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(The Atlantic)   "Why should we study philosophy?" We shouldn't   (theatlantic.com) divider line 140
    More: Obvious, literary fiction, Brandeis, Immanuel Kant, philosophy  
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6409 clicks; posted to Main » on 02 Mar 2014 at 3:55 PM (21 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-03-02 11:48:44 AM
Why ask why?
 
2014-03-02 11:53:31 AM
Studying philosophy is something everyone should do.  Just don't try to make a living at it.
 
2014-03-02 11:59:38 AM
Study the history of philosophy so you can skip right on by the sophistry.
 
2014-03-02 12:14:30 PM

Marcus Aurelius: Studying philosophy is something everyone should do.  Just don't try to make a living at it.


I liked your book btw
 
2014-03-02 12:17:42 PM
Stephen Hawking says we don't need it.

Some lady with a PhD in philosophy, who writes about philosophy and whose living predicates on the perpetuation of the study of philosophy says of course it's absolutely necessary.

Hmmmm...  Who do I trust more on this question?
 
2014-03-02 01:06:51 PM

Marcus Aurelius: Studying philosophy is something everyone should do.  Just don't try to make a living at it.


Unless you plan on teaching.  Being a philosophy professor is a valid and lucrative angle, but I can't think of any use beyond that.
 
2014-03-02 01:49:01 PM

Benevolent Misanthrope: Stephen Hawking says we don't need it.

Some lady with a PhD in philosophy, who writes about philosophy and whose living predicates on the perpetuation of the study of philosophy says of course it's absolutely necessary.

Hmmmm...  Who do I trust more on this question?


I care what Hawking says about cosmology and quantum physics.  I don't much care what he thinks about cake decorating, the designated hitter, philosophy, or other stuff in which he is not an expert.
 
2014-03-02 01:54:22 PM

bronyaur1: Benevolent Misanthrope: Stephen Hawking says we don't need it.

Some lady with a PhD in philosophy, who writes about philosophy and whose living predicates on the perpetuation of the study of philosophy says of course it's absolutely necessary.

Hmmmm...  Who do I trust more on this question?

I care what Hawking says about cosmology and quantum physics.  I don't much care what he thinks about cake decorating, the designated hitter, philosophy, or other stuff in which he is not an expert.


Your loss, then.  Cake decorating, not so much - but his insights on cultural shifts toward scientific types of thought and the relation of that to scientific discovery are worth the time.
 
2014-03-02 02:23:50 PM

Marcus Aurelius: Studying philosophy is something everyone should do.  Just don't try to make a living at it.


Friend of mine got a job at IBM right out of University of Arizona with her BA in Philosophy. They wanted people in various positions with different perspectives and fields of expertise. Hivemind can be a dangerous way to run a company.
 
2014-03-02 02:54:13 PM
bronyaur1:
I care what Hawking says about cosmology and quantum physics.  I don't much care what he thinks about cake decorating, the designated hitter, philosophy, or other stuff in which he is not an expert.

Has he come out publicly with a stance on astro-turf?
 
2014-03-02 02:57:58 PM

Benevolent Misanthrope: bronyaur1: Benevolent Misanthrope: Stephen Hawking says we don't need it.

Some lady with a PhD in philosophy, who writes about philosophy and whose living predicates on the perpetuation of the study of philosophy says of course it's absolutely necessary.

Hmmmm...  Who do I trust more on this question?

I care what Hawking says about cosmology and quantum physics.  I don't much care what he thinks about cake decorating, the designated hitter, philosophy, or other stuff in which he is not an expert.

Your loss, then.  Cake decorating, not so much - but his insights on cultural shifts toward scientific types of thought and the relation of that to scientific discovery are worth the time.


It's worth it to listen to him, by simple virtue of the fact that he is intelligent, but his views on the issue are not the only ones there are, nor are they necessarily the most informed on the matter. Someone with a background in philosophy is better equipped to address the question of why we need to be philosophically literate. And there are plenty of scientists (myself included) who do understand the value of philosophy, not just personally but also scientifically. For all that we go on about the need for scientific literacy to combat falling into the pits of pseudoscience, like creationism or homeopathy, we have neglected to place the same value on philosophical literacy. We should be learning, in addition to physics, biology, etc., a bit of epistemology, ontology, ethics, and formal logic. Those have broader application to daily life than scientific literacy does.

