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Philosophy Needs a New Definition (lareviewofbooks.org)
100 points by jseliger on Dec 19, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 66 comments

The cresting of a wave is but its fall; the flash of a bolt of lightning is but its fading.

Likewise, knowledge, drinking up the water of ignorance, grows so large that it completely annihilates itself.

This absolute knowledge is like the intrinsic fullness of the moon, which is unaffected by its apparent waxing and waning.


Knowledge that is acquired is not like this. Those who have it worry if audiences like it or not. It's a bait for popularity. Disputational knowing wants customers. It has no soul... The only real customer is God. Chew quietly your sweet sugarcane God-Love, and stay playfully childish.


My words are very easy to understand

And very easy to practice.

Still, no one in the world

Can understand or practice them.

My words have an origin.

My deeds have a sovereign.

Truly, because people do not understand this,

They do not understand me.

That so few understand me is why I am treasured.

Therefore, the sage wears coarse clothes, concealing jade.

~Lao Tzu

Perhaps, the article showcases a confusion between the knowledge of the world, deemed philosophy, and the knowledge of the absolute, also called philosophy. Hence, there is philosophy as interpretation and argument on the one hand, and philosophy as revelation on the other. This is seen in the philosophers listed in the article.

Robert Pirsig differentiated philosophy in a similar way: between Philosophy, the knowledge of the world; and Philosophology, the kind of organising things they do in Anglo-American Philosophy departments, in his classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Thank you.

Philosophy used to be the general designation assigned to anyone who thought alot. This was before science and the delineation of disciplines of thought.

Physicists used to be known as natural philosophers. As the conceptual tools and frameworks they used became so refined and distant from the sort of thinking people normally do that the intelligent layman couldn't contribute, it became clear the activity of the natural philosophers was not just philosophizing, it was doing physics. Thus the physicist was born.

Basically any time a field develops, in that a specific set of related questions is identified and pursued, the devotees to the field become identified with the field. Biologists, linguists, psychologists, physicists, chemists... They are all essentially philosophers, all thinking critically about problems that concern them, but we want to be precise with our language so we develop more specific words to describe them and their actions.

I like Russell's definition (and his beautiful prose):

Philosophy, as I shall understand the word, is something intermediate between theology and science. Like theology, it consists of speculations on matters as to which definite knowledge has, so far, been unascertainable; but like science, it appeals to human reason rather than to authority, whether that of tradition or that of revelation. All definite knowledge—so I should contend— belongs to science; all dogma as to what surpasses definite knowledge belongs to theology. But between theology and science there is a No Man's Land, exposed to attack from both sides; this No Man's Land is philosophy

Think of a triangle. At one point is "philosopher", at another "asshole", and the third "idiot".

Consider the edge between "philosopher" and "idiot" to be "innocent love". Consider the edge between "philosopher" and "asshole" to be "pure knowledge".

The total idiot has all the love and none of the knowledge. The total asshole has all of the knowledge and none of the love. The total philosopher has all the love and all of the knowledge.

Anti-philosophers fall somewhere along the "asshole-idiot" spectrum. Stock brokers, tech bloggers, newscasters, Hollywood actors. You get the drift.

That's a two-dimensional matrix, not a triangle. Love on one axis and knowledge on the other

Say that love and knowledge are linearly independent, forming a basis of ℝ². So then we can think of linear combinations of love and knowledge as points in ℝ².

Then, by Carathéodory's Theorem [1], the convex hull [2] of any set of such points may be written as a convex combination [3] of no more than 2+1=3 points.

folksinger simply gave us the set {philosopher, asshole, idiot}, from which to generate a convex hull in the plane (in this case, a triangle).

If we choose knowledge as the y-axis and love as the x-axis, folksinger argues that the philosopher lies somewhere in quadrant 1, the asshole in quadrant 2, and the idiot in quadrant 4.

