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There seems to be a lot of disagreement of important questions of philosophy. A lot of consensus has been achieved in the history of philosophy, but will there ever be consensus of the entire field that is comparable to the sciences?

  • I was unaware that there was a consensus in the sciences that you allude to. Consensus is death. Diversity is life. – Swami Vishwananda Mar 31 '15 at 5:15
  • I think that the fact there is no consensus among philosophers ( though I do not like to use this word, instead thinkers ) by which your object is unknown to me, is establishing the philosophy as it be. Only the faithful believers do not admit this. Since faith is a-priori and there is no argument there. – Kentaro Tomono Mar 31 '15 at 6:13
  • Symbolic logic was once part of philosophy but is now mathematical logic. Similarly, the philosophy of science can be used to analyze scientific discovery. Karl Popper's work may be a good place to start looking. – jok2000 Mar 31 '15 at 11:40
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    Thought about closing, but Keelan's answer convinced me otherwise. – James Kingsbery Mar 31 '15 at 15:15
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Hegel described history (of philosophy) as a process of thesis, antithesis and synthesis:

  1. A claims x (thesis)
  2. B claims y, and x and y conflict (antithesis)
  3. C brings consensus claiming z, which combines x and y (synthesis)

Then this synthesis becomes the next thesis, so that the process repeats itself, until 'absolute knowledge' is reached. Following this idea, there would be consensus in the end, where there is this absolute knowledge.

However, Hegel also thought that he had reached this point already. Not many people think this endpoint will be reached at some point. Still, Hegel's idea show a nice way of looking at history.

  • I really like how you situated Hegel's "trinity" in the context of this question. Elegant! – R. Barzell Mar 31 '15 at 22:48
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    What is unfortunate to a materialist I, only to Hegel the world is the development of himself not vice versa. As Engels criticized ( in my word ), if the reality is the rational, that rational is born out of the necessity. For Hegel the reality is the subjective one to himself. But this dialectics had the powerful influence on them ( even materialists ) anyway. Personally, how many synthesis we find, the synthesis will meet another anti-thesis and that is the history! – Kentaro Tomono Apr 1 '15 at 0:56
  • I always understood this process to be infinitely circular, that the synthesis of the 3rd stage becomes the thesis of the first, begetting it's antithesis, etc. – memphisslim Apr 1 '15 at 4:09
  • @memphisslim you're right that the process is circular in the sense you described (and thanks, because that missed in my answer), but it's not an infinite process. See for example hegel.net/en/vp32bauer-e.htm or en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth#Hegel. – Keelan Apr 1 '15 at 4:28
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    @memphisslim - it's repetitive as to method but not circular, because for Hegel there is a clear progression in what we are doing as we move from consciousness to self-consciousness to reason to Spirit in the Phenomenology or as me look from the perspective of reason in the logics. We are returning, but the reiteration has further fine-grained distinction. – virmaior Apr 3 '15 at 1:53
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I think it is generally accepted that philosophy will probably never arrive at a "consensus" on everything. However, one must always be ready for surprises. Maybe one day something happens and we do all agree.

The ideas of Kant seem to get reasonably close to a consensus. They are very popular amongst Western societies, though I'm not familiar with how much traction he gets in Eastern countries.

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    Kant shows traces of the Upanishads in his writings. – Swami Vishwananda Mar 31 '15 at 5:24
  • I'm not sufficiently familiar with the content of the Upanishads, but I would not doubt your claim for a moment. It was actually a challenge to write that paragraph because, for some definition of "reasonable," we can find consensus anywhere. In the end I chose Kant to be my exemplar for this statement thinking back to several questions posted a while back debating why a string of philosophies were so prevalent in Western thought, and the entire string was tied back to Kant each time. In my mind, that made him a reasonably accessible exemplar for a reasonable portion of the population. – Cort Ammon Mar 31 '15 at 14:26
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One gets the distinct impression that consensus is anathema to philosophy. Eric Dietrich gives a good account of Philosophy’s antinomic character:

http://commons.pacificu.edu/eip/vol12/iss2/9/

Also David Chalmers has had a crack at the whip, but I find it a tad pretentious and dishonest. And by that I mean, if you were going to be brutally honest about philosophical consensus, your conclusions would be very much like that of Wittgenstein’s:

(4th paper under 2014) http://consc.net/papers.html

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The beauty of philosophy is that it evolves through different views. To make a "consensus" would kill the backbone of philosophy which is free-thought and differing views.

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All that is needed is one philosopher who is wrong and insists that he is right, and consensus is impossible. Considering what human nature is like, consensus among all philosophers is impossible unless you kill all but one. And then chances are that he or she is schizophrenic and doesn't even have consensus with himself or herself.

Of course you can write down all the opinions held by majorities, and then declare anyone who doesn't agree with something as "not a philosopher". That way you would get "consensus" except it would be worthless.

  • if you interpret consensus as scientific consensus, then unanimity is not necessarily required; for example the general consensus among scientists on global warming or evolution: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_consensus – nir Mar 31 '15 at 12:12
  • yeah, of course absolute consensus is not plausible, that is why I said a consensus comparable to the sciences. – CognisMantis Mar 31 '15 at 14:25
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Consensus is a relative term, so whether or not Science has arrived at a consensus is debatable. However, I think science has arrived at more of a consensus than philosophy in general, so proceeding on that basis...

As one response hinted, when philosophy arrives at a consensus, it ceases to be philosophy and becomes science. After all, science used to be called "Natural Philosophy". Philosophy tends to live at the boundary and as such is constantly in touch with the hard questions. So really, it may be impossible for truly interesting philosophy to arrive at a consensus, since it should always be cutting edge.

Somewhat related to this is the nature of philosophical thought. Some argue that philosophy is NOT about finding answers, but rather in engaging with the question. For instance, Peiper in The Philosophical Act states that philosophy is the act of wondering at what is. In Russell's The Value of Philosophy, he justifies the study of philosophy not by what one discovers, but rather by how it transforms the person.

If Philosophy is about engaging with questions, then the idea of consensus becomes moot, as it may serve to quell the inquiry that is the heart and soul of philosophy.

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Science is linear. Its purpose is to further the accumulation of an ever-increasing coherent body of knowledge. It is founded on a view of the universe certified by consensus of the experts.

Philosophy is non-linear, its purpose is to change people's perspectives, and much of how it advances is in dynamic opposition to what precedes it. The achievement of full consensus would both signal the end of philosophy and of the need for any divergent perspectives in human collective life.

  • I always thought that philosophy was about getting to the truth, not to change people's perspective per se. And I don't know why people keep saying that it would be the end of philosophy as if that is an argument to prevent philosophy from having a consensus. – CognisMantis Apr 1 '15 at 14:43

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