As an analogy, a historian would of course suggest that learning history is necessary. However, if the world's most famous mathematician at some point declared that history was dead, and we should instead focus on understanding the mathematical beauty of the universe than all that gobbledygook that happened in the past, it would be worth it to listen to the mathematician's views, but not necessarily to endorse them without critically analyzing his or her reasons for saying that, and it would be foolish to discount the historian's reasoning for saying that history is necessary just because he or she is a historian.

When making an appeal to authority, it helps to appeal to a subject matter expert rather than any old authority who agrees with your position.
 
2014-03-02 03:03:30 PM

Marcus Aurelius: Studying philosophy is something everyone should do.  Just don't try to make a living at it.


I've done fine with my B.A. in Philosophy. Of course, its been a great springboard discipline for many others, and its institutionalized beyond academia in ways most people don't think about. And of course many people use it to create a more value-added portfolio too. Philosophy creates a reflective entrepreneurial spirit because it focuses on how to think instead of just what to think.
 
2014-03-02 03:20:08 PM

Kome: It's worth it to listen to him, by simple virtue of the fact that he is intelligent, but his views on the issue are not the only ones there are, nor are they necessarily the most informed on the matter.


I'd agree with this point of view on the subject.

I tend to think that there has been an over-extension of science and scientific thought as the one most valid point of view in the world.  Science is a great way to analyze physical phenomena and has produced truly great advances, especially in the last 100 years, in both our understanding of the natural world and our ability to create for ourselves happier and more comfortable lives. I don't necessarily think that it's the most appropriate tool for every kind of decision making.

Put this in some perspective: my grandfather woke up every morning as a child to slaughter a chicken for breakfast and split firewood for cooking and heating. He's in his late 80's now, and the most difficult part of his day is going up and down the stairs. He's got four computers in his house, each of which let him video-conference with his other grandkids who live thousands of miles away. He learned how to drive on a horse-driven cart, and now he's got an SUV that gets him around the rough roads up in the hills. I can see how someone like that, and how lots of people like him, could come to think that science was the single most successful worldview.

Someone like Stephen Hawking would have been pretty much invalid after 35 or so if not for things like his motorized wheelchair.
 
2014-03-02 03:38:20 PM
Why should we study philosophy?" We shouldn't

Such a quaint philosophical concept.

And I'm convinced Philosophy majors make the best trolls.
 
2014-03-02 03:57:46 PM
Philosophy is just what we call learning about a subject when we don't know very much about it.

Consider the examples of her children that she gives in the interview. The topics she raises were all big philosophy of mind questions. They are now pretty well understood neurodevelopment questions.
 
2014-03-02 03:58:57 PM
If your only measure of success is how much money you can earn for other people then arts and letters are just a waste of time.
 
2014-03-02 04:00:43 PM
At a time when advances in science and technology have changed our understanding of our mental and physical selves, it is easy for some to dismiss the discipline of philosophy as obsolete.


And those people should be reminded that science is built on foundations of philosophy.  All those assumptions that the world is rational, that math works, about empiricism, the elegance of the equations, parsimony and so forth?  That's philosophy.
 
2014-03-02 04:01:49 PM

Benevolent Misanthrope: Stephen Hawking says we don't need it.

Some lady with a PhD in philosophy, who writes about philosophy and whose living predicates on the perpetuation of the study of philosophy says of course it's absolutely necessary.

Hmmmm...  Who do I trust more on this question?


"Stephen Hawking says we don't need it" is the fallacy of argument from authority.

You haven't heard of it because you never studied philosophy.

/Phil BA helps me enormously inthe my job in engineering
/among other things I can recognize fallacious thinking
/also I can spell better than an engineer
 
2014-03-02 04:02:21 PM

indylaw: If your only measure of success is how much money you can earn for other people then arts and letters are just a waste of time.


Duh. You learn that on the first day of business school.
 