I guess the question remains as to whether or not this particular embedding of the triangle in the plane really does represent the truth of the matter. :-) (It seems to me he is saying there cannot be evil philosophers, although maybe somebody can think of examples of people who are "full of love" but evil nonetheless.)

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carath%C3%A9odory%27s_theorem_...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convex_hull

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convex_combination

"...speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ..." Ephesians 4:15 (RSVCE)

I don’t think you should write off anti philosophers like this, although I don’t know wat you know about them.

are you suggesting the philosopher is at the apex ?

This is exactly the kind of comment which confirms my opinion about how useless philosophy is.

I am honestly wondering if you are trolling or actually trying to make a point.

Why do you think philosophy is useless?

This is exactly the kind of comment that confirms my hypothesis of the anti-philosophical spectrum.

From the headline, I thought that the article would be some materialist Sam Harris fanboy talking about how analytic philosophy is the only real philosophy and how science can tell us objective truths about morality. Count me surprised! This writer has great taste.

Philosophy and poetry are closely related. Transmission of knowledge is very difficult. People don't learn well through textbooks and diagrams; they learn through metaphors and poetic forms. Philosophy must be entangled with messy stuff like this, otherwise pedagogy is impossible.

> how analytic philosophy is the only real philosophy

Which is especially damning when analytic philosophy seems to be stuck in an ossified understanding of logic and the kind of rigorous arguments used in mathematics.

A response to analytic philosophy from mathematics can be found in Synthetic Philosophy of Contemporary Mathematics [1]. I enjoyed the book quite a bit but I do have a math background so I don't know how accessible it is for a layperson or even a professional philosopher that isn't familiar with contemporary math. The philosophical arguments weren't hard to follow for me though and I'm by no means steeped in philosophy.

A response to analytic philosophy from contemporary logic can be found in the work of Jean-Yves Girard. In particular, the opposition of syntax/semantics is criticized. Girard prefers to treat proofs as mathematical objects in of themselves, i.e. realizability. See The Blind Spot [2] and if you read French, [3] is a non-technical explanation of his post-classical logical ideas.

[1] https://www.urbanomic.com/book/synthetic-philosophy-of-conte...

[2] https://www.maa.org/press/maa-reviews/the-blind-spot-lecture...

[3] http://www.editions-allia.com/fr/livre/749/le-fantome-de-la-...

For most people, yes, I'd agree. For me personally, not really. I grasp abstractions and formal stuff almost instantly, but it takes a lot of grappling with the text for me to come to terms with continental philosophy. Like, I had zero trouble with Kant's Critique, but I had to read Discipline and Punish 3 times before I felt like I "got it".

NOTE: This doesn't mean I disparage continental philosophy, just noting that the discursive/narrative mode is not intuitive for everyone.

Foucault is actually, I'd say, one of the more analytically inclined continentals. He does have his fun with language, but underneath the robust terminology, narrativity, historical examples, and fun arrangement he is often describing some abstraction over social conditions and then drawing interconnections between these social abstractions. Of course, he highlights their complexity, and a great deal of his work has an intentional subversiveness or off-putting quality to it which can make the reading additionally difficult (structuralism denies subjectivity which already tends to make us uncomfortable).

I find a big difference between continental philosophers and analytics are the sorts of methods they feel comfortable employing. I find analytics take sequenced, bottom-up, and reductive approaches to explore an issue and try to get at a larger problem.

Continentals contrarily tend to rely on expansion instead of reductions (zooming into complexity instead of temporarily filtering out), approach issues from top-down, and are a bit looser with arrangement and structuring--though do so with particular purpose.

Of course this opposition is forced--plenty of philosophers from each camp mix a variety of methodologies and this binary opposition is itself just a reductive procedure to try to get at some sort of understanding and highlight certain attributes.

What has best helped my reading of philosophy from both sides is focusing on meta-issues; what techniques is this author using, can I create a summary of this, what do I find lacking, where are holes in my understanding, can I frame this person's experience to inform my knowledge of the approach, can I frame their references, what amount of this text is playing to the conventions the audience expects, how should I be changing my reading strategy to best comprehend this text?

