Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Gen Eds P12: What's Philosophy Good For?

The last eleven posts have overviewed philosophy as the first of ten subjects you would generally study in college as part of a "general education," also called a "liberal arts" education. The name of this overall series is called "General Education in a Nutshell."

The posts on philosophy were:
1. I wonder if I have covered more territory with these posts than I needed to. I've tried to be somewhat comprehensive when my original purpose was to show the importance and usefulness of philosophy.

So I want to take this post and ask, what is really useful about philosophy? If there were a philosophy course that really tried to help people, not just to tell them the stuff you are supposed to say in a philosophy course, what would that be?

Here are several helpful areas for a philosophy course to address:
  • Philosophy should teach a person to question their own assumptions. Philosophy should hold up a mirror to a person and say, "You didn't even realize you had blind spots and were wearing glasses."
  • Philosophy should teach a person about logical fallacies and good inductive reasoning. Society desperately needs better and more objective thinkers.
  • There are a host of perspectives on philosophical issues that relate to a Christian "worldview." These are not as cut and dry as many think, but they include positions especially in the philosophy of religion, ethics, social and political philosophy, and the philosophy of the person.
  • Ethics has to be one of the most relevant areas of philosophy. I suspect a very relevant philosophy course would spend a good deal of the course thinking through ethical issues.
  • Social and political philosophy is a tough one to touch, since this is an area where unexamined assumptions run deep. But it is helpful for a person to know the options, to see the world from the perspective of others, and to become more consistent.
  • Part of recognizing your own assumptions is realizing that science is not completely objective, that people have unrecognized assumptions about history and art and people.
We do not always see the value of having our minds opened and our easy assumptions laid bare. But it arguably is very good for humanity and society.

2. I have gone back and retrofitted my posts with classical philosophical texts. I regret that my Eurocentric background has left me impoverished when it comes to philosophical voices of women and color. I welcome input here.

But following the older canon of philosophical classics, I suggest the following books as the "should reads" of Western philosophy.
  • Plato's Apology
  • Plato's Republic
  • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
  • Rene Descartes' Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy
  • John Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
  • David Hume's An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
  • Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason
  • Kant's A Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics
  • Augustine's City of God
  • Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan
  • John Locke's Two Treatises of Government
  • David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature
  • Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations
  • John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism
  • Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto
  • Friedrich Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morality
  • Soren Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling
  • William James' Pragmatism
  • John Dewey's How We Think
  • Sigmund Freud's On the Interpretation of Dreams
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations
  • Albert Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus
  • Ayn Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness
  • Hans Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method
  • Michel Foucault's The Order of Things
  • Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
  • Richard Rorty's Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature
  • Alistair MacIntyre's After Virtue
  • Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind
Next Week: World History Overview


RDavid said...

What are you thoughts of when philosophers begin to discuss theology, and the tension between the two?

I often hear philosophers discuss theology, as if their method is the best. One philosopher, for example, is gaining popularity and attention by his attacks on the Trinity.

Also, how does the logic of philosophy fit into the Quadrilateral in a healthy way?

Ken Schenck said...

There has often been a tension, especially among philosophers who have little room for special revelation and theologians who have no room for natural revelation. What philosopher is attacking the Trinity?

I think "faith seeking understanding" fits nicely with the quadrilateral, myself.

RDavid said...

The philosopher is Dale Tuggy. He does the "Trinities Podcast", and actually has good guests of varying positions (Hurtado has appeared on the show for example). But Tuggle is a non-Trinitarian, and although he cites Scriptural passages and early church fathers to make his point, his main emphasis is philosophical/logic ("a philosopher who specializes in Analytic Theology").

I see more and more people mentioning him, and/or the growing non-Trinitarian contingent.

Martin LaBar said...

Two more books that might be possibilities for your list: John Passmore's _Man's Responsibility for Nature_ and _A Theory of Justice_ by John Rawls.

Ken Schenck said...

I had Rawls on the Ethics list. Thanks for Passmore!