2014-03-02 04:04:15 PM

Benevolent Misanthrope: bronyaur1: Benevolent Misanthrope: Stephen Hawking says we don't need it.

Some lady with a PhD in philosophy, who writes about philosophy and whose living predicates on the perpetuation of the study of philosophy says of course it's absolutely necessary.

Hmmmm...  Who do I trust more on this question?

I care what Hawking says about cosmology and quantum physics.  I don't much care what he thinks about cake decorating, the designated hitter, philosophy, or other stuff in which he is not an expert.

Your loss, then.  Cake decorating, not so much - but his insights on cultural shifts toward scientific types of thought and the relation of that to scientific discovery are worth the time.



"I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy - and when he talks about a nonscientific matter, he will sound as naive as anyone untrained in the matter."
scienceworld.wolfram.com
 
2014-03-02 04:06:12 PM
img.photobucket.com
Why?
 
2014-03-02 04:08:05 PM

GilRuiz1: At a time when advances in science and technology have changed our understanding of our mental and physical selves, it is easy for some to dismiss the discipline of philosophy as obsolete.


And those people should be reminded that science is built on foundations of philosophy.  All those assumptions that the world is rational, that math works, about empiricism, the elegance of the equations, parsimony and so forth?  That's philosophy.


And they should also be reminded that at its core Science is "Natural Philosophy", the branch of Philosophy tasked with investigating the physical world.
 
2014-03-02 04:15:45 PM
435 years ago, Michel de Montaigne wrote some shiat that made my life better. Thanks, Frenchy.
 
2014-03-02 04:15:53 PM

gopher321: Why ask why?


I think therefore hey a Kardashian's ass!
 
2014-03-02 04:15:57 PM

RockofAges: Benevolent Misanthrope: Stephen Hawking says we don't need it.

Some lady with a PhD in philosophy, who writes about philosophy and whose living predicates on the perpetuation of the study of philosophy says of course it's absolutely necessary.

Hmmmm...  Who do I trust more on this question?

Stephen Hawking is a very intelligent man who is often used to misrepresent a position. Without philosophical thinking, there would be no science to speak of, as most of the earliest empirical scientists were also philosophers / naturalists.

Also, consider reading Laboratory Life: The Social Construction of Scientific Facts. It's interested to note that the inscription of "facts" is, in and of itself, institutionally biased and qualitatively / subjectively influenced during their creation.


A huge problem in the development of scientific knowledge was Greek philosophers who didn't do experiments. Aristotle thought an object would come to rest unless a constant force was applied to it. Newton actually did experiments.

Philosophy is just a subject we don't understand well enough for it to be its own subject yet.
 
2014-03-02 04:16:05 PM

Benevolent Misanthrope: Stephen Hawking says we don't need it.

Some lady with a PhD in philosophy, who writes about philosophy and whose living predicates on the perpetuation of the study of philosophy says of course it's absolutely necessary.

Hmmmm...  Who do I trust more on this question?


Hawking spends a lot of time talking about ontological questions for someone who doesn't believe in philosophy.
 
2014-03-02 04:17:30 PM
I think we need to, when discussing this, firmly separate the time when the equivalent of science, large parts of mathematics etc were lumped in as
philosophy from the period since they split apart. Much ancient philosophy is in a modern context proto-science (also mostly a bit silly and 99% flat out wrong but that's okay). We all know this, but philosophers generally pretend to ignore it when they are using it to defend their hobby.

Modern philosophy is a mixed bag of sometimes useful study of ethics and social issues along with massive amounts of utter wankery. To suggest it should ALL be ignored is silly, ethics is extremely crucial.
 
2014-03-02 04:19:55 PM
My degree is in economics. Psychology and philosophy courses were just as important to me in achieving a rational mindset.
 
2014-03-02 04:20:56 PM
Why we need philosophers:

Without philosophers there cannot be a philosopher's stone.

No philosopher's stone? No immortality.

Q.E.D.

/A philosopher with a minor in geology would be ideal
 
2014-03-02 04:21:25 PM
If philosophy is such bollocks, why is the highest degree of any discipline a Ph.D (which stands for....)?
 
