Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Importance Of Philosophy

Philosophy is absolutely essential to having a coherent outlook on the world that is more likelier to lead you to truthful beliefs. I don't know how I can emphasize that strong enough. In the Western tradition of philosophy there are two main camps: analytical and continental philosophy. Analytical philosophy is the dominant kind of philosophy in the English speaking world. It's mainly concerned with clarifying concepts, finding out what conclusions logically entail from what premises, what concepts are incompatible with one another, what assumptions are being made, and organizing concepts according to a taxonomic structure. Logic, ethics, and epistemology, for example, are all part of analytic philosophy. Continental philosophy on the other hand, named because it became popular in continental Europe, is mainly concerned with perception of the human experience, emotion, and emphasizing on seeing things a certain way. It tends to be more poetic. Existentialism, phenomenology, and German idealism are all a part of continental philosophy.

I'm definitely an analytics guy myself, although I think all of philosophy is useful. I'm obsessed with logical arguments and analyzing concepts and ideas to find out what's logical and illogical in the hope of finding the truth. This is exactly how I discovered many ideas that I took for granted for years were false, like perhaps most importantly, libertarian free will. While the dividing line between analytic and continental philosophy may blur at times, analytic philosophy is absolutely necessary for being rational.

I mention this because I hear it again and again from atheists: "We don't need philosophy anymore because we have science!" and "Philosophy may have helped us centuries ago, but it's outlived is usefulness." These atheists have no fucking idea what they're talking about and they don't even realize their view is self-refuting. Claiming that we don't need philosophy anymore because we have science is itself a philosophical claim. It's not a scientific claim. You can't scientifically prove that. On top of this, not all questions are scientific in nature. Some are purely logical, like in mathematics, and some just require some common sense and rational thinking. Others have to do with what we should value. All the scientific evidence in the world is not going to answer these kinds of questions. Philosophy is best equipped to answer them.

For example, imagine asking someone "What's the purpose of government?" How is science going to fully answer this question? What the purpose of government is, or whether we should even have one is a question for political philosophy, not science. Science may be able to give us answers to empirical questions that are relevant, but it's not going to tell us what style of government we should have, or if we should even have one at all.

In this sense, philosophy is more fundamental than science. Science is really a kind of philosophy; it's a particular set of methods for finding out truth. To go for science while claiming we don't need philosophy is to go for the branch while ignoring its roots. I try to tell this to many of my fellow atheist friends and it's difficult to get this message across. They tend to get hung up on semantics. They associate philosophy with theology, along with and many of the false ideas the ancient philosophers came up with. But if I asked them if they're against the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, language, and existence, almost none of them would say yes. And yet that's basically the definition of philosophy!

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