As I see it, Philosophy evolved long ago into the sciences that we now know as Physics, Biology, Mathematics, etc. So what do philiosophers spend their time doing today? Take the various branches:
-Metaphysiscs: since physics explains the world pretty well, what need of this is there now?
-Ethics: mostly answered by religion, otherise, who needs it?
-Epistemology (ie, the nature of truth) : see physics, mathematics.
So what burning questions are the (diminishing) philiosophers helping us to unravle? Has anybody been helped by one of these pedants?
Post YOUR philosophy horror stories here!

*IIIIIImmanuel Kant was a real pissant
Who was very rarely stable
Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
Who could think you under the table
David Hume could out-consume
Schopenhauer and Hegel
And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
Who was just as schloshed as Schlegel

There’s nothing Nietzsche couldn’t teach ya
'Bout the raising of the wrist
Socrates himself was permanently pissed

John Stuart Mill, of his own free will
On half a pint of shandy was particularly ill
Plato, they say, could stick it away
Half a crate of whiskey every day
Aristotle, Aristotle
Was a beggar for the bottle
Hobbes was fond of his dram
And Rene Descartes was a drunken fart
“I drink therefore I am”

Yes, Socrates himself is particularly missed
A lovely little thinker but a bugger when he’s pissed*
[sup]There is NO rule # 6[/sup]

According to Mel Brooks in “History of the World Part xxx”, they are bullshit artists.

Mel, in ancient Roman times, applies for unemployment.

Lady: What do you do?

Mel: Stand-up philosopher.

Lady: Oh, a bullshit artist. Well, did you bullshit today?

Mel: No.

Lady: Did you bullshit yesterday?

Mel: No.

Lady: Did you TRY to bullshit…

Write. Think. Teach. Stuff.

I would wonder that you feel physics and mathematics has solved everything. Perhaps to your content, but I assure you that philosophical debate is not out of style in most circles.

The questions of ethics, as well, find their root in philosophical teachings. If we had found the answers already, why are there still so many disagreements?

Self proclaimed free lance philosopher here.

What makes you think that all ethical questions have been answered and/or are handled by religion?

In the past few years, the amount of technilogical advances has increased the ethical dillemas quite a bit IMHO.

As in:

Stem cell research
utilization of parts of aborted fetuses in research
animal research
how about the case of the conjoined twins where only one had sufficient organs/resources to survive seperation, but both would probably die if not seperated and the parents were against the operation?
financial/legal/ethical dillema re: finite resources, premature babies etc.

They think… stuff like er… why is a triangle not a circle and stuff.

Then they teach or work in mcdonalds.

Ehrm - well - aren’t we non-religious types allowed to hire someone to consider ethics for us ?

S. Norman

A few hundred years ago it was possable for a person to be well schooled in the whole of human understanding. But, things have become too specialised. What are today’s philophers going to do with super string theary? Or the concept that, when you get small enough, everything breaks down to little impuleses of energy and information. Rocks are the same as air or “empty” space at this level.

What is real? What is not real? Are they both the same? Is it only our minds that make it real? Would it still be real if nobody beleaved in it?

Philosophers teach thought usually, but critical thinking is said to be “covered” by math, so philosophy is usually not allowed in standard public High School (it scares religious parents). As for religion, philosophy is a competition and a replacement to this type of charlatanism, which is opposed to free critical thinking in favor of absolutist dogma. If you think religion has ethics covered, then no wonder you asked the question. By the way, I think religion is completely unethical, top to bottom, not one shred of ethical behavior, and in fact the opposite, and I’m not joking or just trying to be contrary. Religion is like a drama that creates all of the problems it loudly purports to alleviate.

Basic philosophy is absolutely necessary, without exception, if one wants to make a dent or become a historical figure in legal theory, political science, theology, literary criticism, art criticism, psychology, education, humanities, or history. It stands between one’s perception of the world and how to articulate it in any form–a fundamental transmutation. Religion will never cover it, maybe completely destroy it, but never replace it.

Well, yes and no. Metaphysics isn’t some sort of uber-physics (despite the etymology). It began with the asking of the big questions about how the world works and as answers have been propsed and accepted (the atom, laws of physics, maths etc) the more “far out” questions were evolved and hypothesised and it’s this, generally, that metaphysicians now concern themselves with. Questions like (to take a famous example), is this table that i’m seeing real? This isn’t the bizarre question that it sounds like if you really think about it. I’m not going to go into that whole area because that isn’t relevant to the OP, but it’s an example of something that philosophers now think about.

