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Thread: What is the function of philosophy?

  1. #1 What is the function of philosophy? 
    Forum Junior JoshuaL's Avatar
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    Since it keeps coming up on other posts, I think this deserves its own post.

    What's this philosophy bunk? Or, more specifically, what the hell is the use of it? What is the purpose of it? This question must be answered for any doubtful scientist to consider listening seriously to a philosopher. It is by knowing the purpose of a thing that we can judge whether a specific instance of that thing has value. For example:

    If the only purpose of a car is to get me from point A to point B, then a particularly ugly green and orange plaid car will be no less valuable to me than a shiny sleek black car. However, if the purpose of the car is to make me look sexeh for potential mates, then the ugly plaid car is useless to me. It is by determining purpose that we can determine value, and it is by determining value that we can decide whether to listen to someone or dismiss them.

    So, what is the purpose of philosophy? You know that if look back in history far enough, philosophy and science are fused together. Not that philosophy was scientific, in the way we mean that word today, but rather that philosophy even back then tried to explain the world by reason and logic rather than by appeal to the divine. It has changed over the centuries, but it still serves as a kind of logical alternative to religion. It attempts to answer the WHY questions that science can't touch, but it does this without appeal to mysticism or the divine or anything other than reason and logic. That doesn't mean it disregards emotion or social need, but it does mean that good philosophy is free of logical fallacies and is backed up with facts and examples to support claims.

    So now we can judge specific philosophic arguments as valuable or as drivel (regardless if we agree about the argument itself) and we can even perhaps claim that most scientists commit acts of philosophy whether they know it or not. Philosophy is about exploring the social/psychological/ethical realms with well-reasoned arguments. Much like in science, in philosophy you don't need to "prove" your point, but you do need to show you aren't talking out yer bum. Why are we here? is perhaps the biggest philosophic question, and most scientists will give you an answer. If their answer is scientific in nature, it is no less philosophic--they are answering why, and that is not science. It is philosophy.


    "The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is... doubt. Doubt is humble, and that's what man needs to be, considering that human history is just a litany of getting sh*t dead wrong."

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  3. #2  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    The function of philsophy is to ask questions. Asking questions is a good thing.

    Logic is an essential tool of science and logic is a product of philosophy. That is a good thing.

    Epistemology, a key branch of philosophy, underpins the scientific method and its effective application. That is a good thing.

    Moral and political philosophy address, among other things, the ability of a scientists to utilise the scientific method unhindered and helps explore their responsibilities for their discoveries. These are good things.

    Overall, I conclude that philosophy has many functions and is a good thing.


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  4. #3  
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    you make philosophy sound as if it were "yawning" or "laughing" in mammals, and you wanted to know the true meaning behind it like Jane frecking Goodall.
    Philosophy has no meaning, because it is the human search for meaning. Philosophy HAS changed unlike you claim. Philosophy is deemed dead, like Nietzsche deemed God dead. Science took over. But science wasnt always disconnected from religion. This is only a tendency 200 years old at max.
    Philosophy's only niche left today is that of Morality, the rest got hijacked by science.
    Since Darwin proved this world in universe to be cold and objective I still do not know what keeps me from not shooting my schoolmates on a random monday morning, yet I am stopped every time I try by some ambiguous entity.
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  5. #4  
    Forum Junior JoshuaL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve555 View Post
    Philosophy HAS changed unlike you claim.
    That is not even remotely what I claimed, but you were probably just reading too fast. My exact words were "It has changed over the centuries".
    "The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is... doubt. Doubt is humble, and that's what man needs to be, considering that human history is just a litany of getting sh*t dead wrong."

    Take two of these and call me in the morning
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  6. #5  
    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    As I suspect that some comment I made (from an extreme, devil's advocate position) may have partly inspired this thread, I guess I should comment ...

    I normally avoid philosophy as I don't know much about it and therefore don't understand much of what is said (and am therefore tempted to dismiss it as nonsense; an urge I try and resist). However, I agree with pretty much everything John said. As the discipline of dissecting and analysing questions to improve the process of questioning, I think it is valuable. As a way of investigating moral and ethical issues it is able to get beyond the naive "that is just wrong" attitude many people have. As the subject that defined logic, it is invaulable.

    I guess my problem is with the ideas that some specific Famous Philosophers have come up with. They often seem to start from an example of something that occurs in the real world (opposing forces, will, etc) and then say, "Aha! This explains everything". Even when dressed up in 1,000s of pages of dense exposition, I don't see that as being of much more value than many of the threads here that end up in Pseudoscience or Trash.

