Why We (Still) Need Philosophy

Philosophy. Noun

  1. The study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, esp. when considered as an academic discipline.

What’s Wrong With Philosophy Today? The Source of Irrelevance 
Contemporary academic philosophy today, at least in the English-speaking world, is too rooted in idealism, and removed from the experiential, removed from real world problems, too fixated upon studying issues so far removed from our own lives and social issues that we fail to take it seriously. For those reasons, academic philosophy is on the decline. Ever since the material sciences seemingly removed philosophy’s relevance to understanding the physical reality humans inhabited, we’ve drifted away from seeing philosophy as a relevant way to grapple with issues in our world: instead we turn to the social and natural sciences, and, in cases that strike us as more perplexing, religion. Over the past few centuries, Western intellectuals have adopted a scientific, empirical view of the world, seemingly stripped of ideological perspective, or so they reasoned. All the while, philosophy in America and Britain shifted toward the Analytic camp, toward grappling with notions of logic and language, a more ‘meta’ view of intellectual constructs, and the discipline of philosophy’s influence on non-academic life fell by the wayside. A key process encouraging this development was the divide between Analytic and Continental philosophy, the former of which predominates in universities in Anglophone countries, and is more concerned with logical problems than tackling grand profundity of human experience and the issues surrounding it. Today, we need philosophy (less so from the Analytic tradition) more than ever as a guide through which we can interpret what science and direct experience tells us, as well as comprehend the essentially value laden nature of those experiences and empirical structures. The former more significantly, we must have a framework through which we can understand varying ontological perspectives and act accordingly with our own value systems. Integrating a more philosophically rigorous approach to decision-making, whether at a personal or societal level, requires not only allowing for philosophical education, but also bringing philosophy down from its ivory tower and away from the almost pointless goals its found itself entrenched in (my bias against fields such as philosophy of language is clearly showing here, and let it do so).

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