THE VALUE OF PHILOSOPHY

The value of philosophy is to be found exclusively among the goods of the mind. It is more necessary to consider the value and usefulness of philosophy.

It is more necessary to consider the value and usefulness of philosophy because most people have quite misleading conceptions of philosophy. Under the influence of science or practical affairs, they think that philosophy is an innocent but useless activity and nothing more. It consists of hair-splitting distinctions and controversies on matters concerning which knowledge is impossible. There are two reasons for this misconception of philosophy.

A wrong conception of the ends of life

A wrong conception of life according to which the needs of the body must be supplied but the mind does not need any food. According to it, science has value because it benefits not only students but human beings in general; Philosophy has not such a utility. It is not realized that besides the needs of the body, there are needs of the mind. It is not realized that even in the existing world the goods of the mind are at least as important as the goods of the body. If all men were well off, and ills such as poverty and disease were reduced to the minimum, there would remain the need to produce a valuable society. The value of philosophy is to be found exclusively among the goods of the mind. Only people who are not indifferent to the goods of the mind can be convinced that the study of philosophy is not a waste of time.

A wrong conception of the aim of philosophy

There is a wrong conception of the kinds of goods, which philosophy tries to achieve. Philosophy, like all studies, aims primarily at knowledge but with a difference. It aims at to kinds of knowledge: one that gives unity and system to the body of the sciences and the other which results from a critical examination of the grounds of our beliefs, convictions, and prejudices. However, it cannot be maintained that philosophy has had some great measure of success in its attempt to provide definite answers to its questions. If we ask a mathematician, a mineralogist, a historian, or any other man of learning, what definite body of truths has been discovered by his science, he would narrate the definite achievements of his science. However, if we put the same question to a philosopher, he will have to confess that his study has not achieved positive results, such as have been achieved by other sciences.

This is so for two reasons

Whenever science has a definite answer to a problem, the problem ceases to belong to philosophy and such discipline is set up as a separate science. For eg. What was once “Natural Philosophy”, is now “Physics” or what was “Philosophy of Mind” has now established itself as “Psychology.” This also means that the uncertainty of philosophy is more apparent than real.

The uncertainty of philosophy also results from the fact that uncertainty of philosophy raises questions that man cannot solve unless his powers of knowing drastically change enabling him to acquire definite answers to his questions to say concerning the purpose of the universe, nature of evil, reality of space, time and so on. Naturally, then, different philosophers come out with different answers none of which can be regarded as certain. However, philosophy persists because by considering these questions, it makes us aware of their importance and the need to consider the various approaches to them. This keeps alive our speculative interests in the universe about which there is so much to know and so little can be known because we are not as well equipped as we could wish.



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