Where philosophy goes from here - a possible end point?

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Where philosophy goes from here - a possible end point?

Post by Steve3007 »

A question that is sometimes asked about science (specifically physics) is whether it could ever reach an end point, or whether it is inherent in the scientific method that it could never do so. It was famously thought, near the end of the 19th Century, that this point was in fact close. As we now know, it wasn't.

What causes new philosophical movements/views to develop? It seems, among other things, to include changes in the societal norms surrounding the philosophers, and scientific developments. An example of the former could be the changes in societal norms regarding religion. (Many western philosophers and, for that matter, people we'd now call physicists, pre-19th Century saw their role as interpreting the mind of God or similar. In the 20th Century the emphasis was increasingly on analytic philosophy.) Examples of the latter could be things like the Copernican Revolution and the development of Quantum Mechanics (the latter also contributing to the rise of analytic philosophy).

As with physics, is it sensible to speculate that changes in philosophical thought, or at least the metaphysics of analytic philosophy and ontology (but perhaps not, for example, political philosophy), could grind to a halt? Is it conceivable that there will come a time when there are no major new philosophical movements?
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Re: Where philosophy goes from here - a possible end point?

Post by stevie »

Steve3007 wrote: October 14th, 2021, 5:22 am Is it conceivable that there will come a time when there are no major new philosophical movements?
Everthing is conceivable which is exactly why there is continuous development or evolution in philosophy. Usually there aren't completely new philosophies but something thought already earlier by others is usually taken up and newly combined with other thoughts.
Thinking is a human capacity with great advantages when focused on practical issues but proliferation of thought is a human diversion at best and a human dilemma at worst. It doesn't appear very likely that all human individuals may get fed up with it simultaneously but depending on outer conditions it is conceivable nevertheless.
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Re: Where philosophy goes from here - a possible end point?

Post by Terrapin Station »

People can lose interest in philosophy, and maybe everyone would for a time, but it's not something that can end, because the gist of philosophy isn't simply coming up with an "answer" and that's it.

The gist of philosophy is rather examining assumptions and examining reasoning in general. "If we make such and such assumption, this is where it leads us . . . or is it? Because does and/or should reasoning work that way, and is the assumption merited in the first place?" That sort of thing is really the heart of philosophy, and there's no way to be "done" with that, because we can always ask those sorts of questions.

The error a lot of people make is in thinking that philosophy is futile then, because the aim isn't to produce "the right answer," which we then just accept. But that was never the value of philosophy. The value of philosophy is its critical, skeptical examination of reasoning (and we could say of the world, of phenomena in general) in the first place.

Philosophy is a lot like a tool in this. So it would be like asking, "Is a wrench ever done?" The goal isn't to just have a wrench. The wrench is there to aid in doing other things. So the wrench can't be "done," the wrench is for doing other things that can be done (at least temporarily, until we want to do something else).
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Re: Where philosophy goes from here - a possible end point?

Post by psyreporter »

Aristotle considers a state of philosophical contemplation (eudaimonia) the greatest virtue (highest human good). It is a strive to serve life: the discovery of "good" from which value follows. It would be an everlasting quest and thus philosophy would have no end and would advance into infinity.

When the human intends to prosper not only for the purpose to live another day (which would include 100-200 years, i.e. a ‘short term’ perspective), but for the long term (i.e. millions of years), the path that is chosen today can have a profound impact and it can be an argument that the human should chose wisely by which philosophy would acquire a leading position for humanity, not like a religion with dogma’s, but as a continuous quest to discover the optimal path for humanity.

Growth and progress is exponential by which it is increasingly important to make the right choices.

Morality would be the key for success and modern day morality is based on magical thinking by letting it depend (in general) on the lap part of the human.

Humans are naturally equipped with a moral compass but when progress is increasingly made outside the direct influence scope of the human being, paired with the modern day dogma that the facts of science are valid without philosophy (a belief in uniformitarianism), which naturally results in a tendency to completely abolish morality, it may be important that that magical ‘moral compass’ aspect of human evolution is provided for by a professional plausible method that can secure long term success on that regard: philosophy.

