Is Philosophy Stupid? No, but its advocates often are.

The main problem with Philosophy as a distinct academic discipline is not that it is stupid, but that its advocates *are* often "stupid" in that they badly misidentify its value with claims like the following:

Philosophy answers questions like...

"Who am I?"

"What should I do with my life? How can I be happy?"

"Do I have the right friends? Are these bad friends?"

"Am I a bad person? Should I be living my life differently?"

"What's worth making sacrifices for? How much sacrifice?"

"Am I in love? What is love?"

"Is there a god / afterlife / cosmic plan?"

No, it does not answer such questions,  and the claim that it does that impossible task drives people like me close to madness in frustration. (Religion makes the same claim but is less irritating in doing so because in that case it's clearly out of some kind of desperation for an answer rather than with the smug assumption of academic rigor.)

What academic Philosophy does do very well is provide one (but not the only) source of experience and tools which help us to analyse reasoning about those and any other questions.  It does not provide answers, but a trained philosopher may well be useful in helping people at an impasse to look more deeply at the assumptions and mental processes of their interlocutors in a way that may help to resolve differences or at least to increase mutual understanding and empathy.

Is Philosophy Stupid? » Richard Carrier Blogs.

2 Responses to “Is Philosophy Stupid? No, but its advocates often are.”

  1. Mayo Says:

    I’m prepared to agree that academic philosophy is stupid, but I’ve never once heard an academic philosopher (as opposed to perhaps a pop philosopher) identify the value of philosophy with answering any of the questions on your list. I wonder where you got that impression…(Nevertheless, I really liked your comments to Briggs on probability one time, which is why I looked up your blog).

  2. alan Says:

    The list was copied from the article by Richard Carrier that I link to in the posting.

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