Philosophy – meh!

Philosophy – meh! May 10, 2014

Here is an email on the back channels from fellow SINner David, who runs a great blog at SIN at Avant Garde. The context is with regard to an article about how philosophy should be taught more in schools. Something I wholeheartedly agree with.  However, I can’t say I agree with David…


I guess I’ll have to play the devil’s advocate. Well, not exactly – is just a rant-ish mail about calling it “Philosophy”.

I don’t think Philosophy should be taught any longer as a degree. Since Naturalist Philosophy became Science, any other kind of philosophy, IMO, is just metaphysics.

Don’t take this the wrong way. I mean no disrespect towards you or your careers. Please bear that in mind while reading this dissenting point of view.

I just happen to think Philosophy has become what “Sophisticated Theology” is to religion: a confirmation bias cop-out. If you happen to think there is a supra-natural world, you can always read theologians and they’ll confirm what you think, or you can read Hegel, or even Plato. If you happen to engage in posmodernism and think the world is an illusion and there’s no objective truth or knowledge, you will read Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida, Heidegger, etc. If you happen to hold a materialistic world view, you will read Dan Dennett and A.C. Grayling. If you think Science and Skepticism are important but can’t exist without Philosophy, you will read Massimo Pigliucci (who I actually used to read when Rationally Speaking existed, not because I agreed with him, but because he challenged my points of view and had something to say – even if I disagreed with him).

But you don’t need Philosophy to learn how to think critically or to have better ethics or to even have a naturalistic understanding of the world that surrounds us. You can do all that without calling it Philosophy. What’s more – we could teach kids to ask for evidence and why it matters. That’s what I always do when discussing Philosophy: what have been it’s achievements in the last 10 years? (I mean, I can point out Physics found out the Higgs boson and the BICEP2 experiment proved the cosmic microwave background.)

What objective, evidence based knowledge have we acquired due to Philosophy? (When Massimo Pigliucci published a paper against New Atheism in a ‘peer reviewed’ Philosophy journal I couldn’t help wondering: what do they review?)

I think kids should be taught how to think, Philosophy history, the history of ideas and how human thought has evolved, the history of ethics, moral thought and the changes in our moral compass as species (along with an evidence-based approach to the world). I’m all for it. But, once again: does it have to be called Philosophy?

This is in the true vein of skepticism, itself a philosophical pursuit…

[With permission from David.]

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