Philosophy, what is it good for?

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Alembé's picture
Philosophy, what is it good for?

On this site we are frequently called upon to justify the scientific method and its limits, therefore I think a similar discussion of philosophy and the philosophical method is appropriate.

The following is the introductory paragraph describing the degree of Philosophy and Theology at the University of Oxford, UK. www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/courses-listing/philosophy-and-the...

“The study of Philosophy develops analytical rigour and the ability to criticise and reason logically. It allows you to apply these skills to many contemporary and historical schools of thought and individual thinkers, and to questions ranging from how we acquire knowledge and form moral judgements to central questions in the philosophy of religion, including the existence and nature of God and the relevance of religion to human life.”

The study of Philosophy … allows you to apply these skills … to central questions in the philosophy of religion, including the existence and nature of God and the relevance of religion to human life.

Given that there is no valid evidence to support the claim of the existence of any gods and that religion is essentially an amalgam of mythology, wishful thinking and social control, it seems to me that the philosophical approach of analytical rigour and logical reasoning has completely failed with respect to religion. If the philosophical approach fails the religious test, how can its answers be trusted for anything else?

This failure, to me, is equivalent to scientists saying, “Well, we completely blew it and got physics all wrong; but it’s OK, chemistry, biology, and geology, etc., those are all fine.”

My dad had an interesting take on philosophy. From the fields of Normandy to the ruins of Hamburg, he was an ambulance attendant (medic) in WW2 with the British Army fighting the German Army (“Jerry”). He had his full share of terror, near misses and the horrors of war. One evening we were in discussions over a glass or two of scotch. He opined, “It’s all well and good to discuss philosophy in a university classroom, but when Jerry’s got you pinned down under heavy mortar and machine gun fire, all those fancy words aren’t worth a tuppenny damn.”

Philosophy, it fails intellectually, practically and existentially. What is it good for?

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Nyarlathotep's picture
There isn't much rigor in

There isn't much rigor in philosophy, despite the cries of the philosophers to the contrary.

What's it good for? Well it's a nice sandbox for new ideas to be tossed around in until they development into something useful.

arakish's picture
The biggest problem with

The biggest problem with philosophy, as with religion, is that it does not solely rely on testable evidence.

It may have some very good logical reasoning; however, it cannot be tested except through more philosophy. And philosophy can be twisted to fit any argument you desire.

rmfr

xenoview's picture
Because theist can't provide

Because theist can't provide any evidence for their God existing, all they have left is philosophy. You can prove anything as long you don't have to provide evidence. Theist try to logic God into existence, anyone that understands logic knows it fall's short when looked at with logic and reason.

Whitout any evidence I can prove that God doesn't exist.

I have prayed to God, God doesn't answer.
I have ask God to reveal itself, God remains hidden. Thus God doesn't exist, thus I remain an Atheist.

Edit

Tin-Man's picture
Discussing philosophical and

Discussing philosophical and abstract subjects is an excellent form of cheap entertainment when you have a good buzz going.

"Like, hey, man, what if, like, our whole universe is only like one single atom under the fingernail of , like, some huuuuuuge giant dude? Far out, man!"

Or, maybe...

"Hey-hey-hey....Listen, listen....listen! Look, so, check it out, dude. So, like, what if when we go to sleep and dream, like, THAT is really reality, and like when we wake up, THAT is really our dreaming? Whoooooaa..... Mind..... blown."....*long slow whistle*...

arakish's picture
And those were some of my

And those were some of my favorite times talking with my wife out on the back deck after the daughters gone to bed.

Gosh we would have some really crazy ideas...

rmfr

Tin-Man's picture
@Arakish Re: Really crazy

@Arakish Re: Really crazy ideas....

I know, right? I have always loved philosophy. It's like a mental playground to exercise the brain in fun and exciting ways. Thing is, though, I have GOT TO REMEMBER to keep a notebook and pen handy whenever I participate in such cerebral calisthenics. Who knows? I probably could have saved the world by now with some spectacular idea I had, but nooooo. Mr. Genius here didn't bother to write it down at the moment of its conception. And then I could not remember it after waking up the next day. Dammit......

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Are you familiar with the

Are you familiar with the philosophy of science?

arakish's picture
Of course not. Explain it to

Of course not. Explain it to us.

rmfr

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Have you heard of empiricism?

Have you heard of empiricism?

arakish's picture
No. You forget that us

No. You forget that us atheists don't know these things. You'll have to explain it.

rmfr

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Strange, and here I thought

Strange, and here I thought you started a thread on epistemology.

When it comes to the nature of knowledge, there have been two main philosophical theories: rationalism vs empiricism. Rationalists believe we arrive at knowledge through our intellect; empiricists believe knowledge is arrived at through perception. Science is founded on an empiricist philosophy; whereas mathematics leans towards rationalism.

I lean towards rationalism myself. Science is based on the act observation; yet all observations must at some point be processed by the brain. We cannot escape from ourselves, therefore, all sciences are fundamentally a study of the human mind. Pure empiricism and objectivity are impossible; they must always be filtered through subjective avenues.

