Why Study Philosophy? by Peter Hacker

Why Study Philosophy? by Peter Hacker
TecnoTut
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Posted Feb 9, 2013 - 4:46 PM:
Subject: Why Study Philosophy? by Peter Hacker
iai.tv/blog/peter-hacker-as...ks-why-philosophy-auid-173

Excerpt:
Physicists study matter, motion, and energy. Chemists study substances and their forms of combination, interaction and decomposition. Biologists study living things. And so forth. But what do philosophers study? One common answer throughout the ages is that as physicists study physics, philosophers study meta-physics. Philosophers, or at any rate the deepest of philosophers, we are told, are meta-physicists. Physicists study the contingencies of the world – things that happen to be so. Meta-physicists study the essential, necessary features of all possible worlds.

For many reasons, this reply is unconvincing. For one thing, if it were so, it would need a great deal of explaining to vindicate philosophy. For while physics has produced libraries of well established results (and chemistry and biology yet more libraries), we can look in vain for trustworthy books entitled Established Truths of Metaphysics or A Handbook of Philosophical Facts. Moreover, there is more than an air of absurdity to the thought that chemists discover that water consists of H2O, and that philosophers then discover that this is not a contingent truth, but a necessary one; or that physicists discover that E=mc2, and meta-physicists then discover that this is true in all possible worlds. Finally, if we look at the kinds of results that meta-physicists do produce, it is evident that they are little more than paradox (time is unreal; solid objects are not really solid; coloured objects are not really coloured), absurdity (we cannot know the thoughts or intentions of another; we are nothing more than a bundle of perceptions) and systematically contested to boot (there are (or are not) universals; moral truths are all absolute (or all relative)). So let us discard this foolishness.

Metaphysics is an illusion that besets philosophers (and philosophically minded scientists) from generation to generation, which it is the task of good philosophy to dispel. But although periodic fumigation is recurrently necessary for intellectual health, what apart from that is there for philosophy to do? What can it achieve? In the sense in which the sciences have a subject matter, it seems, philosophy has none. In the sense in which the sciences construct theories that are confirmed or infirmed by experiment or observation, there are obviously no theories in philosophy. In the sense in which the sciences make discoveries about the world around us, philosophy clearly does not. So what is its task?

Cleantes
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Posted Feb 9, 2013 - 5:08 PM:

TecnoTut wrote:
we can look in vain for trustworthy books entitled Established Truths of Metaphysics or A Handbook of Philosophical Facts.

This guy ever heard of the Critique of Pure Reason or the Tractatus-Logico-Philosophicus? They are full of facts.

And since when does physics have facts? I thought it only has hypotheses. And once the hypothese changes, the facts too change. So what is a fact? Scientifical knowledge doesn't even progress. It's just the shift of one hypothese to another.

Only pure maths and pure logic have facts, because they are based upon transcendental laws that are a priori situated within the subject.

On Feb 9, 2013 - 6:36 PM, Intelligence responded: You never fail to deliver my dear friend.

I hope to someday be like you.
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Posted Feb 9, 2013 - 7:21 PM:

Philosophy is (or at least should be) a personal inquiry into nature of life and how one might live one's own life. Science provides very little guidance in such an endeavor.

And millions of words have little value unless someone has the time and energy to research the nature and author of these words. The first poem of the Dao De Jing or a good novel by Saramago, or the personal study of Taiji and Qigong, probably has more life value to me than the reams of scientific literature that I have read.
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Posted Feb 9, 2013 - 8:38 PM:



Reading the whole blog, I would agree with the take-home message that philosophy primarily exists as a discipline to detach us from the simple "how it looks" view of life to draw attention to the ideas and presumptions that go into shaping any particular view of life. Including those of science. So it is larger than science (ie: meta) in that regard.

As Hacker concludes...


