Is philosophy worth bothering with?

on fundamental matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind and ethics.

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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#21  Postby VazScep » Aug 07, 2016 12:21 am

I just did a banging philosophy on the lav, and now I'm off to bed.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#22  Postby Tracer Tong » Aug 07, 2016 12:23 am

Paul1 wrote:Chatting to a friend yesterday who's very much into philosophy, questioning his existence, etc. He brings up interesting ideas.

I find I usually don't question things on a philosophical level as much. Basically, if there's no evidence and logic for some given statement, nor some concrete example or experience I can repeat, or some other way of making it real - I tend to think, guiltily, that it's just a waste of time ruminating about it.

Example: What is the nature of existence? My answer: I only care about the evidence, mathematics and what I can experience around me. What can I possibly learn from idly thinking about things I can't even test/calculate/act upon?


I'd say it's worth bothering with. I don't think it should be taken as seriously as some seem to take it, though.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#23  Postby Spinozasgalt » Aug 07, 2016 5:22 am

If ya don't do philosophy, a crow will get ya.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#24  Postby VazScep » Aug 07, 2016 6:11 am

Tracer Tong wrote:I'd say it's worth bothering with. I don't think it should be taken as seriously as some seem to take it, though.
But then when it comes to reading philosophy, what do you do with philosophers who take themselves too seriously? Suspend disbelief, perhaps, or just grit your teeth and get on with it?
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#25  Postby Pebble » Aug 07, 2016 6:43 am

Depends on the branch - epistemology and logic seem pretty important and without politics - living together becomes a tad difficult. Sure many get stuck down blind alleyways and refuse to recognise that they are playing word games. Such activities have the same relation to actual philosophy as pseudoscience has to science. The only difference is that in science we have a clear consensus as to what outcomes are valid and what are not, so we can kind of objectively differentiate the two.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#26  Postby zoon » Aug 07, 2016 8:03 am

Philosophy’s not so much one subject, as the asking of general and fundamental questions in any area where there’s not yet any generally agreed method of finding the answers. It seems to me that this is just something people do; to say that philosophy is not worthwhile and therefore imply that people should never question, for example, what counts as real, or ethical, is a lost cause unless there’s a regime which is seriously attempting thought control.

Philosophy is not of immediate practical use more or less by definition: if the asking of general and fundamental questions in some area comes up with clear and generally agreed answers, then that area becomes a new branch of knowledge and is no longer philosophy. Science was originally natural philosophy.

There’s a fantastic explosion of scientific knowledge going on, much of it without immediate usefulness, rather an increase of knowledge for the sake of it. To try to kill off questions outside the boundaries of science or logic (e.g. What is truth? What counts as knowledge and why?), would be to try to kill off the spirit of inquisitiveness and generalisation that got us here, why do it?

As various people have been saying, it’s not worth bothering with if you’re not interested, it would be like pushing someone to study music or literature or astronomy against their wishes. Teaching philosophy, as Thomas Eshuis and BlackBart said, is more a matter of teaching how to think, than what to think.

(Perhaps ethics is a philosophical subject which often generates lay discussion. Trying to answer ethical questions with science alone is apt to be either hopeless or beside the point, it’s difficult enough to avoid being anti-science, for example by claiming unevidenced retribution for sins by some non-human agency. Ethics, including, as tuco pointed out in #4, questions of what is “worthwhile”, is still philosophy, not science, even though scientific information is often relevant.)
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#27  Postby surreptitious57 » Aug 07, 2016 9:30 am

A MIND IS LIKE A PARACHUTE : IT DOES NOT WORK UNLESS IT IS OPEN
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#28  Postby Bernoulli » Aug 07, 2016 11:54 am

Thomas Eshuis wrote:
Weaver wrote:There's a strong historical link between religion and morality, and religious studies were often cited as a necessary step in learning to think about morals - but it isn't.

Likewise, there are other ways to learn to think without the navel-gazing masturbation of philosophy.

One thing philosophy is useful for is analysing people's arguments, including your own and whether they're valid.


I'd agree with that. The concept of logical fallacies is a philosophical exercise, I guess. Past that, the only other semi-practical application of philosophy that I can think of is the philosophy of science - i.e. the scientific method.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#29  Postby Bernoulli » Aug 07, 2016 12:00 pm

jamest wrote:Yeah, let's not bother with philosophy because we already know that science explains everything, even though it doesn't; and we already know that 'reality' is material, even though we don't; and we already know that God doesn't exist because science makes a mockery of literal interpretations of the bible, even though the bible and similar spiritual text was never meant to be read literally;


Regardless of what science does or doesn't do, philosophy tells us exactly zero about 'reality' and 'God'.

