Philosophy and the everyday

Philosophy is sometimes disregarded as irrelevant and unimportant in the 21st century. I think this shows a misunderstanding of what philosophy is (maybe even by those who claim to be proficient in it). I chose to study philosophy because it was obvious to me that it was a study of the subjects of our daily conversation. Every argument we have, every thought we think, every decision we make, is filled with issues in metaphysics, epistemology, logic (and mathematics), ethics, aesthetics, and rationality. From sports talk shows (almost exclusively filled with counterfactuals and predictions of decisions) to interior decorating to social gossip, our lives are filled with the very stuff of academic philosophy. It seems that even anthropology does not come so close to the useful study of being human as does philosophy. Yet, in the last 50 or 100 years (or last 2000 years), philosophy became the boring and irrelevant study of stupid questions (“does my hand exist?” or whatever).

Shortly after I started studying philosophy, I found a blog post about the need for philosophy in computer programing languages. http://steve-yegge.blogspot.com/2006/04/software-needs-philosophers.html The author felt that a philosophy could end the fighting and competition between programing languages and thus move the entire technology forward. Notwithstanding the issues with that, he made mention of his view that philosophers pulled society out of the dark ages and into the modern era; releasing them from the bondage of superstitious beliefs and delivering them into the scientific revolution. He noted that after philosophers taught people how to think, people forgot why they needed philosophy.

I am convinced that a return to the value of philosophy (combined with many, many other things) would be greatly beneficial for civilization. I think that a great emphasis on thinking, wonder, creativity, reflection, with a deeper understanding of rules of logic and reason—as well as the ability to properly question such rules—would greatly enhance the political, economic, and social systems of our time. Even arguing about whether philosophy is important is itself a philosophical exercise. Questions about what is and how it ought to be are both questions of philosophy. If there are other sorts of questions, discovering them would also be a philosophical endeavor.

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