What’s the Point of Philosophy (as an academic discipline)?


I’m curious about what academic philosophers take to be the point of academic philosophy. Just a little question, that’s all.

In a future post, I’m going to ask a version of that question in a poll.

Here, let me clarify some things about the question, and then ask for your help in laying out the possible answers.

First, the clarifications:

  • The question is about the point of philosophy as an academic discipline. What kind of thing should we be after?
  • By “point of philosophy as an academic discipline”, I mean the point of philosophical research, not, say, the point of teaching courses in philosophy.
  • The question is not asking you to provide a sociological analysis of the discipline, or even an account of what you think most other philosophers are in fact up to, or what the discipline as a whole is doing. Rather, it’s asking you what you think is the proper aim of the discipline.
  • I understand that some people will say there is no single aim or point to philosophy, that philosophy is supposed to do many things. Fine, but for the purposes of a workable poll, I’m going to be asking: if you had to choose just one, what is either (you pick) the overarching or organizing goal of philosophy, or the most important aim of philosophy, or the thing without which philosophy as an academic discipline wouldn’t make sense, or…?
  • I’m not looking for cynical answers, like “to keep up wages in the fast food industry”.

Now let’s turn to the answers.

Below is a list of answers I’m considering for the poll. I know the list doesn’t include all the possible answers, but “include all the possible answers” is typically not a criterion for a good poll.

I’ve aimed to include answers that I’ve read or heard people sincerely offer, to flesh out the answers a little for the purposes of explaining them and distinguishing them from the others while still keeping them short enough for a poll, and to prevent incapacitating overlap among the answers.

If you think I’m missing an answer that should be on such a poll (again, given the practical constraints of a poll) or have suggestions for improving any of the answers, please say so in the comments.

Here are the answer options I’ve come up with so far:

  1. There are correct and incorrect answers to some big philosophical questions, and ultimately the point of research in academic philosophy is to determine what the correct answers are and why they’re correct.
  2. There are incorrect answers to some big philosophical questions, and there may be correct ones, too, however, we are unable to identify the correct answers (for whatever reason). We can identify incorrect answers, though, and the point of research in academic philosophy is to determine these incorrect answers and why they’re incorrect.
  3. Whether or not we can come to conclusively correct or incorrect answers to big philosophical questions, the point of philosophical research is, to the extent possible, to determine what it is rational to believe and why (for example, by determining which sets of beliefs are coherent).
  4. The point of philosophical research is to provide an organized, extensive, detailed, and informative account of what we do not know (for example, through the creation/discovery/articulation of questions, distinctions, and arguments).
  5. The aim of philosophical research is “therapeutic”, that is, well-being for either the researchers or others, in terms of self-understanding, or reconciling oneself with the world, or addressing natural human curiosity, etc.
  6. The aim of philosophical research is ultimately good philosophical teaching; philosophical research is like exercise which maintains or improves some of the skills philosophers need in order to be good teachers (and this is not circular because, we can assume, the main aim of philosophical teaching is not the production of philosophical researchers).
  7. The aim of philosophical research is cultural preservation. Having philosophy around as a discipline means maintaining a part of the population that keeps alive texts, ideas, skills, traditions which themselves play various important roles in the successful functioning of a culture. (While this may seem most applicable to research in the history of philosophy, it applies to today’s non-historical research, too, which is a sorting mechanism for works of future cultural significance.)

I did not give these answers labels, nor did I name the philosophers who may be associated with them, in part to avoid influencing the choices of those who will end up taking the poll. In setting out options you think I’ve missed, or in fixing up some of my options, I’d ask you to do the same, if it isn’t too much trouble.

Thanks for your help with this.

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Douglas W. Portmore
7 months ago

Here’s a suggestion: The aim of philosophy, as a discipline, is to develop a coherent and comprehensive theory of everything. Philosophy seeks to integrate our knowledge of the sciences with that of every other discipline to achieve a rational, coherent, and comprehensive worldview. Unlike other disciplines, then, philosophy does not confine itself to some mere fragment of human knowledge or experience. Rather, it seeks to systematize the entirety of human knowledge and experience. As the philosopher C. D. Broad put it, philosophy’s aim “is to take over the results of the various sciences, to add to them the results of the religious and ethical experiences of mankind, and then to reflect upon the whole. The hope is that, by this means, we may be able to reach some general conclusions as to the nature of the universe, and as to our position and prospects in it” (Scientific Thought. New York: Harcourt, 1923, p. 20).

Patrick Lin
Reply to  Douglas W. Portmore
7 months ago

I like this position, and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong also said similar things in his short essay “What Is Philosophy?” (which was deleted when he left Dartmouth):

https://web.archive.org/web/20080105120054/http://www.dartmouth.edu/~phil/whatis/wsa.html

Patrick Lin
Reply to  Patrick Lin
7 months ago

Snippet from Walter’s essay:

Philosophy’s goal is nothing less than a systematic world view. Other fields study particular kinds of things. Philosophy asks how it all fits together.

Mark Wilson
Mark Wilson
Reply to  Douglas W. Portmore
7 months ago

This just seems false. A theory of everything would include a theory of skyscrapers and wren’s nests, and philosophers don’t seem to take much interest in those.

Douglas W. Portmore
Reply to  Mark Wilson
7 months ago

I think that many philosophers are interested in skyscrapers and wren’s nests. After all, many would deny any worldview that held that there were no skyscrapers or wren’s nests as well as any worldview that denied either that skyscrapers are several stories tall or that wren’s nests are often found in the hollows of trees. I certainly would. Indeed, I reject certain metaphysical positions on the grounds that they entail that there are no skyscrapers or wren’s nests. Also, many philosophers would deny any worldview that implied that we couldn’t possibly know such things about skyscrapers and wren’s nests. What’s more, many philosophers would be interested in why there are skyscrapers and wren’s nests? Sure, science tells us that they were made by humans and wrens, respectively, but why are there humans and wrens, and why is there anything rather than nothing? Thus, philosophers take such scientific knowledge and try to integrate it with everything else we putatively know and experience into a rational, coherent, and comprehensive worldview, which includes, of course, both metaphysics and epistemology. Admittedly, some philosophers (skeptics and anti-realists of various sorts) might not be that interested in the idea that are skyscrapers and wren’s nest, but that would be only because they don’t think that it’s possible to integrate such putative knowledge of skyscrapers and wren’s nests into a rational, coherent, and comprehensive worldview. But even they are interested in whether there are skyscrapers and wren’s nests and how, if there are, we would know this. 