2014-03-02 04:21:32 PM
William Shockley, inventor of the transistor, argued that blacks were inferior.
 
2014-03-02 04:21:38 PM

Tigger: Philosophy is just what we call learning about a subject when we don't know very much about it.

Consider the examples of her children that she gives in the interview. The topics she raises were all big philosophy of mind questions. They are now pretty well understood neurodevelopment questions.


When my daughter was a toddler, I'd say "Danielle!" she would very assuredly, almost indignantly, say, "I'm not Danielle! I'm this!" I'd think, What is she trying to express? This is going to sound ridiculous, but she was trying to express what Immanuel Kant calls the transcendental ego. You're not a thing in the world the way there are other things in the world, you're the thing experiencing other things-putting it all together. This is what this toddler was trying to tell me. Or when my other daughter, six at the time, was talking with her hands and knocked over a glass of juice. She said, "Look at what my body did!" I said, "Oh, you didn't do that?" And she said, "No! My body did that!" I thought, Oh! Cartesian dualism! She meant that she didn't intend to do that, and she identified herself with her intentional self. It was fascinating to me."When my daughter was a toddler, I'd say "Danielle!" she would very assuredly, almost indignantly, say, "I'm not Danielle! I'm this!" I'd think, What is she trying to express? This is going to sound ridiculous, but she was trying to express what Immanuel Kant calls the transcendental ego. You're not a thing in the world the way there are other things in the world, you're the thing experiencing other things-putting it all together. This is what this toddler was trying to tell me. Or when my other daughter, six at the time, was talking with her hands and knocked over a glass of juice. She said, "Look at what my body did!" I said, "Oh, you didn't do that?" And she said, "No! My body did that!" I thought, Oh! Cartesian dualism! She meant that she didn't intend to do that, and she identified herself with her intentional self. It was fascinating to me."


Thank you. Real science continues to do that, displacing invented nonsense, while religions and "philosophers" continue to wank each other off in increasingly ornate and self-referential mounds of bullsharttery.
 
2014-03-02 04:22:03 PM

Marcus Aurelius: Studying philosophy is something everyone should do.  Just don't try to make a living at it.


Great point.  It's interesting to different people for different reasons, but I pity anyone who does it for a living, including my professors.
 
2014-03-02 04:22:22 PM

anuran: GilRuiz1: At a time when advances in science and technology have changed our understanding of our mental and physical selves, it is easy for some to dismiss the discipline of philosophy as obsolete.


And those people should be reminded that science is built on foundations of philosophy.  All those assumptions that the world is rational, that math works, about empiricism, the elegance of the equations, parsimony and so forth?  That's philosophy.

And they should also be reminded that at its core Science is "Natural Philosophy", the branch of Philosophy tasked with investigating the physical world.


The issue I have with the general field of philosophy is that they've been arguing over the same general stuff since the written word. Once those natural sciences took off and figured out how to approach problems, we've resolved some of those arguments. It'll be interesting to see if we can apply the scientific method to really hard problems, like morality, as opposed to 'is a body naturally at rest', etc.

Science's ultimate justification is its incredible success, not its grounding in philosophy tombs, many written after the fact.
 
2014-03-02 04:22:46 PM

Voiceofreason01: Benevolent Misanthrope: Stephen Hawking says we don't need it.

Some lady with a PhD in philosophy, who writes about philosophy and whose living predicates on the perpetuation of the study of philosophy says of course it's absolutely necessary.

Hmmmm...  Who do I trust more on this question?

Hawking spends a lot of time talking about ontological questions for someone who doesn't believe in philosophy.


Oh snap!
 
2014-03-02 04:23:57 PM

DerAppie: Why we need philosophers:

Without philosophers there cannot be a philosopher's stone.

No philosopher's stone? No immortality.

Q.E.D.

/A philosopher with a minor in geology would be ideal


Well I guess my fountain of youth and holy grail are useless then.
 
2014-03-02 04:24:23 PM
Study it:yes. Major in it? No. Exception Being if you're planning on moving ontoa different Masters or phd.
 