Regarding mathematical logic, I really don't know what came first - the philosophical chicken or the mathematical egg? Anyone have an opinion? My intestines are telling me that philosophy is responsible for mathematical logic.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#30  Postby VazScep » Aug 07, 2016 2:48 pm

Bernoulli wrote:Regarding mathematical logic, I really don't know what came first - the philosophical chicken or the mathematical egg? Anyone have an opinion? My intestines are telling me that philosophy is responsible for mathematical logic.
I've got stories, but I advise that no-one takes them too seriously. The history of ideas is more complex than this.

George Boole is often credited with kicking off mathematical logic in Laws of Thought, but you could just as easily say that he kicked off abstract algebra. Boole could probably only achieve what he did because of the introduction of abstract symbolic notation, and because he lived at a time when mathematics was becoming much more inventive and free to explore arbitrary structures: in that climate, he was able to notice that addition, multiplication and negation look suspiciously like "or", "and" and "not", and then run with the idea.

In the same century, you have mathematicians trying to get back to the levels of rigour that the ancient Greeks enjoyed, and so you have a return to the axiomatic method. With the availability of new notation, and Boole's insight that logic might be algebraic, you then get the Italian school led by Peano who try to come up with a universal notation for all mathematical arguments, a sort of idealised mathematics. Critics at the time, such as the great Poincare, suggested that Peano should spend less time inventing needless notation and more time inventing space filling curves, and to be honest, I think he had a point. In any case, we still use most of the Italian school's notation.

Around the same time, there are some plausible attempts at mechanising logic, with Stanley Jevons inventing a "logic piano" that could check syllogisms, and it seems the idea was prevalent that, if you wrote your mathematical arguments out symbolically, you could build machines that would check or even figure the arguments out for themselves. This harking back to Leibniz' goals for all argumentation predates working computers by a few decades.

Then there's Frege, who probably invented the first ever formal system for maths, and who said that every mathematician is at least half a philosopher and every philosopher at least half a mathematician. However, his contribution with his formal system was primarily targeted at mathematicians. Contrast this with Aristotle, whose pathetic system of syllogisms was clearly not up to the task of handling the geometry of his time. And Frege wasn't just waffling. His ideas about how to encode induction schemes in higher-order logic are still used today by computer scientists and mathematical logicians.

Then there's some bloke called "Russell", who is watching all of this carefully, inspired by the work being done by the Italian school, and particularly impressed by Frege, until he showed that Frege's formal system is bust by some sort of paradox. Frege doesn't recover from this, and decides to blame the Jews for his failings. Russell has more fortitude, and puts in a bunch of fixes to Frege's system and then starts working through foundational constructions in maths. The result is the Principia Mathematica, a text of surprising fame considering that I doubt hardly anyone has read it, that Poincare said it was a waste of time, and that Russell ended up conceding the same once computers were invented that could generate all his proofs automatically. Nevertheless, the Principia was the first text to crystalise precisely what formalised mathematics would look like, and could thus become a definite target for metamathematicians such as Goedel.

However, metamathematics was actually first invented by the mathematician David Hilbert contemporaneously with the Principia, as the mathematical field studying axiomatic systems.

So mathematical logic grew out of mathematics, though the sort of people who pursue mathematical logic tend to be sympathetic to navel-gazing. There were critics of Cauchy and Bolzano in the 18th century who regarded their analysis of limits in terms of epsilon and delta as being "mere philosophy." Nowadays, the navel-gazers are the category theorists.

I sit in an IRC channel devoted to mathematical logic. We occasionally get philosophy types show up, but they soon find out that if they can't phrase their question in the form of a mathematical problem, no-one in the channel will be interested. Mathematical logic is just a branch of maths, and there's a story that it always was.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#31  Postby Tracer Tong » Aug 07, 2016 4:43 pm

VazScep wrote:
Tracer Tong wrote:I'd say it's worth bothering with. I don't think it should be taken as seriously as some seem to take it, though.
But then when it comes to reading philosophy, what do you do with philosophers who take themselves too seriously? Suspend disbelief, perhaps, or just grit your teeth and get on with it?