Everyone is quick to judge the quality of a writer, yet we are far less reflective when it comes to our performance as readers--which is a shame. I think a lot of understanding is hampered by a lack of concern for one's own reading practices and in general a lack of emphasis on the importance of being a well-behaved reader. The work of a book is a shared struggle. Nietzsche understood this well, and I think his aphorisms on writing and reading are actually some of his best (I suppose that makes sense, given his background as a philologist)

Well, really focusing on meta-issues, my own manners and behavior as a reader, and reading Wittgenstein. Philosophy too, is a game.

> This doesn't mean I disparage continental philosophy, just noting that the discursive/narrative mode is not intuitive for everyone.

My problem with continental philosophy isn't the intuition (or lack thereof), but rather its lack of precision.

I've noticed I have a similar problem myself. What other authors have you found interesting and accessible?

If you are interested at all in continental philosophy, I'd say Lyotard is a really good place to start for folks coming from an analytic philosophy or hard science background. He engages with some of the same ideas as the rest of the continental milieu but his writing style is not nearly as dense and allusive as the rest. For more contemporary stuff, Badiou is really interesting. He's, among other things, trying to bridge the gap between analytic and continental philosophy. If you want to dive deeper, I'd try to understand the historical development of contemporary continental philosophy from Kant through German idealism via Hegel. A lot of the stuff that is confusing in continental philosophy is confusing because we tend to teach it without regards to its historical development (I know my continental philosophy class was like this at least).

Not OP, but I find Hofstadter's later works are very accessible. Likewise I find much of Bertrand Russell's writing very easy to read, while not lacking in precision in the least.

Well put. In this vein, for the economically inclined, I highly recommend "The Romantic Economist" by Richard Bronk. https://www.amazon.com/Romantic-Economist-Imagination-Econom...

>Since economies are dynamic processes driven by creativity, social norms, and emotions as well as rational calculation, why do economists largely study them using static equilibrium models and narrow rationalistic assumptions? Economic activity is as much a function of imagination and social sentiments as of the rational optimisation of given preferences and goods. In this book, Richard Bronk argues that economists can best model and explain these creative and social aspects of markets by using new structuring assumptions and metaphors derived from the poetry and philosophy of the Romantics. By bridging the divide between literature and science, and between Romanticism and narrow forms of Rationalism, economists can access grounding assumptions, models, and research methods suitable for comprehending the creativity and social dimensions of economic activity. This is a guide to how economists and other social scientists can broaden their analytical repertoire to encompass the vital role of sentiments, language, and imagination.

Paraconsistent logics are demonstrably weaker, so there is that...

But weaker logic does not imply weaker philosophy.

People tend to forget that PhD (when translated into english) means "Doctor of Philosophy in..."

While getting my bachelor's in math, I often heard peers explain the following: Math ==> Physics ==> Chemistry ==> Biology ...with the intended implication that all science rests on math.

Here's the diagram I'd come back with. It wasn't exactly met with enthusiasm: Philosophy ==> Math ==> Physics ==> Chemistry ==> Biology

That is in fact why mathematics is referred to as the "queen of the sciences" -- philosophy is king.

And PhD is literally "teacher of the appreciation of knowledge" -- until recently you had "the PhD" and were qualified to teach, theoretically, any subject.

There's a clear distinction. Mathematics is axiomatic, anything that is proven in mathematics is also true in physics, provided it's in the correct context. This can be extended to the other sciences as well, anything that is true in a model of physics is also true in chemistry or biology as well, again, provided the right context.

This doesn't hold true for philosophy, since philosophy has no requirement of logical or empirical consistency which mathematics and the sciences do.

I'd argue the distinction is not as clear as you think. You use the words proven & true as if the word we use to describe gravity isn't "theory."

Considering Philosophy to be a superset, inclusive of mathematics but not exclusive to it, means portions of philosophy such as logic & applied ontology (aka statistics) fit within your axiomatic definition.