2014-03-02 04:28:42 PM

nmathew01: It'll be interesting to see if we can apply the scientific method to really hard problems, like morality, as opposed to 'is a body naturally at rest', etc.


Humans are not 100% rational beings. What you seek is to make living humans into dead computers. That is a world I wish not to "live" in.
In your opinion, what does it mean to be "HUMAN?"
 
2014-03-02 04:29:33 PM
My six-year old recently declared: everything has a middle. Yeah, it took a while to sink in with me too.
 
2014-03-02 04:31:37 PM
nmathew01:  It'll be interesting to see if we can apply the scientific method to really hard problems, like morality, as opposed to 'is a body naturally at rest', etc.

We already are. Axelrod's work on game theory, Dawkins' work on the extended phenotype both laid the ground work for us basically having figured out how morality might have evolved*, why we need to punish bad people, why there are bad people at all and other fun stuff.

*intraspecies arms race between cooperative and deceptive individuals.
 
2014-03-02 04:35:12 PM

Tigger: Philosophy is just a subject we don't understand well enough for it to be its own subject yet.


Not entirely. If you've spent any time with logic, you'd also know that any sufficiently powerful logic system is incomplete, meaning that there are statements that can be expressed in that logic but cannot be proven either true or false.

Also, again if you'd spent any appreciable time with logic, you'd know that all logical systems require you to make assumptions that some things are true without proof.

One aspect of philosophy is the necessary study of these things, and they undergird all rational thought. Despite that, we as a society are not yet totally agreed upon what basic assumptions you should make about the universe. These questions have direct consequences in higher math and physics, and in turn have direct consequences for the rest of science and human thought as well.

To be sure, I think there's a fair bit of navel-gazing in modern philosophy, but there are hard questions that cannot be answered via the scientific method, or through religious introspection, or any other mode of thought. That's at least one area where philosophy is absolutely indispensable and cannot be replaced.
 
2014-03-02 04:36:23 PM
Teachin' lady says I gotta learn about Playdo.  Hell, I'm a grown man, what do I gotta learn about Playdo for?
 
2014-03-02 04:37:17 PM

GilRuiz1: Benevolent Misanthrope: bronyaur1: Benevolent Misanthrope: Stephen Hawking says we don't need it.

Some lady with a PhD in philosophy, who writes about philosophy and whose living predicates on the perpetuation of the study of philosophy says of course it's absolutely necessary.

Hmmmm...  Who do I trust more on this question?

I care what Hawking says about cosmology and quantum physics.  I don't much care what he thinks about cake decorating, the designated hitter, philosophy, or other stuff in which he is not an expert.

Your loss, then.  Cake decorating, not so much - but his insights on cultural shifts toward scientific types of thought and the relation of that to scientific discovery are worth the time.


"I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy - and when he talks about a nonscientific matter, he will sound as naive as anyone untrained in the matter."


And since that's not a statement about physics, by his own admission he's unqualified to talk about what makes someone unqualified to talk about something, thus rendering his entire statement moot.

Check and mate, Mr. Feynman. Check and mate.
 
2014-03-02 04:39:29 PM
Things you wouldn't have today if not for philosophy:

- the protestant reformation (Luther)
- human rights (Kant, Mill)
- the scientific method (Descartes, Bacon)

Things you wouldn't have today if not for Hawking:

- that one episode of Futurama
- ?
 
2014-03-02 04:39:50 PM

GilRuiz1: Benevolent Misanthrope: bronyaur1: Benevolent Misanthrope: Stephen Hawking says we don't need it.

Some lady with a PhD in philosophy, who writes about philosophy and whose living predicates on the perpetuation of the study of philosophy says of course it's absolutely necessary.

Hmmmm...  Who do I trust more on this question?

I care what Hawking says about cosmology and quantum physics.  I don't much care what he thinks about cake decorating, the designated hitter, philosophy, or other stuff in which he is not an expert.

Your loss, then.  Cake decorating, not so much - but his insights on cultural shifts toward scientific types of thought and the relation of that to scientific discovery are worth the time.


"I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy - and when he talks about a nonscientific matter, he will sound as naive as anyone untrained in the matter."
[scienceworld.wolfram.com image 216x305]


Hey, what Feynman doing with his hand in his pocket, "rearranging the furniture"?
 
