Introductory Readings: What is Philosophy?
Introductory readings this week in #Philosophy12:
The point of philosophy is not to have a range of facts at your disposal, though that might be useful, nor to become a walking Wikipedia or ambulant data bank: rather, it is to develop the skills and sensitivity to be able to argue about some of the most significant questions we can ask ourselves, questions about reality and appearance, life and death, god and society. As Plato’s Socrates tells us, ‘These are not trivial questions we are discussing here, we are discussing how to live.’
So why are we still reading the great dead philosophers? Part of the answer is that the history of philosophy is interesting in its own right. It is fascinating, for example, to see how the early Christian philosophers molded the ideas of Plato and Aristotle to the service of their new religion. But that is equally true of the history of mathematics, physics, and economics. There has to be more to it than that—and of course there is.
If even philosophy is dismissed as a waste of time for being insufficiently scientific, where does that leave those other modes of humanistic inquiry? Reading Plato or Chekhov may not stop the planet from warming or cure a disease – or help build more accurate missiles – and it may not point the way toward a new science of ethics or will. Yet what of it? Does such inquiry not have a value of its own? That is of course itself a philosophical question.