Applied chemistry is biology, applied physics is chemistry, and applied math is physics.

Applied philosophy is not math.

Another way to look at it is asking why in biology leads you to chemistry, asking why in chemistry leads you to physics, and asking why in physics leads you to math. Asking why in math does not lead you to philosophy.

Thinking about logic is a discipline of philosophy.

Applied logic is math.

I'm referring to philosophy as the study of matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Applied logic feels like discrete math to me.

Semantic discussions (such as debating a definition) tend to make us intellerrrrlectuals argue about things we agree on, as appears to be the case here.

It's helpful to split Philosophy into two over-arching conceptual umbrellas:

- Epistemology - "how do we know what is real/true?"

- Ontology - "what is reality/truth?"

Epistemology is the portion of philosophy that likely rubs you the wrong way: theology is founded on epistemology. That said, so are linguistics & Political Science. In addition, mathematical NOTATION is a subset of linguistics, albeit an especially strict one.

Logic, Algebra, &, not least of all, statistical-modeling are the spawn of ontology. Without the ontological sub-dicipline of metaphysics, there would be no mathematical innovation. Whether you think calculus was discovered or invented, it would never come about if Newton(/that-German-Guy) hadn't been considering metaphysics.

Metaphysics rests on the theory that our epistemological-mathematical-notation provides a linguistic analog sufficient to describe the items & phenomena we have thus-far discovered as a species.

So what? In the UK we have a bunch of old farts who get made Knights of the Realm. Doesn't make them great fighters. It's just a name.

Philosophy today is a joke, it's all the bits which real, disciplined, thinkers can't be bothered with yet. Philosophy is a massive con, basically armchair thinkers who offer no practical, testable, recreatable, advice. And I did an actual Philosophy degree!

The only bastion of Philosophy had left was moral philosophy and even that's becoming irrelevant now neuroscience and social science are becoming grown up sciences and giving us cold, hard facts of why our brain finds things moral or not, and what moral rules actually work for communities.

Meanwhile, the moral philosophers all wander off and have a good old argument about if being altruistic is really being altruistic because it makes you feel good and what is the meaning of the word 'know'. So edgy, so sexy, so completely pointless.

> what is the meaning of the word 'know'.

that's the quintessential question, the holy grail.

> so completely pointless.

* pointfree

> So what? In the UK we have a bunch of old farts who get made Knights of the Realm. Doesn't make them great fighters. It's just a name.

blatant non-sequitur

> Philosophy today is a joke, it's all the bits which real, disciplined, thinkers can't be bothered with yet.

a recent study shows that “Physics, Mathematical Sciences and Philosophy are among the majors with the highest IQs in America, according to research.” https://thetab.com/us/2017/04/10/which-major-has-highest-iq-... – third on the list between the mathematical sciences and materials engineering. would you agree that IQ is a proxy for 'real disciplined thinking'? if you do then your assertion about philosophy is false. if you don't then you would need to explain why philosophers uniquely exhibit high IQ but fail to be 'real disciplined thinkers'.

> Philosophy is a massive con, basically armchair thinkers who offer no practical, testable, recreatable, advice. And I did an actual Philosophy degree!

the philosophical method is conceptual analysis. this can indeed be done in an armchair. it can also be done through dialogue. it can be ventured into via literature and art as the article demonstrates. it can even be performed by computational devices. as one manipulates concepts one makes claims about their interrelations and their relations to the world. these claims are amenable to analysis. it's not a massive con, it's just extremely difficult while at the same time deceptively easy because it looks like all philosophers do is "think about a bunch of stuff". philosophy is as much about introspection to see where our biases lie. think of your mind like a weighing scales, if that scales is off the measurement will be incorrect. part of philosophy is the removal of prejudices and biases from your mind and being able to spot the flaws and fallacies of others. this takes a long time. not everyone is able to do it well, some cannot do it at all. because of relentlessly increasing specialisation philosophy plays a more mediating role, it also tends towards abstraction – thus, not everyone is cut out for it. it's not to everyone's taste. just because it's not for you there's no need to trash the entire discipline. i never liked accounting (for instance) but i'd never turn around then and say it was a joke or a con.

