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Old 01-08-2017, 08:32 PM
Machinaforce Machinaforce is offline
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Is philosophy really worth studying?

I ask this because it doesn’t seem to lead anywhere.

I get that philosophy is the study of knowledge, existence, reality, and all that good stuff. But what I don’t get is the point or the end game, since it seems like just about anything in it can be debated and still end up right. It’s very vague and arbitrary and much of it is based on how you define things. But for a field that pursues knowledge and wisdom they seem to give very little if any of what they claim to seek. All it seems to do is make you ask questions and doubt your knowledge and beliefs, but doesn’t give anything to replace that. It takes and takes but gives nothing back.

Like in the case of solipsism it introduces the possibility that you might be the only thing that exists and that anything outside of you is not possible to verify that it exists. It makes you doubt what is real to the point that those who buy into it usually are unable to leave it. But it doesn’t provide any way to solve the question it poses (like much of philosophy). The same goes for idealism, another idea that it can’t prove. So why bother if it gets nowhere?

http://www.whyphilosophy.org/known-p...al-truths.html

Like the above states philosophical “truths” but the fact is that none of those can be proven to be true (and most are just opinions). How can a field that is supposed to study knowledge and wisdom give none of it out? Like I said, it just robs you of what you know until you are left with nothing and no way to figure it out. All you can ask is “how do you know” until you’re left with nothing.
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Old 01-08-2017, 08:44 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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How could you know?

In all seriousness, someone asked me once in college if I ever met a philosophy major that they liked. I thought about it for a minute and gave a firm "No". She said, "Me neither". That was about the full extent of my thoughts on the subject other than Philosophy 101 that I was forced to take and proved to be one of the most useless classes I could ever imagine.

My personal opinion is that Philosophy is the grandfather of most other academic disciplines but, as they spun off into fully developed fields of their own, it is no longer especially relevant.

Last edited by Shagnasty; 01-08-2017 at 08:48 PM.
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Old 01-08-2017, 08:47 PM
JerrySTL JerrySTL is offline
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Here's how I tell what's worth studying: How many jobs are in the Help Wanted section of your local paper (or Monster.com, etc.) for it? Of course I'm talking about a college or technical school education so that you can make a living.

However if you have a good paying job and just want to broaden your mental horizons, philosophy could be very interesting, but not my cup of tea.
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Old 01-08-2017, 09:00 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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You definitely should spend some time on philosophy. Everyone needs to organize their thoughts. You should ask yourself questions about what you believe and why you believe it; what you know and how you learn it; what's right and what's wrong. Without a personal philosophy, you're no better than an animal or a robot. Or worse yet, you're just going through life doing what other people tell you to do.

That said, too much philosophy is as bad as too little. Philosophy should be a guide to life not a substitute for life.
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Old 01-08-2017, 09:04 PM
Machinaforce Machinaforce is offline
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Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
You definitely should spend some time on philosophy. Everyone needs to organize their thoughts. You should ask yourself questions about what you believe and why you believe it; what you know and how you learn it; what's right and what's wrong. Without a personal philosophy, you're no better than an animal or a robot. Or worse yet, you're just going through life doing what other people tell you to do.

That said, too much philosophy is as bad as too little. Philosophy should be a guide to life not a substitute for life.
Except that it doesn't get me anywhere, just back where I started.
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Old 01-08-2017, 09:13 PM
billfish678 billfish678 is offline
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IMO as somebody that got remotely interested in it and took a few classes...but got a hard sciences degree...

If you study it to understand the logic and processes involved....good for you...maybe even very good for you...because those are very useful in the "real" world...

If you expect any serious answers....well good luck...
  #7  
Old 01-08-2017, 09:23 PM
Procrustus Procrustus is online now
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Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
You definitely should spend some time on philosophy. Everyone needs to organize their thoughts. You should ask yourself questions about what you believe and why you believe it; what you know and how you learn it; what's right and what's wrong. Without a personal philosophy, you're no better than an animal or a robot. Or worse yet, you're just going through life doing what other people tell you to do.

That said, too much philosophy is as bad as too little. Philosophy should be a guide to life not a substitute for life.
Despite a few courses in philosophy many years ago, I don't really have a "personal philosophy." (Certainly not one based on anything I studied) Yet I don't go through life letting other people tell me what to do.
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Old 01-08-2017, 09:37 PM
panache45 panache45 is offline
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There are branches of philosophy that are worth studying on their own: epistemology, logic and ethics. These should actually be part of any high school education. If you don't have a basic understanding of these by the time you're in college, it may be too late.
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Old 01-08-2017, 09:46 PM
snfaulkner snfaulkner is online now
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Philosophy should only be studied with the goal of perhaps seeing others point of view on things. If you don't give a shit about other's POV and or looking for meaning to life, it will be a huge waste of time for all involved.
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Old 01-08-2017, 09:47 PM
Stranger On A Train Stranger On A Train is online now
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The point of the study of philosophy is to understand how to structure questions or propositions in a manner that is logical, semantically useful, and internally consistent. Philosophy by itself doesn't provide any objectively verified answers in anything beyond the trivial, and even often questions the trivial or base assumptions of existance and meaning. When philosophers get wrapped around the axle arguing the definition of words rather than just defining them you end up with a lot of nasal gazing speculation about "the meaning of meaning"; but when the language is used to create logically rigorous propositions that can then be subjected to some kind of falsification, it becomes as valuable a tool as mathematics or measurement in terms of organizing and categorizing knowledge.