Morality (a moral life) can be achieved by addressing the question "What is 'good'?", which is philosophical contemplation.
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Re: Where philosophy goes from here - a possible end point?

Post by Terrapin Station »

This, by the way, is why there can be a "philosophy of x," where x can be any and everything. "Philosophy of science," "Philosophy of sports," "Philosophy of urban planning," etc. A lot of people misunderstand those things to be referring to something like "The overarching goals that scientists have for science" or "The slogans that people apply to sports" and so on. That's not what those fields are. They're rather using philosophy's wrench to look specifically at things like the sciences, sports, or whatever. We look at the sorts of assumptions that are made in those fields, we examine the reasoning used in those fields, etc. in a critical/skeptical way.

For example, we might look at, "Is the historical statistical performance of a team really an indicator of future performance of a team despite the fact that team members have changed, and if so, why would that be the case?" The sports world makes assumptions that that's the case, but it's odd that it would be when many team members or even the entire team is replaced. So it's worth looking at why this might be the case. That's not something that the sports world bothers looking at or even thinking about--it's simply a given in that milieu that, for example, certain teams are going to have a tendency to beat or lose to certain other teams, as if the teams are "entities of their own," independent of the particular players on the team.

Philosophers are interested in this sort of thing as it touches on a bunch of different issues that are worth a critical look, including abstracts/essences versus particulars, emergentism and the role of causal connections in the same, how (cultural) expectations affect individual performance and how that feeds back into the culture, and even philosophy of mathematics issues such as statistical assumptions and what, if anything, justifies the various assumptions there.

So we can take the tool and apply it to anything, and we'll never be "finished" with that, because among other things, we can take the tool and even apply it to what we did in our study. The value is in wielding the tool effectively.
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Re: Where philosophy goes from here - a possible end point?

Post by Steve3007 »

Terrapin Station wrote:The gist of philosophy is rather examining assumptions and examining reasoning in general. "If we make such and such assumption, this is where it leads us . . . or is it? Because does and/or should reasoning work that way, and is the assumption merited in the first place?" That sort of thing is really the heart of philosophy, and there's no way to be "done" with that, because we can always ask those sorts of questions.
Yes, there presumably could always be new assumptions to which reasoning can be applied, to see where it leads. And there is, as you say, always the possibility to ask whether that kind of reasoning, leading that way, is the only kind available. (So if philosophy is the wrench then the assumptions, the arguments based on those assumptions and the type of logic used to create those arguments are all parts of the product to which the wrench is applied.)
The error a lot of people make is in thinking that philosophy is futile then, because the aim isn't to produce "the right answer," which we then just accept. But that was never the value of philosophy. The value of philosophy is its critical, skeptical examination of reasoning (and we could say of the world, of phenomena in general) in the first place.

Philosophy is a lot like a tool in this. So it would be like asking, "Is a wrench ever done?" The goal isn't to just have a wrench. The wrench is there to aid in doing other things. So the wrench can't be "done," the wrench is for doing other things that can be done (at least temporarily, until we want to do something else).
Yes it could be like asking "is a wrench ever done?" to which obviously the answer is "no" so long as there are new things to be worked on that require wrenches. But I guess it could also be like asking "Will we ever get to a point where the design of the wrench itself is as good as it can get?". So (stretching the metaphor a bit) early philosophical movements might be regarded as wooden wrenches which break under too much torque. Later ones: stainless steel or titanium. Will we ever design the functionally perfect multi-function philosophy-wrench? Presumably not.

But it does seem to me that at least some philosophical movements come and go, and will never come back unless we forget the good reasons why they went in the first place and start re-inventing the wheel. The Logical Positivism that we discussed recently is perhaps a relatively recent example. It was flawed so it evolved into something else. I guess somebody might decide to bring it back, but only if they're unaware of the reasons why it went in the first place.