> The only bastion of Philosophy had left was moral philosophy and even that's becoming irrelevant now neuroscience and social science are becoming grown up sciences and giving us cold, hard facts of why our brain finds things moral or not, and what moral rules actually work for communities.

bullshit. every branch of philosophy is thriving. i would argue that it is actually to the detriment of philosophy that moral philosophy and its various ethical branches (business ethics, environmental ethics, bioethics, territorial rights, human rights, and so on) secure funding over other areas through a perception that they're more relevant. they're not.

> Meanwhile, the moral philosophers all wander off and have a good old argument about if being altruistic is really being altruistic because it makes you feel good

kindergarten stuff – i suggest reading the works of the late Derek Parfit, for one, to see what actually concerns the contemporary moral philosopher

> and what is the meaning of the word 'know'.

wrong, that's epistemology (different branch to ethics)

> So edgy, so sexy, so completely pointless.

not an argument – you would think you might have learned that somewhere during your philosophy degree

> blatant non-sequitur

1. Grandparent claims there's something meaningful behind the name of a degree being prefixed with "Doctor of Philosophy in...".

2. I draw parallels between a "Knight of the realm" bearing no relevance to the martial prowess of the recipients today.

It's just a name, a tradition, it's meaningless.

I see what you mean, that is an interesting parallel. An oversight on my part.

To quote AL Daily:

Philosophy now comes to us in one form: the peer-reviewed article, published (preferably in English) in an academic journal. No wonder philosophy has become so irrelevant.

The incentives in academic philosophy aren't really around finding truth, but rather getting published so you can keep your tenure. There are a lot of academic philosophers that have crawled so far up their own asses they don't even know the way out any more. But they don't represent all of philosophy, even if they get a lot of attention.

Philosophy broadly defined is as vital and important as ever, though. I can't imagine a world in which trying to understand it is no longer important. Not everything there is to know about the world has been systematized enough to be considered a science, and any time you have a knowledge domain where the boundaries are fuzzy and poorly understood, there is going to be a place for philosophers to try and bring some order to it, even if it takes a few thousand years.

What strikes me most about philosophy is in how core it is to everything we do — and this is something I didn’t realize for the longest time. The foundations of the economic, social, and political systems we live in are based upon philosophy; on theories of the nature of man laid down by thinkers such as Rousseau, Kant, and Smith. It turns out that “self evident truths” might actually be philosophical assertions. Philosophy is the first principle upon which many ideas we may initially take for granted rest upon, and I wonder if a general lack of explicit attention and examination on the subject is partially what enables some of the "post truth" attitudes we are seeing today. The more I learn, the more I can relate to "all I know is I know nothing."

"What strikes me most about philosophy is in how core it is to everything we do — and this is something I didn’t realize for the longest time."

Same. I used to take strong exception to the idea that philosophy was worth any amount of time to study... but then I realized any argument to reject it or degrade its utility is necessarily philosophical and changed my tune.

This has been exactly my experience as well. I've been truly blown away at seeing the Genesis of many of the science and economics that so fascinates me as being born of philosophy.

Makes sense. The ugly and skeptical philosophy of Socrates was very controversial compared to the beautiful words of the Sophists, but now we all consider the disciples of Socrates to be the best philosophers. Maybe we should start having more respect for the controversial outcasts.

Maybe so indeed. Ideally I think the work should be judged on its merits rather than the acceptability of the source. That's obviously easy to say, less easy to do.

I'm not so sure. Sometimes people are misunderstood geniuses. And sometimes people are outcasts because they really are kooks.

>The incentives in academic philosophy aren't really around finding truth, but rather getting published so you can keep your tenure.

Does that distinguish philosophy from the sciences or other areas of academia?

