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I have a suspicion, which I don't really have the training or references to back up, that what happened to philosophy is related to the self-destruction of Art as a direct result of the World Wars.

Before 1914, it was still possible to be naive in the West and believe that everything happens for some sort of supreme purpose. Then we saw the mass destruction of humans on a society-wrecking scale, senseless deaths among the shells and gas; an entire generation returning with unacknowledged PTSD. Then this power got turned on civilians. The only possible response artistically to Guernica was a sprawling, fractured, ugly painting. Inevitably the catastrophe scaled up: everything "traditional" was appropriated and turned to Fascism, and Fascism destroyed everything that it could reach that didn't support it. Finally we built the Bomb, and realised that there wasn't really anything standing between us and the power to destroy entire civilisations in an afternoon.

We were standing in the wreckage of our own ethical systems, and have had to gradually rebuild them. This gave us the principles of human rights, and the realisation that equality of respect was the only real moral imperative. If we allow humans to deem other humans to be inherently inferior, this will be used to justify mass atrocities. Nobody is coming to redeem us and there is no final judgement to look forward to; we have to liberate ourselves in this lifetime.

In the face of this challenge, philosophy could either collapse into post-modernism, an endless hall of mirrors of signifier and signified; or it could mobilise and be used to deconstruct power relations and correctly label injustices. That gave us post-colonialism, queer theory, multiple generations of feminism, and so on. We have to live with the Other, and the question is how.

(The question of consciousness will be solved by the first AI to win a Nobel Prize for writing in defence of its own consciousness. I have no idea whether that will be next century or next year.)

(Please insert references to Derrida, Foucault, Butler, Lacan, etc as applicable; I don't see too many other people referencing modern philosophy in this discussion? Or you could downvote as well, I guess that's a philosophical argument?)




It's simpler than that. Progress in critique continued, we got effective anti-capitalist critique and marginalization-based feminist epistemology, and everything else. We had tons of progress, and the only thing we didn't do was update our ontological models of the knowledge we generated, and roll them into our public school curriculums. The only reason every single person on this planet (barring WHO millenium development goal resistance areas) doesn't know the difference between a hack and academic philosophy is that we didn't formalize it in a way they'd understand and teach it to them.

Society doesn't have to build or rebuild ethical systems, compete with critique, or compete with noise, fascism, mental illness, policy, or a saturated marketplace. You can teach meta-ethics to people and watch them use informed consent in everything (since it's often identified as the best way to be an agent in self interested understanding of pursuing and developing what you want, while participating in society effectively to help others).


Meta-ethics.. you mean "live and let live"?


No, "live and let live," would be applied ethics. Meta-ethics asks what the source of meaning in an ethical claim is. It is easier to adopt meta-ethical relativism if you know about meta-ethics, but I don't have a persuasive goal in presenting it; I don't think people "should live and let live." I just think it's clear progress in ethics will come best from people being able to assess their own and others sources of meaning in their ethical claims. I think we'd get more effective activism, relationships, etc. than without it.




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