So there does seem to be at least some sense of a direction in philosophy, and a process of eliminating - striking from the list - philosophical ideas that we now regard as flawed. That direction seems to have been broadly in the direction of analytic philosophy for the last 100 years or so. So, even though analytic philosophy covers a lot of stuff (maybe a whole toolbox rather than just a wrench) is there any way that it would be appropriate to regard it as a kind of end point, at least for western philosophy?
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Re: Where philosophy goes from here - a possible end point?

Post by Steve3007 »

Terrapin Station wrote:For example, we might look at, "Is the historical statistical performance of a team really an indicator of future performance of a team despite the fact that team members have changed, and if so, why would that be the case?" The sports world makes assumptions that that's the case, but it's odd that it would be when many team members or even the entire team is replaced. So it's worth looking at why this might be the case. That's not something that the sports world bothers looking at or even thinking about--it's simply a given in that milieu that, for example, certain teams are going to have a tendency to beat or lose to certain other teams, as if the teams are "entities of their own," independent of the particular players on the team.
Yes, so that would be an example of where something apparently very down-to-earth1 and far removed from most people's idea of what philosophy is about could be applicable to the philosophical question of identity, and what it means for an entity to be persistent over a period of time. The persistence of form/pattern versus the persistence of physical objects. The Ship of Theseus, etc.


1Although I've often found sports commentators to fancy themselves as philosophers. Listening to phone-in shows on sport-oriented radio channels can be like listening to a philosophical debate!
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Re: Where philosophy goes from here - a possible end point?

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Terrapin Station wrote:Philosophers are interested in this sort of thing as it touches on a bunch of different issues that are worth a critical look, including abstracts/essences versus particulars, emergentism and the role of causal connections in the same, how (cultural) expectations affect individual performance and how that feeds back into the culture, and even philosophy of mathematics issues such as statistical assumptions and what, if anything, justifies the various assumptions there.
Yes it seems to me that part of the power of philosophy is in being able to see how aspects of it are applicable to such a wide range of apparently unconnected disciplines.

Although mathematics is not philosophy, but is one of the things to which the wrench of philosophy is applied, it seems to me that it has a similar kind of cross disciplinary power. As an example, I once had a job in a company that designed stock market data streaming software, so I bought a book on the mathematics of financial derivatives as preparation. I was fascinated to read that a mathematical equation which successfully describes the fair price of stock options also describes the diffusion of gases in physics. The patterns in the models which successfully describe those completely diverse phenomena are the same.
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Re: Where philosophy goes from here - a possible end point?

Post by Steve3007 »

stevie wrote:Everthing is conceivable which is exactly why there is continuous development or evolution in philosophy. Usually there aren't completely new philosophies but something thought already earlier by others is usually taken up and newly combined with other thoughts.
Yes true. I should probably have used a term like "likely" or "realistic" rather than "conceivable".
Thinking is a human capacity with great advantages when focused on practical issues but proliferation of thought is a human diversion at best and a human dilemma at worst.
I'm not quite as pessimistic about abstract thinking as you appear to me to be in saying that. I think one of the lessons from mathematics, for example, is that you never know what extraordinarily practical and useful applications some abstract thoughts can later turn out to have, even if those applications aren't apparent now. So long as we don't confuse those abstract thoughts with the things to which we apply them.
It doesn't appear very likely that all human individuals may get fed up with it simultaneously but depending on outer conditions it is conceivable nevertheless.
Yeah, I agree it's unlikely that everyone will simultaneously get fed up with philosophy. And even if they did, the next generation might take it up.
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Re: Where philosophy goes from here - a possible end point?

Post by JackDaydream »

@Steve3007

Your question is important and it probably applies on two different levels. Firstly, there is the academic discipline of philosophy and, secondly, there is philosophy as an activity which every human being engages in by searching for explanations and meanings. At this time, after many movements, including the deconstruction of postmodernism, it can be asked what can come next? Are there any truly new and original ideas? Science is the dominant source of thought and many people look to this for ideas, but, of course, it involves models which rest on philosophy assumptions.

