Why is philosophy important?

Many people today would say that philosophy is useless in our scientific world, yet nothing can be further from the truth. If anything, we need philosophy now more than ever.

We are awash in an ever growing sea of knowledge, but what does it all mean? Is there an underlying order or meaning? Science is very good about finding out the “how,” but it is not equipped to explain the “why.” There is a void–a gaping chasm that religion traditionally fills but which a significant number of people reject. Is there no alternative? Philosophy can bridge the gap. Science provides the instruments, but philosophy is the symphony. Because I cannot improve upon his words, here again is my good friend, Will Durant:

“Science tells us how to heal and how to kill; it reduces the death rate in retail and then kills us wholesale in war; but only wisdom…can tell us when to heal and when to kill…[B]ecause in these days our means and instruments have multiplied beyond our interpretation and synthesis of ideals and ends, our life is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Science gives us knowledge, but only philosophy can give us wisdom.” The Story of Philosophy, p xxvii

Philosophy can also help people makes important decisions about the use of new technology such as bioengineering, stem cells, etc. Many people turn to religion seeking guidance, but there may come a time when religion can no longer provide adequate answers since religious texts were never meant to be tech guides. Philosophy may prove to be a more helpful guide since philosophy grows organically with new knowledge while religion tends to be more tied to the past.

Philosophy is also a strong foundation on which to build important personal things such as career, faith, and relationships.

Alain de Botton produced a wonderful video series, based on his book, which explores how the lives of six prominent philosophers to show philosophy can help people live more purposeful and fulfilled lives. If you have time, check out the first video below about Socrates.

See also:
About.com’s “Why is philosophy important?” – written for prospective and current atheists, but the basic logic is universal.

9 thoughts on “Why is philosophy important?

  1. A good alternative and more friendly way to bring philosophical issues to the large audience is surely the literary genre called Philofiction, an inspirational literary genre taking as its starting point the recognition of difference and multiplicity of the world in which we live.

    Philosophical literature encourages an identification of the boundaries that define us and asks us to relate across those boundaries. Philosophical novels are works of fiction in which a significant proportion of the novel is devoted to a discussion of the sort of questions normally addressed in discursive philosophy.

    These might include the function and role of society, the purpose of life, ethics or morals, the role of art in human lives, and the role of experience or reason in the development of knowledge.

    Philofiction is able to involve the habits of mind in which we make our selves and shifts our consciousness to a large perspective through the genuine encounter of diverse worldviews.

    Philosophical stories shows us that the single most powerful factor in moving towards a culture of peace and human flourishing comes from our maturation into dialogic, meditative, holistic and integrative patterns of self-making.

    Philofiction reveals that humans are dialogical beings and is often based on fictionalized philosophical dialogues which encourage the exploration of different thought processes.

    Plato was maybe the first one and the greatest Philofiction writer ever but many others after him wrote about Philosophy based on fictionalized literature. Authors like Sri Aurobindo, Ernest Miller Hemingway, Gabriel Jose Garcia Marquez and many more.

    But even today we find great Philofiction writers all around the world. Think about Tom Robbins, Haruki Murakami, Alex Mero, Jhumpa Lahiri or Bernard Werber.

    James Canon

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  2. I agree with you, James. Philofiction is a great way to share the lessons of philosophy without requiring people to wade through technical, philosophical tracts themselves. I am interest in any way to make philosophy more accessible and relevant.

    My particular interest is philosophical science fiction, or “philoscifi” as I call it. It explores the same ideas as philofiction, but it has the added ability to speculate how future changes might affect these age-old concepts. For example, with philofiction, you might ask, “What is the meaning of life?” With philoscifi you can explore, “What is the meaning of life after X, Y, and Z happen?”

    I admit that philoscifi can be less accessible than philofiction because X, Y, and Z tend to be science-based events, which can present a bar to entry for some people.

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  3. I would like to add this: Philofiction is, more than anything else, an attitude toward reality that can be expressed in popular or cultured forms, in elaborate or rustic styles in closed or open structures.

    I think that Philosophy based on fictionalized literature has no logical or psychological explanation. A Philofiction writer confronts reality and tries to untangle it, to discover what is mysterious in things, in life, in human acts. So the principle thing is not the creation of imaginary beings or worlds but the discovery of the mysterious relationship between man and his circumstances.

    We can say that an author of Philofiction does not try to copy the surrounding reality or to wound it but to seize the mystery that breathes behind things.

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  4. A philosophical text should be an unbiased reflection on the totality of everything that is. The text should not contain imagination and fictitious elements. This means that no characters may be created and no events may be imagined. Contrary to that, the literary text should only apply as a product of the imagination and of feelings. This means that fictitious elements, events and imagined characters may be created here.

    Let us know pay attention to the difference the public makes between philosophers and writers. Philosophers are known for their usually unintelligible jargon and for reasoning that most people cannot follow. Writers of literature are seen more as artists, creative souls who do not really belong in the academic world. But what is now actually the difference between philosophy and literature? Is that the difference between a philosopher and a writer? A writer can have more things in common with a philosopher than with another writer. Isn’t it then the case that the individual differences are greater than the differences between those two categories?

    And, what is philofiction actually? A literary genre that brings together philosophy and literature by making all areas between intelligence and feeling fade away with the objective to make the reader know no boundaries. Philofiction dialogues describe events and meetings between part real, part literary created characters, who reason and interpret but also clarify or contradict all kinds of thoughts and statements and in this way enable the reader to deepen his knowledge. Philofiction does indeed appeal to the intellect and the imagination simultaneously and therefore is no different from the manner in which each of us experiences life.

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  5. I agree, Philip. Categories and labels may be helpful in quickly determining basic attributes of people and works, but they are only guidelines. Some people and works belong in multiple categories…or perhaps in none. Ultimately we should look at each individual case to make our own determination. Unfortunately, that requires more work than the average person desires, so s/he usually just sticks with the stereotypes.

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  6. The true philosopher will never hesitate to learn any thing including science.

    That is why, there is a necessity, to apply philosophy in the application of any invention, to magnify the usage of the invention.

    The philosopher interest is to all life existence, but i couldn’t find any application other than a philosophy which is developed and developing in the interest of all existence

    I feel the importance of philosophy..

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  7. Enter your comment here…philosophy always tends to increase knowledge thus why a good philosopher listens,read and listern where all these are good methods of generating knowledge

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