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  #11  
Old 01-08-2017, 09:47 PM
Machinaforce Machinaforce is offline
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I'm speaking about the ones that ask if god exists, if the external world is real or not, or if other people exist and aren't your imagination.
  #12  
Old 01-08-2017, 09:56 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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Originally Posted by Machinaforce View Post
I'm speaking about the ones that ask if god exists, if the external world is real or not, or if other people exist and aren't your imagination.
God is dead and now Nietzsche is too.

There are serious philosophers and scientists that believe the likelihood is high that we are living in a simulation.
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Old 01-08-2017, 10:07 PM
Chronos Chronos is online now
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I think the biggest problem with philosophy, as a discipline, is that there's no way to filter out the idiots from the geniuses, and so idiots often end up getting praised as geniuses. I strongly suspect that Plato and Aristotle, for instance, set back the development of human knowledge far more than they advanced it.
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Old 01-08-2017, 10:18 PM
Procrustus Procrustus is online now
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Originally Posted by Machinaforce View Post
I'm speaking about the ones that ask if god exists, if the external world is real or not, or if other people exist and aren't your imagination.
God does not exist, the external world is real, and other people do exist. There, I just saved you four years and $80,000.
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Old 01-08-2017, 10:21 PM
Siam Sam Siam Sam is offline
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I consider the Philosophy courses I took to be invaluable. It was not my major, but I satisfied various requirements with them. Philosophy can give you a good base to work from. I have known Philosophy majors who did find gainful employment in the corporate world.
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Old 01-08-2017, 10:23 PM
Machinaforce Machinaforce is offline
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God does not exist, the external world is real, and other people do exist. There, I just saved you four years and $80,000.
And then the philosophy majors would ask how can you know that to be true. How can you verify that to be the case?
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Old 01-08-2017, 10:25 PM
Procrustus Procrustus is online now
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And then the philosophy majors would ask how can you know that to be true. How can you verify that to be the case?
I don't have to play their game. It's that easy. Done and done.
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Old 01-08-2017, 10:26 PM
Mijin Mijin is offline
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I ask this because it doesn’t seem to lead anywhere.
I'll question this premise right off the bat.

Firstly, many of the physical and social sciences were once considered the domain of philosophy. So essentially, it's not that philosophy doesn't lead anywhere, it's that when it does, we stop calling it philosophy.

Secondly while often it's difficult to prove particular philosophical positions right, it's often very possible to show logical errors in wrong positions. And often these incorrect positions are very popular ones in the general populace.

It's instructive that if you go to a webpage on "creation science" for example, they are often very critical of contemporary philosophy, and then you encounter a lot of (flawed) ideas about the basis of knowledge and what science is. You often see this: people put down philosophy in the same breath as trying to put out their own philosophical ideas.

---------------------

Whether it's worth studying it depends on many factors, many of which are personal to you.
As implied above I think you can do useful work both writing philsophy and popularizing some of its best ideas. There are good careers there but probably not enough to support the number of philosophy majors.
However, some employers recognize that critical thinking skills can be useful generally so it can be an asset for various industries. If you can partner philosophy with maths or comp sci, say, you should be in good shape employment-wise while studying something that may be more interesting to you than going full-on comp sci major.

Last edited by Mijin; 01-08-2017 at 10:27 PM.
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Old 01-08-2017, 10:27 PM
Machinaforce Machinaforce is offline
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I'll question this premise right off the bat.

Firstly, many of the physical and social sciences were once considered the domain of philosophy. So essentially, it's not that philosophy doesn't lead anywhere, it's that when it does, we stop calling it philosophy.

Secondly while often it's difficult to prove particular philosophical positions right, it's certainly to show logical errors in wrong positions. And often these incorrect positions are very popular ones in the general populace.

It's instructive that if you go to a webpage on "creation science" for example, they are often very critical of contemporary philosophy, and then you encounter a lot of (flawed) ideas about the basis of knowledge and what science is. You often see this: people put down philosophy in the same breath as trying to put out their own philosophical ideas.

---------------------

Whether it's worth studying it depends on many factors, many of which are personal to you.
As implied above I think you can do useful work both writing philsophy and popularizing some of its best ideas. There are good careers there but probably not enough to support the number of philosophy majors.
However, some employers recognize that critical thinking skills can be useful generally so it can be an asset for various industries. If you can partner philosophy with maths or comp sci, say, you should be in good shape employment-wise while studying something that may be more interesting to you than going full-on comp sci major.
I was not referring to a career but more like about the questions that it raises and fails to answer (like in my first post).
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Old 01-08-2017, 10:39 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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It varies!