In many ways it may be a time of synthesis and involve people of the current time and in the future trying to work out what is still useful from the philosophies of the past. In some philosophy circles there is a strong interest in the ideas of the Greeks, Neoplatonism and Stoicism. However, it may be asked how relevant are some writers of the past, such as Immanuel Kant. Within academic philosophy his ideas have been considered as central, and he has been such an important influence. He introduced the idea of a priori logic and the categorical imperative. These have been considered to be extremely important. Nevertheless, it could be asked whether his ideas are worth scrutinizing in the way in which they have been attended to the past.

Of course, philosophy cannot be separated from advances in other disciplines. A lot of what happens may depend on how advances are made, especially in the sciences, and directions in the arts. It may be that philosophy will be needed in interpreting these, as well as providing a basis for questions about ethics and the existential aspects of human existence.
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Re: Where philosophy goes from here - a possible end point?

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This thread (I noticed) is next to the one about the Book of Revelations.
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Re: Where philosophy goes from here - a possible end point?

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Steve3007 wrote: October 14th, 2021, 5:22 am ...the development of Quantum Mechanics (the latter also contributing to the rise of analytic philosophy).
Aside: But analytic philosophy concerns itself with that which is certain and predictable, while QM is about things that are uncertain because they're unpredictable?


Steve3007 wrote: October 14th, 2021, 5:22 am Is it conceivable that there will come a time when there are no major new philosophical movements?
If the time comes when there are no new perspectives to be found, which, I suspect, is never.
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Re: Where philosophy goes from here - a possible end point?

Post by Pattern-chaser »

Terrapin Station wrote: October 14th, 2021, 7:57 am The error a lot of people make is in thinking that philosophy is futile then, because the aim isn't to produce "the right answer," which we then just accept. But that was never the value of philosophy.
Tell that to the analytic philosophers. All you need is binary thinking, and a claim that you possess Objective truths, and you can't see how philosophy could have any function other than finding the "right answer".
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Re: Where philosophy goes from here - a possible end point?

Post by Steve3007 »

Pattern-chaser wrote:Aside: But analytic philosophy concerns itself with that which is certain and predictable, while QM is about things that are uncertain because they're unpredictable?
I wouldn't say analytic philosophy concerns itself exclusively with that which is certain and predictable. It concerns itself with things like logic and language. Mathematics is a logical language, and mathematics describes the concept of probability. Quantum Mechanics is described using mathematics.
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Re: Where philosophy goes from here - a possible end point?

Post by Belindi »

psyreporter wrote: October 14th, 2021, 8:00 am Aristotle considers a state of philosophical contemplation (eudaimonia) the greatest virtue (highest human good). It is a strive to serve life: the discovery of "good" from which value follows. It would be an everlasting quest and thus philosophy would have no end and would advance into infinity.

When the human intends to prosper not only for the purpose to live another day (which would include 100-200 years, i.e. a ‘short term’ perspective), but for the long term (i.e. millions of years), the path that is chosen today can have a profound impact and it can be an argument that the human should chose wisely by which philosophy would acquire a leading position for humanity, not like a religion with dogma’s, but as a continuous quest to discover the optimal path for humanity.

Growth and progress is exponential by which it is increasingly important to make the right choices.

Morality would be the key for success and modern day morality is based on magical thinking by letting it depend (in general) on the lap part of the human.

Humans are naturally equipped with a moral compass but when progress is increasingly made outside the direct influence scope of the human being, paired with the modern day dogma that the facts of science are valid without philosophy (a belief in uniformitarianism), which naturally results in a tendency to completely abolish morality, it may be important that that magical ‘moral compass’ aspect of human evolution is provided for by a professional plausible method that can secure long term success on that regard: philosophy.

Morality (a moral life) can be achieved by addressing the question "What is 'good'?", which is philosophical contemplation.
I agree with Aristotle that philosophers' ultimate aim in all branches of philosophy, even logic, is value, or good, truth and beauty. Therefore as long as there are creatures capable of philosophising there will be philosophy.
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