I tend to maintain a sort of studied aloofness when reading philosophy, at least of the modern kind. It's kind of hard to explain what I mean. Have you read the Master and Margarita? If so, regarding the opening couple of chapters, imagine yourself as Woland, and your enthusiastic philosopher as Berlioz.

And don't ever call anything Aristotle ever did "pathetic" ever again, lest I set my cat on you.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#32  Postby Calilasseia » Aug 07, 2016 5:39 pm

jamest wrote:Yeah, let's not bother with philosophy


As I've repeatedly stated in the past, if by 'philosophy' one means assertionist navel gazing, then we don't need to bother with that. On the other hand, the proper business of philosophy, namely working out which questions are apposite to ask, is a different matter.

jamest wrote:because we already know that science explains everything, even though it doesn't;


I'll refer you to Dara O'Braian:

"Of course science doesn't know everything, because if it did, it would stop!"

jamest wrote:and we already know that 'reality' is material, even though we don't;


Correction: we know that every observable entity and phenomenon thus far encountered has a material basis. As the peer reviewed literature will tell you if you read it. Whether there actually exists any 'non-material' entities or phenomena, is a non-trivial question, not least because 'non-material' has yet to be properly and rigorously defined. How one defines this is a good example of those questions that is apposite to ask I referred to above.

jamest wrote:and we already know that God doesn't exist because science makes a mockery of literal interpretations of the bible


Correction: we know that mythological assertions on this subject are wrong. Which is hardly surprising, since almost all of them arose in a pre-scientific age. This, on the other hand, doesn't rule out the existence of a god type entity that is consistent with scientific observation. Finding evidence for such an entity, however, is again non-trivial. I'm on public record here repeatedly, as stating that the moment any evidence for such an entity exists, said entity will be so far removed from all previous human experience, that [1] it will falsify all of our mythologies at a stroke, and [2] the people best placed to understand it will be particle physicists, because they deal with counter-intuitive phenomena on a routine basis.

jamest wrote:even though the bible and similar spiritual text was never meant to be read literally;


Do you really know this for certain? Or are statements to this effect simply an apologetic product of scientific falsification of many mythological assertions, that would never have been presented in a pre-scientific age?

Only if memory serves, before science started uncovering inconvenient data destroying many mythological assertions, quite a few enforcers of conformity to doctrine, on behalf of certain mythologies, intended those mythologies to be treated as fact, full stop. That there exist juvenile mentalities trying to cling to the toddler security blanket of literalism and inerrancy, or their conceptual equivalents within other mythology-based doctrines, here in the scientific present, doesn't detract from the manner in which apologetics has had to, dare I say it, evolve with the data.

jamest wrote:and let's just ignore the whole of philosophy because it hasn't made one darn bit of difference to politics and social change, even though it has;


I don't know anyone here who seriously espouses that view. Certainly, you won't find that view being espoused by anyone in the Marxist part of the ideological spectrum, because their entire world view is a grand exercise in converting philosophical ponderings into a practical ideology. For that matter, I don't know anyone with even an elementary understanding of ethics, who would take this view.

But there are two separate issue here, namely, whether a given set of assertions has influenced behaviour, and whether a given set of assertions is actually right. The two are entirely separate. That wrong assertions, later found to be so, have had considerable influence upon discourse and practical politics, should be a major red flag urging caution with respect to the manner in which one proceeds in philosophical discourse.

jamest wrote:and let's also just pretend that science wasn't borne of philosophy, as neither were maths/logic nor any other activity requiring of considered rational thought.


Again, I know of no one seriously espousing such views. Unfortunately (in some respects) for philosophy as originally conceived, those disciplines acquired an independent life. However, in other respects, that independent life has brought benefits, such as providing us with the welcome warnings about independent corroboration and provenance. Warnings which a disturbingly large number of assertionists routinely fail to heed.

jamest wrote:Even the question pertaining to the thread's title is requiring of a philosophical answer


Hmm, another of those assertions whose truth-value isn't as trivially obvious as you might think. Because, for one, as those other disciplines philosophy launched, and which subsequently acquired independent life, have taught us so well, it is possible for answers to be provided to questions previously thought to be solely the remit of philosophy, by activities outside that sphere. See: cosmology.

I opened my post with the explicit statement, that the value of philosophy lies in teaching us what questions to ask, and how to alight upon those questions. Therefore, every occasion upon which that discipline produces questions illuminating our understanding, provides us with, if you will, an independent metric, however crude this may seem, allowing us to verify the value of the discipline.

jamest wrote:so if you don't want to bother then don't expect an answer to such a ridiculous question.