2014-03-02 04:40:39 PM

mr lawson: nmathew01: It'll be interesting to see if we can apply the scientific method to really hard problems, like morality, as opposed to 'is a body naturally at rest', etc.

Humans are not 100% rational beings. What you seek is to make living humans into dead computers. That is a world I wish not to "live" in.
In your opinion, what does it mean to be "HUMAN?"


Nope. I'm simply saying that it would be really nice to have a useful tool to approach hard and very important problems like morality. I'm not quite following how to made the jump from that statement to wanting everyone to be unfeeling automatons. Besides, we need to get that figured out before our computer overlords figure it out for us, starting from our incomplete and flawed programming ;-)

What does it mean to be human? Oh boy. That's a difficult and loaded question, and anything I type here isn't going to be satisfying. I could approach it form an experiences end, a desire point of view, a feelings and emotions angle, or almost any other. I guess it's something like when I look up at the stars, feel so small, and wonder if anyone is circling a rock out there, looking back, and thinking too. The feeling of awe I get looking at those stars and knowing that humans have been looking at those same stars since we could think and pondering the meaning of their existence, their purpose, where they want to go and do. Having another tool in the box to help answer some of those questions isn't harmful in my opinion.


Yes, people are not 100% rational. Even if they were, there would be plenty of room for opinion, debate, and disagreements. Especially in the realm of food, books, sports (the designated hitter rule is objectively wrong though), music, other entertainment, and so forth. The kind of places many of us define as our human experiences.
 
2014-03-02 04:40:58 PM
Fubini:
To be sure, I think there's a fair bit of navel-gazing in modern philosophy, but there are hard questions that cannot be answered via the scientific method, or through religious introspection, or any other mode of thought. That's at least one area where philosophy is absolutely indispensable and cannot be replaced.

We totally agree totally on this.
 
2014-03-02 04:44:15 PM

nmathew01: It'll be interesting to see if we can apply the scientific method to really hard problems, like morality


Hm. This would probably require various things to be a tad bit more advanced than they are, but it could be done. If you've got the means to simulate a human-like intelligence, you could have N of those things programmed to have morality described by parameters (X,Y,Z,W) +- individual variance. Have those N things interact with each other. This gives you a simulacrum of a society with morality (X,Y,Z,W). Run this simulacrum a few hundred times. Collect results. Vary X, Y, Z, and W. After a bunch of trials, you might be able to say "Statistically speaking, societies where most people have morality $BLAH have better numbers for individual and collective happiness than societies where most people have morality $FOO." (Real-life people with morality $FOO would then have a pants-shiatting hissy fit, everyone would complain about assumptions made in the study, and nothing useful would get done.)

I don't think this is currently possible. Putting any but the simplest human behaviors into this sort of construct would result in useless numbers and/or numbers that bear little relation to anything resembling reality. And since I'm neither a philosopher nor a social scientist, I'm not sure how to make those models work better. If the boffins at FaceGoogleTwitGram all put what they knew about human behavior as tracked through the current internet, this process would probably go faster. That will probably never happen either....
 
2014-03-02 04:44:37 PM

Tigger: nmathew01:  It'll be interesting to see if we can apply the scientific method to really hard problems, like morality, as opposed to 'is a body naturally at rest', etc.

We already are. Axelrod's work on game theory, Dawkins' work on the extended phenotype both laid the ground work for us basically having figured out how morality might have evolved*, why we need to punish bad people, why there are bad people at all and other fun stuff.

*intraspecies arms race between cooperative and deceptive individuals.


OK, lets change my words to to ethics and human rights then ;-)

I wish I could continue these discussions, but I "need" to go wine tasting with my wife, which I'm sure mr. larson would agree is an important human endeavor. Cheers everyone.
 
2014-03-02 04:50:24 PM

nmathew01: I wish I could continue these discussions, but I "need" to go wine tasting with my wife, which I'm sure mr. larson would agree is an important human endeavor. Cheers everyone.


Yes...yes it is. :-) Enjoy the day!
 
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