MONKEY SHINES SO BRIGHT: Is Philosophy Useless?
Some philosophers and scientists have said philosophy is useless. Several philosophers have declared philosophy dead after saying what they think is the last word. While people are serious fools, including philosophers and scientists, is the pursuit of wisdom useless?
Wisdom is the ability to reason, think critically, debate and gain greater perspective, different from simply acquiring knowledge or creating technology. Most people believe the world could use more wisdom, but most also believe it’s their neighbor who needs it.
When I was a kid, my sister and I thought my father’s exercise bike was the dumbest thing ever. He would pedal and pedal, and never get anywhere. We didn’t understand he was training. If you go to the gym and put all the equipment back when you’re done, someone could say you haven’t done anything. However, if you need to do anything, training seriously helps. Thinking about thinking and questioning ourselves and others is difficult to weigh in dollars or pounds, but it improves your mind and life.
All of this is obvious, particularly when some jerk argues with us about anything. Why then do some say philosophy is useless or dead?
Philosophy, like all subjects, is entrenched in institutions, and institutions aren’t always bastions of wisdom or freedom of thought. American and British Analytic Philosophy continuously says that we can say true things, science is real, and consciousness comes from somewhere, which never struck me as deep wisdom.
On the other hand, German and French Continental Philosophy has deep ideas but expresses them in an impenetrable forest of language that the average person can’t read or figure out how to use. Both schools have become specialized conversations among experts, and no one talks about helping the average person get wise.
Academics is also Eurocentric, so rather than gain a general and global understanding of human thought, philosophy departments ignore all but a small number of ancient Greek and modern European thinkers. Again and again the West is declared to be rational, although no one knows what rational is exactly and history makes this seem doubtful.
To make philosophy more useful, we should study the whole history of human thought, make great ideas understandable, and use them to gain perspective. Like knowledge, there is no limit to wisdom, and it will always be valuable for improving ourselves and our fellow fools.