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A Brief Sketch of My Philosophy of Philosophy

The Grey Man

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#1
Unity and multiplicity.

Throughout all periods and places of human history, one question has never failed to vex philosophers, for it is as intimate to them as their very selves: what is the relation between the one and the many, between the multiplicity of natural phenomena and the unity of self-consciousness that combines them?

Here in the West, philosophy has scarcely ever been free to even ask the question properly. Down to around 1800 A.D., it was relegated to the role of a mere "handmaiden to theology" under the domineering influence of Church doctrine, and since the subsequent emergence of philosophy as a bona fide professional academic discipline, it has been suffocated by the hardly less restrictive influence of the roughly contemporaneous accession of the industrial system to govern our economic life.

Reports of the death of God are greatly exaggerated; He has not died, though His devotees have tried to turn Him inside out. Instead of loving Him in their souls, they try to control and possess Him with their bodies; emboldened by our predecessors' unprecedented success in charting the connections between things in the external world (which is preeminently embodied by Newton's Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica), we bend our will towards harnessing these natural forces and thereby achieving manifold advantages over other creatures at the expense of our own internal salvation. Like Faust, the West has sacrificed its soul to its lust for power; the God of the industrial age is not the personal Creator of scholastic times, but an impersonal creation that man would make his servant—matter.

This transition from the salvation of the soul by the grace of God to the exploitation of materials in the world as our dominant religious theme has influenced the development of academic philosophy no less than it has our industrial practises; just as our increased material productivity has been made possible by the coordination of large numbers of people with diverse skillsets, so have we sought to maximize our intellectual productivity by bringing about a diversification of thought. Instead of philosophers, we now have specialists in a number of sub-disciplines of philosophy and natural science which are individuated by their different fields of study: philosophers of the mind, of language, of history, of religion, of science, ethicists, aestheticians, and political philosophers on the one hand; physicists, chemists, biologists, anthropologists, psychologists, sociologists, geologists, and astronomers on the other—and these are in turn divided and hybridized into too many sub-sub-disciplines to name here.

This diversification is a favourable development for philosophy insofar as it is concerned only with the representation of natural phenomena, for the world is vast and far beyond the compass of any one mind to understand in full detail, but it is quite inappropriate for philosophers in the strict sense to admit any boundaries to their field of study, for it is precisely the character of philosophy that it does not share space with any other discipline—it is concerned with nothing but everything. It may be argued that the sub-disciplines of philosophy apply the principles of philosophy to particular objects, just as the scientific discipline of entomology applies the principles of the higher-ranking discipline of zoology to insects, and should be admitted on these grounds. My counter-argument: that while the principles of natural science can be demonstrated by means of insect specimens, so that the lower-ranking disciplines support and confirm the higher, the principles of philosophy cannot be demonstrated by means of any object; in its mission to represent everything, philosophy must take into consideration not only the relations between the multiplicity of natural phenomena, but also that between the multiplicity itself and the unity of self-consciousness that combines it. Thus does it encounter its central problem, the union of the opposing principles of individuation and integration that is the world.
 

Hadoblado

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#2
Do philosophers actually bar themselves from other areas? I thought these labels were just to help keep track of things. Does the problem you're addressing exist beyond the language we're using to describe it?
 

Artsu Tharaz

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#3
As I see it, the division of philosophy into sub-disciplines is at least partly warranted. I believe that there are a certain set of fundamental ideals, such as the True, the Good, the Beautiful, and others. Philosophy at its core would outline what these ideals are and what sort of questions relate to them, but then exploring any particular question would be equivalent to creating a sub-discipline. Though, it may well be the case that a proper philosopher would consider all fundamental questions and unify them together.
 

onesteptwostep

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#4
I dont quite understand what youre talking about. Is this just a question of why arent there a more unified understanding of philosophy vs the seperation of philosopical fields? Or more of an metaphysical question of how one relates themselves to the unitiy of all things?
 

The Grey Man

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#5
Do philosophers actually bar themselves from other areas? I thought these labels were just to help keep track of things. Does the problem you're addressing exist beyond the language we're using to describe it?
I don't think philosophers bar themselves from discussing questions outside their specializations, but I do think that because they have become more specialized, they have become less inclined to adopt the general or holistic perspective that is to be expected from philosophers, who are supposed to aim at wisdom and not just fragmentary insights.

