult questions will benefit from a background inphilosophy.Obviously, this makes philosophy is important for those who desire to learn more aboutthemselves and about life — especially irreligious atheists who cannot simply accept the ready-made "answers" typically provided by theistic religions. As Simon Blackburn stated in anaddress he delivered at the University of North Carolina:People who have cut their teeth on philosophical problems of rationality, knowledge, perception,free will and other minds are well placed to think better about problems of evidence, decisionmaking, responsibility and ethics that life throws up.These are some of the benefits which irreligious atheists, and just about anyone else, can derivefrom studying philosophy:Problem Solving Skills: Philosophy is about asking difficult questions and developing answerswhich can be reasonably and rationally defended against hard, skeptical questioning. Irreligiousatheists need to learn how to analyze concepts, definitions and arguments in a way conducivetowards developing solutions for particular problems. If an atheist is good at this, they can havegreater assurance that their beliefs may be reasonable, consistent and well-founded because theyhave examined them systematically and carefully.Communication Skills: A person who excels at communicating in the field of philosophy canalso excel at communication in other areas. When debating religion and theism, atheist need toexpress their ideas clearly and precisely, both in speaking and in writing. Far too many problemsin debates about religion and theism can be traced to imprecise terminology, unclear concepts,and other issues that would be overcome if people were better at communicating what they arethinking.Self-Knowledge: It isnt just a matter of better communication with others that is helped by thestudy of philosophy — understanding yourself is improved. The very nature of philosophy issuch that you get a better picture of what you yourself believe simply through working throughthose beliefs in a careful and systematic fashion. Why are you an atheist? What do you reallythink about religion? What do you have to offer in place of religion? These arent always easyquestions to answer, but the more you know about yourself, the easier it will be. 18
    • Persuasive Skills: The reason for developing problem solving and communication skills is notsimply to gain a better understanding of the world, but also to get others to agree with thatunderstanding. Good persuasive skills are thus important in the field of philosophy because aperson needs to defend her own views and to offer insightful critiques of the views of others. It isobvious that irreligious atheists seek to persuade others that religion and theism are irrational,unfounded, and perhaps even dangerous, but how can they accomplish this if they lack the skillfor communicating and explaining their positions?Remember, everyone already has some sort of philosophy and already "does" philosophy whenthey think about and address issues which are fundamental to questions about life, meaning,society and morality. Thus, the question is not really "Who cares about doing philosophy," butrather "Who cares about doing philosophy well?" Studying philosophy isnt simply aboutlearning how to ask and answer these questions, but about how to do it in a systematic, careful,and reasoned manner — exactly what irreligious atheists say isnt typically done by religiousbelievers when it comes to their own religious beliefs.Everyone who cares about whether or not their thinking reasonable, well-founded, well-developed and coherent should care about doing this well. Irreligious atheists who are critical ofthe way believers approach their religion are being at least a little bit hypocritical if theythemselves dont approach their own thinking in an appropriately disciplined and reasonedmanner. These are qualities which the study of philosophy can bring to a persons questioningand curiosity, and that is why the subject is so important. We may never arrive at any finalanswers, but in many ways it is the journey which is most important, not the destination. WHY SHOULD WE STUDY PHILOSOPHY?Most students entering university are unfamiliar with philosophy. Although high school studentsare intellectually capable of studying philosophy, they are seldom given the opportunity.Consequently, the students impressions about philosophy - impressions widespread in oursociety - are often uninformed or misinformed. They may well wonder: "Why should I studyphilosophy?"Here are some possible reasons: • Philosophy helps us understand that things are not always what they seem. P • Philosophy helps us learn about ourselves and the world. It teaches us how to grapple intelligently with basic questions such as: o "Who am I?" o "Does God exist?" o "How should I live?" o "Should I do what society tells me to do?" o "Can I be sure of any of my beliefs? o "Does my life have meaning? 19
    • o "Are values just a matter of opinion?" o "What is the nature of mind, language, and thought?" Philosophy makes us more critical. It shows us that what we take for granted may be false --or only part of the truth. Philosophy develops our ability - to reason clearly - to distinguish between good and bad arguments - to think and write clearly - to see the big picture - to look at different views and opinions.These skills are highly prized by employers and by graduate / professional schools. They arenever outdated. They enrich our lives and our relationships. By studying the writings of great philosophers we see the extent to which philosophy hasinfluenced science, religion, government, education and art. Philosophy empowers us to critically examine ours views and the views of others.Occasionally this leads us to reject our "inherited" views; however, it should always give us newand creative ways to deal with problems we could not otherwise solve.We all have a certain attitude towards life, we all have different hypotheses regarding FlyingSpaghetti Monsters, and we all have a standard by which we measure good and evil. The onlydifference, as Rand says, is “whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational,disciplined process of thought…or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarrantedconclusions.” CONCLUTIONThe study of philosophy serves to develop intellectual abilities important for life as a whole,beyond the knowledge and skills required for any particular profession. Properly pursued, itenhances analytical, critical and interpretive capacities that are applicable to any subject-matter,and in any human context. It cultivates the capacities and appetite for self-expression andreflection, for exchange and debate of ideas, for life-long learning, and for dealing with problemsfor which there are no easy answers. It also helps to prepare one for the tasks of citizenship.Participation in political and community affairs today is all too often insufficiently informed,manipulable and vulnerable to demagoguery. A good philosophical education enhances thecapacity to participate responsibly and intelligently in public life. In short, the study ofphilosophy increases one’s intellectual powers, and as a result it improves one’s chances of 20
    • staying afloat in the high and often choppy seas of human action and human thought. Philosophyis a superb undergraduate major. Far more people ought to consider it seriously. THE END 21