MrMr
MrMr
Reply to  Douglas W. Portmore
7 months ago

The argument here seems to be that philosophers are interested in wren’s nests because they care about composition, and wren’s nests are composite objects, so they are interested in them. Sure. But couldn’t you just as well say that linguists are interested in reference, and “wren’s nests” refers to wren’s nests, so they are interested in wren’s nests too? Or cosmologists care about the structure of the universe, and wren’s nests are parts of the universe, so they are interested in wren’s nests?

For all of these interest claims, you could substitute “wren’s nest” with just about anything else (baseballs, kittens, MRNA vaccines, Chryslers) and they would read exactly the same. But I took Mark Wilson’s claim about philosopher’s interests to be referring to the kind of interest which requires one to know a fact about wren’s nests that is not also just as much a fact about baseballs or kittens.

Maybe philosophers aim to develop a theory of everything, and properly so–I’m agnostic. But if so, this is a theory at a very high level of abstraction. Watching philosophers in Q&A after talks with an empirical focus, I would say that there is a whole lot of everything that they/we clearly and perhaps properly do not care about. I think it’s worth highlighting that fact in order to avoid a too-self-aggrandizing understanding of what it means to “reflect on the whole” in the particular way we do.

Douglas W. Portmore
Reply to  MrMr
7 months ago

You write: “For all of these interest claims, you could substitute ‘wren’s nest’ with just about anything else (baseballs, kittens, MRNA vaccines, Chryslers) and they would read exactly the same. But I took Mark Wilson’s claim about philosopher’s interests to be referring to the kind of interest which requires one to know a fact about wren’s nests that is not also just as much a fact about baseballs or kittens.”

Imagine a metaphysical view that held that baseballs, kittens, MRNA vaccines, and Chryslers exist but that wren’s nests don’t. I, qua philosopher, would reject such a metaphysical view on the grounds that it does not fit well into a rational, coherent, and comprehensive worldview. And imagine an epistemological view that held that we can know all about baseballs, kittens, MRNA vaccines, and Chryslers, but can’t know that wren’s nests are often found in the hallows of trees. I, qua philosopher, would reject such a view on the grounds that it does not fit well into a rational, coherent, and comprehensive worldview. This suggests to me that we can’t just replace ‘wren’s nests’ with, say, ‘baseballs’ and make all the same points that I’ve been making. And this suggests to me that philosophers are very much concerned with everything (including wren’s nests) when developing a rational, coherent, and comprehensive view of everything and how it all fits together.

MrMr
MrMr
Reply to  Douglas W. Portmore
7 months ago

Presumably a linguist would also reject the view that “baseball” refers to baseballs but “wren’s nest” doesn’t refer to wren’s nests, and a physicist would reject the view that baseballs exert (tiny) gravitational forces on each other but wren’s nests don’t. But I don’t think that makes either linguists or physicists interested in either wren’s nests or the differences between them and baseballs. Rather, I think it shows the opposite–linguists and physicists would reject these claims because there is nothing interesting about wren’s nests, with respect to the phenomena they care about, which would explain why they’d be different. That is, it is their not knowing and correctly not feeling the need to know anything about wren’s nests in particular which explains the inclination to reject statements that their concepts apply differently to wren’s nests than they do to everything else. I don’t see how the same doesn’t apply to the metaphysician.

grymes
grymes
Reply to  MrMr
7 months ago

Even if you’re right to push back against DP’s general argument in this manner, it remains true that particular philosophers—e.g. philosophers of biology studying niche construction—have a particular interest in wrens’ nests. And it seems plausible that their conclusions about wrens’ nests are contributions to a philosophical theory of everything. (So too with philosophers of architecture—or, for that matter, philosophers of science studying niche construction in cultural evolution—and skyscrapers.)

MrMr
MrMr
Reply to  grymes
7 months ago

I am given some pause by x’s for which there is no philosophy of x, and of the many details of each x that are generally ignored even by philosophers of that x. But, that being said, I do agree that the connection between philosophy and wren’s nests that goes through philosophy of biology seems much more substantial than the one that goes through metaphysics and epistemology; I’d add that the fact that “philosophy of x” admits of such heterogenous x’s is a prima facie difference between philosophy and other disciplines. So this does seem like a more promising route.

Patrick Lin
Reply to  MrMr
7 months ago

Hypothesis: for every x, there is or can be a philosophy of x.

How would you confirm or falsify that?

MrMr
MrMr
Reply to  Patrick Lin
7 months ago

In some ways this discussion reminds me of this classic xkcd. I don’t think there is or that it would ever make sense for there to be a philosophy of European trade summit failure or of the historical development of microprocessor instruction sets used in production chips (or of wren’s nests). Of course, you might agree but think that there doesn’t need to be a philosophy of x for every x, but instead that for every x there will be some y such that x is a y and there is a philosophy of y (so while there is not a philosophy of European trade summit failure, there is social and political philosophy, philosophy of history, philosophy of social science, and other covering areas).

But then, sometimes the relationship between x and y may be so distant as to be trivial. Imagine I said my metaphysical view is that the world is just a bunch of stuff standing in relations. Is this a theory of everything? In the sense that it’s domain is universal, maybe–wren’s nest? Stuff. Geographic range of nests? Relations. And so on. But what this theory says about everything is very thin, and me writing those sentences clearly didn’t demonstrate any enviable understanding or knowledge of everything.

Terms like “a systematic worldview” or statements about seeing “how it all hangs together” are nebulous and I don’t want to argue that there are ~no~ more concrete specifications on which they turn out true. There will be some specifications on which they clearly do, and others on which they clearly don’t, so the substantive question seems to be about how interesting the senses on which they do are, and therefore how informative the claim that doing that is what philosophy is about is, when it comes to articulating for ourselves and others what philosophy aims at. As per the above, while I did push back on one way of arguing for the conclusion, I’m personally agnostic on whether that is an interesting and informative characterization.

Patrick Lin
Reply to  Mark Wilson
7 months ago

As a different kind of reply than Doug Portmore’s here:

YES, a theory of everything would include a theory of skyscrapers and wren’s nests, and philosophers ARE taking interest in those.

For instance, there’s ongoing work in “philosophy of the city” and the ethics of urban planning designs. And wren’s nests are interesting to philosophers of technology, namely for the question “what is technology?” and the possibility of non-human tool-use, i.e., does a wren’s nest count as tool-making; is it properly a technology?

