April 12th, 2007

Vexen Crabtree 2015

Philosophy: Change or Drown!

I first started studying philosophy (freelance) in the same way that I later learned that R. D. Laing did: Reading through the books in the local library in alphabetical order. What it lacked in thematic coherency it made up for in definitiveness.

Why philosophy is important: All the great leaders and theorists of the past have been versed in philosophy; politics, democracy, social theory, theologians and the founding scientists were all largely philosophers. It enables people to think critically, widely, sensibly and cautiously. Epistemology teaches us about the dangers of assumption and how we cannot trust what we think we know (neurology and psychology now backs this up in a more modern way - check out Prof. Elizabeth Loftus' experiments on memory!). What people today discover by watching The Truman Show, Matrix, the Thirteenth Floor and other similar films, philosophers wrote about thousands of years ago.

Unfortunately, this useful study of meta-truth is plagued by a serious problem. Nearly all philosophy courses concentrate wholeheartedly on the philosophers themselves. It's like studying physics by examining every argument Einstein had with anyone; on subjects such as society, politics, education and government. Why would someone who wants to learn physics spend much time on studying Einstein as a person?

Theories and theorists should be largely seperate, and in this way science has massively overtaken philosophy as a useful tool. Critical thinking can be learnt anywhere, but in philosophy class you are most likely to learn the history, rather than any useful cognitive skills.

Philosophy was useful, but unless it drops the concentration it has on philosophers, it is going to dwindle into history remembered as an off-smelling residue rather than the filling it once was. No-one in philosophy needs to know about Plato's forms any more than Geneticists need to know about Lamark. Philosophy has become almost a history of error.

Having said that, there are many highly valued philosophers; such university professors often have multifarious talents in all academic areas. Sociologists, physicists, evolutionists and psychologists all require some philosophical knowledge (just like philosophers need science in order to inject some Earthbound epiricism into their ballooning imaginations).

I'm thinking about doing a page. Any comments?