Why We Need Philosophy? (IntroPhil 101.8)
We now come to the point where we discuss why we need philosophy at all. This will be in three parts: part one is “Why we need Philosophy;” part two is “Relevance of Philosophy;” and part three will touch on “The Specific Uses of Philosophy – Personal and Professional Uses.” But why do we need philosophy?
We are living in a period that resembles the late stages of the Greco-Roman civilization, the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Industrial Revolution, when basic shifts took place in human thinking, values, and practices.
Changes are occurring that reach to the foundations of human life and society. We now have immense power over nature, including outer space; We have made giant strides in the areas of science, technology, agriculture, medicine, and the social sciences. In this century, especially in the last few decades, we have seen great advances in society -men and women live longer, travel faster, have more comforts aside labour-saving devices, and produce more goods in fewer hours than ever before.
The extension of the role of the computer and the age of automation undoubtedly will eliminate more drudgery and further increase production and reduce working hours. Controlling new sources of energy from the atom, the sun, the tides, and the winds is likely to change our lives beyond even our wildest imaginations.
Yet despite our amazing advances, many thoughtful people are disturbed and anxious. They are concerned that our physical power, scientific knowledge, and wealth stand in sharp contrast with the failure of governments and individuals to come to grips with the pressing intellectual and moral problems of life. Knowledge seems divorced from values; it is possible to have great power without insight.
Perhaps the most striking example is to be found in the onset of a nuclear age, which we have created through an application of scientific and technological power. We are unable, however, to solve the question of arms control. Nuclear weapons cannot be realistically used in the actual fighting of a war; using even one is likely to lead to an earthly cataclysm.
Despite the appalling dangers of nuclear war, some people argue that we need to manufacture nuclear weapons as a means of deterring nuclear aggression by a potential enemy; That is, a nuclear war cannot be planned with the aim of winning it. Once again, we are in a paradoxical situation: we are unable to offer a solution to a problem that stems from our own ingenuity.
The twentieth century has been characterized by a war of ideas as well as of people, materials, and conflicting national interests. Irreconcilable philosophies compete for allegiance: Earlier in the century, the difference between life in the democratic and in the fascist countries:
- Was not a difference in technology, or in science, or even in general education;
- It lay in basic ideas, ideals, and loyalties.
In a similar way, communism challenged many of our beliefs and ideals. Editorials, articles, books, films, and television commentators unite in appealing for are direction of our society: they believe that we are adrift without moral and intellectual leadership.
No doubt our period is characterized by personal and social instability.
We are at a loss to form genuine communities that would lend satisfaction and hope to their members.
We find commitment to selfishness’ and competition rather than to self-interest and cooperation. Our civilization often has been diagnosed; the diagnosticians are eloquent in their descriptions of the diseases, but it is a rare individual who proposes a cure; The most the critics can agree on is that it is time for a change.
Changes in customs and in history usually begin with people who are convinced of the worth of some ideal or who are captured by some vision of a different way of life. Following the Middle Ages, many people began to conceive of a way of life motivated by a belief that life on this earth is worthwhile in itself.
In the broadest sense, this belief made possible the Renaissance, the Reformation, and our modern world with its factories, mass production, money and banks, rapid transportation, and, more recently, atomic power and exploration of outer space.
All these are calculated to make this world better and to give us more control over it.
- But unless we develop:
– Some fairly consistent and comprehensive view of human nature,
– The nature of the total order within which we live,
– And some reasonable scale of values based on an order beyond mere human desires,
- Such things are not likely to provide an enduring basis for our world.
Philosophy, in conjunction with other disciplines, plays a central role in guiding us toward new desires and aspirations (This is where we see the unity of philosophy with other systems of knowledge).
In his book “The Illusion of Technique,” William Barrett proposes that today, more than any other time in history it is necessary to place the idea of scientific technique in a new relation to life. As we have noted, ours is a society more and more dominated by technique. Barrett is convinced that modern philosophy must respond to technique and technology, or humanity will permanently lose purpose, direction, and freedom.
… anyone who would argue for freedom today’ has to concern himself with the nature of technique -its scope and its limits- … The question of technique is, in itself, an important one for philosophy -and more important particularly for modern philosophy, which has so often let matters of technique blind its vision. More significantly still, the question bears upon the uncertainties of a whole technological civilization, which even as it wields its great technical powers is unsure of their limits or possible consequences.
Expect parts two and three next week (Monday and Tuesday).
Written By Kombian SOMTUAKA (#KCPhil)