As to the usefulness of debates like this, i think it’s important that we continue to question. Note i do not say blindly refuse to accept the obvious, but question the obvious.
And does physics explain the world pretty well? I’d say there’s a fair old amount of philosophy going on in contemporary physics - remember that we’re still figuring out most of how the world works on a quantum level. There’s still a lot of theorising going on - it’s this theorising that’s the essential part of metaphysics.
Metaphysics nowadays is also vastly concerned with logic and logical structures. The logic behind languages, behind maths and numbers themselves. the quest to explain the world in logical terms is still very much part of the philosopher’s domain. I agree that many philosophers get too specialised and end up imploding in their little bubble of “Is green a colour?” questions, but there are many others who contribute worthwhile educational points. I’ll give you some cites if you’d like to read more.

Mostly answered by religion? Are you happy to have your ethical code set by religion? On the base level, there are philosophers who argue about what actions are right and wrong, but mostly they’re conserned with meta-ethics - questions about the existance of right and wrong as abstract things, or as something we ought to live by. Is there such a thing as an absolute (catagorical) right or wrong? Or do we just make it upo as we go along? And if we make it up, can it have any value? How should we live? Is there any merit to anarchy, utiliatarianism, democracy as ethical codes? I think these are important questions and we should never give up asking them.

The nature of truth is one part of epistemology. Far more important in my mind is the research into knowledge that forms the main bough of this branch. How do we know things? What is memory? Is the mind the same thing as the brain? What about artificial intelligence? This is probably the most forward-thinking [sub]pun intended[/sub] area of philosophical research. Working in conjunction with neuroscience, psychology, AI, etc (although not always amicably, i admit) there have been transformations in the way people think about the mind and brain and their relation to each other.

So what has philosophy done for you lately? It’s helped create the CND (Bertrand Russell and his ethics). Peter Singer, an Australian philosopher, was a founding father of the contemporary animal rights and environment movement. The Wolfenden Report of the 60s (in Britain), that argued for and established the rights of homosexuals and was based explicitly on the writings of John Stuart Mill. There have been immeasureable contributions to the debates on euthanasia, abortion, human rights, liberty, and many others. And what do people do here everyday on the GD? They debtae, they argue, they philosophize. It’s part of human nature to wonder about things, to question the status quo. I think that’s pretty damn important.

I’ll be happy to expand if you’d like more information - i’ve kept it as brief as i can and because whenever someone asks this question it almost invariably leads to a debate about a more specific issue, and i am only trying to answer the OP.



Oh, come on. You didn’t study Marx or Freud or Plato in school? This would explain a lot, but I can’t imagine that being typical of public education.

An interesting hijack. Do you actually want to start a thread on the topic? Or are you just sputtering trollisms which you’ll never have to defend?

Science explains how the universe works. Philosophy tries to explain why.
As for what philosophers do? From what I remember from college, most of them would wake up around noon, play frisbee and do bong hits all day, and then “philosophize” how they were going to find a job after graduation.

I never studied either as well. IF I had taken psychology there would have been a bit of Freud, however. Plato was merely mentioned in history, not really taught as in a way of thinking and looking at the universe.

Seeing as you are a recent graduate and all, you now must have an unbelievable amount of free time on your hands(:)). That being the case, I would personally request some of your input here. Fresh perspective on that threads are really needed.

Brian, you’re on quite the rampage lately. Strong opinions indeed. I would welcome that thread(which jumull referred to), and very likely be “on your side” as the case may be. If you want to start it, please, by all means… I haven’t gotten a good beating in a while here since I’ve started avoiding the economics threads. :smiley:

I’d also like to note that I know two philosophy majors, both of whom are double majoring. One in mathematics and the other in library science.

Which begs the question…hahaha


The same thing they’ve spent all their time doing in the past. They sit in ivory towers discussing that either reality is subjective and unknowable or that reality isn’t real.


I recall Plato coming up in History, literature, and even math (set theory). Freud surely came up in history (as an explanation of why bad people do bad things) and literature again (the link between character’s childhood and how it affects them is a recurring theme.) You didn’t take Economics? How do you study the cold war without learning about Marx and socialism?

Oh well. At least you can read!

Its pretty tough to find work in philosophy these days. Rigorous training of the mind can’t hurt though. Lots go into law.

One area that no one mentioned is computer science. Artificial inteligence and linguistic applications are big.

