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