A full semester dedicated to reading and studying Plato's Republic: dead waste of time.

A full semester studying symbolic logic, with applications to critical thinking? Great! One of the best classes you'll ever take.

A full semester doing a rough survey of the history of philosophy, from the Greeks through the moderns? Highly educational and hugely enriching. It will seriously broaden your comprehension of the world. (A.J. Ayer's "Language, Truth, and Logic" was worth it all by itself.)

A full semester studying Transcendental Meditation? Not only a waste of time, but a damned rip-off too.
  #21  
Old 01-08-2017, 10:47 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Except that it doesn't get me anywhere, just back where I started.
Literally, in terms of this thread. You asked what the value of philosophy is in your OP. That question itself is a philosophical issue.

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Originally Posted by Procrustus View Post
Despite a few courses in philosophy many years ago, I don't really have a "personal philosophy." (Certainly not one based on anything I studied) Yet I don't go through life letting other people tell me what to do.
You do have a personal philosophy; you don't go through life letting other people tell you what to do.

I don't mean to sound glib. But this is my point. Philosophy isn't just some esoteric academic subject. It's something ordinary people use on a daily basis without realizing what they're using is philosophy.
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Old 01-08-2017, 10:53 PM
stillownedbysetters stillownedbysetters is offline
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A wise person once told me that studying the classics, including philosophy, is how we teach ourselves to think, to analyze, and to critique information. I agree with this but don't feel that it goes far enough. What taking philosophy courses gave me was a methodology for how to move a society forward. Philosophy fights societal entropy because it forces one to question every thing and to constantly move forward from one question to the next until you get an answer. You may never get that answer, but you should never stop trying to get to it.

When you are constantly questioning and analyzing things, you are open to new ideas, even if finding such ideas was not the purpose of your analysis or your questions.

I would agree that you can parse too far and that too much philosophizing may be counterproductive. But so can too little.
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Old 01-08-2017, 10:58 PM
Grrr! Grrr! is online now
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I think the biggest problem with philosophy, as a discipline, is that there's no way to filter out the idiots from the geniuses, and so idiots often end up getting praised as geniuses. I strongly suspect that Plato and Aristotle, for instance, set back the development of human knowledge far more than they advanced it.
I couldn't help thinking reading Plato's Dialogues: "Boy, this Socrates fellow sure does sound like a crazy, rambling old man!"

Last edited by Grrr!; 01-08-2017 at 10:59 PM.
  #24  
Old 01-08-2017, 11:31 PM
Stranger On A Train Stranger On A Train is online now
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A full semester studying Transcendental Meditation? Not only a waste of time, but a damned rip-off too.
TM is not philosophy; it's as much bullshit as dancing Wu Li masters. But any field has its share of charlatans, some of whom are in ways still brilliant; Ed Teller was a poster child for this.

I have some disagreement that there is no distinction between the idiots and geniuses in the field, but like other disciplines that have complex jargon and regularly changing principles it is necessary to have a thorough grasp of the basics and the developments to distinguish between brilliance and nonsense. There are philosophers who have a profound grasp of technical fields and apply their knowledge appropriately, and idiot "scientists" who assume that their accomplishments in some narrow field of research translate in an inclusive grasp of all areas of knowledge.

In the end, practical genius is a matter of tying your area of research to some useful field of knowledge. That is difficult in philosophy because it generally deals more with semantics (in one way or another) rather than measurable quantities. But that doesn't mean there isn't utility in (some of) the questions posed about philosophy.

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Old 01-08-2017, 11:39 PM
GIGObuster GIGObuster is offline
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To get a taste and to check if the field is worth your time, I would recommend to check The Philosophy Tube on Youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/user/thephilosophytube
Quote:
When the British government tripled tuition fees for people attending university, I decided I would give away my degree for free on YouTube so anybody could learn what I was learning. You can find a whole bunch of channels on YouTube that will just summarise the works of famous philosophers for you, and then as soon as you finish watching their videos, you forget what that philosopher ever said but you feel smart.

That's not what I want to do.

I want to get you in a position where you can start doing philosophy to engage with your world today. So sometimes on this show we'll talk about Socrates or Aristotle, but sometimes we'll talk about the cutting edge philosophy that's only being written right now.
Now, using "Rick and Morty" to explain existentialism? One of the best Youtube videos IMHO.