If I am a troll, then Jesus is an ogre. You are correct that he is not my favorite philosopher, if we pretend that “taking no thought for the morrow” and ignoring one’s family-life is a comprehensive philosophy. (I don’t know of anything else he might have said to be philosophical, since he used the idea of command too often and nothing seemed to be debated). As for starting another thread, this one is doing just fine, since it invoked religion and philosophy. Threads can be woven into braids.

As for Marx, he is mentioned in high school, but demonized instead, often for false reasons (although no one philosopher should be “worshipped” for reasons that it is the process that counts). In other words, we should foster an educational atmosphere that teaches the path to valid conclusions, not teaches the conclusion itself as valid.

Philosophy is supressed in Christian society mostly for not having high school as a industry teaching base. If they didn’t teach math in HS, it would be just as esoteric and we probably wouldn’t have modern civilization. Philosophy is just as necessary to happiness and survival, but it is difficult to prove since things seem to be prosperously fine, thanks in part to philosophy allowing us to avoid hardened dogmas that appeal to unphilosophical societies (our founders were in love with philosophy and made sweeping untested critical philosophical assumptions based on pure logic to establish our nation). Having said that, there are problems down the road, commonly at the bottom of the education ladder will appear suddenly prompting things to slowly collapse for not being able to deal with the changes, and it will be due to the general public not being able to reason their way out of many assumed absolute values that are counter-productive and often luxuries.

Deny it if you must, but you are proof in part, because if I recall, you plan on civilization partially falling apart and being saved by the guy who told us to ignore reality and "take no thought…

Brian, I second anyrandlover’s motion for you to start that thread that jmullaney suggested. I’d support your assertion that religion and the behaviors associated with it are unethical as well.

I’m a philosopher in my spare time [Hah! What spare time?]. In terms of what philosophers do now, my god, there’s so much to ponder. For example, what are the implications of the internet? How fast will it dumb down an already idiot-prone American society? What are the moral implications of an internet medium that does not make people accountable for their actions?

There’s so much that we don’t know about everything. Like how can humans be so inhumane to one another, to animals, and to their environment? Is evil necessary, or are humans capable of sustaining goodness without being bored with it? What is the perfect society for human beings?

Even the things we think math and physics have solved are not 100% certain. For example, we’d llike to think that math is precise, but chaos/complex theory, of which I admit I don’t know much, appears to be questioning the notion of precision and predictability. Any chaos/complex theory experts around to elaborate or tell me to shut up about that one? But I love chaos theory because it attempts to start answering a question I’ve been pondering for some time now: How can math/physics/science–man-made constructions–be precise when human beings are not precise?

Okay, I’ll be quiet now.

Hello? Did you read my earlier post? I’m trying not to take personal offence at your remarks, but quite frankly it’s ridiculous to say that we sit in ivory towers, do nothing and are all unemployed layabouts.

Yes, there are people who do philosophy because they think it’s an easy ride. They’re the ones that fail or drop out. Yes, there are philosophers who spout rubbish and spend their lives on pointless minutae. They’re the ones that everyone ignores. But there are philosophers who have amazing, interesting and important things to say. I studied philosophy because it’s interesting, not because i wanted a job at the end. I can’t imagine wasting 3 or 4 years of my life studying a dull vocational degree with the prize of a job in the office at the end of it. Life isn’t a rehearsal - aren’t you curious as to what it’s about?

Of course philosophy students sit around drinking beer and discussing philosophy - what other subject do you know that inspires students so much that they want to talk about it in their free time? For the record, every single one of the students i did my degree with and am in touch with is now employed. And not by MacDonalds. A degree in philosophy teaches you how to argue and put your point accross in a clear and rational manner. It teaches you the ability to reason your way through complex ideas and discussions. Most of all, it teaches you to think. All skills valued by good employers. Ned is right - a lot of graduates go into IT and Law. I’m a web designer myself. Philosophy isn’t about that job you can get out of it, what it can do for you; it’s about this world we live in. It’s not about new-agey floaty claptrap, it’s about giving serious thought to what’s around us and what we can do about it.

And yes, this often raises more questions than answers. Does that make it bad? Is it bad to keep asking questions or should we just sit back and let life go on unremarked around us? If you don’t ask a question in the first place, things don’t get done. And most of us would be more than happy to praise people who get things done. But if people hadn’t sat down and thought “How can we do this better? What’s the best way to run a country?”, for example, democracy wouldn’t have happened. If we don’t ask about knowledge, how do we deal with the notion of artificial intelligence in this world of technology? The list goes on, but i’ll stop there for brevity’s sake.