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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Does Philosophy Have Value?

Alice C. Linsley

Stephen Hawking and other scientists have maintained that philosophy has no point, because science does a better job of seeking and verifying truth. This is an attitude characteristic of scientism rather than science. As the late Dr. Austin L. Hughes said, "Scientism is taking the mantle of science and claiming for it an authority that it doesn't have."

Philosophers cannot do that honestly because they do not agree on the nature of authority.

Philosophy has become an academic profession and philosophy professors are touchy about authority. It has been said that "philosophical clashes, unlike scientific ones, cannot be resolved by appeals to data; they are battles of wits." (From here.) That appears to be true of professional philosophers, but not of the philosophical project.

Science and philosophy have different tasks and different methods. The scientist and the philosopher both find pleasure in the hunt, but they are not hunting for the same things. The scientist is seeking proof of hypothetical models, testing the validity of his or her work or that of the community specializing in physics or chemistry. Scientists work for consensus by repetition of outcomes from controlled tests.

Philosophers, on the other hand, find answers by disagreeing. They agree that there are great questions and great ideas of the past. However, the philosophical project isn't driven by attempts to build consensus. It is driven by polemic and dialectic. The advances in Philosophy come through the tensions and polemic that refine the language of philosophers and clarify the questions.

Philosophy is an expression of love for wisdom. Wisdom is not a solid substance with a continuous reference. It is both bounded and scattered as water drops in lakes and ponds and rivers and puddles.