Notice that in another thread, most atheists said evidence would change their mind; whereas I was the only one that said good arguments would. I wonder why.

Sheldon's picture
" Pure empiricism and

" Pure empiricism and objectivity are impossible"

That's just your subjective opinion of course. As opposed to say an objective fact, like the earth orbiting the sun. You see when humans held the subjective opinion through religious beliefs that we lived in a geocentric universe, it was still an objective fact that the earth orbited the sun.

"Notice that in another thread, most atheists said evidence would change their mind; whereas I was the only one that said good arguments would. I wonder why."

Obviously because your beliefs are not supported by any objective evidence. That is also a very compelling argument against them being valid.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
No.

No.

Sheldon's picture
You claimed you never

You claimed you never disagreed with anyone? Another lie?

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
No.

No.

Sheldon's picture
Yes, you made a deliberately

Yes, you made a deliberately false claim, as your post confirmed when you contradicted mine. My question was rhetorical.

arakish's picture
Strange, and here I thought

Strange, and here I thought you started a thread on epistemology.

Like a 747...

rmfr

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Like a space shuttle..

Like a space shuttle..

Greensnake's picture
Breezy,

Breezy,

If science boiled down to just a study of the human mind, deep concepts such as Einstein's relativity would hardly have blossomed. Nor would agreement be possible. It is the real world, most of it outside of ourselves, that leads us into such exotic terrain and makes a scientific consensus possible. So, don't sell empiricism short! Also, see my post (08-03-2018 14:48) on the thread "On Converting Atheists" where I give a rather lengthy explanation as to why science is the only good window into the physical world.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
It's interesting you bring

It's interesting you bring Einstein up, given that one of the most important lessons he taught us was that of perspective. He made the whole of physics accountable to an observer and their unique perspective of an event.

Nyarlathotep's picture
Relativity was not a new idea

Relativity was not a new idea in Einstein's day. In fact it is so old, no one knows who it came from.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Then who cares.

Then who cares.

Greensnake's picture
Breezy,

Breezy,

Pure empiricism and objectivity are impossible; they must always be filtered through subjective avenues. --Breezy

I look across the room and see the door whose knob I turned when I entered the room, the door through which I plan to leave. Are you suggesting that this is not a reliable observation because empiricism and objectivity are impossible? The real standard is credibility, not certainty. That's how we make sense out of the real world. Indeed, it is the common experience of an objective reality that makes possible your rationalist approach! How would we even communicate with each other if not for this common experience?

Where, by the way, do you find certainty in mathematics? A thoughtful answer will expose the main problem of unchecked rationalist thinking.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
The issue isn't whether its a

The issue isn't whether its a reliable or unreliable observation, the issue is that it is an observation nonetheless. You cannot observe something objective, without turning it subjective at that very moment.

All our independent subjective experiences may overlap with one another, and perhaps calling that overlap the "objective reality" is the right thing to do to. But each person is still experiencing their own independent realities; and you are having to construct an objective reality from the crumbs of subjectivity. I also don't know of any external method for verifying that the objectivity we've constructed is correct. For example, if we all decide to wear blue tinted glasses and it gives all of us the shared experience that apples are blue, are they objectively blue then?

I don't doubt that objectivity exists; it just seems unobtainable and undiscoverable by us.

Sheldon's picture
"But each person is still

"But each person is still experiencing their own independent realities; "

You seem to be implying objective facts don't exist, which is simply not true. It's a fact the earth isn't flat and is not at the centre of the universe, but orbits our sun, and this is an objective fact independently of any subjective human opinion. As Greensnake says, "The real standard is credibility, not certainty.", the better the method is at removing subjective opinion the more likely it is provide valid results, and the more often those results confirm our understanding of a particular phenomenon the more credible that understanding becomes, the pinnacle is a well established scientific theory validated by multiple branches of science over and over again, the scientific method has demonstrated repeatedly it can do this, as it has with species evolution for instance. Though I can see why you'd have a problem with that, as you want to cherry pick which scientific facts you're prepared to accept based on a priori religious beliefs.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Me: "I don't doubt that

Me: "I don't doubt that objectivity exists; it just seems unobtainable and undiscoverable by us."

You: "You seem to be implying objective facts don't exist, which is simply not true."

Sheldon's picture
implied

implied
adjective
suggested but not directly expressed; implicit.

You said one thing, but implied the opposite.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Ah right; I keep forgetting

Ah right; I keep forgetting your superpowers

Sheldon's picture
You keep lying about it more

Only you could claim to lack any doubt that something exists, in the same sentence you claimed it was "unobtainable and undiscoverable", then suggest someone needed superpowers to see the implied contradiction.

Tell me John do you accept the world is round not flat is an objective fact? Or are you unable to obtain it?

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
As long as it is understood

As long as it is understood that objectivity exists only as a philosophical concept, and that the best we can do label certain aspects of our subjective experience as objective, then yes, the world being round is an objective fact

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