The Relevance of Philosophy (IntroPhil 101.10)
Specific personal uses
Examining our everyday language often leads to philosophical questions.
- “I want to do the right thing” is an expression regularly used by all of us; ethical reflection can illuminate an individual’s sense of right.
- “Wait and see what happens” may imply philosophical fatalism: Is fatalism a reasonable view?
- “I believe in God”: How is such belief supported? What kind of God?
- “That painting is beautiful”: What is beauty? “I’m a Gemini”: Are there solid premises for the predictions of astrology?
The importance of our objectives
“Developing a philosophy of life” was an objective considered essential or at least important by about 45 percent of American college freshmen in 1993.
More important were, in ascending order:
- Helping others who are in difficulty,
- becoming an authority in one’s field,
- raising a family,
- being very well-off financially.
We wonder whether the responses were based on a clear understanding of the nature of values and the possible meanings of “developing a philosophy of life.”
- Were the surveyed students aware of the meanings, branches, and tools of philosophy?
- Had they any notion of the benefits of choosing adequate views of reality and maintaining a coherent, consistent world view?
We propose that if a mature person’s philosophic beliefs are well established, such a man or woman is well integrated, and sustains a harmony between thought and action that is indispensable to his or her well-being.
As the ancient philosophers long ago discerned, philosophy is a quest for wisdom. We all are aware that a person can have a great deal of knowledge and still be a learned fool. In our age of confusion and uncertainty, we need a sense of direction. Wisdom is what provides us with that sense: it is an affair of values.
As Abraham Kaplan has written regarding wisdom: “Whatever else wisdom may be, it is in some sense an understanding of life. It is not a purely cerebral attainment; wisdom is as much a matter of what we do and feel as it is of how we think. But thought is central to it… Wisdom is a matter of seeing things -but as they are, not subjectivity.”
Wisdom is intelligent conduct of human affairs. We experience intellectual discomfort when confronted with fragmentary and confused views of the world: without some unity of outlook, the self is divided. Among other benefits, study of philosophy gives our lives:
- An inner integration,
- Helps us to decide what to approve and what to disapprove,
- And provides a sense of the meaning of human existence.
Specific professional uses
In recent years, professionals and businesses have begun to pay attention to the ethical incisions of their practices. In business ethics, many of the following issues are discussed:
- What is the goal of a corporation?
- What are the ethics of “whistleblowing”?
- What is fair in competition?
- How can we resolve conflicts of profit making with the good of the environment?
- Ought we to demand truth telling in advertising?
- How should we view job discrimination, affirmative-action hiring practices, respective rights of employers and employees,
- Social responsibilities of business,
- Responsibilities of business to the consumer,
- The role of government in business, and so on?
For those in the health-care professions, the thorny ethical issues regarding:
- Reproductive technologies,
- allowing or helping chronically and terminally ill patients to die with dignity,
- patients’ rights,
- genetic engineering,
- and public health care are in the forefront of investigations.
Each occupation is in the process of identifying the ethical issues it confronts in practice. The usefulness of identifying and understanding the options -a task undertaken by philosophers – is evident.
“Applied philosophy” today is not only a useful part of our lives, it is necessary to our daily existence
Written by Kombian SOMTUAKA