...it teaches us to raise questions about questions, to probe for their tacit assumptions and presuppositions, and to challenge these when warranted. In this way it gives us a distance from passion-provoking issues – a degree of detachment that is conducive to reason and reasonableness.
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Posted Feb 10, 2013 - 5:16 AM:

Philosophy's interesting, and there's really no other point in studying anything than its being interesting.
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Posted Feb 10, 2013 - 5:19 AM:

Metaphysics is an illusion that besets philosophers (and philosophically minded scientists) from generation to generation, which it is the task of good philosophy to dispel.


Ah, yes.

This is What One Believes, is it not. Fascinating.
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Posted Feb 10, 2013 - 7:00 AM:

Metaphysics only concerns impossible objects/worlds (i.e. members of the empty set); for what's possible, physical sciences & mathematics suffice. "Why study philosophy?" I suppose one philosophizes ... in order to learn how not to confuse possible objects/worlds with impossible objects/worlds and avoid acquiring the habit of prefering the latter to the former.

On Feb 10, 2013 - 11:14 AM, 180 Proof responded: And yet poor Cleantes still (e.g. post #8 below) confuses one with the other ... I wonder which he transcendentally prefers?
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Posted Feb 10, 2013 - 7:03 AM:

180 Proof wrote:
Metaphysics only concerns impossible objects/worlds (i.e. members of the empty set); for what's possible, physical sciences & mathematics suffice. "Why study philosophy?" I suppose one philosophizes ... in order to learn how not to confuse possible objects/worlds with impossible objects/worlds and avoid acquiring the habit of prefering the latter to the former.

You need to re-check your definition on metaphysics. Metaphysics concerns also the possible objects, but only a priori, as in transcendentalphilosophy. The metaphysics you are talking about (concerned with the impossible objects) is more like daydreaming to me.

Anything that wants to present itself as knowledge has to cover possible objects, otherwise we should do what Hume insisted: commit it to the flames, for it can contain nothing but sophistry.



Edited by Cleantes on Feb 10, 2013 - 8:30 AM
On Feb 10, 2013 - 11:09 AM, 180 Proof responded: Re-check your conception of "a priori ... transcendental philosophy": so-called "conditions of possibility" aren't possible objects. Conflating epistemology with ontology in order to make the latter seem a function of the former is nonsense.
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Posted Feb 10, 2013 - 1:30 PM:

Cleantes wrote:
This guy ever heard of the Critique of Pure Reason or the Tractatus-Logico-Philosophicus? They are full of facts.

And since when does physics have facts? I thought it only has hypotheses. And once the hypothese changes, the facts too change. So what is a fact? Scientifical knowledge doesn't even progress. It's just the shift of one hypothese to another.

Only pure maths and pure logic have facts, because they are based upon transcendental laws that are a priori situated within the subject.


You really must read some Rorty.
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Posted Feb 11, 2013 - 7:56 AM:

180 Proof wrote:
Metaphysics only concerns impossible objects/worlds (i.e. members of the empty set); for what's possible, physical sciences & mathematics suffice. "Why study philosophy?" I suppose one philosophizes ... in order to learn how not to confuse possible objects/worlds with impossible objects/worlds and avoid acquiring the habit of prefering the latter to the former.

Too analytic to my taste. I have a book on introducaiton to analytic philosophy, and the guy goes on saying how words are used up to 1/3 of the book. I kept on wondering when the real philosophy will start. Once he started saying that there are no essenses such that word meanings keeps on changing, I put the book down, I could not take it anymore.

My general feeling about the names philosophers or nomalists is that, if the problem is hard for them or they can't figure it out according to their books, then they just label it nonsensical or unsolvable.

Ps. Philosophy is a journey not a destination. Inquiry is forever. In a way yes, we must investigate even "members of empty sets". But philosophical dogmatists and naysayers will be stuck in one place and will try to stop others matching on into the void to know the unknowable. Philosophy aught to be an attempt to know the impossible, the unknowable.



Edited by johnson.mafoko on Feb 11, 2013 - 8:05 AM
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