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Philosophy: Therapy or search for truth?


From Aeon: Nigel Warburton, author of A Little History of Philosophy (2011) vs. Jules Evans, Policy Director, Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary U London:

NW: I suppose this all turns on what you think philosophy is. I see philosophy as an activity of thinking critically about what we are and where we stand in relation to the world, an activity with a long and rich history. Philosophy is concerned with how things are, the limits of what we can know, and how we should live. It is anti-dogmatic and thrives on questioning assumptions. No serious philosophy is likely to leave the philosopher unchanged, but that doesn’t mean that the change will be for the better or more consoling: to think otherwise is begging the question. There are huge dangers of self-deception here, in thinking that philosophy is some kind of panacea that will make us all better, saner people. Just to give one example, impeccable logic from false premises can lead you very far astray. How do you see philosophy?

JE: I approach philosophy as a sort of pragmatism – I have a set of values and an idea of how the world is, and I try it out and see if I can live by it, if it fits reality, if it leads to an expanded sense of flourishing. And reality (including other people) feeds back to me, lets me know if I’m living wisely or foolishly. That two-way process is always changing, you’re always adapting and revisiting assumptions. But no one can be entirely anti-dogmatic – one needs a set of values and opinions to live by. I think you must have one too, no? I’m sure it has changed over time but if you were a complete skeptic, like Pyrrho, you wouldn’t know whether to get out of bed or not. More.

As it happens, a clear answer emerges: In an age when it is assumed that our brains are shaped for fitness, not for truth, philosophy is a sort of therapy that evolved to enable a natural entity to adjust until dissolution.

See also: Would we give up naturalism to solve the hard problem of consciousness?

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Both "fitness" and "truth" are subjective generalizations that mean different things, to different people. Philosophizing over whether brains are shaped for fitness or for truth easily leads you astray. GaryGaulin

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