Thursday, March 8, 2012

What is philosophy (Cahoone quote)?

In fact, one has to think that the philosopher’s job is more central than ever.  While it is true that over the centuries philosophy has been diminished as more and more fields…have gradually split off from philosophy…the problem of integrating the knowledge of those fields and of the other fields of everyday life…the job of integrating this and seeing them in a common context, is greater than ever.  The attempt to know the world in ourselves, to know what is true, good, and beautiful, remains a philosophical job.  Nobody else is taking it up. 
So, the alternative to philosophy would be essentially to stop wondering.  To stop asking questions that go beyond the methods and intellectual boundaries of the many contexts of our lives:  family life, the sciences, our business, entertainment, our local civic obligations, technology.  Each of these spheres and in each of these spheres human beings interact and ask questions.  But it’s only when they step outside that, they ask questions about, “Is this sphere good, is it what it should be, is it what it ought to be, how may I to understand the relationship between these different parts of my life and our lives?”
So the choice is either, as Aristotle knew long ago, to accept our unreflective, uncoordinated—often contrary—beliefs, or to ask ourselves if they are true and how they hang together.  If you ask those questions and try to answer them, you’re doing philosophy. 
It may be that we are just not built for cognitive rest.  Perhaps we never have been since we ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge.  Human beings are condemned to ask questions beyond and about what they do and what they experience.  When we do that, again, we’re doing philosophy. 
So the journey of modern thought is not over.  Perhaps it’s just beginning. 
—Lawrence Cahoon.  2010.  The Modern Intellectual Tradition: From Descartes to Derrida.  Lecture 36: Philosophy’s Death Greatly Exaggerated.  The Teaching Company.

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