But more fundamentally, it hasn’t been argued that there must exist philosophers who are interested in any given x, in order for the position to be plausible that philosophy is about building a systematic worldview about how everything (every x) fits together:

Besides the impossibility of a finite number of philosophers working in an infinite or near-infinite number of x’s, think about philosophers in ancient times: they weren’t working on (say) the philosophy of quantum physics, but that doesn’t weigh against quantum physics as a proper area of study for philosophers or against the plausibility of the position offered by Doug and others here. That is, working on a theory of everything doesn’t imply you’ve already engaged with everything.

So, even if you could find some x that no philosopher, living or dead, is/was ever interested in—which I’m skeptical that anyone could—you’d also need to argue that no future philosopher would ever be interested in it, if x is supposed to be a counterexample to the position. Good luck with that.

Allan
Allan
Reply to  Mark Wilson
7 months ago

But the idea of ‘theory’ itself is certainly a key part of philosophy. E.g. set theory doesn’t concern itself directly with the contents of each set but the rules for creating or defining sets etc.

Matthias H.
Matthias H.
Reply to  Douglas W. Portmore
7 months ago

“The aim of philosophy, as a discipline, is to develop a coherent and comprehensive theory of everything.”

Even though this is a popular view, it seems difficult to me to find good arguments in support of it.

That philosophy (as a discipline) has an ‘aim’ implies that the people (professionally) involved in this discipline have this aim as a collective.

But that this is the case seems to me quite speculative, indeed implausible.

I can just as well imagine that the majority of people (professionally) involved in this discipline do not even think about a possible collective aim. I can well imagine that the majority of people are simply focused on making progress on questions that are traditionally considered philosophical questions.

Last edited 7 months ago by Matthias H.
Matthias H.
Matthias H.
Reply to  Matthias H.
7 months ago

Moreover, if people (professionally) involvied in this discipline had a collective aim, it should be reasonable to expect that a representative survey will lead to finding out what the aim is. After all, a collective goal is one that at least a majority should be aware of. However, as Weinberg’s post as well as the comments section suggests, there’s a strong disagreement about what that aim might be. This is unexpected given the assumption that there is such a collective goal.

Patrick Lin
Reply to  Matthias H.
7 months ago

So, you’re not so much disagreeing with this answer to the question about philosophy’s goals, but you’re just denying that there is or maybe could ever be an overarching goal in philosophy, right?

If you’re insisting on some collective aim that the majority of philosophers should be aware of (like a military organization, where even the cooks and secretaries understand the greater mission), then sure, we might not ever uncover what that aim is, esp. since philosophers are a particularly argumentative bunch.

But I’m not sure why that’s a necessary condition in the first place, and it could be a fallacy of division.

It could be that a division of labor is needed because some job is so big, and not all of those workers understand how their role is connected to the bigger picture, because of the job’s complexity or secrecy.

For instance, a PhD student with a government grant to develop solar mirrors might not realize that their product is a component of a new energy weapon, i.e., “The Man with a Golden Gun” scenario. Yet that student is nonetheless part of the same military-industrial complex, despite being unaware or even actively rejecting the goal. (Unless they sabotage the work after discovering the goal, i.e., “Real Genius” scenario.)

For a collective project, some folks may be working specifically on x, y, or z, while others are working to fit some of those puzzle-pieces together if they even have access to a wider view of the meta-job, which they might not or at least not a full view.

For a theory of everything, I’m assuming no finite mind can access a view of all the pieces, but that doesn’t mean no one is interested or working on such a theory. It could be that we’re each developing the pieces we can, toward the meta-goal of consistency (i.e., non-contradictory with other pieces) in the hopes of unifying all the pieces at some point, whether you realize it or not … or so such a position might go; I’m not trying to develop the position here, esp. pre-coffee.

So, some assumptions in your position here seem to need defense, specifically that (1) any alleged goal of philosophy must be a collective goal, and (2) a collective goal is one that at least a majority should be aware of.

Matthias H.
Matthias H.
Reply to  Patrick Lin
7 months ago

Lin: Thanks for your reply!

My thoughts go back to the following assumptions:

(1) A discipline as such (abstracted from the people who engage in it) does not have a goal. Goals are things persons have.

(2) Thus, when we say that *philosophy* has a goal, it seems to me we mean that the *people engaged in it* have a (shared) goal.

(3) It is difficult for me to imagine a group of people having a shared goal, with the majority being completely unaware of it. To me this seems inconsistent. But it seems you are prepared to deny this?

I think we need conceptual evidence for or against this.

My intution is based on examples like this:

Imagine a football team. The commentator says that “the team’s goal is to play defensively”. However, she adds that only the coach and one football player on the field have this goal in mind. The rest of the team knows nothing about it.

To me this seems inconsistent. Under such conditions, it is not the case that “the team” has that goal.

What do you think?

Last edited 7 months ago by Matthias H.
Patrick Lin
Reply to  Matthias H.
7 months ago

Quick reply as I head out the door: I’d say all of your assumptions can be challenged, per my previous reply.

(1) A military can have the goal of “securing peace by preparing for war”, right? If so, then a goal can be institutional, e.g., the goal of higher education.

(2) No, see my previous reply re: fallacy of division.

(3) No, see my previous reply re: PhD student who unknowingly is working on a weapon.

It’s fine to start with intuitions, but you may be cherry-picking examples without acknowledging the counterexamples?

Matthias H.
Matthias H.
Reply to  Patrick Lin
7 months ago

.

Last edited 7 months ago by Matthias H.
A hopefully modest modification of (4)
A hopefully modest modification of (4)
7 months ago

The point of philosophical research is to provide an organized, extensive, detailed, and informative account of what we do not know, and to take preliminary steps on the further question of whether such matters in the particulars are necessarily so.

(I think this diverges from 4, because as 4 is presently framed, 4 is exclusively (necessarily) a negative project. That’s not disqualifying, but the modification only includes the kind of preliminary work often taken just after the negative project, but which — one hopes — eventually leads to new disciplines outside philosophy to take the helm, on a long enough time frame.)

Ted Locke
Ted Locke
7 months ago

Here is a somewhat vague suggestion that might prompt a clearer idea: The aim of philosophical research is to develop and critically explore theoretical or pragmatic frameworks (conceptual schemes?) with the aim of aiding any number of activities such as empirical inquiry, social and political activism, public policy development, living together, ordinary life, etc. Maybe a secondary aim for some is finding a framework that tracks fundamentality or some such like Truth, but that’s not (or shouldn’t be) the primary aim.