As I see it, the division of philosophy into sub-disciplines is at least partly warranted. I believe that there are a certain set of fundamental ideals, such as the True, the Good, the Beautiful, and others. Philosophy at its core would outline what these ideals are and what sort of questions relate to them, but then exploring any particular question would be equivalent to creating a sub-discipline. Though, it may well be the case that a proper philosopher would consider all fundamental questions and unify them together.
The division of natural science into sub-disciplines is entirely warranted because there has been consensus regarding its basic principles, first Newtonian and now relativistic. I'm sure that nobody here has to be reminded that no similar consensus exists in philosophy. The principles of philosophy cannot be empirically demonstrated, but are instead judged true or false by fallible intellects, with wildly differing results. Why are we trying to build towers when we can't even agree on a foundation? It's appropriate for mathematicians to build great chains of deduction upon premises of dubious veracity—whether an axiom is true or false is of no concern to them—but how can we do the same if we are inquiring after wisdom?
 

Artsu Tharaz

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#6
The division of natural science into sub-disciplines is entirely warranted because there has been consensus regarding its basic principles, first Newtonian and now relativistic. I'm sure that nobody here has to be reminded that no similar consensus exists in philosophy. The principles of philosophy cannot be empirically demonstrated, but are instead judged true or false by fallible intellects, with wildly differing results. Why are we trying to build towers when we can't even agree on a foundation? It's appropriate for mathematicians to build great chains of deduction upon premises of dubious veracity—whether an axiom is true or false is of no concern to them—but how can we do the same if we are inquiring after wisdom?
I think that if we can agree on something like, "what are the universal laws behind what one ought to do?" then it's worth pursuing that question, without needing to know what the full foundation of philosophy is (if I'm understanding you correctly) - i.e. we do not need to know the full extent to which the foundation can be laid; it is sufficient to know it in part.

While it may be better to concern oneself first and foremost with the foundation itself, I think that choosing a fraction of that foundation to build on is nonetheless appropriate.

Regarding mathematicians: it is of no concern whether the axiom is true or false, because the axiom is neither true nor false: it is just something that is posited as being true, and assuming that the basic laws of logic are not violated in the set of axioms for the given topic, they can be built upon. Whether the axiom is true or false is a consideration when trying to apply mathematics - when the axioms are identified as being appropriate for describing some independently existing system, then it allows for the transformation of that system into the language of mathematics, and hence that which follows from the axioms mathematically, must also follow given that the system being inquired into fits the axioms, with respect to how it is founded.

--

However, it may be the case that the task of the philosopher is to go in a certain direction at all times - to go more and more fundamental, so that they cover the most scope. In such a case, building outwards from the partially uncovered truth would not be philosophical, because it goes in the opposite direction. However, that would not invalidate it as a pursuit, it would perhaps just make it not strictly philosophical.
 

Hadoblado

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#7
I think it's necessary.

Not because anything in philosophy is settled - I just don't accept that criteria.

1 philosophers need to think new thoughts
2 the field of philosophy is old and saturated
3 in order to think new thoughts in a field that is old and saturated, specialisation is required
C philosophers are required to specialise

Wisdom is required to be a philosopher, however, at the societal level where these norms and naming conventions are established, wisdom is not the purpose but the means.
 

Pizzabeak

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#8
Natural science was never split into sub disciplines, nor was philosophy. Some things could change science but no one has said why or how. These ridiculous notions of struggling with free will is just the new armchair style of doing it, with internet bickering to boot. As such you could send messages quicker and there's no rigorous publishing procedure or guidelines you have to get across. There's no proof of qualification and at that the forum format hasn't been set up so much as to provide topics to make a permanent serious lasting impact.

It's just asking the questions of science applied for human based emotions and circuit gates, so it's a soft science. It's the effects of science affecting life. In other words it's much more complex than just "deserving" something based off who was smarter. Capitalism is more luck based, in this modern paced society globally connected it seems more like the clever you are the more dopamine is released so if you deserve something you get more stuff out it. That's just a skewed logic based pattern branching off from the original reason why the question was asked in the first place. So there is no science for it.

