It seems as though society doesn't value philosophy as much as it used to, is this because the possible major schools of thought have already been addressed?

If so, and since we're left with so many different schools of thought, how does one consolidate these differences into some sort of utility?

  • The unexamined life is not worth living; and the most effective way to adequately integrate all the different philosophical theories and viewpoints is within yourself, your own mind. But in order to succeed it is very helpful to begin with understanding yourself. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Know_thyself
    – Bread
    Commented Oct 23, 2018 at 10:40
  • "Philosophy" translates to "respect for obtaining knowledge". Even where there is none to be obtained, philosophy is useful in acknowledging such.
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Oct 23, 2018 at 14:36
  • Don't ask the barber if you need a haircut. IMO, the modern natural sciences will tell you far more about the world than most philosophy will, but some thinkers have still had some useful thoughts.
    – Cdn_Dev
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 13:46
  • @Josh you write: It seems as though society doesn't value philosophy as much as it used to... Is this true? I'm not sure that it is true. I'm not sure that it's not true, either. How would we measure this -- i.e., how do we figure out how much society values philosophy now, or in the past, such that we could compare them? Or what other method could we use to determine whether the claim is true or not? Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 16:37

4 Answers 4


Roughly forty or forty-five years ago, I read in a popular philosophy book that the main value of philosophy is in recognizing bad philosophy. I've been unsuccessfully trying to come up with a refutation ever since.

There's plenty of bad philosophy out there. Ayn Rand is still popular, for example, along with numerous pseudo-philosophical justifications for being a selfish asshole. Various religious groups push bad philosophy to justify what they do. There's lots more, from every viewpoint.

Therefore, it would help if more people knew even a little philosophy. Not necessarily enough to evaluate philosophy by themselves, but enough to understand refutations.

  • Please tell me the name of the book.
    – stomogaka
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 19:25

People don't value philosophy in the modern era, because philosophy is currently in one of its many long "fallow" periods. Great philosophers tend to be fairly widely spaced in history.

There's a increasingly acute need for a vital new philosophy that directly addresses the challenges of the current era (and that situates them correctly in relationship to the scope of human history), but until that appears, people's low opinion of philosophy is unlikely to improve.

  • I admire your optimism Chris. As you know, I would argue that we should study philosophy as it is now before deciding we need to invent anything new. Otherwise we may be trying to reinvent the wheel. .
    – user20253
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 11:59
  • @PeterJ - I wouldn't call my statement "optimistic." We're at such a late point that the philosophy we need may not appear until too late. // At a more esoteric level of communication: "The well is the same, but the water is different." Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 13:02
  • In my view the philosophy we need appeared about three thousand years ago but is ignored so I have a different take on all this. I'd say it's about academic philosophy catching up rather than breaking new ground. But we can't get into this here. Your answer seem fine to me if it refers to Russell's tradition. .
    – user20253
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 13:08

Yes, philosophy is very useful in the modern era. It seems not to exist though because in the modern era, we tend to do what feels good inconsiderate of its practicality. We are controlled more by emotion than by logic or reason.

For example Individualism is being sought by all means regardless of the consequences. Those that are philosophical in nature are more often shunned. The generation rarely wants to reason, it has become a information junk. We theorise less and accept what is handed to us more rarely questioning it.

Schools of thought have been addressed but many a times these schools have loopholes, and yet not all schools of thought have been addressed.

Sometimes I too, think philosophy is a dead end but no, it isn't.

  • 1
    Your description of the "modern era" looks like it's largely true all through recorded history. The "information junky" is new, but things like doing what feels good, acting on emotion, dislike of thinking, and accepting what is handed to us have a long, long tradition. Commented Oct 23, 2018 at 16:58

Philosophy is as useful as ever. The trick would be to notice that what we call philosophy in the Western academic world, which is not useful, is a narrow approach and only a small part of philosophy.

There is much discussion of the usefulness of philosophy in academia at this time and the professors are having a tough time with those who believe it has none. Philosophy remains as useful as ever but it will not appear so if we only know what is taught in our universities.

I'm in danger of 'banging on' too much but would point out that what distinguishes Western academic philosophy is a rejection of most of philosophy. Given its subsequent uselessness we ought to be questioning this rejection.

You're right to say that our society does not value philosophy much but this is the fault of the modern philosophy department and not an indication of the uselessness of philosophy. We must be careful not to confuse the workmen with the tools.

To 'consolidate these differences' would be to get rid of them. This would require studying philosophy as a whole and seeing the bigger picture. In reality there are almost no differences between philosophers in respect of their established logical results. They all agree that metaphysical questions are undecidable. It is the variety of ways in which they respond to this result that creates all the differences. If we have no interpretation for it then philosophy becomes useless. if we have one then it becomes invaluable.

The problem is that there is only one reasonable interpretation and it is rejected by the Western tradition or 'Academy', leaving it stranded up a creek without a paddle. To give philosophy utility would require adopting a dispassionate approach and studying the whole of it.

You might like to check out a professional website called 'Daily Nous'. It's been a while since I visited but they usually have long discussions going on about how to show that philosophy is useful in the face of all the current criticism. You won't find a solution there but the discussion is interesting for its lack of ideas.

  • 1
    Did you just assume OP's frame of reference? But I agree with your sentiment, it is as if philosophers have started preaching to the choir instead of writing new songs.
    – christo183
    Commented Oct 23, 2018 at 12:55
  • @christo183 - Quite so. Or preaching to the choir before learning all the songs. I'm not sure what you mean by the 'frame of reference' comment. I'm assuming he means university philosophy and Western society. .
    – user20253
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 11:53
  • A bit of tongue in cheek: OP may be a Buddhist with no knowledge of Western philosophy, there is no mention of his frame of reference, which would upend the whole interpretation. But of course, we all know where he comes from.
    – christo183
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 12:08
  • 1
    As for "preaching to the choir" it seems to me that philosophy, daunted by the success of Science, have become some sort of yes-man to the empirical studies. Framing the narrative of Science to accede to popular sentiment. And thereby leaving Science metaphysically impoverished. So then to OP's question it would be "yes", but only if W/Phil makes a 180 degree adjustment to its focus.
    – christo183
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 12:12
  • @christo183 - If he was a Buddhist he wouldn't be asking the question. That he is not is very clear. I agree about ';science-envy'.
    – user20253
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 12:46

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