Similarly, check also the School of Life Philosophy section (From a different group of educators), anyone that can explain Hegel and make him understandable deserves an award. They owe a lot of their style to Monthy Pyton Animator Terry Gillian.
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Old 01-08-2017, 11:49 PM
Mijin Mijin is offline
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I was not referring to a career but more like about the questions that it raises and fails to answer (like in my first post).
And I responded to that. But I also thought I'd cover whether it's a good career option because of the title of the thread.
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Old 01-08-2017, 11:50 PM
Machinaforce Machinaforce is offline
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A wise person once told me that studying the classics, including philosophy, is how we teach ourselves to think, to analyze, and to critique information. I agree with this but don't feel that it goes far enough. What taking philosophy courses gave me was a methodology for how to move a society forward. Philosophy fights societal entropy because it forces one to question every thing and to constantly move forward from one question to the next until you get an answer. You may never get that answer, but you should never stop trying to get to it.

When you are constantly questioning and analyzing things, you are open to new ideas, even if finding such ideas was not the purpose of your analysis or your questions.

I would agree that you can parse too far and that too much philosophizing may be counterproductive. But so can too little.
Actually philosophy causes stagnation by making people question everything and doubting their own knowledge. As I have said, it just creates doubt without offering answers. It robs people of direction because it ultimately cannot prove any of its claims. It will even argue about what direction "forward" is by stating that it is arbitrary or does not exist altogether.

Put it another way, my life was simpler without studying it and I was able to get things done. But afterwards there's just too much doubt to do anything.
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Old 01-09-2017, 12:24 AM
Mijin Mijin is offline
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Actually philosophy causes stagnation by making people question everything and doubting their own knowledge.
Ah so the OP was not really asking a question: you're trying to argue a specific position.

Well, I disagree. If there are certain things that we don't know, do you think it's better to acknowledge that or just try to handwave them? Personally, I'd like to have my eyes open.

Or, as I alluded upthread, people believe things that can be readily proven false. For example, on belief in God: sure we can't disprove gods themselves because we can't prove a negative. But we can demonstrate that the many "proofs" of God's existence simply don't work.
So who is the person in stagnation: the person who believes in an utterly flawed proof, and bases their life on that, or the person who's aware the proofs don't work, and forms an informed opinion?

Last edited by Mijin; 01-09-2017 at 12:26 AM.
  #29  
Old 01-09-2017, 12:44 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Actually philosophy causes stagnation by making people question everything and doubting their own knowledge. As I have said, it just creates doubt without offering answers. It robs people of direction because it ultimately cannot prove any of its claims. It will even argue about what direction "forward" is by stating that it is arbitrary or does not exist altogether.

Put it another way, my life was simpler without studying it and I was able to get things done. But afterwards there's just too much doubt to do anything.
Philosophy makes you think. Life without thinking may be simpler but it's not much of a life.

If you just want somebody who will tell you answers and give you direction and put aside your doubts, maybe you should consider joining a cult.
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Old 01-09-2017, 01:06 AM
Machinaforce Machinaforce is offline
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Philosophy makes you think. Life without thinking may be simpler but it's not much of a life.

If you just want somebody who will tell you answers and give you direction and put aside your doubts, maybe you should consider joining a cult.
I wouldn't but you can't argue they do get things done (not good things but still things).
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Old 01-09-2017, 01:11 AM
Machinaforce Machinaforce is offline
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Ah so the OP was not really asking a question: you're trying to argue a specific position.

Well, I disagree. If there are certain things that we don't know, do you think it's better to acknowledge that or just try to handwave them? Personally, I'd like to have my eyes open.

Or, as I alluded upthread, people believe things that can be readily proven false. For example, on belief in God: sure we can't disprove gods themselves because we can't prove a negative. But we can demonstrate that the many "proofs" of God's existence simply don't work.
So who is the person in stagnation: the person who believes in an utterly flawed proof, and bases their life on that, or the person who's aware the proofs don't work, and forms an informed opinion?
And yet that still doesn't rule out the existence of a god. Disproving our proofs doesn't make the end result any less real or a possibility. You aren't really "opening your eyes" so much as not doing anything.

People believe in things that can't be proven true like an external and independent reality or the existence of other minds and people. What difference is there between that and "false" beliefs?

You asked who is in stagnation, I say the one who makes an informed opinion. Because they don't accept the basic answer and move on with their life. Their quest for more is really just a quest for nothing because nothing can be truly known. The other guy at least gets stuff done even if you think he is wrong at least he is moving while you only think you are.
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Old 01-09-2017, 01:17 AM
DSeid DSeid is offline
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There are many subjects we study not for their own intrinsic value but for the skills that we develop by way of their study.

I personally found great value in geometry and later in organic chemistry because of how they helped me learn to approach problem-solving. I do not use geometry or organic chemistry in what I do but I am a better thinker for having had those classes.

The study of philosophy can have similar impact on the development of critical thinking skills and on the skill of approaching complex (and sometimes dense) written arguments in an analytic manner. Of course it can be taught in a manner that does not do that ... just as science can be taught poorly. I suspect it often is.