Relativity wasn't really different or a real sub discipline, it just replaced and made the measurements more accurate. Today, they think quantum gravity or doing more work with the Higgs boson could confirm the standard model and/or make a new theory of reality (the GUT, Grand Unified Theory of everything). It doesn't mean you could build a ray gun or pull off magic spells and there's no real leanings it would change morality or ethics for a new understanding of life and philosophy.

People don't know what they're talking about. It's about curing cancer/AIDS, solving world hunger or ending famine, and world, no, universal peace. There's no suggestion concepts like the white light at the end of the tunnel you see before death or the birth canal play any role in higher learning or understanding. There's more to life than passive aggressive behavior to form plans ganging up on other people to wipe them out of existence so there could be more resources like red meat available for their own enjoyment.
 

Artsu Tharaz

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#9
By the way, having said what I said, I do think you're most likely correct that philosophy is in a horrendous state and that its division into sub-disciplines is highly related to this. I took some philosophy at university and I found that the lectures and the articles were rather horrendous. I studied mostly mathematics because even though I didn't find it particularly interesting it at least seemed relevant/solid.

I think regarding what I was saying before, that I do tend to consider separate questions separately, but I'd like to find a way to unify the different paradoxes etc. that I tend to consider into a super-paradox with symbolic solution, which may or may not be the same as the "unity and multiplicity" that you're referring to.
 

The Grey Man

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#10
I dont quite understand what youre talking about. Is this just a question of why arent there a more unified understanding of philosophy vs the seperation of philosopical fields? Or more of an metaphysical question of how one relates themselves to the unitiy of all things?
I guess it's closer to the first thing you said than the second. In my opinion, philosophy should be about the whole and not any of its parts. We have the natural sciences to study the parts.

I think that if we can agree on something like, "what are the universal laws behind what one ought to do?" then it's worth pursuing that question, without needing to know what the full foundation of philosophy is (if I'm understanding you correctly) - i.e. we do not need to know the full extent to which the foundation can be laid; it is sufficient to know it in part.
Perhaps if we could agree on that question, we could pursue an answer to it as our central problem and nobody would say boo when we call ourselves 'deontologists' in the sense that we inquire after our duty or commandments that compel us to act righteously, but there are many philosophers who argue that it's nonsensical to even ask the question.

For what it's worth, I agree with them. We are bound not to moral laws, but natural laws—we do what we do, and 'oughts' are superfluous to describing it.

Regarding mathematicians: it is of no concern whether the axiom is true or false, because the axiom is neither true nor false: it is just something that is posited as being true, and assuming that the basic laws of logic are not violated in the set of axioms for the given topic, they can be built upon. Whether the axiom is true or false is a consideration when trying to apply mathematics - when the axioms are identified as being appropriate for describing some independently existing system, then it allows for the transformation of that system into the language of mathematics, and hence that which follows from the axioms mathematically, must also follow given that the system being inquired into fits the axioms, with respect to how it is founded.
Quite right. I suppose I was referring to pure mathematics, which elucidates properties of formal systems without concerning itself with what naturally occurring system they might be mapped onto, as opposed to applied mathematics.

However, it may be the case that the task of the philosopher is to go in a certain direction at all times - to go more and more fundamental, so that they cover the most scope. In such a case, building outwards from the partially uncovered truth would not be philosophical, because it goes in the opposite direction. However, that would not invalidate it as a pursuit, it would perhaps just make it not strictly philosophical.
I suppose one has to start somewhere, especially when it comes to illustrating one's philosophy with concrete examples.

1 philosophers need to think new thoughts
2 the field of philosophy is old and saturated
3 in order to think new thoughts in a field that is old and saturated, specialisation is required
C philosophers are required to specialise
With what is the field of philosophy saturated if not the work of countless academics who were pressured into publishing something, anything novel to justify a posting or promotion and required to specialise in order to do so? It seems like your solution to the problem of saturation is more saturation.