Ted Locke
Ted Locke
Reply to  Ted Locke
7 months ago

By “critically explore” I mean something like testing proposed frameworks for consistency, applicability, explanatory power, fit with other disciplines, etc. Some of this might be done with thought experiments, some might be done with conceptual explication, genealogy, or engineering, or some of it might be done by looking at continuity with other disciplines. By “framework” I mean something like the language or concepts used (e.g., ideology), proposed distinctions or categories, etc.

Ian Olasov
7 months ago

Different people have different philosophical aims – among others, to build their own system of thought, answer a question to their satisfaction, understand the history of ideas, explore the basis of their agreements and disagreements with one another, deflating others’ theoretical aspirations, and (of course) discover the true answers to philosophical questions. The aim of philosophical research is to develop whatever resources it is in a good position to develop, which will help advance the legitimate philosophical aims of individual people.

Kestrel
Kestrel
Reply to  Ian Olasov
7 months ago

Or to reveal possible aims.

Kalai
Kalai
7 months ago

Point of philosophical research is to discover viable hypotheses for important questions in the sciences and other fields. For instance, atomism as a theory of the physical universe was proposed by Democritus.
However, this doesn’t of exhaust the significance of philosophy.

just a sellars gal
7 months ago

What about Sellars’ style views about the aim of philosophy regarding how things hang together? Seems like you might equate this some of the options you have listed, but it seems distinct enough to warrant an option of its own.

Animal Symbolicum
7 months ago

Except for proposed answers 6 and 7, your range of proposed answers do not specifically address your question. They’re just as much possible answers to a question along the lines of “What’s the point of writing and publishing philosophical research?” as they are answers to “What’s the point of academic philosophy?”

Institutionalizing philosophy is a specific way of doing philosophy, and academic philosophy is a specific way of institutionalizing philosophy. (Or something like that. I’m probably carving things up in some contentious way, but I hope you see what I’m getting at.)

So what, precisely, is the question you want to ask?

Is it something more general, such as, “What’s the point of writing (and publishing) philosophy?”

Or something more specific, such as, “What’s the point of this politically, economically, historically contingent institutionalization of this long tradition?”

Animal Symbolicum
Reply to  Animal Symbolicum
7 months ago

Update:

I love the variety in the responses here!

But I’d like to point out that almost all of the suggested purposes could just as easily be the purposes of non-academic philosophical activity.

I really think the OP’s question-plus-range-of-answers set a bad example: the answers aren’t specifically addressed to the question laid out in the OP’s preamble.

David Chalmers
David Chalmers
7 months ago
Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
7 months ago

The point of philosophy as a discipline is to help everybody search for answers to the big philosophical questions for themselves.
 
This is very different from the aim of finding answers to the big philosophical questions.

Animal Symbolicum
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
7 months ago

I’m with you: I actually think this is the correct answer to the question, “What’s the point of philosophy as a discipline (and tradition/institution)?”

What I’m less sure of is whether it’s the correct answer to the question, “What’s the point of the discipline/tradition/institution of philosophy in its academic arrangement?” The academy as housed in the university is a very specific form of institutionalized philosophy. Hence my question above.

Animal Symbolicum
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
7 months ago

To expand:

The reason I’m unsure whether the answer you float is the correct answer to the question,”What’s the point of academic philosophy?,” is that if academic philosophy’s point is to help everybody search for answers to the big philosophical questions for themselves, it’s doing a laughably horrible job.

It’s almost like we’ve built ourselves a very elaborate eye, and then we wonder, “Maybe it’s supposed to help us taste things?”

Last edited 7 months ago by Animal Symbolicum
Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  Animal Symbolicum
7 months ago

I agree that we’re doing a laughably horrible job of helping everyone search for answers. Still, it seems to me that the point of our discipline must be a public good of some kind.

David Wallace
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
7 months ago

Do I have to help *everybody*, or is it okay to restrict to the people who already know quantum field theory?

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  David Wallace
7 months ago

Sure. Just as every act of medical research doesn’t have to help every human, every act of philosophical research doesn’t have to help every human. I don’t think any discipline works differently in doing good.

Alan Stevenson
Alan Stevenson
7 months ago

The question is about “Philosophy” – several answers focus narrowly on “Philosophcal Research” …
Philosophy, as I understand it, is about clarity, discipline, logic and the resultant validity of thought/ perception as linked to our ” REAL” world (HA!)
Philosophy / Thinking / Reflection / all have the potential to provide BALANCE in our actions in the “real” world of fanatics, terrorists etc. etc. ….
“Think before you Act” .. – yes, but think deeply and considerately (OOPS- there’s an Ouch in the Epistemology of fanatics! 🤪) — anyway, Philosophy (love of Knowledge / Wisdom) would provide a measured, not fiercely emotional reaction, to many of our current issues e.g. Russia emotionally convinced that Crimea and parts of Ukraine are “ours” ; China emotionally claiming Taiwan as “ours”:
Subjectively, Yours
Alan S.
.

Master Debater
Master Debater
Reply to  Alan Stevenson
7 months ago

Justin writes:

“First, the clarifications … By ‘point of philosophy as an academic discipline’, I mean the point of philosophical research, not, say, the point of teaching courses in philosophy.”

MrMr
MrMr
7 months ago

It may be helpful to distinguish two different senses of “point.” The point in terms of what we are after (as in the first clarificatory bullet point) is, I think, #1. However, because this is hard, we often fail to get #1–but as a side-effect of searching for #1, get #2-7. Getting #1 may even be so unlikely that it would be pointless to try, except for the fact that trying creates these incidental benefits. Nonetheless, it strikes me as an important part of the explanation of why this activity can create incidental benefits like #2-7 that it is actually aiming at #1.

This may be similar to games, and the paradox of hedonism. Capturing a king has no value. But trying to capture a king is enjoyable, and enjoyment is valuable. So the aim of the activity can be different from our reasons for doing the activity.

Vipul Vivek M-D
Vipul Vivek M-D
7 months ago

The aim of philosophical research is to identify which questions are philosophical where the identification hasn’t happened yet and extend the discussion by philosophical means where non-philosophical identification has already happened.

Richard Y Chappell
7 months ago

A different answer: Philosophy aims to map out logical space, expanding our understanding of the range of possible answers to the “big questions”, and the interconnections between them (e.g., clarifying the “costs” and “benefits” of different candidate views).

nikos
7 months ago

The aim of philosophy as a discipline is to cultivate the whole of life onward—to actually further the conditions of life, and to bring vitality to Nature and Culture in nonduality. The aim of philosophy is to root individuals and cultures in wisdom, love, and beauty, for cultures do not produce “products,” but rather produce people and ecologies in total mutuality.

