Why Should We Do Philosophy?
When contemplating what philosophy is and specifically what the goals of philosophy are I am reminded of Heidegger's Introduction to Metaphysics. In the beginning of this work he discusses what he considers to be false notions of philosophy, which he characterizes as an attempt to rationalize philosophy in scientific terms in order to appease what he deems to be mundane and misplaced standards. He discusses the common justifications of how philosophy can lead to practical results: such as forging a distinct culture or society, or if we follow the pre-Socratic current of thought through to the physics of Aristotle and Democritus, we get the preliminary and proto-thought processes necessary for the development of science etc. After considering these typical justifications Heidegger adds the following:
Today philosophy has been divorced from the study of the natural world, from science; yet, this was not always so and need not always be so. Furthermore it is better to say that philosophy has always included a discourse applicable to science, yet the field of philosophy itself has always transcended science as it has a much broader purview and agenda. I might simplify this broad purview and agenda as simply the sustained and rational study of being and humankind's relation to being, and it is from this sustained study that various thinkers have followed premises to various conclusions and hypotheses about humankind and the world, some of which have taken a life of their own due to their instrumental value and these branches have evolved into what we now call science.
So in effect science is one of the many golden eggs laid by the proverbial goose of philosophy. Not only has this discipline continued to inspire hypothesis in current scientific fields but if it is kept alive it may spawn new ideas that evolve into other equally or more valuable fiends of study than what currently have. While all of this shows the value of philosophy and the dept that the sciences owes to it, the sciences can also aid philosophy by providing other sources of information by which to challenge the conclusions that philosophical processes give us.
It is only wrong to suppose that this is the last word on philosophy. For the rejoinder imposes itself: granted that we cannot do anything with philosophy; might not philosophy, if we concern ourselves with it, do something with us? So much for what philosophy is not"
While I tend to be incredulous to insinuations of a more golden age in regard to our language and our relation to being, there is also something about the spirit in which he writes this that resonates with my overall nausea in the face of constant commercials, slogans, and general misuse of words that has made itself known in pop culture. This sense of a degradation in our language and the way it is used does make a strong case for itself with the over all trend in how American political candidates communicate to the public. The fact of the matter is the around election time there seems to be almost no authentic communication with the public: words no longer convey meaning and intention other than to distract and arouse strong emotion. But lets get back to Heidegger and the exploration of our relationship to being, since it may be the key as to why philosophy itself has become somewhat of a dead discipline.
So it is here where he identifies this linguistic shift in our philosophical awareness and perhaps it is here where philosophy started to lose touch with its much broader and transformative agenda.
"But this narrowing of physis in the direction of 'physics' did not occur in the way that we imagine today. We oppose the psychic, the animated, the living to the 'physical.' But for the Greeks all this belonged to physis and continued to do so even after Aristotle."