Friday, April 6, 2007

Philosophy Bites

Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known by his stagename Molière was a 17th century French dramatist, director, theatre manager and actor. In one of his plays, a man discovered one day that he had been "speaking prose" all his life without knowing it. Similarly, implies GSU professor Mark Woodhouse in his Preface to Philosophy, all of us have been doing amateur philosophy all our lives. In a sense, philosophy is just hard thinking about the important issues of life. Look at the following illustrations and try to see how virtually every human activity has philosophical implications:

1. A neurophysiologist, while establishing correlations between certain brain functions and the feeling of pain, begins to wonder whether the "mind" is distinct from the brain.

2. A nuclear scientist, having determined that matter is mostly empty space containing colorless energy transformations, begins to wonder to what extent the solid, extended, colored world we perceive corresponds to what actually exists.

3. A behavioral psychologist, having increasing success in predicting human behavior, questions whether human actions can be called "free."

4. Supreme Court justices, when framing a law to distinguish obscene and nonobscene art forms, are drawn into questions about the nature and function of art.

5. A theologian, in a losing battle with science over literal descriptions of the universe (or "reality"), is forced to redefine the whole purpose and scope of traditional theology.

6. An anthropologist, noting that all societies have some conception of a moral code, begins to wonder just what distinguishes a moral from a nonmoral point of view.

7. A linguist, in examining the various ways language shapes our view of the world, declares that there is no one "true reality" because all views of reality are conditional and qualified by the language in which they are expressed.

8. A perennial skeptic, accustomed to demanding and not receiving absolute proof for every view encountered, declares that it is impossible to know anything.

9. A commissioner, while developing new zoning ordinances, begins to wonder whether the effect or the intent (or both) of zoning laws makes them discriminatory.

10. A BIR director, in determining which (religious) organizations should be exempted from tax, is forced to define what counts as a "religion" or "religious group."

11. A concerned mother, having decided to convert her CPP-NPA communist son, is forced to read the Communist Manifesto and to do some thinking about Marxist and capitalist ideologies.

We could continue the list indefinitely. But already you can see that given a particularly relevant problem, even the "nonphilosopher" is lured into a modest amount of philosophical thinking. In examining possible responses, that person will probably discover a commitment to certain philosophical theses.


SU Debate Society said...

Yep, I agree that we can find philosophy entering into people's experiences from time to time. But the pursuit of understanding goes beyond this casual (almost unconscious) association with different philosophical models. Really delving into it involves us wrestling with ideas: why do I live by THIS particular philosophy and not THAT particular philosophy? Are there ways to merge different perspectives? How do I deconstruct events according to different models?

What I find problematic with philosophy is that I don't think that you can merely state a point or rather, present a perspective. There has to be an action of discourse to make philosophy relevant to reality, to throw it into society. The difficulty of doing this is maintaining the balance of the philosophy without allowing it to morph into an ideology (which is what happened to communism).

Basically, my point is this: don't just state a point, but show us how that point changes our realities.

SU Debate Society said...

BTW, that's Quark talking.

anna katrina said...

yay! finally somebody else wrote sa blog! hehehehe