Questioning everything and doubting your own knowledge is not stagnation: it is an essential prerequisite for intellectual progress. Thinking we know when we really do not ... that's stagnation. The point is not to teach anyone the answers or to impart knowledge. The point is the process of learning it can help refine our tools such that we can better determine which are the questions most worth asking.
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Old 01-09-2017, 01:28 AM
GIGObuster GIGObuster is offline
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I wouldn't but you can't argue they do get things done (not good things but still things).
Well, about getting things done...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hJQ18S6aag
From "The Secret Policeman's Ball" 1979 benefit for Amnesty International., Peter Cook and Rowland Atkinson on a cult wondering how long to prepare for the end...


Never mind lads... Same time tomorrow...
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Old 01-09-2017, 02:01 AM
Mijin Mijin is offline
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And yet that still doesn't rule out the existence of a god. Disproving our proofs doesn't make the end result any less real or a possibility. You aren't really "opening your eyes" so much as not doing anything.
It's showing that a proof doesn't work, which is something. Plus of course, on the actual god question, we can use principles like occam's razor, which we all use in our everyday life (knowingly or not), to show it's not sensible to believe something with no grounds for belief.

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People believe in things that can't be proven true like an external and independent reality or the existence of other minds and people. What difference is there between that and "false" beliefs?
This might be the crux of the problem you're having.

For me, I don't actually need to know that there is an external, independent reality: there are good reasons to behave as though there is regardless. I don't know, and can't know, whether all this is a dream say. But I know I can suffer physical and emotional pain and I can reduce these things by my actions in the "dream".

Furthermore, this is actually another time where we can use Occam's: if there's nothing outside of the "dream" then the difference between dream and reality is moot. But the hypothesis that there is an outside is vulnerable to the razor: I should assume there is no outside until I have reason to suppose otherwise.

Quote:
You asked who is in stagnation, I say the one who makes an informed opinion. Because they don't accept the basic answer and move on with their life. Their quest for more is really just a quest for nothing because nothing can be truly known. The other guy at least gets stuff done even if you think he is wrong at least he is moving while you only think you are.
But I live my life the same as anyone, plus I take an interest in philosophy. Clearly real humans in the real world do not freeze just because they can't explain everything.

Last edited by Mijin; 01-09-2017 at 02:03 AM.
  #35  
Old 01-09-2017, 07:30 AM
chappachula chappachula is offline
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Originally Posted by Stranger On A Train View Post
a lot of naSal gazing speculation
I'm stealing this expression!
(I don't care that it's a typo---it's good!)


A perfect definition for a person whose ego is so smugly centered around himself that he looks down his nose at people who don't understand why he is obviously superior to them. In other words--a typical philosphy undergrad.*







*i.e. myself.
For an entire semester.
But, man, it was fun whle it lasted.
  #36  
Old 01-09-2017, 07:48 AM
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There are branches of philosophy that are worth studying on their own: epistemology, logic and ethics. These should actually be part of any high school education. If you don't have a basic understanding of these by the time you're in college, it may be too late.
Yes, this.

Because without it, we get this:
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Originally Posted by Machinaforce View Post
And then the philosophy majors would ask how can you know that to be true. How can you verify that to be the case?
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Originally Posted by Procrustus View Post
I don't have to play their game. It's that easy. Done and done.
Without knowing how to recognize and use logic and how to apply ethics, we end up with antivaxxers and flat earthers and 911 truthers and Sandy Hook deniers and people who talk at the theater. People can be very, very sure of their position and still be dead wrong.

We need MORE Philosophy taught, and we need it taught younger, and better.

Philosophy is the root of that "critical thinking" and "common sense" stuff we all moan no one has today. All the "nasal gazing" about the existence of God and angels dancing on pinheads is just practice exercises so that you learn how to think and make a decent counterargument when someone forgets that planes exist and proposes we build a giant wall to stop immigration.
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Old 01-09-2017, 08:49 AM
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  #38  
Old 01-09-2017, 09:33 AM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is online now
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Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
Literally, in terms of this thread. You asked what the value of philosophy is in your OP. That question itself is a philosophical issue.

You do have a personal philosophy; you don't go through life letting other people tell you what to do.

I don't mean to sound glib. But this is my point. Philosophy isn't just some esoteric academic subject. It's something ordinary people use on a daily basis without realizing what they're using is philosophy.
Thank you. My response to the OP was going to be pretty much this.

Philosophy is something you almost can't help doing, if you're at all mentally awake, and go through life thinking and questioning and arguing rather than just thoughtlessly existing.

Formal study of philosophy can be helpful and fascinating because it can expose you to the thinking of other great minds, and because it can help to make your own thinking more disciplined and rigorous. But it can also lead you down a rabbit hole of meaningless irrelevancies (which is okay if you actually enjoy that sort of thing, but is a lot harder to justify to people who don't).
  #39  
Old 01-09-2017, 10:02 AM
Half Man Half Wit Half Man Half Wit is offline
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There's been some good answers in this thread---yes, philosophy does help us sharpen our cognitive faculties; and yes, philosophy gives rise to the individual sciences (actually, I don't believe there's really a useful distinction between 'science' and 'philosophy'---it's just that people seem to take philosophy that produces 'results' as naively defined, call it 'science', and then go on complaining that philosophy never produces any results---which those of us having paid attention in their philosophy classes on sound logical reasoning will recognize as the informal fallacy of 'moving the goalposts').