    The idea of noumenon vs. phenomenon may be worth a half hour discussion - and perhaps reminding scientists about every 5 years or so. But really, we know we perceive the world indirectly through our sense. Is there that much more to say?

    For example, something that comes up here every so often is "are electrons real" (or similar). Well, maybe what we detect, observe and measure as being discrete particles with specific attributes may just be a result of the way our instruments and senses interact with whatever is "really" out there. But if that is the only way we can perceive it, we might as well just assume there is a real electron there because that is exactly what it appears to be.

    Why are we here? is perhaps the biggest philosophic question, and most scientists will give you an answer.
    Maybe that is my problem. I find that question to be totally uninteresting. To act like a philosopher for a moment: Why should there even be a be a "why"?

    One could then go on to question the meaning of "here", "we" and "are" ... And there you are; back in the world of philosophy as nonsense.
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  7. #6  
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    I don't even come close to being a philosopher so I normally avoid philosophy as I don't know much about it and therefore don't understand much of what is said (and am therefore not tempted to dismiss it as nonsense).
    I do think questions about the "true" nature of the entities, such as the electron, are fascinating altho' possibly a bit pointless at present.
    Surely the biggest "why" question is not concerned with why humans are here but why there is something rather than nothing. It is very possible that question does not have an answer but many of us would not dismiss it as being "totally uninteresting".
    In this thread you come across as possessing a negative quality sometimes associated with a minority of engineers who are only concerned with whether they have the right spanner.
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  8. #7  
    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Halliday View Post
    Surely the biggest "why" question is not concerned with why humans are here but why there is something rather than nothing. It is very possible that question does not have an answer but many of us would not dismiss it as being "totally uninteresting".
    I think you have hit the nail on the head. I don't think it is answerable. So why worry about it.

    In this thread you come across as possessing a negative quality sometimes associated with a minority of engineers who are only concerned with whether they have the right spanner.
    Well, I am an engineer... But I don't think of my attitude as negative (but then I wouldn't, would I) but more as pragmatic.

    In the "glass half full / half empty" dilemma, I definitely fall into the "twice as big as it needs to be" camp.
    Without wishing to overstate my case, everything in the observable universe definitely has its origins in Northamptonshire -- Alan Moore
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  9. #8  
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    Everybody is a philosopher, but some people put more thought into it than others.

    Science is not a substitute for philosophy. It is just a method of inquiry. It doesn't tell us what to inquire about, what to do with the answers we get, or whether or not we like the answers.

    Science doesn't tell us how we should live our lives, and everybody has to figure that out, one way or another.
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  10. #9  
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    despite the academic dressings of endless verbiage:

    It seems that the philosophies which i have studied are primarily classificatory schema, or ways of ordering thought and real world impressions.
    Patterns detectable within those frameworks lead to reactionary codes of morality based upon subjective determinants of what is the sought reaction/result-- what is "the good".

    Each of us has a unique system of mental hard wiring. these unique systems clump into catagories, and for each catagory, there is ususlly something approximating an "ideal philosophy of life".
    So if we switch catagories, that ideal philosophy begins to seem like accademic gobblydegook, or an outmoded religion, or...or...

    If you would seek a philosophy and have come up dry:
    Broaden your search, and when you find your ideal, it will plug into your memory storage patterns as smoothly as fingers in a well crafted glove.
    As it does so, it will reorder and reorganize your memories of your experiential data in ways that lead to enlightenment.

    altogether, a worth while journey of the mind
    .............

    (but, then again, i could be wrong)
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Halliday View Post
    Surely the biggest "why" question is not concerned with why humans are here but why there is something rather than nothing. It is very possible that question does not have an answer but many of us would not dismiss it as being "totally uninteresting".
    I think you have hit the nail on the head. I don't think it is answerable. So why worry about it.

    In this thread you come across as possessing a negative quality sometimes associated with a minority of engineers who are only concerned with whether they have the right spanner.
    Well, I am an engineer... But I don't think of my attitude as negative (but then I wouldn't, would I) but more as pragmatic.

    In the "glass half full / half empty" dilemma, I definitely fall into the "twice as big as it needs to be" camp.
    I don't worry about it! I just find the fact there is something rather than nothing mind-blowing!
    Throughout the ages, for example, many people wondered about the composition of the stars despite the fact that for almost the entire period of human history the question was unanswerable. They were also told the answer would never be available, but that did not stop individuals wondering and speculating about the heavens.
    Finally, I do respect engineers and "pragmatic" is a fairer and more accurate description of the mindset of almost all engineers at least as far as their work is concerned.
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  12. #11  
    Forum Junior JoshuaL's Avatar
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    My favorite question EVER: why is there something rather than nothing?
    I will generally not believe a word anyone has to say on the matter, so, in effect, I don't want an answer to the question. I just like the question itself. The answer is ungraspable.
    "The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is... doubt. Doubt is humble, and that's what man needs to be, considering that human history is just a litany of getting sh*t dead wrong."