If we look at the world and see the inequality, injustice, and the cultural and ecological emergencies crying out for our attention, the issue becomes clear, for we see a philosophical crisis (or set of crises) at work. The aim of philosophy is expressed in this philosophical crisis. What else should we call this set of crises if not philosophical? No lack of wisdom goes without consequences, and yet what most ordinary people mean by “wisdom” or “love” doesn’t fit well with the main activity of philosophy in academia—and yet it should.

No culture that lacks a proper reverence for education can long endure, nor can any culture thrive whose people lack an education that helps them become truly wise, loving, compassionate, and beautiful people. This falls under the proper aim of the discipline.

It boggles the mind that philosophy departments so often fail to actively embrace this, and that, as a consequence, “positive psychology” has taken over a good measure of the realm that belongs most intimately to philosophy. Supposedly the most popular university course in the U.S. is a positive psychology course on how to be happy. Such a course lies precisely in the purview of philosophy.

(I have a PhD in philosophy but left academia in large part because of our failure here—so I fit but don’t fit the audience for the poll.)

Not everyone needs to do this kind of work, but we have abandoned our Socratic imperative if more people don’t make it an explicit focus. It could be that this demands significant soul searching, for it will come with a demand that more philosophers go beyond the narrow work of analyzing and constructing arguments, spending more time asking how we can best help people to live well.

As Epicurus put it: “Vain is the word of the philosopher that heals no suffering.” But option 5 above doesn’t cut it as an expression of this, because we have got to emphasize the nonduality of human suffering and non-human suffering, the nonduality of nature and culture, and the nonduality of philosophical and ecological realities. It certainly goes beyond “natural human curiosity,” a rather anemic expression of thauma. We have a duty to earn the free lunch Socrates asked for by actually serving the conditions of life and the countless sentient beings we all depend on.

Meme
Meme
7 months ago

I don’t necessarily endorse this view, but I sometimes find it quite plausible:

The aim of philosophical research is to produce a specific kind of beauty, achieved through a unique combination of reason and creativity—roughly, the beauty of a coherent worldview or, in narrower cases, of thought-provoking cleverness.

(I think that this is sufficiently distinct from option 5.)

Megan
Megan
Reply to  Meme
7 months ago

I like the thought because it’s short, to the point and correct.

J. Edward Hackett
J. Edward Hackett
7 months ago

The point of philosophy is to acquire wisdom and understanding, and through that wisdom and understanding we strive to improve the human world.

jean-yves beziau
Reply to  J. Edward Hackett
7 months ago

“Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding.” (King Solomon, Proverbs 3:13)  

On the Market
On the Market
7 months ago

This Marx dude once wrote that “philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.”

So perhaps for your survey: “To understand and imagine ways the world could be better, and to change it for the better.”

Grad
Grad
Reply to  On the Market
7 months ago

Let’s set aside the fact philosophers are susceptible to ideological trends and fads to the same degree (perhaps more?) than non-philosophers. Let’s also set aside the paternalism inherent in this position. Third, let’s aside the immense difficulty of determining workable policies to effect positive societal changes. Finally, let’s set aside suspicions that academics are overwhelmingly too idealistic and impractical to actually effect much widespread societal change.

Even setting aside each of these very serious issues with your idea, you still face the difficult problem of explaining why effecting positive societal change should be the goal of the entire discipline. One problem — far from the only one — is that huge swathes of the discipline do not concern socially relevant issues at all. Should we replace the logicians, philosophers of mathematics, philosophers of language, metaphysicians, epistemologists, philosophers of science, historians, and so many more who work on topics which have little to nothing to do with effecting positive societal change? Your proposal would seem to entail that. (Please, correct me if I have misunderstood you.)

By my lights, following your proposal (by which I mean restructuring the discipline so that it could better satisfy the aim of effecting positive societal change) would absolutely gut the discipline. I take it that destroying the discipline cannot be its proper aim.

Last edited 7 months ago by Grad
On the Market
On the Market
Reply to  Grad
7 months ago

My bad, shouldn’t have said whose position it was that I thought was left out.

I think this is altogether too foaming at the mouth to respond to. Is it “paternalistic” of pharmacology researchers to want to make the world better? Is the fact that it’s really hard a reason not to do it? Is social justice the only part of the world you think needs betterment?

Many of the prima facie more theoretical things you list can contribute to make the world better, just as e.g. engineering or psychology can.

Grad
Grad
Reply to  On the Market
7 months ago

“foaming at the mouth”. Wow.

In addition, since I am not the one who offered *your* proposal, I don’t take myself to be the one with the burden of showing what *you* meant by “change it [the world] for the better”.

Take care.

BCB
BCB
Reply to  On the Market
7 months ago

The contrast between this kind of answer and answers like Hey Nonny Mouse’s is striking.

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  BCB
7 months ago

It’s worth noting that I think my answer describes a goal that taxpayers might be willing to fund. I find it harder to imagine taxpayers willingly funding the goal of “changing the world for the better”, not because they don’t want to see the world changed for the better, but because they don’t trust us to make the right decisions about what the world needs.

N R RAJKUMAR
N R RAJKUMAR
7 months ago

To know what one is doing where one is going. To know one’s own self better in terms of definitions, application, determinations, in terms of dimensions and denominations of change and ordering in terms of truth and choices being made

Dmitri Gallow
7 months ago

I think this is an important question for us to be asking ourselves–especially at a time when philosophy as an area of instruction and research is under threat. It’s fair for administrators to want to know what value philosophy provides, both to the university and to society at large. And we should have a good answer to give them.

I would want an answer that combines elements of (1), (2), and (3).