But actually, the best argument for philosophy and its importance, to me, is that it does produce concrete, visible results, that in fact are so entrenched within our everyday world that, like air, they're all too easily missed. It doesn't matter if you take politics, society, ethics; ideas like democracy, universal human rights, the social contract; or developments like universal suffrage, equality between men and women, or the recognition of animal rights---if you go back far enough (or just a little, in some cases), you'll find them discussed in dusty tomes of philosophy long before they really enter into everyday life.

However, once they have, it becomes hard to imagine that things might be different; and the flipside of that is that, steeped in present society, it needs some training to see beyond its borders and question its tenets---training that the study of philosophy provides. The philosophical argument, all the while, moves on to topics that may seem as bewildering to the average Joe today as the idea that women might vote to the 18th century farmer, or the notion of democracy to the medieval aristocrat. (Of course, that's an idealization; ideas never really develop in quite such an orderly, linear fashion, but it'll do as a first approximation.)

So, those who typically question the value of philosophy do so while enjoying their social liberties, their right to vote, their social security, their equal rights, and so on, all the while wondering---but what has philosophy ever done for us?

(No, I'm not saying that philosophy was solely responsible for all the social change for the better in the world. I'm also not saying that there isn't plenty of stupid philosophy around, the above 'simulation argument' being a case in point. I'm admittedly exaggerating somewhat, but only to counterbalance the all-to-prevalent 'philosophy is just navelgazing eggheads'-point of view.)

One thing that I think everybody should take away from philosophy is a willingness and ability to question one's assumptions, and recognize especially the unspoken, implicit ones. In some cases, this doesn't get us very far, perhaps: if we ask, how valid is it really that we believe there is an external world, and we find out that it turns out we don't really have good justification for that, then well, this doesn't really help us terribly much---except, perhaps, in building value systems that make life worthwhile even in this case, as Mijin alluded to. But once we started questioning how valid it really is that women are inferior to men, we started building a better, more just society (a process which, of course, remains unfinished to this day)---so, while sometimes you don't really get much of objective value, occasionally, you hit upon a game-changer.

And without many experiments perhaps coming up with nothing more than another tome nobody reads (but that at least got somebody tenure, maybe), we'd never hit the occasional paydirt.
  #40  
Old 01-09-2017, 11:24 AM
Nava Nava is offline
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My required HS coursework included Philosophy in 11th grade, History of Philosophy in 12th. While I still haven't quite understood the distinction between "Reason and Faith" and "Paths of Knowledge" (two of the three possible themes we had in the second evaluation of 12th grade), and from what I hear most of my classmates haven't either, it provided a background to issues in History, Economics or Politics which has often come in handy.

Previously we'd studied for example that Hobbes' Leviathan, Marx' Kapital or the reintroduction of lost works into Medieval Europe through Al-Andalus were very important, but we hadn't gone into why. We hadn't seen in what aspects they differred from then-mainstream views on governance, economics or the structure of the world; analyzing that helps frame and understand economical, social and political changes contemporary to those works. It also helps frame things that are going on now: I can recognize how certain political parties derive from this or that previous ideology and what elements they've taken from others, to me they don't just spring up spontaneously.

I was in the Pure Sciences track, my college degree is in ChemE, but like many engineers I really like having a better understanding of "why" history happened than can be had from lists of dates. Philosophy was one of the disciplines which helped provide that understanding.

Last edited by Nava; 01-09-2017 at 11:29 AM.
  #41  
Old 01-09-2017, 04:58 PM
Machinaforce Machinaforce is offline
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Originally Posted by Mijin View Post
It's showing that a proof doesn't work, which is something. Plus of course, on the actual god question, we can use principles like occam's razor, which we all use in our everyday life (knowingly or not), to show it's not sensible to believe something with no grounds for belief.



This might be the crux of the problem you're having.

For me, I don't actually need to know that there is an external, independent reality: there are good reasons to behave as though there is regardless. I don't know, and can't know, whether all this is a dream say. But I know I can suffer physical and emotional pain and I can reduce these things by my actions in the "dream".

Furthermore, this is actually another time where we can use Occam's: if there's nothing outside of the "dream" then the difference between dream and reality is moot. But the hypothesis that there is an outside is vulnerable to the razor: I should assume there is no outside until I have reason to suppose otherwise.



But I live my life the same as anyone, plus I take an interest in philosophy. Clearly real humans in the real world do not freeze just because they can't explain everything.
They just move under the illusion that they know even though they don't.

Also Occam's Razor doesn't really apply here. If there is no external reality then the things you do don't matter, nor do other "people" then.


