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Transcript of Philo Sucks
8/10/2019 Philo Sucks
Why It Is So Difficult To Define Philosophy?
Subject Matter: 1) Philosophy does not have anyspecific subject matterand hence cannotbe defined with regard to anyparticular area of investigation. It may
deal with every dimension of human life and can raise questions in any
field of study or endeavor (owing to this circumstance we have a varietyofphilosophies-of disciplineandphilosophies-of-subject). Hence trying
to tie philosophy exclusively to one or any specific sphere would be anunjustified limitation of its reach.
Questioning: 2) Philosophy pursues questions rather than answers. The responsibilityof philosophy is not so much to answer our questions as to question given
answers. It is not an exaggeration to say that a philosopher is someone
who can make a riddle out of any answer. A true philosopher is not
bound by any particular "truths" that set limits to his/her urge to continueasking questions. Hence philosophy cannot be defined with recourse to
some accepted tenets, beliefs and established class of propositions.
History: 3) Philosophy changes historically both in respect to its content and itscharacter. Over the centuries it has assumed very different forms
(wisdom, science, art, piety, critique, analysis, linguistic game, literaryenre) and has been practiced in very different settings (market place,
temple, monastery, studio, university, institute, conference, the Internet).
The only overriding notion that could encompass all these manifestationsof philosophy is something like "mental activity", but it is too general to
give an informative definition of what philosophy is. Thus we cannot
find a definition of philosophy that would be both essential and sensitive
to its historical variety.
Note:There are many other activities that are of mental nature too. One may be
tempted to say that philosophy deals with concepts (which is true) but many sciences dothe same.
A Side Approach to Philosophy
Three Regards: In view of the above difficulties philosophers tend to refrain from givingany object-related definition of philosophy and by rule are very reluctant
to single out one exemplary form of philosophizing. We are on a muchsafer ground if we choose instead to demonstrate what philosophy is not(negative way) or (at best) what distinguishes it from other intellectual
pursuits (dialectical way). While we cannot commit ourselves to one
single definition of philosophy we can formulate many pertinentdeterminations of philosophizing. Rather than by defining
its object(field) or the supposed permanent core essence) the nature of
philosophy could be (better) determined by making reference toits attitude, source andobjective.
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Striving: The very meaning of the wordphilosophy(derived from the Greekcompoundphilo + sophia) points at once to a special attitude of aphilosopher and her/his objective. According to this etymology,
"philosophy" is "a love of wisdom", which means that it combines both
cognitive and emotional dimension of our mind. "Love" is named first
and it is not knowledge - it is a craving and striving to attain the object oflove. But striving to learn precedes knowledge. We need the passion of
love to start and keep questioning the things that are either too familiar or
too removed from everyday concerns. The continuation of this strivingpoints to the essence of wisdom. Its posture is a passionate search for
wisdom, not the possession of it. Nothing great has ever been
accomplished without passion. Thus knowledge proves again lessdefining for philosophy than its posture. In western tradition it is not
possible to attain wisdom as a final equilibrium. Consequently,
philosophy is a state of mind (inquisitive) rather than a particular kind of
Attitude State of Mind
The Source of Philosophy
Wonder: The main source of philosophic questioning is the sense of wonder,a childlike wonderjust about everything. Philosophy starts withbewilderment, astonishment, amazement about the world, life, and
ourselves. Philosophy arises from the workings of an inquisitive mind
which is bewildered by seemingly common things or by those that appearto be entirely impractical. It emerges out of readiness to follow the call of
human intellectual curiosity beyond common sense acquaintanceship
with the world. The same idea is expressed in the old saying that thebusiness of philosophy is to deal with the things supposedly familiar, but
not really known and cognized. Philosophy reveals the illusion of
knowledge where none in reality exists. Indeed, everything touched by
philosophic bewilderment miraculously changes its character from aknown to an unknown. B. Russell resuscitates the same idea in claiming
that philosophy "keeps alive our sense of wonder by showing familiar
things in an unfamiliar aspect". As soon as we begin to philosophize, we
find that even the most everyday things lead to confusing problems whilethose initially "impractical" issues often prove very significant even for
our mundane needs and certainly for our self-understanding.
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The Aim of Philosophy
Insight: Philosophy does not stay by pure bewilderment and amazement.Philosophers articulate their initial amazement by
formulatingquestions(mostly what- and why-questions) that guide their
curiosity toward comprehension of the problem. This does not mean thatthey seek a simple formula for all the puzzles of the world (the proverbial
"philosophic stone"). Philosophy aims at understanding and enlightenment
rather than shorthand answers. While striving to bring some light into thecomplexity of human life and the universe it pursues the old longing for
the truth about the whole. Philosophy is absolutely committed to the truth,
"the whole truth and nothing but the truth". However, the truth of
philosophy is never given and complete as we cannot definitely close outthe totality it strives to capture (as Lacan says: I always speak the truth but
only partail). Therefore the search for truth is rather like perpetual striving
for more insight than for the final word on the matters of life and the
world. Whenever one is engaged in philosophizing the chances are thatthings will become more complex and difficult than before.
Questions Man is a questioning being. But our questions could be of very different
kinds. Some are simple and casual, some very difficult and complex, some
mindboggling or even obscure.
QuestionsAsked by Answered by
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Standards,Raising New Issues.
Inconclusive Results When we look at the history of philosophy it appears that philosophynever attains final conclusions about anything. Even though philosophy
takes its subject-matter both from our everyday experience and the
sciences, it constantly remains on the level of conceptual analysis, criticalexamination, new ideas, and so time and again fails to produce definitive
"positive results". Russell admits that philosophy is not very much
successful in providing "definite answers" to its questions but explains the
apparent inconclusiveness of philosophic answers partly as deceptive,partly as inevitable:
(a) "Those questions that are already capable of definite answers are
placed in the sciences, while those only to which, at present, no definiteanswers can be given, remain to form the residue which is called
philosophy." Thus philosophic questions can turn into scientific truths assoon as hey are answered. In other words, many scientifically established
truths have started as philosophic questions, but once they received
definite answers they get moved to the realm of science. If one is not
familiar with the historical development of science and does not know thatits many questions originated in philosophy s/he may think that
philosophers have been doing philosophy over two thousand years without
being able to produce anything valuable ("positive results"). But this
impression of perpetually continuing futility would be a very deceptive
(b) There are also many interesting questions both in science and
philosophy that are currently unanswered. Sometimes it is difficult to
predict whether and when they will be answered. Hence they could bepursued both by philosophy and science (just think about the cosmological
questions regarding the origin, size and future of the universe, or the
questions about the neurological foundations of our thinking and value
udgments). If it becomes clear that these questions are definitelyanswerable philosophy will deal with their general implications while
relegating them to the sciences.
(c) Philosophy does not deal only with the quest