As I understand it, the goal of philosophical research is figuring out how to think about puzzling matters we don’t already know how to think about, either because our unreflective thinking leads to paradox–aporia–or because our unreflective thinking is silent or nonplussed–thaumazein. This contrasts with matters we don’t know how to think about because we lack relevant empirical information or relevant proofs.
For instance, our unreflective ways of thinking about freedom and knowledge lead quickly to paradox. And we’re often left dumbfounded by moral questions. These topics are philosophical to the extent that they are not settled by empirical investigation or demonstrative proof. Once we’ve settled all the relevant mathematical and empirical questions, we are still left wondering whether Phineas Gage acted freely and who is responsible for the death of the desert traveller whose canteen was poisoned by me and emptied by you. (There are mixed cases. Whether the continuum hypothesis is true, false, or neither is partly a mathematical question, insofar as proofs are relevant, but also partly a philosophical question, insofar as it isn’t settled by proof alone.)
There may or may not be a uniquely correct way of thinking about freedom, knowledge, responsibility, or what-have-you. (That itself is a philosophical question–one whose answer we shouldn’t be taking for granted in advance of inquiry). But the goal of philosophical research is developing, curating, and improving the menu of options for how to think about these puzzling matters. It would be wonderful if we narrowed the menu down to a single option; but that’s not necessary for philosophy to make progress, and it’s not necessary for philosophical research to be worthwhile. It is enough that the menu improves over time.

Thalassopoeia
Thalassopoeia
7 months ago

6 is perhaps the only answer which could serve as the basis for a defense of professional, academic philosophy against budget cuts, etc. If research serves teaching and teaching serves democracy, then research serves democracy and is therefore socially relevant. It’s also a far more plausible position than any of the alternatives. 1 and 2 are historically untenable as few (if any) philosophical controversies have ever been settled by philosophy itself; 3 raises more questions than it answers by invoking a norm of “rationality” and theories of “truth”; 4 describes many academic disciplines other than philosophy; 5 does not line up with the lived experience of many students and professors; and 7 just defers the problem of purpose to texts, ideas, skills, and traditions. Then again, this whole exercise is futile if one does not presume from the outset that professional, academic philosophy has a purpose in the first place. But this is not the place for that discussion.

Dawn
Dawn
7 months ago

The main purpose of Philosophy should be to uncover fundamental problems often neglected in most areas of knowledge and attempt to clarify the issues.
E.g. the Philosophy of brain science has exposed epistemological, linguistic and scientific conundrums and contributed to research in these areas.

Megan
Megan
Reply to  Dawn
7 months ago

Excellent point!!

Leslie Glazer PhD
7 months ago

I am sure I will be considered off base here, but I think in a nontrivial way academic philosophy has no point. It sort of echos kant’s point about beauty as the evocation of purpose without purpose. In a more narrow sense of course there is purpose, many of which have been expressed here. A discipline of clarification, meaningful in the clarification of positions, views, and arguments and their limits. But why, for the development of the most comprehensive and complex appreciation of that which is. In other words, wisdom. But even here I think one needs to add another level. Academic philosophy is itself subordinate and for the sake of the philosophic life. Just as theology supports and exists for the sake of religious living and experience and perception, and not as something meaningful on its own, so too academic philosophy is meant to support the cultivation of wisdom and freedom in living. This is why in the end academic philosophy loses all meaning to the extent that no one reads or engages with it in class. Philosophy is a way of life and a therapeia, and academic philosophy is necessary to support that

Megan
Megan
Reply to  Leslie Glazer PhD
7 months ago

I’d argue that political science as an academic study also has no merit. And any academic study thereof loses all meaning to the same extent. Research exists in any discipline to continue the learning and development. For those that believe quite ignorantly that all philosophers are dead, simply need to better understand the origin of all academia which is based in philosophy. Side note: Philosophy majors statistically score 65% higher on the LSAT that any other major.

Maxine Franklin
Maxine Franklin
7 months ago

I think philosophy as a discipline is an attempt to organize the quantum foam at the ground of our being with the illusory structures that constitute the ever changing dance of Shiva.

V. Alan White
7 months ago

If there’s anything that could benefit people more than inculcating widespread epistemic humility, then I’d like to hear about it. Socrates was presented as its apparent icon–even if he really was something of a hypocrite about that in reality–but its opposite–attained certainty or the appearance of it, encouraged especially by intentionally employed emotivist means–has not given us hope for anything like the pursuit of truth otherwise, and given us over to the overwhelming force of irrationality mapping out our collective future. The pursuit of clarity about ideas and the resultant humbling of one’s inherited values about truth is really Socratic in its best sense, and could result in some collective progress toward what might be truly called a better future–if there is one.

Neil Levy
Neil Levy
Reply to  V. Alan White
7 months ago

But there’s too much epistemic humility around, Alan! Or so I’ve recently argued. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11098-023-02031-4

V. Alan White
Reply to  Neil Levy
7 months ago

That’s a good reply article Neil. Thanks!

Steven Harder
Steven Harder
7 months ago

The point of academic philosophy is error detection. All of your potential answers touch on this, but they are awkwardly and seemingly arbitrarily tied to various philosophical commitments.

John-The-Badd
John-The-Badd
7 months ago

Truly falsification is a term that inspires and provokes the essence. But by it’s spirit it good reason to consider all instances of the Poll. However, current issues are imperative and history allows language and observational skills to acquaint an audience of community value to proceed with reality. Taking revolutionary ideals as Ptolemy would detail as central for focus; we come meet with the advent of wisdom. This plausible means to crisis allows logic and revelation of truth to become the continuity of setting natural circumstances with understanding the cosmologicals of why ignorance can no longer be tolerated. Yet, to ask the question of surety is where Philosophy awards society equality based on the consensus of education, training, and proficiency. The refutation of crisis is where society wants to be and Philosophy is such a friend to the world and by it’s act, becomes a rewarding cultural experience. Being correct is perfection, but now we realize that relative motion is a truth phenomena which accounts for the affects of what we observe. Whether present tense, past tense, or whether descriptions by wisdom can afford the mentally of society; Philosophy has its evolution. However, I like 7 as 1-7: to be concerning for importance in making choice judgement for this polling.

Neil Levy
Neil Levy
7 months ago

I really don’t like this exercise. There are goals characteristic of philosophy, but much of philosophy doesn’t pursue these goals. For instance, some philosophy is concerned with the best account of our evolutionary past, some is concerned with teasing apart different brain mechanisms and their workings and some is concerned with technical questions in linguistics. There’s no big picture end here: philosophy like this is continuous with cognitive science and other disciplines. Other work is continuous with work in the humanities. Some is interpretive, for example.

You might say, “yes, but this work can be integrated into some big picture”. Sure it might be able to be. But it’s not pursuing that goal, and won’t always more easily lend itself to these big pictures than work by non-philosophers.

TL;DR. I think this is gatekeepy and we shouldn’t do it. Let’s celebrate the diversity of philosophy instead.

Daniel Nagase
Daniel Nagase
Reply to  Neil Levy
7 months ago

Yea, I was going to comment exactly this: there should be an option in the poll (if we’re doing a poll) according to which there is no *single* point to philosophy. Anyway, I definitely agree with this!