And yes humans do freeze once they know they can't explain anything, you're just not there yet.
  #42  
Old 01-09-2017, 05:07 PM
Machinaforce Machinaforce is offline
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Originally Posted by Half Man Half Wit View Post
There's been some good answers in this thread---yes, philosophy does help us sharpen our cognitive faculties; and yes, philosophy gives rise to the individual sciences (actually, I don't believe there's really a useful distinction between 'science' and 'philosophy'---it's just that people seem to take philosophy that produces 'results' as naively defined, call it 'science', and then go on complaining that philosophy never produces any results---which those of us having paid attention in their philosophy classes on sound logical reasoning will recognize as the informal fallacy of 'moving the goalposts').

But actually, the best argument for philosophy and its importance, to me, is that it does produce concrete, visible results, that in fact are so entrenched within our everyday world that, like air, they're all too easily missed. It doesn't matter if you take politics, society, ethics; ideas like democracy, universal human rights, the social contract; or developments like universal suffrage, equality between men and women, or the recognition of animal rights---if you go back far enough (or just a little, in some cases), you'll find them discussed in dusty tomes of philosophy long before they really enter into everyday life.

However, once they have, it becomes hard to imagine that things might be different; and the flipside of that is that, steeped in present society, it needs some training to see beyond its borders and question its tenets---training that the study of philosophy provides. The philosophical argument, all the while, moves on to topics that may seem as bewildering to the average Joe today as the idea that women might vote to the 18th century farmer, or the notion of democracy to the medieval aristocrat. (Of course, that's an idealization; ideas never really develop in quite such an orderly, linear fashion, but it'll do as a first approximation.)

So, those who typically question the value of philosophy do so while enjoying their social liberties, their right to vote, their social security, their equal rights, and so on, all the while wondering---but what has philosophy ever done for us?

(No, I'm not saying that philosophy was solely responsible for all the social change for the better in the world. I'm also not saying that there isn't plenty of stupid philosophy around, the above 'simulation argument' being a case in point. I'm admittedly exaggerating somewhat, but only to counterbalance the all-to-prevalent 'philosophy is just navelgazing eggheads'-point of view.)

One thing that I think everybody should take away from philosophy is a willingness and ability to question one's assumptions, and recognize especially the unspoken, implicit ones. In some cases, this doesn't get us very far, perhaps: if we ask, how valid is it really that we believe there is an external world, and we find out that it turns out we don't really have good justification for that, then well, this doesn't really help us terribly much---except, perhaps, in building value systems that make life worthwhile even in this case, as Mijin alluded to. But once we started questioning how valid it really is that women are inferior to men, we started building a better, more just society (a process which, of course, remains unfinished to this day)---so, while sometimes you don't really get much of objective value, occasionally, you hit upon a game-changer.

And without many experiments perhaps coming up with nothing more than another tome nobody reads (but that at least got somebody tenure, maybe), we'd never hit the occasional paydirt.

The irony is that philosophy actually undoes everything you just said. Human rights is a vague term that means anything people want it to, no one even knows what exactly constitutes a "right". Some argue that they are just privileges.

Questioning whether reality exists does nothing, morality is just a popularity contest as right and wrong aren't objective. Philosophy can undo modern society if it was given a bigger place than it already has. Because when you question why you should treat people better, or why you should even care about others, you realize there is no "obvious" truth there. It's just something we do, but do we have to? It also doesn't do a good job of arguing against suicide or why to stay alive. For all the talk about the big questions it doesn't do a thing about any of them.

By questioning my own assumptions I realized that I didn't "have to" do anything. There isn't a "moral obligation" towards others, I could be free to not care. You also learn that might makes right in any situation and that those with the power make the rules.

Justice is really just an opinion as well, there will never be true justice as the definition will always change. Even the notion of progress is arbitrary as there is no objective level of better or worse. All philosophy is just someone's opinion.

Your "concrete visible results" are little more than simply sand castles.
  #43  
Old 01-09-2017, 05:41 PM
panache45 panache45 is offline
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Originally Posted by Machinaforce View Post
The irony is that philosophy actually undoes everything you just said. Human rights is a vague term that means anything people want it to, no one even knows what exactly constitutes a "right". Some argue that they are just privileges.

Questioning whether reality exists does nothing, morality is just a popularity contest as right and wrong aren't objective. Philosophy can undo modern society if it was given a bigger place than it already has. Because when you question why you should treat people better, or why you should even care about others, you realize there is no "obvious" truth there. It's just something we do, but do we have to? It also doesn't do a good job of arguing against suicide or why to stay alive. For all the talk about the big questions it doesn't do a thing about any of them.

By questioning my own assumptions I realized that I didn't "have to" do anything. There isn't a "moral obligation" towards others, I could be free to not care. You also learn that might makes right in any situation and that those with the power make the rules.

Justice is really just an opinion as well, there will never be true justice as the definition will always change. Even the notion of progress is arbitrary as there is no objective level of better or worse. All philosophy is just someone's opinion.

