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What is philosophy and does it have a future?

The question “What is Philosophy?” is itself a philosophical question that is not easily answered.

Philosophy is like a thief; much easier to catch in action than in analysis.

Nevertheless, any discussion on the nature and future of philosophy should involve an honest acknowledgement of the depth, diversity and disagreement that exists among professional philosophers about the discipline they practice.

Listening to, and contemplating, their answers will not only offer a wide range of insights regarding a seemingly confusing discipline, but it can also serve as an exercise in philosophical activity itself.

The Philosophy Bites podcast, which is made in association with the Institute of Philosophy, asked a range of academic philosophers and contemporary thinkers to define their personal take on Philosophy. It’s an interesting episode and I highly recommend it. To check it out, click here.

Now, here’s my take:

I define philosophy as the process of taking ordinary things and attempting to think about them in unconventional ways.

It is the exercise of thinking critically and creatively about all sorts of topics ranging from film, sports, and music to language, knowledge, and time.

Through conversation, introspection, conceptual analysis, thought-experiments, argument & debate, and any other tools of investigation he can find, the philosopher seeks out interesting connections, fascinating discoveries, overlooked insights, and unasked questions.

The goal of philosophizing, as I see it, is to explore the realm of ideas just as an astronaut explores the realm of outer space.

I regard the practice of philosophy (which is related to, but not dependent on, taking philosophy courses at a school)  as an essentially human activity.

People philosophize everyday whether they label their activity as “philosophy” or not.

Many discussions have been held about the future of philosophy as an academic discipline. For a teaser, see this panel discussion hosted by The New School on Does Philosophy Still Matter?

I have no idea how the future of philosophy as a university major in traditional academia is going to play out. But I am quite certain that the actual practice, or perhaps I should say Praxis, of philosophizing is here to stay.

We may call that rose by another name, but as long as we are taking the time to stop and smell it, the experience will continue just the same.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. My approach to philosophy is to focus on a clearly stated question, define the terms within it, identify and work through my own and others assumptions, and realize that assumptions are not truths. Discover all the knowledge that one is able to obtain regarding the question and admit to whatever it is I do not know. Next, to try to discover an answer, I look at both the inner meaning of the question and the outer context within the broad scope of the totality of the world. If the question is abstract or metaphysical I hold it up to a standard of clear ethics or metaphysics which I call “Buddhist,” because I understand the standard that is no standard. Also, inquiry should continue until the answer reflects compassion and kindness in the case of abstract subjects and relative truth in the case of relative questions. If the question is dualistic or simple, I do not go beyond the borders established by the question. the answer is the answer.
    T.K. I would like to ask if you could do me the favor of giving me a question or two to work with so that I can illustrate my approach. It can be anything, serious or silly, mundane or metaphysical. This is easier to explain with an example, and also I would welcome the criticism. Thanks.
    Dave

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