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What is the value of philosophy? Read and respond to the Bertrand Russell quote on pages 34.
Philosophy is a wide phenomenon that may include the study of the nature of knowledge, existence, values and reality with respect to an academic discipline. Philosophical methods may include critical discussion, systematic presentations, rational arguments and questioning a particular concept and trying to get its true meaning. Some philosophical questions may include what is the truest? What is the most real? Is it possible to know something and prove it conclusively? Do humans have free will? Among other questions.
Russell addresses the “practical man” who recognizes philosophy as a search for distinctions and trifling. This chapter shows conclusively the practice of philosophy in the day to day life of the “practical man”. Some of the common reasons for viewing philosophy could be as a result of having a wayward conception of the ends of life and the phenomena that philosophy strives to explain and understand.
A comparison is made between the value of physical science to that of philosophy. It was determined through the contrast that scientific study has immense effect on the beliefs of men as a result of scientific inventions while philosophic study does not affect everybody but only the few people who indulge themselves and want to study philosophy. The only way the effects of philosophical study is spread is through influence from the people studying philosophy to other people through interactions and discussions. We can surely conclude that the principal value of philosophy is found in the students of philosophy and not the general public. Russell would urge his readers to free their minds from practical prejudice but the practical man would only attend to food for the body and his material needs.
The main objective of philosophy is the achievement of knowledge through thorough criticism to ensure quality information. The criticism gives unity and form to the body of science. Philosophy as compared to history, mathematics and physical sciences does not maintain a body of definite knowledge. One of the reasons why philosophy does not bear a body of evidence for its finds over time is because when definite knowledge on a subject is achieved, the knowledge is split off forming another discipline of study. On the long run, philosophical achievements end up splitting forming other disciplines therefore leading to philosophy lacking the body of evidence for past discoveries.
Some of the most common disciplines of study include astronomy, physics and psychology were originally studied under philosophy as study of heavens, study of natural science and study of human mind respectively. This are a few of some major studies that have developed and have been adopted to applied science studies and were originally philosophical disciplines. This shows how important philosophy is in the development and continuation of discoveries although no credit is given to philosophical studies for such milestones in the scientific world. This is a very clear indication that mankind aligns himself to scientific studies more as compared to philosophical studies and the true believers of philosophy are the philosophy students and enthusiasts. Due to such kind of subdivisions, philosophy lacks a historic background as compared to other disciples.
We can surely say that with respect to definite answers such as true or false, uncertainty is more apparent than real in philosophy. Some of the uncertainty in philosophy is derived from the very nature of questions that philosophy seek to answer. These questions address very important human interests. Some of these questions may include: does the universe any unity of plan or purpose? Are good and bad of importance to the universe of only to man? The main reason for the such of such answers is not only to answer the questions but also to make people sensitive to the importance and to keep people conscious of the speculative interest in the universe which if not looked into by philosophy could easily be forgotten by people.
Some philosophers have come up with programs that lead to a define set of conclusions and answers about religious belief and human knowledge among other topics. Russell differs with this attempts by such philosophers urging these declarations are usually unwise and don’t give conclusive findings. Russell explains that we cannot hope for definite answers an also high degree of certainty cannot be achieved.
Russell says that the value of philosophy appears in its uncertainty. Russell writes “the man who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the co-operation of consent of his deliberate reason.” This statement surely shows the value of philosophy according to Russell in a man’s life. Without philosophy, the way of thinking of man would be closed to speculation and many theories on possibilities.
Viewing phenomenon in a philosophical point of view allows us to see ordinary things in unfamiliar dimensions. Such considerations reduce our faulty considerations about the universe and gives many suggestions or possibilities about something. Russell emphasizes that this enlarges our thoughts and makes people think more on many possibilities and frees minds from the tyranny of custom. This leads to lose of confidence with respect to what things are but this important since we gain knowledge on what these things or phenomena may really be or what effects they could really cause. It is very evident that philosophy banishes arrogant beliefs in the tyranny of custom and liberates the mind to thing enriching our sense of wonder concerning the universe.
The value of philosophic thoughts is also seen through the virtue of the things it contemplates and the difference in distinctness to those familiar things from personal experience. Philosophy explores the outside world conclusively and enlarges our interest. Russell writes “in one way or another, if our life is to be great and free, we must escape this prison”. Imprisonment of the brain restricts thinking capacity and mankind just believes everything passively without thinking about it. Russell believes that all that depends on the private world distorts contemplation and prevents union of the object and the intellect in terms of understanding in conclusively the object. Philosophic contemplation leads to enlarging of one’s intellectual activity.
Russell explains that the true value of philosophy is not in any kind of answer especially definite answers but is in the questions. With respect to philosophical contemplation, Russell warns against self-assertion. In any study, presupposing objects or characters of the knowledge that it seeks sets obstacles in the path of the study. In philosophical contemplation, one should start from not self and through “the infinity of the universe the mind which contemplates it achieves some share in infinity.”
Russell discusses the influence of idealist thinking with respect to philosophical thinking. He writes “widespread tendency towards the view which tells us that man is the measure of all things, that truth is man-made, that space and time and the world of universals are properties of the mind and that if there be anything not created by the mind it is unknowable.” This particular line of thoughts robs philosophy of its value as it enhances tyranny of custom. Mankind would become complacent and just rely on his own understanding and not try to think about any other things in the universe. This idealist line of thoughts puts a veil between human understanding and the unknown phenomena out there about different concepts that are equally as important. With no doubt Russell has shown that the physical world does not exists independent of the mind.
Progress could be made in philosophical thinking by integrating philosophy in learning institutions whereby students will become disciples of philosophy and help in determining and defending the diverse and complex nature of the universe. By having more disciples of philosophy, philosophical thinking would improve since research could be done by the disciples of philosophy on the different ways in which philosophy could progress. Progress in philosophical thinking could also be achieved by sensitizing people to try and question different phenomena and get closure on different occurrences in the universe.
Philosophy does not change; this is one of the reasons why we ask the same questions as those that were asked many years ago by philosophers. Russell explains well that the value of philosophy is not derived from definite answering of phenomena but the true value remains in the questions themselves. I agree with Russell in the sense that if a question is not conclusively and a definite answer is not gotten then the question should be asked in many generations to keep mankind thinking about the same phenomena but in different dimensions in terms of time.
I ultimately agree with Russell because through his perception, the value of philosophy is really in the questions asked and these question don’t have definite answers therefore mankind will always have something to think about. If this questions had definite answers, then philosophy would lack meaning since people could be able to solve and answer everything according to their own understanding therefore preventing philosophical thinking.