07 January 2005

What is philosophy these days?

What is philosophy these days?

Jan 7, 2005

Dear Friends,

I was/am having problems with my emails as you would have realised by now; or

rather your email inbox has!!

The problem is this, I'm using Outlook Express connected to an ADSL line

(Telefonica). However, when I prepare the emails from MS Word, it sometimes does

not send copies to the out box in Outlook Express and when it does it refuses

to send them on the philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk email account; so I have to use my

Wanadoo account. I know it is complicated and what I have read about it does not

make it easy. Oh! Yes, to really complicate life I switched to Mozilla's

Thunderbird email program (read old Netscape) for a while; you don't want to

know the rest even if it is a good program……..

Anyway, I think I have solved the problem: go back to the old technology! Which

of course brings me straight to next Sunday's topic: What is philosophy these


Does ADSL technology qualify as a philosophical question?

Take care,

See you Sunday


SUNDAY 6.30pm START at Molly Malone's Pub, probably downstairs, but just in case

there is no football on go to the very back of the pub, then turn left and

left again!


Subscribe yahoo group send an email to:


tel 606081813


Pub Molly Malone, c/ Manuela Malasaña, 11, Madrid 28004

metro: <Bilbao> : buses: 21, 149, 147

What is philosophy these days?

Maybe philosophy has always been the same? In the same way that mathematics or

architecture has always been the same. What has changed are: what people

philosophise about and how they do philosophy.

Today, we have more opportunities to do philosophy. We still have the

traditional venues such as journals, conferences, books, maybe an article or two

in a newspaper and of course universities. Other venues for philosophy have been

from the Paris salons to the coffee shops of central Europe. Today, the

participants might not be as exclusive as in the past, but they, or should that

be 'we,' are still full of vision and passion. Today, we also meet in cafés and

pubs, and then there is the internet. The internet is probably the single most

important thing that has happened to philosophy and which is also different from

what took place in the past. Today we can reach more people in more exotic

locations, at the same time, to share our philosophy with. We can meet with

people who have varied interests and of course we have close to limitless access

to information. And this is where the state of philosophy today takes it's cue.

Could it be that all these new opportunities to do philosophy change the state

of philosophy and what is philosophy? We have first to distinguish between what

is labelled as philosophy and what people are philosophising about. However,

what's in and what's out might still at the end be a matter of fashion and needs

of the day. Identifying fashion from philosophy might itself be a challenge for

philosophy today. Furthermore, there is no reason to suppose that information

overload does not apply to philosophy. This means that the task of identifying

real philosophy is that much more difficult.

Of course, one must point out that what is labelled as philosophy by

professional philosophers, what is regarded as science by those who prefer other

name tags and what actually is philosophy will always remain a challenge is the

quest for knowledge. However, I would identify the following areas as being some

of the prime interests to philosophy today.

> Issues concerning consciousness especially the brain and how it works. An

interesting debate concerns the role quantum mechanical phenomena play in the

brain and their implications to consciousness. Linked to these issues are the

implications of DNA research including cloning, genetic engineering and


> Issues in medical ethics and bioethics, especially isssues relating to the

development of new treatments, caring for terminally ill people, globalisation

of health and models of health services. An issue that needs debating is who

sets the ethical standards in medicine. Can we assume that the practitioners of

medicine are the best people to set the ethical standards? The problem here is

that real life cannot usually wait for people to come up, in real time, with a

philosophical conclusion. Another issue is, how much do we need to know about

medicine to contribute intelligently to a philosophical debate about medical


> Philosophy of language especially the development of concepts, theories of

meaning and science, philosophy of mind and language are still issues that need

looking at. As with many other discipline, what is philosophy of language, what

is linguistics and what is psychology is a blurred territory. Applied philosophy

can look at language and political philosophy. Politicians use concepts today

that need a modern definition. Another practical issue is making science

accessible to non scientists. The argument is something like this: since part of

science depend on public money then the public ought to have access to that body

of knowledge. The philosophical question then arises, how can a body of

knowledge based on mathematic be translated into a body of language based on a

mix of emotions and culture?

> A new branch of applied philosophy is philosophy of business. Here we are

concerned with issues such as ethical policies and practices of companies,

globalisation, state-company relationship and issues arising from company/stake

holders interests. Is the profit motive a valid proposition today as it were a

hundred years ago or, lets face it, a thousand years ago? And if competition is

the best guiding force in modern business, who or what are its competitors

today? It seems a bit incongruous that competition needs to be the only option

in the market place for it to succeed.

> Philosophy of science is always an exciting source for philosophical

investigation. The subjects are wide and varied, for example: the scientific

methods, especially issues relating to confirmation, statistics and probability.

Quantum mechanics still provides fertile ground for philosophical research and

when linked with astronomy, we are looking at questions relating to the creation

of the universe itself. And questions relating to the universe take us straight

into questions about God and creation. Artificial intelligence and information

theory are also good candidates for philosophy today.

Maybe issues that are closer to our times would come under the banners of theory

of the state, theory of justice and philosophy of economics.

Starting with economics, there are new developments in economics and psychology

especially consumer behaviour, economic issues in sociology and social

responsibility. The ethics of labour, the use of rare resources and pollution

also affect the models of economics we are used to.

A theory of justice today will take us back in a theory of rights. Maybe more

needs to be said about duties of individuals and also collective duties. But

equally a valid argument is whether a theory of justice ought to tell us

something about how individual rights are guaranteed. What powers do individuals

have to pursue their rights? Is there a conflict between the state and

individual rights? And on the business front, how does a theory of justice cope

with globalisation, multinational companies, and organisations such as the

European Union, the WTO and the IMF?

This is perhaps the point where we clearly depart from tradition and move into

our times: 21st century philosophy. High on the list of issues is the theory of

the state. And for us we have to look again at what is democracy? Except now we

have the added question of whether democracy should and ought to be exported to

other nation states? Another issue is the theory of war. What is the

philosophical and political debate on the principle of the pre-emptive strike?

And what do we mean by defence of the realm, today? But it is difficult to

forget old questions and a really old question is the relationship between state

and religion. For example, Is there a place for a religion with political power


I would be the last one to argue that the above list is a representation of the

state of philosophy today. It's probably more a subconscious list of what I'm

interested in; but there again subjectivism was never killed nor buried by the

old philosophy.

Modern philosophy was started with a rather good catch phrase which survived the

test of time: cogito ergo sum or I think therefore I am. The philosophy behind

this catch phrase was equally challenging at the time: What guarantees the

existence of the thinker? Today, this question is as valid as ever. At the time

Descartes did not have the benefit of psychology, neuroscience, Magnetic

Resonance Imaging, quantum mechanics, information theory and the rest of the

knowledge we take for granted. Maybe today we ought to go back to basics: what

is a thinker? What am I?

Take care


No comments: