We All Need Philosophy


Kate Sills

Pro-life libertarian. Blockchain enthusiast. Cal alum. Tiny-house builder. Software engineer. Mechanism Designer. Feminist. Judy Hopps understands me. She is on Twitter.

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15 Responses

  1. Avatar Aaron David says:

    I agree with you that we need more philosophy, of both ethics AND logic. And a strong dose of religious history would go a long way, as that is a strong component of our legal system. My wife’s grandmother, by all accounts a real harridan, often called my wife a pagan, as she was raised outside the Catholic church. Hardcore Poles, those people.

    But, what did CK say? Or is that missing the point?Report

  2. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    I’ve always found ‘others’ to be completely unqualified.

    Good post, BTW. I’ve always been irritated that many feel my lack of religious faith somehow makes me an amoral creature.Report

  3. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    The big elephant in the room though is the ethics, morals, philosophy of whom?

    We are never going to live in a homogeneous world. There was never such a thing. There will always be different cultures, ethnicities, religions, political and social ideologies, etc.

    And all these different groups have very different ways of thinking about things that can often be quite disturbing and profound to us.

    The typical example I think of is when people complain that New Yorkers are come across as rude or cold. Or any big city denizen. I don’t think this is true. Part of this is because I’m a New Yorker by birth. But also New York City is a very diverse place and you have a lot of different cultures living in close proximity to each other and these cultures can often have very different ways of seeing the world, So what exists is a kind of détente and people see that as coldness when it isn’t.

    Same in almost every other city in the United States.Report

    • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      It isn’t a big elephant, as a general grounding in the philosophy of morals and ethics would include many different ways of looking at issues, at least in a decent program. Starting with the Greeks, working through various Asian teachings, all the way up to the modern Europeans would be a good start. And yes, that would include the teachings of both the east and the west, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and anything else that may, or may not, have relevance. Being open to new and old ideas is the fundamental starting point, and one to be worked towards. It should include Lao Tzu and Zizek, Santayana and Irigaray.

      The idea is to encourage thinking.Report

  4. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Protestant theocracy has been part of the American story since before there was a United States. The founders might have been secular men of the Enlightenment and Deists rather than ordinary Christians. Many ordinary Americans always saw the United States as a Protestant enterprise though. This line of thought is not going to disappear soon.Report

  5. Avatar Pinky says:

    Equality under the law is not a product of the Enlightenment. First off, it predates the Enlightenment by centuries. Millennia, really. But we probably shouldn’t talk about “The Enlightenment” as if it were a specific and consistent thing. The Enlightenment took on very different characteristics depending on the country, and even the thinker. The radical French rejected religion; the Americans tended to be religious. But the Enlightenment, whatever version, came out of the Christian culture. Turkey soup doesn’t stop being turkey soup when you take the bones out. The flavor permeates it. If there’s one thing that characterizes the Enlightenment across all its manifestations, it’s the Christian origin.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Pinky says:

      But the Enlightenment, whatever version, came out of the Christian culture.

      Thank God for that.Report

    • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Pinky says:

      I don’t know, @Pinky. I think it’s fair, as a matter of history, to claim the Enlightenment was birthed in a predominantly Christian culture but I don’t believe it originated in the Christian part of that culture.

      Admittedly, my touchstone on this is a FB friend that’s a Traditionalist Catholic but among him and his friends ‘The “Enlightenment”‘ is scare quoted in a similar manner as ‘same-sex “marriage”‘. Generally they’re monarchists that consider the late high middle ages as the pinnacle of civilization and bemoan the dissolution of European Christendom. Not big fans of Martin Luther either. So maybe I’m conflating “Christianity” with “Catholicism” here and by extension the aristocratic structure of the Catholic hierarchy and Magisterium.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Road Scholar says:

        Part of the confusion is that “Christianity” itself is a gumbo mix of a myriad of influences.
        From its beginnings as a heretical Jewish sect, to the state religion of the Roman Empire, its history has been the religious version of the Borg, rolling over and assimilating everything in its path, and constantly mutating as it goes.

        So it contains bits and fragments of Judaism, Classical polytheism, Hellenistic philosophy, pagan nature worship, and half a dozen other strands.

        The writers of the Gospels (who themselves never met Jesus) would be gobsmacked if they wandered into a contemporary Christian church, of any denomination.Report

      • I think that’s at least a defensible claim. The Enlightenment was in part a product of the Humanist movement, a late-Renaissance effort to revive the classical idea of the perfectibility of man by way of education and civic engagement. Not all that scientific, perhaps, but very much dedicated to the idea that a person can develop skills and change one’s station in life. That’s not Enlightenment thought per se, but it’s a damn sight closer to it than more medieval notions like scholasticism or divinely ordained cultural hierarchy.Report

  6. Avatar Mark Boggs says:

    I just wish that most folks concurred with good, old John Stuart Mill when it came to liberty. Most of us, but especially hyper-religious folk and liberal, big-gulp haters who are inclined to legislate things for our perceived good would do well to reflect on his words. And to take note of the word “harm” as opposed to “offense”, as those two words so often get conflated in order to justify curtailing freedom.

    The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right… The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.
    —?John Stuart MillReport

  7. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Okay, let’s have a practical application.

    The NY Times published this expose of Facebook pursuing growth above all and being suspectible to security breeches, fake news, Russian interference, etc. It contained this wonderful example of trying to have it both ways:

    While Mr. Zuckerberg has conducted a public apology tour in the last year, Ms. Sandberg has overseen an aggressive lobbying campaign to combat Facebook’s critics, shift public anger toward rival companies and ward off damaging regulation. Facebook employed a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros. It also tapped its business relationships, persuading a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic.

    I’m Jewish. Sandberg is Jewish. Zuckerberg is Jewish. But it seems to me that they wanted to discredit activists via the anti-Semitic Soros bogeyman while also hiding under the shield of charges of anti-Semitism.

    There is a basic kind of ethics that states just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you should do something because it is wrong, immortal, harmful, etc.

    So what kind of universal philosophy course could have prevented this “have it both ways” plan of attack. About 13-15 years go, I remember a front page story about a Nuclear Power Plant accident in Japan in the NY Times. The executives at the Plaint (read: C-level suite officers) were expected and did get in front of a press conference, confessed their negligence, and apologized for wrong doing.

    The American (or possibly Western response) to corporate wrong-doing is just to double down in denial do everything you can (even if contradictory) to discredit the credits.

    What kind of philosophical study can prevent this? What kind of philosophical study will actually cause people to think before they act in all circumstances including the worlds of commerce and say “You know, maybe more profit is not worth these unethical and/or sketchy acts” including at the highest levels. Would we find it humane or would it make us all miserable?Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      A lot of that is due to our litigiousness. Every public statement must fit whatever narrative the lawyers have recommended. I don’t think that’s a philosophical problem. I think that a combination of legal reform and social stigma could do a lot of good.Report