    Take two of these and call me in the morning
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoshuaL View Post
    why is there something rather than nothing?
    Because Nothing was already taken, therefore all that is left is Something.
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by scoobydoo1 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by JoshuaL View Post
    why is there something rather than nothing?
    Because Nothing was already taken, therefore all that is left is Something.
    What? Who took my Nothing?! I'll kill em!!
    ;P
    "The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is... doubt. Doubt is humble, and that's what man needs to be, considering that human history is just a litany of getting sh*t dead wrong."

    Take two of these and call me in the morning
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  15. #14  
    Forum Professor scoobydoo1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoshuaL View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by scoobydoo1 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by JoshuaL View Post
    why is there something rather than nothing?
    Because Nothing was already taken, therefore all that is left is Something.
    What? Who took my Nothing?! I'll kill em!!
    ;P
    I'd called dibs on Nothing.
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  16. #15  
    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoshuaL View Post
    My favorite question EVER: why is there something rather than nothing?
    I will generally not believe a word anyone has to say on the matter, so, in effect, I don't want an answer to the question. I just like the question itself. The answer is ungraspable.
    More than that, why is that something comprehensible? And able to be described mathematically? By us!? That is pretty bloody extraordinary.
    Without wishing to overstate my case, everything in the observable universe definitely has its origins in Northamptonshire -- Alan Moore
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  17. #16  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope sculptor's Avatar
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    has there ever been
    no thing
    ?
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  18. #17  
    Anti-Crank AlexG's Avatar
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    I've always felt that the purpose of philosophy is to provide justifications for positions already decided upon.
    Its the way nature is!
    If you dont like it, go somewhere else....
    To another universe, where the rules are simpler
    Philosophically more pleasing, more psychologically easy
    Prof Richard Feynman (1979) .....

    Das ist nicht nur nicht richtig, es ist nicht einmal falsch!"
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  19. #18  
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    Alex, that would be the effect of reading old philosophy, or of talking to folks who have only read old philosophy. "The great Socrates said that we..." Uh, yeah that was a long ass time ago, we've moved on! I'm not saying we have nothing to learn from the past, but what you just described fits this problem. If we replace the word philosophy with the word fiction you could see what I mean. If don't like Chaucer, it doesn't mean you won't like Chriton or King or Martin.
    "The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is... doubt. Doubt is humble, and that's what man needs to be, considering that human history is just a litany of getting sh*t dead wrong."

    Take two of these and call me in the morning
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  20. #19  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlexG View Post
    I've always felt that the purpose of philosophy is to provide justifications for positions already decided upon.
    On some days and some posts that would make you a philosopher Alex.
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  21. #20  
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by AlexG View Post
    I've always felt that the purpose of philosophy is to provide justifications for positions already decided upon.
    On some days and some posts that would make you a philosopher Alex.
    Its the way nature is!
    If you dont like it, go somewhere else....
    To another universe, where the rules are simpler
    Philosophically more pleasing, more psychologically easy
    Prof Richard Feynman (1979) .....

    Das ist nicht nur nicht richtig, es ist nicht einmal falsch!"
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  22. #21  
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    To answer the question:

    What is the function of philosophy?


    we should answer

    What is the philosophy of functioning?


    (To explain more:Why functioning is considered so important?)

    So to answer the first question you should consider Philosophy as an important subject and has at least this function:

    " Based on philosophy we explain what is the "functioning" and why "functioning" is considered as an important subject".
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    I've always liked philosophy and thought of it as one of the most interesting subjects that provides the most profound wisdom which is the best knowledge, imo.

    The function of philosophy is to look at reality as it is known, take in all the details relative to each other, make as much sense of it as possible and use the gained understanding to work out the best way to act going forward.
    Which is why people who can stay calm and act wisely in the face of adversity are said to have a philosophical attitude towards life.
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  24. #23  
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    In order to flourish, we have to have good ideas about the world that we can act on. The function of philosophy is to provide us with guidance and even a worldview that we can use to live on earth. Since the best way to deal with the world around us is to learn about it correctly, the philosophy we come to accept should be true.

    From what I've heard, there've been a lot of failed attempts when it comes to the truth and guide-to-living-on-earth parts. Like, "I'm a brain in a vat. None of this exists." Good luck living a good life on that one.
    Last edited by Amaroq; December 20th, 2012 at 03:03 AM.
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