James Robinson
James Robinson
7 months ago

Underlying and driving the attempt at an all-embracing overview of the universe, the mind, and values is a normative impetus succinctly stated by philosopher Leonard Peikoff while giving a lecture in 2005:

Philosophy is the science which defines the proper relationship between a volitional consciousness and reality, by proper relationship I mean a consciousness in contact with reality and guided by it in all its choices

“Philosophy and Physics: Differences and Similarities” by Leonard Peikoff

Naive Skeptic
Naive Skeptic
7 months ago

Another possibility:
Philosophy is the incubator for science. The goal of philosophy is to develop and clarify concepts to the point that they are subject to scientific investigation, at which point they can leave the umbrella of philosophy and become their own disciplines. This has happened many times in the past, such as astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and psychology. While philosophy continues to find new domains of concern, the ultimate aim should be to empty the discipline.
Somehow I suspect this perspective would not win many polls.

Patrick Lin
Reply to  Naive Skeptic
7 months ago

This isn’t naive at all. I’d also consider philosophy to be “pre-science”: once we’re able to empirically answer a philosophical question, it instantly becomes a scientific question. They’re genetically related.

For instance, “do we live in a simulation?” is a philosophical question right now, but if there ever came a time when the skies pixelated and revealed a hidden world (base reality), then it might lend itself to empirical inquiry and become a science question. This is similar to questions like “what is the world composed of?” (atoms) and “how are humans created?” (not via homunculi), which used to be philosophical questions before we developed the tools to empirically study them.

Some questions might be so resistant to empirical testing, e.g., “what is beauty?” or “what is the best form of government?”, that the discipline of philosophy might never be emptied. But that’s ok. We can’t expect mere mortals to unlock all the knowledge of the universe…

Mr. Practical
Mr. Practical
7 months ago

Here is one way of thinking about the role of philosophy. Think about the game of soccer, which has a number of players who work together. The forwards do offense and try to score and other people play defense. The players each have a role to play in contributing to how the team does to advance their aims. But there is also the sweeper position and that person roams all around the field trying to help where it’s needed. Philosophy is like the sweeper position in helping to advance our knowledge of things.

asrao
asrao
7 months ago

UNESCO preamble says “War starts in the minds of men. So it is in the minds of men defences of peace must be constructed”. This task comes under the domain of Philosophy !

Eric Westfall
Eric Westfall
7 months ago

I’m of the opinion that philosophy has just become some sort of entertaining language game. The later Wittgenstein seemed to be onto something and so was Quine. I think language can perhaps express a truth but it’s just asking too much of it to prove the truth of its own accord, which seems to be the enterprise philosophy is engaged in.

At its best I think philosophy gets you to observe phenomenologically, whatever that means, and observe that you’re imposing a mental framework on your sensory experiences ala Kant. That’s all language and philosophy really is: imposing a mental framework on direct experience. It’s simply asking too much for that framework to be proven true.

I’ve never known philosophy to be therapeutic. I’ve seen philosophers led to Zen or Vipassana, and that’s therapeutic, but not philosophy itself. Philosophy itself seems more of a neurotic compulsion to investigate something.

So my answer is that philosophy is an attempt to answer the big questions, but it’s neverending because it’s the wrong tool for the job.

Paul Dablemont
Paul Dablemont
7 months ago

Does it have to have an aim ? I like Althusser’s take on this : the difference between Philosophy and Science is that Science has an object.

My understanding is that we’re asked questions, or ask ourselves questions and we try to grasp the whole complexity of those questions and answer them in a way other disciplines can’t, precisely because they have an object. Is there more to it ?

Glen Koehn
Glen Koehn
7 months ago

No reason to limit ourselves to exactly one of the above, since philosophy may serve more than one purpose.

Something philosophy can and should do is remove confusion by pointing out equivocations and offering improved theories of meaning and use.

Example: People sometimes wonder about the objectivity of moral (and aesthetic) claims. And there is an argument that all moral claims are false, based on the notion that any moral statement requires desire-transcendent reasons and “categorical imperatives” for its truth.

But after noting equivocations in “objective” and “desire transcendent”, and showing that a “categorical imperative” semantics of moral language is defective, one can reveal how the above reasoning works its sleight of hand.

Francisco Díaz Montilla
Francisco Díaz Montilla
7 months ago

Perhaps option 4 is the more realistic.

T-3 PhD Student (MLE)
T-3 PhD Student (MLE)
7 months ago

None of the above. I recommend the following option:

“8. The point of philosophical research mirrors the point of scientific and mathematical research, i.e., to do exactly three things: (1) discover strictly-better questions about the external, mind-independent world, (2) map as precisely as humanly possible the space of possible answers to the improved questions, and (3) adjudicate among answers to whatever extent possible, by whatever means necessary (e.g., supercollider experiments, thought experiments, dreams about snakes eating their own tails, holding up one’s right hand, etc.).”

Jason L Schwartz
Jason L Schwartz
7 months ago

Philosophy is a foundational and comprehensive function of conceptual self-policing. We did not evolve to be honest or to have veracity. We need bespoke operational schemata to achieve those things, to the extent that we can. Academic philosophy is merely the rigorization and politicization of those schemata at an institutional level. Science serves a similar role, but is limited, not just to the empirical, but to the subset of the empirical to which it has access. Philosophy provides that crucial self-policing to all of our endeavors, whether in our day-to-day lives or at the most rigorous levels of academia.

Eric Steinhart
7 months ago

I’m confused. Is this poll about:

(A) The point of philosophy in some grand utopian idealistic sense? If so, why are you taking a poll about that? Mere curiosity? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but, as per recent events, don’t we have more pressing concerns?

(B) The point of philosophy as a practice fitting into contemporary economies, so that admins don’t shut down our philosophy departments and end our jobs? If so, then why are you proposing those options for the poll?

I’d love to hear the answers to poll (A), but the poll we need is about (B).

Dean walsh
Dean walsh
7 months ago

I would add to number 1 the goal of finding what answer is most likely to be correct. Finding answers that we can be certain are correct is the purpose of science, the purpose of philosophy is to go beyond this narrow range to explore questions which science cannot answer.

But that should not mean abandoning the idea of a correct answer nor discounting the usefulness of an answer which is very likely but not certainly the correct one.

JM (A Grad Student)
7 months ago

What about the possibility that philosophy plays the “gadfly” to our naive worldviews and prejudices, in this sense, perhaps philosophy is not only therapeutic per se: but as often just the opposite.

