PhiloMadrid - Pub Philosophy Meetings in Madrid

Thursday, January 03, 2019

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Do we need philosophy?

Dear Friends,

I hope you had a good rest and enjoyed the festivities.

We start the year with the topic: Do we need philosophy? The answer is
not so much that it is yes, but rather what kind of philosophy and what for.

Philosophy is a big word and covers a multitude of sins. So the question
for us is really, which philosophy and for what? Regarding which
philosophy we are concerned with that part of the spectrum concerning
the thinking about thinking and the purpose is to clarify and
investigate how we think. In other words, we are concerned about the
thinking we engage in between history of ideas and the scientific method.

There are at least two reasons why we should pursue this philosophy: the
first is that it is a philosophy about how we think about thinking and
secondly this form of philosophy encompasses our historical being with
our being in the world around. But to be clear, by thinking about
thinking I am not referring to psychological or neurological causes that
make us think. No, this is thinking about what we think, and the "we"
are people in general.

We can compare our part of philosophy with other forms of philosophy:
for example a type of thinking that enables us to arrive at what we have
to do to achieve something we want. For example, thinking how we can
make a more efficient motor car or a better cake or whatever, or how to
live a better life, or even the good life. This is closer to problem
solving: how to make something.

But our rational philosophy, for want of a better name, is not about
what we have to do to think but how to recognise or investigate the
validity of our thinking. If we want to think we need to educate and
inform ourselves first. Personal experience and learning from the
experience of others is a good start for thinking on any subject. This
is why reading past philosophers is also a good start because we learn
how to think, how false thinking can lead to more complex problems and
to understand today's problems that might have been discussed in the
past. But as Alfonso would remind us these past philosophers did not
have a smartphone; we are the first generation of philosophers with a
personal smartphone which can be used to access more information than
the combined knowledge base of previous philosophers and scientists put
together. Hence, today access to information and knowledge is not such a
big issue as it was for our ancestors: our problem is how to sort out
and learn from all knowledge base.

It also follows from the previous paragraph that the more information
(knowledge) we have the more thinking we have to do. I take this to be a
self evident truth. Indeed, today, I would argue, that the pioneering
days of 19th century science and engineering, of trial and error, have
been superseded by 21st century of pooling of ideas in journals,
modelling, which is itself a form of thinking, seeking robust theories
and field testing ideas. In other words: systematic research,
development and innovation. Maybe, it was always thinking first (theory)
and then prototyping (testing) it's just that today we have to think
more and even in more complex ways.

Prototyping of a car or aircraft leads us well into that part of the
thinking spectrum of what to do to achieve some contraption (science and
technology). But what about those human activities that involve human
actions rather than human creations: I am thinking more about politics,
ethics, warfare, jurisprudence, international relationships, economics,
sociology, science itself, and so on. In today's world our societies
require as much "services" as material things to function.

The key tools, if you will, to conduct these human activities or
"services" are information and language. We use language to change the
mind sets of others: philosophers, for example, are avaricious users of
language. Politicians don't use the technical specifications of MFRI
instruments to get elected but to promise shorter waiting lists and more
medical treatment. Charities do not appeal to our sense of GINI index
disparity amongst nations for donations but to our sense of morality of
seeing images of poor children dishevelled and presumably hungry. Our
skills as philosophers are precisely our ability to understand the
consequences and meaning of these actors.

Thus understanding our language and how we use it will help us
understand the value judgments of other human beings. Indeed problems
about our thinking are first and foremost problems about our use of
language; by language I do not only mean natural languages but also
logic, imagery and symbolism. I would further argue that because
rational philosophy, is about our thinking rather than how to make a
machine or a product, we are really involved in a methodology and not a
production line system. Philosophy is not about making or creating
better thinkers, but rather how to arrive at better thinking.

The value of methodologies is not that they create things for us, they
don't, but rather methodologies filter and organise information about
facts from beliefs or assumptions. Once we accept these facts we can
then go on with our grand projects be them machines or human systems.
Once we establish that unfair distribution of created wealth causes
poverty we cannot justify charity as an answer for a government whose
policies promote unfair wealth distribution. Being poor means not being
a full participant in wealth creation and the distribution of created
wealth. Poverty has nothing to do with being hungry or being thin.

In essence, it is not so much that we need philosophy but that we need a
type of philosophy that can either help us sort out our own invalid
thinking or the false thinking of others. In a way everyone, charlatans,
crooks and dictators excepted, is concerned about the validity of their
thinking and those they depend on. Now, whether we call ourselves
philosophers, or get paid for our thinking, or whatever, is a different
matter. In the meantime anyone who is engaged with knowledge and
information is involved in philosophy.

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
Gran Clavel (Café-Bar): Gran vía 11, esquina C/ Clavel, 28013—Madrid

#philosophy #thinking #information

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Do we need philosophy?

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