Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Philosophy: It’s a matter of life and death

Philosophy isn’t just an abstract subject for otherwise unemployable nerds to sound learned. It explains why, for instance, a culture moves radically away from respecting objective reality and instead embraces the concept of subjectivism; or moves away from respecting reason and independent judgement, and instead embraces consensus; or moves away from respecting individual rights and peaceful cooperation, and instead begins to embrace authoritarianism and state control.

In order to live at all in the real world, you need some view of that world and your place in it—either explicitly or implicitly. In other words, you have no choice about having a philosophical outlook. The only choice you have is whether you’ve chosen that philosophy yourself, or you’ve simply absorbed it from the culture around you (from parents, say, and from teachers, from religious leaders and cultural icons).

And the philosophy of a culture is literally a matter of life and death—as Rockford University philosopher Stephen Hicks argues in this recently released 10-minute video, using the numerous 20th century wars as his basis.

Philosophy: Who Needs It? The answer, dear reader, is you.

[Hat tip On Liberty Street]


  1. This is all interesting and makes sense to a point but I think people need more than this to deal with the big question that many dwell upon as death becomes a reality when they wonder if they made a difference and does it matter if they didn't.

    In Saving Pvt Ryan I'm struck by the burning question he has an an old man that was his life was worth the gift of other's lives. Some would say a saved life is worth theirs while others would not. There's possibly no right or wrong about that but the question of what is noble is not so easy to debate away as irrelevent. Reducing everything to something some relativity that each can create for himself allows anything to be justified yet the actions resulting may be quite damaging for others.

    Your "rational" and mine need not be the same and history would seem to show we are not creeping closer to some common position as we evolve. We seem to stagger about with better and worse all about us all the time.

    We may all be in a big hologram but I still hold onto Christianity as a guide to bigger questions. I may wander through life believing the much same things as a liberterian and arrive at those beliefs for the same reasons but the more I delve into the unseen the more I see gaps that science and rational can't answer yet. Science seems to me to be opening doors rather than closing them and that's what makes it so fascinating - the facts of today are nonsense tomorrow.

    Christianity for me answers a lot of my deeper "Whys" leaving rational and science to answer the "Hows". You can call it a crutch if you want but I think I can have a foot in both camps and being wrong, if that comes to pass, won't have hurt.


  2. @3:16 That's one of the most honest and intelligent ways I've seen to express faith. Please take what I'm about to say with the respect that your well stated comments deserve.

    I honestly intend no disrespect, but it upsets me when I see religious people defending a continued belief in mythology without recourse to, or true understanding of, science/the scientific method. Because there are gaps or unanswered questions should never lead to the conclusion "god(s) did it!". See in the event you are unfamiliar with that fallacious reasoning. As these gaps become filled with knowledge, or even plausible theory, there's less and less space for any gods to hide, and as such, zero reason to require or even to wish for a god or gods.

    "Whys", when speaking of physical laws or other inanimate objects, fields, etc. effectively ARE "Hows". Lawrence Krauss puts this quite well in his book (which I highly recommend reading) "A Universe From Nothing". The question "why does the Earth revolve around the sun?" can and should be better put as "how does the Earth revolve around the sun?" since the forces causing this state of affairs are not conscious, and therefore they have no choice in "why". When you know how it does, you know why it must. So it is with the entire universe. There's not only no need for god(s) but to posit one only raises the problem of infinite regress in determining where a god would come from.

  3. Hi Greig,

    Don't be upset as I'm comfortable in what you would see as my error and I don't take offence. I love science and I'm not a God of the gaps because I think science and Christianity (not religion per se) speak of fundamentally different things.

    Krauss' example may be valid science but it seems to be no comfort when I look at the human condition. The earth may well get a tap from another heavenly body and destruction and my death could ensue but I wouldn't blame God for that - we were just in the way and my soul, whatever the heck that may look like, is in good hands.

    Given that, if God wants a relationship with me I'm not sure that the laws that govern the motion of heavenly bodies is material when I contemplate my position and having choice about my emotional responsd to stimuli.

    I may have an invisible friend that I share with a billion others and you may be blind but we don't know and that's what makes it interesting. In all my mediocrity I firmly hold a position now that I didn't use to but can't put a finger on when or why that came to pass. Anyway, shake your head at my foolishness all you like and not see you on the other side I guess.

  4. I'm not shaking my head at all. As I said, I think that's probably the best way I've seen of expressing faith. I guess I just see no real need for faith, as it cannot influence reality, and because most of those billion (I think it's a lot more?) you share your friend with aren't as rational and pleasant about it as you are, I think it does a lot more harm than good.

    Still, agree to disagree I guess. Nice chatting with you. :)


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