Other areas of sciences tend to have some "customer" outside themselves, where the sciences are applied. This also tends to be emphasized in the criteria for grant proposals in many domains nowadays.

IMHO the appropriate position of philosophy in modern academia would be as "metascience", i.e., their writings should be clearly useful to scientists across other sciences, they should be informative and relevant for people doing their own science outside of pure philosophy. IMHO it currently mostly isn't.

> IMHO the appropriate position of philosophy in modern academia would be as "metascience"

I don't think we should draw too many boundaries over what's 'appropriate' philosophy -- there's a lot of stuff to think about and a lot of people around to think it. I just hope that people don't think that obscure philosophy from academic journals is the only 'real' philosophy.

Other areas of academia have to face the real world or some kind of formalism sooner or later. That keeps them grounded to some (varying) level.

> There are a lot of academic philosophers that have crawled so far up their own asses they don't even know the way out any more

Which ones?

And yet the same article says:

> To complicate matters, often fiction writers (think Dostoyevsky, Huxley, or Borges) turn out to be particularly insightful philosophers, and so do filmmakers — such as Bergman, Kurosawa, and Tarkovsky — who philosophize just as insightfully on screen. All these entanglements and contaminations mark philosophy profoundly — indeed, they make it what it is.

These two quotes are compatible only if the author thinks that modern fiction writers and modern directors are no longer insightful philosophers.

Mmm, I see. The quote you referenced was in the context "mainstream philosophy", which the author implies is synonymous with academic philosophy. (Even though more people have watched Bergman films and read Borges than have ever read an academic philosophy paper.)

Still, I think the author shifts the definition of philosophy too much, and in such a way that it bends to fit the thesis, rather than the other way around.

The author makes the point that these are philosophers, but our current pure, strict definition of that makes them just writers and filmmakers. Like you said, more people have seen one of their films, or read one of their books, than read an academic philosophy paper

Well, yes. My complaint is really about the idea of "our current pure, strict definition". Who gets to make that definition, and when was it ever different?

When Randy Cohen ran "The Ethicist" column in the NYT, and a similar program for NPR ... didn't most non-academics consider it philosophy?

When people talk about "The Trolly Problem" ... isn't that also philosophy?

So it seems to me that many more people are engaged in philosophy - "not only our cognition, but also our imagination, emotions, artistic sensibility, religious impulses" - than the author acknowledges.

At this stage in life (maybe not at the time), I relate to my own education in philosophy as "learning to think", or "learning to reason", perhaps.

You have to follow a train of thought through and address even the minutest details for logical consistency, or another person (playing the devil's advocate, most likely) will find the inconsistencies and use them to poke a hole in the entire argument. This skill is not limited to debate. Debate is just one way to exercise it.

The usefulness of being able to carry out long, cohesive trains of thought is so general and pervasive that it's hard to describe any one situation, on the lines of "a hammer is useful for getting nails into a board", that describes it rather than diminishes it.

Following this stage, there is an important realization: The details never stop. There's always more "what if"s and more "unless"es. Always another stop on the train of thought. I say it's important, because sometimes our ideas seem very big or well-contained, when in fact, it's an impossibility.

"myth, poetry, drama, mysticism, scientific thinking, political militancy, or social activism" are all alive and well. Whether we include them in 'philosophy' or not may be of importance for those seeking prestige or positions in these fields, but is a matter of little significance for the rest of us.

And there is also a need in this world for formalized thinking on fundamental questions. Not only has formal thinking often brought clarity and progress, formalism has a poetry of its own which poets know nothing about.

I love that the author quotes Kant in the context of imbuing philosophy with storytelling. It's true!

>>> begin quote

One philosopher writes, with studied relief, of arriving to “the land of truth,” which is “surrounded by a wide and stormy ocean, the region of illusion, where many a fog-bank, many an iceberg, seems to the mariner, on his voyage of discovery, a new country.” The quote is not from Nietzsche or Benjamin’s work, nor from other “literary philosophers” — it’s from Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.