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
7 months ago

Doesn’t the ultimate point of any discipline have to be some sort of public good?

Tom
Tom
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
7 months ago

no

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  Tom
7 months ago

Why should the public fund any discipline whose point is not some public good?

BCB
BCB
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
7 months ago

An activity can (non-accidentally) achieve some good without having that good as its point.

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  BCB
7 months ago

So in the case of these disciplines, the public should fund them because of the public good they do, even though the public good they do is not the point?

BCB
BCB
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
7 months ago

Sure, just as the public should fund the arts.

Milton Ponson
Milton Ponson
7 months ago

As a mathematician and computer scientist dealing with artificial intelligence and knowledge representation, the answer for me is easy.

Let me start by asking another question first.

Can there be a scientific theory of consciousness?

The problem at the heart of this discussion is that science should be empirically testable. Yet mathematics does not require this. In mathematics hypotheses or theorems must be proven to be true or false. Only conjectures are open ended. But Godel et alii proved that no mathematical framework is complete and no mathematical framework can prove its own consistency.
With the advent of quantum physics the entire issue of science, empirical science to be precise, and it’s testability has come under scrutiny. Big Bang theory, cosmology and the standard model of particle physics are now all buckling under the pressure of new empirical findings.
The problem, too often completely ignored, but described eloquently by both Western and Buddhist philosophers is that empirical science depends on observation, i.e. sensory input. And according to the Buddhist philosophy of the Madhyamaka Middle Way sense perception is flawed. According to Western philosophers observation, perception, knowledge representation, cognition and consciousness are all subject to discussion.
What we need is a new framework for science which captures mathematically the limitations of sense perception and observation. And which does away with the notion that everything should be empirically testable.

Now let’s get back to the original question.

The answer is that philosophy has as one of its purposes to help fill in the gap between what is provable and consistent and what is not in our knowledge and understanding of the world, reality etc.

And it allows this in a way that is not necessarily logical, binary, right or wrong or using weight factoring.

The academic sparring in philosophy using natural language, and in some subjects mathematics as well allows for discussions not limited by mathematical and physical science constraints.

When mathematicians and physicists are ar a loss, more often than not philosophers provide a means, a path to solving problems.

In the end philosophy is the arena in which all other sciences operate.

Jason Jenson
Jason Jenson
7 months ago

Rosenberg and McIntyre (2020) offer the following which I think is worthy of consideration even though it is partisan.

“Philosophy deals with two sets of questions:

First, question that science–physical, biological, social, behavioral–cannot answer now and perhaps may never be able to answer.
Second, questions about why the sciences cannot answer the first set of questions.”

Thalassopoeia
Thalassopoeia
7 months ago

“…philosophy’s (secret) function is to perpetuate intricacies and conundrums, and not to obviate or resolve them.”

Gary Shipley, On the Verge of Nothing: Pessimism’s Impossible Beyond

Frank Martela
7 months ago

The aim of philosophy is to improve people’s ability to live a good life through engaging in systematic thinking that aims to explore our basic patterns of thinking – such as what we mean by good life.

This kind of aim of philosophy – which I see as broadly pragmatist – seems to be missing from the list. As William James put it: “What you want is a philosophy that will not only exercise your powers of intellectual abstraction, but that will make some positive connexion with this actual world of finite human lives.”

Nous Bros.
Nous Bros.
7 months ago

I like #2 and #7.

But I’d add that another aim should be to engage in ideology-critique. Not the crude kind, though, where you say “Affirm that claim x is true bcs it’s being true would be good for this or that oppressed group or for the oppressed generally.” That’s mainly just a matter propaganda, which is a different project (in my view). I mean the kind where you (a) track the substantive ideological work that’s done by given assumptions, and (b) at the same time de-code them for what they tell us about present conditions. Adorno (for what it’s worth) contrasted this with a simpler kind of sociology of knowledge; he referred to it as looking for “the sociological truth-content,” as he put it, that is encrypted in different ideas and forms of thought.

Nous Bros.
Nous Bros.
Reply to  Nous Bros.
7 months ago

Ack! That’s “its,” not “it’s.” I am mortified.

Sophie
Sophie
7 months ago

None of the above: the point of philosophy (why I do it), is the pleasure of puzzle-solving. That is as pleasurable as a paycheck. I like to solve puzzles, and I wouldn’t dare claim, for sure, that my solutions are true, but they fit with the pieces I have.

The most clever ways to solve win. The least clever lose.

I’ve had this debate a million times. I think philosophy is no better than any other discipline in terms of tracking the truth. And truth is scarce. We puzzle-solve, we move on. Be honest.

Last edited 7 months ago by Sophie
Peter
Peter
7 months ago

What happened to wisdom?

Jackson Hawkins
Jackson Hawkins
7 months ago

I strongly believe we as philosophers need to stand up for the unique value not only of our discipline, but also those of our colleagues in the other branches of the Humanities. We should be trenchantly resistant to the neoliberal drive to make “value” codescriptive with “profitable” as this is pernicious in the extreme! If I may be permitted to purloin one of my favorite quotes in philosophy (Wittgenstein said this of ethics) “[It] can be no science… But it is a document of a tendency in the human mind which I personally cannot help respecting deeply and I would not for my life ridicule it”.

Lohmann
Lohmann
7 months ago

Very interesting answers here and find most of all plausible. But being a graduate student of philosophy and starting to give the first steps in a junior researcher career, I want to ask you all quite frankly: do you believe the academic research we practice nowadays, in the XXI century, have anything to do with the long tradition/history of philosophical production and thinking? I don’t think there should be such a profession or career (as we see today in it’s institutionalized version) of a “philosophy researcher” as opposed to a “philosophy teacher” or a “philosopher” tout court (even though in previous generations this mainly overlapped). I don’t believe our actual specialized professionalized and institutionalized philosophy research serves any aim, is just a blind practice that was transformed by the way research, in geral, is funded and organized by Universities, which in turn takes most of its critirea and paradigms from the natural sciences.

punsweb
1 month ago

Philosophy, as an academic field, delves into fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, ethics, and reality. It promotes critical thinking and challenges our preconceptions. Through analytical exploration and discussion, it enhances our comprehension of the world and our role within it. Philosophy nurtures intellectual development, enriches cultural conversations, and offers a structure for addressing intricate topics. Its aim is not merely to find answers but to foster a profound and nuanced understanding of life’s intricacies.