I had some interesting responses to an article I wrote last week. In it, I mentioned that I opted to study philosophy at university. There was no shortage of responses about the worth of my degree.
Although writing out of revenge and spite isn’t beneath me, it’s not the purpose of this article. The responses highlighted a need for education on the discipline of philosophy. It has a great deal more merit than what the uninitiated have been led to believe.
The comments were reminiscent of Marco Rubio’s constant jabs against philosophers in his predictably unphilosophical campaign. The result for this speech-giving rhetorician who chastised logic was sad, he’s now famous for his inability to engage Chris Christie in an argument, and the man without substance or reason pathetically retreated into his memorized lines.
If only he had studied more philosophy.
I’ve never had the odd experience of looking around, seeing the state of the world in which we live and thought to myself, “If only people thought less logically”.
To give a reason as to why philosophy is unwise is itself an act of philosophizing, and so the reason, by its own criteria, is unwise. To give a reason as to why philosophy is a waste of time is itself an act of philosophizing, and so the reason, by its own criteria, is a waste of time.
Arguments against philosophy take a logical form of “If P then Not P”, and so are false by their own criteria. Where contradiction exists an error has occurred. To begin arguing against philosophy is to be incorrect.
Philosophy is the study of logic and critical thinking. It then applies these to religion. We call this the philosophy of religion. It applies these to our morals. We call this ethics. It applies these to knowledge: epistemology. It applies these to beauty: aesthetics. It applies these to science. That is the philosophy of science.
Once upon a time philosophers applied logic to nature, and called this natural philosophy, but that practice became so extensive it evolved into a discipline of its own: science. Science itself is the act of Baconian reasoning. The scientific method was the result of Francis Bacon attempting to come up with a sound theory of knowledge: epistemology.
Science is one of many contributions from philosophy. Even within science, both Albert Einstein and Max Plank — the father of quantum mechanics — attributed their rethinking of physics to Immanuel Kant’s philosophical criticisms of Newton’s physics.
The study of logic has given rise to the computer revolution as well. Computer programming requires precision in language, which the logicians gave us. Logic is the language of computers.
Ethics has also had an enormous impact on society. It’s had a positive contribution in terms of guiding medical research. It also guided our rethinking of race relations. Martin Luther King Jr.’s reflections were guided by Thomas Aquinas’ version of the natural law.
Democracy itself came about through the philosopher John Locke. The American Revolution was largely inspired by Locke’s Two Treatises of Government.
The final contribution I’ll outline from philosophy is that of our movement: liberty. It came from philosophers like John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Adam Smith, Murray Rothbard, Henry Hazlitt, and Ayn Rand.
It takes critical thinking to be inundated with rhetoric and societal teachings all our lives that taxation is a fair price to pay, only to stand back with a critical appraisal and claim taxation is instead theft, and it’s not fair at all.
Philosophy’s brilliance is showcased throughout history. Its value asserts itself through the refutation of its accusers. Critical thought and logic are our most reliable paths to truth, and philosophy is most certainly worth the bother.
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