>>> end quote

A good, if depressing, argument can be made for defining philosophy as "that which happens in academic philosophy departments." Ideas have a quorum of people that you have to convince in order to be taken seriously, when your thoughts aspire to the philosophical, then that quorum exists solely in the academy and related organizations grounded in the academy.

Any attempts to get outside of this mean expanding the quorum to "anyone, really." Which means the standard publishing cycle where your idea's merits are judged by sales figures. Which means that every single book out there is a philosophy treatise.

Any marketplace of ideas has to have its gatekeepers. Otherwise we all drown in a deluge of shit. Traditional literature, art, architecture, really any serious creative endeavor has an industry of people that serves as the gatekeepers that determine both the current status and the zeitgeist of the art. Outsiders must build their own audiences and fight their way in, rather than be able to tap the extant audience that the gatekeepers are the guardians of. It's difficult to see how it could happen any other way. Otherwise you get legions of wannabes proffering crap. Philosophy is no different.

Similarly, we could say that science is 'whatever studies Nature publishes', but that doesn't tell us much and threatens to leave the mistaken impression that Nature is merely capricious and arbitrary.

While I agree with your conclusion, we shouldn't forget that philosophy and other marketplaces you mention have standards based mostly on what proved to be true in the past, what can withstand argument and criticism in the idea marketplace, and on a commitment to excellence and achievement.

Profound philosophy needs to take into account messiness, but cannot be messy itself in its use of concepts, reasoning etc.

By being strict one can realise the limits of the very cognitive tools we use. Godel and Quine come to mind. The concepts are limiting, but that's all we have in philosophy.

The article mentions some exceptions, but it's a completely different playground. Rumi, Lao Tzu and Buddha were using their teachings as a practical instructions, rather than theories aiming to prove anything about the world.

For instance Rumi composed all his verses in a specific rhythms (obviously lost in translation) that, when sang and danced to, were meant to induce a specific states of mind.

Buddha explicitly said that metaphysical questions are orthogonal to the problem of suffering that he was solving (or just meaningless).

To make things even more complex, there are some similarities between teachings of the Buddha and western pragmatists.

The main problem (or the most fun part) in such discussions, is that there's no common ground to make such inter-paradigm comparisons. We always have to pick one of these viewpoints as a base and compare it to another one from that perspective.

>The article mentions some exceptions, but it's a completely different playground. Rumi, Lao Tzu and Buddha were using their teachings as a practical instructions, rather than theories aiming to prove anything about the world.

Is philosophy about proof or understanding? Math and the sciences are there to look for proof. Remember that Science used to be called Natural Philosophy, which has now become a philosophical enterprise based on conjecture and empirical reproducible observation.

We need philosophers through their teachings to make sense of all that messiness and let those branches of philosophy such as the sciences gradually work out how it works in ways that can be confirmed and proven.

This article must come from within academia itself, to presume that there is any such problem with philosophy; they have confused their academic problem as being philosophical; we all derive most of our philosophy from all kinds of art and experience, hardly any of it from college philosophy courses; and academic philosophy eventually admits those it is not likely to produce: there is plenty of philosophy that does not adhere to contemporary academic formalism, yet they teach it under the banner of philosophy just the same; they'd look stupid if they didn't!

When he who hears doesn't understand him who speaks, and when he who speaks doesn't know what he himself means -- that is philosophy.


I always had a simple way to think about philosophy.

There is a world of difference between knowing about philosophy (the history of it and what various philosophers "actually" meant) and then to be a philosopher (a thinker).

The person who knows a lot about philosophy is often academic. They can tell you the difference between Frege and Wittgenstein and have a million ways to interpret Nietcshe.

In my experience though, the best philosophers come from all parts of life and are what I would call careful thinkers. They can be well read or not it's the way they deal with the subject they discuss that makes them great.

So sure give philosophy a new definition in academia to fight over and debate if you'd like, it won't change much for those who know how to think.

Highly recommend "My Big Toe" by Thomas Campbell

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