The value of philosophy

Bertrand Russell’s reflections on the value of philosophy still hold their value, as we’ll note in CoPhi today. Here are some complementary thoughts from his History of Western Philosophy, also still standing strong all these years on. LISTEN… (recorded @dawn, 8.30.18)

“Philosophy” is a word which has been used in many ways, some wider, some narrower. I propose to use it in a very wide sense, which I will now try to explain. Philosophy, as I shall understand the word, is something inter- mediate between theology and science. Like theology, it consists of speculations on matters as to which definite knowledge has, so far, been unascertainable ; but like science, it appeals to human reason rather than to authority, whether that of tradition or that of revelation. All definite knowledge so I should contend belongs to science ; all dogma as to what surpasses definite know- ledge belongs to theology. But between theology and science there is a No Man’s Land, exposed to attack from both sides; this No Man’s Land is philosophy. Almost all the questions of most interest to speculative minds are such as science cannot answer, and the confident answers of theologians no longer seem so con- vincing as they did in former centuries. Is the world divided into mind and matter, and, if so, what is mind and what is matter? Is mind subject to matter, or is it possessed of independent powers ? Has the universe any unity or purpose? Is it evolving towards some goal ? Are there really laws of nature, or do we believe in them only because of our innate love of order ? Is man what he seems to the astronomer, a tiny lump of impure carbon and water impotently crawling on a small and unimportant planet ? Or is he what he appears to Hamlet ? Is he perhaps both at once ? Is there a way of living that is noble and another that is base, or are all ways of living merely futile? If there is a way of living that is noble, in what does it consist, and how shall we achieve it? Must the good be eternal in order to deserve to be valuc’d, or is it worth seeking even if the universe is inexorably moving toward? death?

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