Your "concrete visible results" are little more than simply sand castles.
And you've just touched on some important philosophical issues. How did you do that without your ability to think philosophically?
  #44  
Old 01-09-2017, 07:00 PM
Machinaforce Machinaforce is offline
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Originally Posted by panache45 View Post
And you've just touched on some important philosophical issues. How did you do that without your ability to think philosophically?
I read it in a book. I didn't think about these things. But what you said is beside the point as such questions have no answer.
  #45  
Old 01-09-2017, 08:37 PM
DSeid DSeid is offline
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I am pretty sure the op is just whooshing now but I'll still play.

So the op espouses a philosophy that eschews "analysis paralysis" and that promotes trusting what you think you know and acting on it. His cartoon caricature of a student of philosophy is Chidi from "The Good Place" ... or Buridan's ass. The knowledge of which allows one to get a joke in Big Bang Theory before they explain the crap out of it.

Of course that is a philosophical perspective and one that has significant and deep historical roots continuing into more modern philosophers.

Support for the op's philosophical perspective can be found all over: John Stuart Mill "A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury."; Lao Tzu “Stop thinking, and end your problems.”; and my favorite, Terry Pratchett "The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.”

But OTOH: Albert Einstein “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”; and "Don't be a dumbass" My Dad.


Of course the real world choice is not between shooting (acting) without aiming (thinking) and aiming without shooting. Neither of those but the venison on the table.

Thinking is a skill. You want to practice skills so they become easy, so automatic that you can do them without thinking. Uh oh. Has this become a set M that consists of all sets that do not include itself? Damn you philosophy! Maybe QtM and DrPaprika can help us? Nooo - they'd be the paradox.
  #46  
Old 01-09-2017, 08:50 PM
Telemark Telemark is online now
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Originally Posted by Machinaforce View Post
But what you said is beside the point as such questions have no answer.
As with many of your threads, there are answers but you just don't like to accept them. Not all answers are universal.
  #47  
Old 01-09-2017, 09:37 PM
Mijin Mijin is offline
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Originally Posted by Machinaforce View Post
They just move under the illusion that they know even though they don't.

Also Occam's Razor doesn't really apply here. If there is no external reality then the things you do don't matter, nor do other "people" then.
Strange that you'd throw out these philosophical statements in a thread being dismissive of philosophy, but fine, since I enjoy studying philosophy I'm quite happy to debate on this.

My opinion on "real" and "illusion" is that it's a mistake to consider them attributes of entities. For example, if I have a dream about a vampire, the conception some people have is that the entity "vampire" has the property "illusion" but looking at things this way becomes problematic, with just one example being: "What if everything is an illusion, what does that mean?"

What I think, is that real and illusion are just labels for interpretations of events. At any time the interpretation that best explains events, and makes the best predictions, is "real". All others are illusions.

The solipsism hypothesis right now doesn't explain anything, and in fact adds an explanatory gap, because we need to know, for example, why other humans behave as though they have the same rich inner experiences as I do. There is no apriori reason why that would be the case.

And in terms of the Simulation Hypothesis, that's asserting that there is a better interpretation without saying how it better explains the totality of events, or offering any empirical evidence. Right now it is occam's vulnerable.

Quote:
And yes humans do freeze once they know they can't explain anything, you're just not there yet.
So I'm not a True Scotsman philosopher. Can you name someone who is?

Last edited by Mijin; 01-09-2017 at 09:39 PM.
  #48  
Old 01-09-2017, 09:56 PM
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I'm not a huge fan of philosophy and a lot of it does seem to be mental/verbal masturbation. Socrates especially was pretty flawed in his "logic". That said when I read Plato's Republic I was really impressed how applicable his dialogues of the city he describes relating to oligarchy, tyranny, etc. were to a lot of modern politics and government and the guy did seem way ahead of his time in many ways, the stuff he talked about then is still relevant and prescient of what was to come.
  #49  
Old 01-09-2017, 11:56 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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I recommend "Primary Philosophy" by Michael Scriven. He gives a nice summary of the field, and covers both sides of largely contended ideas. He explains monism and dualism, for instance, without actually taking sides. For theology, he introduces the notion of "a basic god" so that, at very least, we can all be pointing at the same thing when talking about "God." (A response to the predictable retort, seen here often, "Define 'God.'" Okay. He does so.) Very readable, and rather fun.
  #50  
Old 01-10-2017, 01:03 AM
Dr_Paprika Dr_Paprika is offline
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Is anything worth studying? You might study something because you find it interesting, or because it has practical value, or because you have to.

I have studied basic philosophy and like some philosophers, and not others. Sometimes it provides subtext to history or religion. Though ethics and logic are important, philosophy is not the only royal road to these topics. The few people I knew who majored in philosophy were argumentative and pedantic, and I think the practical value of studying a lot of philosophy is modest. But I never took a formal philosophy course perhaps to my detriment.
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