I think my preceding two paragraphs will be generally regarded as more constructive than your above summary dismissal.

jamest wrote:Philosophy, even erroneous philosophy, underpins almost everything that humans do.


Was this the case before humans devised the enterprise in question? Hmm, another of those non-trivial questions that arise when one applies diligence to the matter.

jamest wrote:If you don't want to bother then the jungle beckons.


As one of those arguing for a proper, rigorous basis for the enterprise, rather than its destruction, your above statement is irrelevant to me.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#33  Postby Tracer Tong » Aug 07, 2016 7:24 pm

Calilasseia wrote:
jamest wrote:Yeah, let's not bother with philosophy


As I've repeatedly stated in the past, if by 'philosophy' one means assertionist navel gazing, then we don't need to bother with that.


I'm interested in what philosophy you think amounts to this. Do you have any books or articles in mind that are particularly good examples?
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#34  Postby Pebble » Aug 07, 2016 7:27 pm

Tracer Tong wrote:
Calilasseia wrote:
jamest wrote:Yeah, let's not bother with philosophy


As I've repeatedly stated in the past, if by 'philosophy' one means assertionist navel gazing, then we don't need to bother with that.


I'm interested in what philosophy you think amounts to this. Do you have any books or articles in mind that are particularly good examples?


Theology?

https://www.amazon.co.uk/theology-books/s?ie=UTF8&page=1&rh=n%3A266239%2Ck%3Atheology%20books
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#35  Postby SafeAsMilk » Aug 07, 2016 7:29 pm

Tracer Tong wrote:
Calilasseia wrote:
jamest wrote:Yeah, let's not bother with philosophy


As I've repeatedly stated in the past, if by 'philosophy' one means assertionist navel gazing, then we don't need to bother with that.


I'm interested in what philosophy you think amounts to this. Do you have any books or articles in mind that are particularly good examples?

Heck, just read any of jamest's feeble attempts at philosophy.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#36  Postby VazScep » Aug 07, 2016 8:57 pm

Calilasseia wrote:On the other hand, the proper business of philosophy, namely working out which questions are apposite to ask, is a different matter.
And I'm interested in what philosophy you think amounts to this. Do you have any books or articles in mind that are particularly good examples?
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#37  Postby igorfrankensteen » Aug 07, 2016 9:37 pm

Is philosophy worth bothering with?


Only to the degree that a foundation is worth bothering with, when building a house.

I'm more than a little surprised that only two people here appear to recognize that.

Or perhaps it's just that everyone is in a mood to be flippant about this, since it's such an old and often asked question, mostly by people just discovering the challenges of being old enough to drive.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#38  Postby VazScep » Aug 07, 2016 9:40 pm

igorfrankensteen wrote: Only to the degree that a foundation is worth bothering with, when building a house.
In most of philosophy, digging out the foundation just means bursting a sewer pipe.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#39  Postby SpeedOfSound » Aug 07, 2016 11:14 pm

laklak wrote:I'm going to the beach bar, I don't know about y'all. Time for beer and fried shit, and I will contemplate the serenity of nature and probably get shat on by a seagull. There's a philosophical conundrum for you.

An English Seagull shit on my son at the London Tower. A serious setback to US/UK relations. And no it wasn't a tourist seagull. He had an accent.
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Re: Is philosophy worth bothering with?

#40  Postby SpeedOfSound » Aug 07, 2016 11:34 pm

Weaver wrote:Philosophy is worth bothering with if you want to get into discussions with other philosophers or about philosophy.

As a method of learning anything - no, it's fucking useless as hell, right up there with religion as a method of determining "truth" and discerning "reality" (for which it has its own special meanings not accessible except through philosophy - evidencing a huge part of the problem.)


I'm going with this first line. But it goes a bit beyond that for me. It has made me think very carefully about how and what I take for granted. When I listen to someone I completely disagree with like Little Idiot or Jamest or even GrahamH, it forces me to more carefully formulate what I believe. I see the ridiculous mistakes of others and then have to ask what ridiculous mistakes they see in my thinking.

Another favorable result has been that in listening to all this drivel about the mind I have been forced to dig deeper into neuroscience to consider how we are going to end up explaining cognition to ourselves.

So philosophy is like a painful wound from a pitchfork in the metaphorical ass and it drives one deeper into mathematics, logic, and science. I like that.

Notice that few discussions around here gather a post count unless jamest or the likes of him enter the fray. Why do think that is?
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