What’s Philosophy For, Anyway?
One of my students in my Being and Knowledge seminar (basic Metaphysics and Epistemology course) posted a thread on the course forum (I use electronic forums for many classes to supplement in class discussion). I thought the questions he raised in the thread were valid ones, and also very typical ones that both philosophy and non-philosophy students ask frequently about our courses. Although many issues come up, the overriding question is straightforward: “what’s philosophy for, anyway?” or “when is philosophy useful?” I am reprinting the student’s post below the fold (with his permission). I’d be very interested (he would too) to hear replies from any of the students and teachers who read this blog.
I want to preface this with the statement that I’m really excited to take this class and engage in all sorts of great discussion.
That said, I’m not such a big fan of analytic philosophy. Without being too stereotypical, I think analytic philosophers don’t deal in the real world. What I mean by this is that your stereotypical analytic philosopher could sit in a room all day and think about [insert analytic philosophy topic here], and when they settle down to sleep, it doesn’t seem that they’ve really interacted with the world at all. Sure, this philosopher may have figured out whether or not we exist, but how much does that really affect your average world citizen?
In my opinion, philosophy is useless when it doesn’t relate to everyday experience. I guess one way of putting it would be that if a business major “bro” couldn’t understand something I’m learning about, then it seems a little too far removed to be of much use (or even application) in today’s world. In real life, I like to talk to people, to learn about their experiences and to share with them my own experiences. Obviously, as a philosophy major I have to play with language for people to be able to understand what I’m talking about.
So how can I do this with epistemology and metaphysics? I’d like to hear everyone’s opinions (Dr. Panza included) about how epistemology and metaphysics can be reconciled with the world today. On the premise that philosophy ought to be related to/ active in the real world, what justifications or drawbacks can anyone find? Maybe we can update this every time we come to a new reading?