I think I'm starting to understand the contempt that many scientists have for university humanities departments. Even the biologist who spends his life classifying and studying species of insect seems more efficient than the philosopher who publishes thesis after mediocre thesis to meet a quota and keep his career afloat. Maybe if more philosophers admitted that they have nothing significant to contribute and found a new line of work, philosophy wouldn't be the irrelevant rubbish pile it is today.

Philosophers need to think the right thoughts. Novelty per se is not a good thing, and it might actually turn out badly if there are so many "new thoughts" that they drown each other out (quotation marks added because many of today's philosophers simply rehash the thoughts of past ones, often without realizing or acknowledging it).

Wisdom is required to be a philosopher, however, at the societal level where these norms and naming conventions are established, wisdom is not the purpose but the means.
I would argue that wisdom is not a means, but an end in itself, but that discussion could easily support its own thread.
 
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#11
What are right thoughts? Could you give some imagianable scenario of proper philosophical activity in Anno Domini 2018?
Is this complaining that you don't get THE RIGHT QUALITY of cognitive stimulation from current philosophers which you could find entertaining enough?
If you look at history of philosophy you have how many, maybe 50 impactfull names?(most auto-didactics) From V BC to this day. YEAH.
Your demands of greatness from current philosophers are simply unrealistic.

God is simulation.
And philo was commodified in tech. In silicon valley you have freelancing bio/ethical consultants. Corporations have in-house philosophers. It's profession.

BTW natural science is studying the whole more than ever in multi/inter-disciplinary programs. And you have philosophical reflection about general system theory, chaos and complexity theory. The ones which replaced positivism after quantum shift in science. The ones Pizza denies as relevant markers and boundaries. Maybe someone should study his holistic brain instead.

If above it's too dull you always have metaphilosophy. I heard it's flabbergastingly wholesome.
Don't allow boredom overtake you!
 

Hadoblado

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#12
Negative valence on the word 'saturated' wasn't intended.

I just meant that all the 'easy' thoughts have already been thunk. Novel isn't necessarily valuable in itself, but thinking thoughts that have already thunked doesn't progress the field. In order to contribute to the total understanding of humanity (which I think is the job of a philosopher), you need to think new thoughts, and that requires specialisation.

Saturation in the way I mean it is not a bad thing, in fact, it's an achievement. I wouldn't want to address this 'problem' even if I could.
 

The Grey Man

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#13
If you look at history of philosophy you have how many, maybe 50 impactfull names?(most auto-didactics) From V BC to this day. YEAH.
It's funny you should say this because I was just trying to count the Western philosophers from the period between 800 and 1800 that really mattered in my head right before I saw your post. Needless to say, the numbers I came up with were rather low.

You're probably right about the unrealism of my demands. Better to focus on philosophy than criticize other philosophers.

Negative valence on the word 'saturated' wasn't intended.

I just meant that all the 'easy' thoughts have already been thunk. Novel isn't necessarily valuable in itself, but thinking thoughts that have already thunked doesn't progress the field. In order to contribute to the total understanding of humanity (which I think is the job of a philosopher), you need to think new thoughts, and that requires specialisation.

Saturation in the way I mean it is not a bad thing, in fact, it's an achievement. I wouldn't want to address this 'problem' even if I could.
What are the 'easy" thoughts in philosophy? Where in history is the philosophical thesis whose antithesis is not argued with equal ardour to this day?

Do you mean that philosophy should abandon the old debates and focus on whatever's most likely to contribute to our total understanding of ourselves? This seems to me a perverse valuation of quantity over quality, another variation on the industrial theme of increasing our exploitation of ready to hand materials by maximizing productivity. A treatise on chamber pot design throughout the ages adds to our total understanding of ourselves, but it is not philosophy. Philosophy concerns itself with no object in particular, but objects in general, the whole and not any part.
 

Hadoblado

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#14
The easy ones are the ones that have a smaller barrier to entry, and were thus thought of first. The low hanging fruit. If a philosopher's job was just to know philosophy and not contribute to it, they would be outclassed by a book or wikipedia page.

I'm not telling philosophy what it should or shouldn't do (that's what you're doing -> 'philosophers should aim for a general understanding and wisdom over a specialised contribution'). I'm describing why it is the way it is. I don't really care what philosophers do.
 
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