Preliminary notes

  1. I understand that the title of my question has a provocative note. However it also stems from a genuine question.
  2. I come from the standpoint of being a radical agnostic and pragmatist (I know nothing but, for the purposes of everyday living, I mostly behave as though the world is as it appears to me.*)

* In dreams and other hallucinations I tend to behave as though my perceptions are unreal - also in waking where the outcome of ignoring 'reality' is unlikely to be painful.


I can see that, in the past, philosophy may have had value in encouraging clear, logical thinking and exposition of ideas. However, now that ethics and syllogistic and other logics exist as independent subjects I no longer see its relevance.

It also seems to me that much of philosophers' writings consist of saying the obvious in the most obscure language possible. The rest is about self-therapy for those with a deeply troubled mind. Historically many philosophers struggled with real life and yet professed to tell others what is right and how to think.


Some people enjoy chess, others enjoy football. It is of course acceptable that some people have philosophy as a hobby.

These days, is there more to the subject than that?


4 Answers 4


Oh, boy. 3 votes for closure in less than 24 hours. (How dare you impugn philosophy as misguided in a community of people who do philosophy either professionally or as amateurs with an emphasis on the 'ama', love! ;) It is absolutely both reasonable and welcomed to challenge philosophy.

So, my apologies if the question gets closed, but some philosophers have a hard time admitting that philosophy should ask questions about itself. That is to say, there are some philosophers who reject metaphilosophy (IEP), which is simply the response to the question 'What is philosophy?'. The second reason many people who practice philosophy (whatever that may be) might groan over this question is that among philosophers who scratch the itch to answer (what should be a question every philosophers asks, IMNSHO), there is no canonical response, and disagreement and intellectual hilarity ensue, particularly among people who come to philosophy with an ax to grind. Over the last several years, I've seen people who come and go because they're out to prove through reason 'God exists' (and thus my feelings and faith are justified) or 'philosophy is X' (because only by it being X can they make sense of the world or justify a belief of some sort). Certainly, all philosophers have motivations (philosophers are people too!), but it makes a lot of people who live their lives devoted to reason squirm to admit that reason itself is a preference, is subject to psychological impulses, and is NOT an objective reality. This is uncontroversial among professional logicians because they explore more logics than we laypersons even have names for. An excellent start is the sagacious post by Bumble called In how many and which ways can a logic be non-classical? Are there systems for organizing them?

So, let us admit, that at a bare minimum, philosophy gives us a vocabulary to talk about thought. And talking about thought helps us to understand each other's thoughts. In fact, there are two great and mostly political Western philosophical traditions, analytical philosophy (IEP) and Continental philosophy (IEP), and BOTH have esteemed traditions of tackling the questions that inhere to philosophy of mind; both traditions which are claimed by many to trace back to Immanuel Kant and his work. Modern analytical philosophy has bore a certain fruit to that extending logic to psychology and langauge, and then to cognitive science and wrapping it up in various theories regarding what the mind is like: the Mind/Brain Identity Theory (SEP) bringing together questions about mind and body, thought and the universe, and otherwise talking about the whole shebang. If you're into science, then you should be into neural correlates of consciousness, because they lay the groundwork for these sorts of philosophical theories. But that's my cup of tea, so you're free to go in another direction and adopt another language to talk about thought. In fact, most philosophers with half a brain accept philosophical pluralism. Why? Because logical pluralism (SEP) is undeniable. Scientific pluralism (IEP) is undeniable. And axiological pluralism is undeniable, the last being the root of the others. Now, if you are a materialist, the explanation is probably rooted in something like the somatic marker hypothesis and thus, some philosophy that might best be understood as embodied cognition. But again, I recognize pluralism, and I merely make these claims to taunt absolutist thinkers who can barely wrap their mind around situational ethics and non-cognitive emotivism, let alone accept their roles in a broader pluralist foundation. Who knows. Maybe you're one of them. Let's just look at the state of the professional field.

In An Introduction to Metaphilosophy (GB), the authors spend the first chapter covering some of the conceptions of what philosophy is imputed to do. Once you pin down WHAT philosophy is imputed to do, then you can speculate as to WHY philosophy does it. Then, you can see all the ways that philosophical discourse is actually probably the most important discourse a person can participate in, contrary to the initial stupidity of Bill Nye, the Science Guy (sorry to exemplify you, Bill!). You should read Bill Nye, the science guy, says I convinced him that philosophy is not just a load of self-indulgent crap. He's not the best spokesperson, you'll clearly find people like that here. ; )

According to Overgaard et al.:

In asking why anyone should engage in philosophical reflection, one question we need to address is what sort of results we can expect from it, and, in particular, whether they are the same sort of results we get from science, history, and other subject, which deliver truths about the world.

That's pretty darn sensible, IMNSHO. As the entire book is essentially devoted to answer your question, I can't possible fit everything they say in the response, but I'll just give you an off-the-cuff list of benefits of contemporary philosophy. It:

  • Helps us make sense of a world over-brimming with information.
  • Explains why sciences are better than pseudosciences.
  • Provides a common language for our disparate experiences.
  • Helps us to ascertain some degree of certainty about anything and everything.
  • Gives us a sense of identity and culture through a broad, flexible methodology.
  • Allows us to see how all of the 'ologies' and all the theories of the world relate.
  • Enforces the importance of rhetoric, informal logic, and formal logic
  • Plumbs the depths of psycholinguistics, linguistics, and natural and artificial languages
  • Provides a fantastic way to study history
  • Improves our cognition and provides health benefits as per contemporary research
  • Gives us hope that the world will become a better place and the human race will survive itself
  • Keeps us from getting bored
  • Allows us to establish resilient identities

I could go on generating claims for another 20 minutes, because, given my views, philosophy isn't a topic of content, its a methodology and an approach to life that began with the Ancient Greeks and is culminating in being the primary driving force behind the development of artificial intelligence, which besides the atom bomb, is one of the most powerful and emotionally exhausting technologies that exists.

So, my advice to you, is start with An Introduction to Metaphilosophy, and then move on to D&G's What is philosophy? (avoid Heidegger's to begin with!) so you can get a start with a foot in both the analytical and Continental traditions (I try to show respect to our European kith and kin when possible), and THEN roll backwards into various arguments made by Russell or Quine or 100 other famous philosophers who have attempted to answer your question.

  • Wow! Quite a comprehensive answer. Perhaps the snaggiest spoke in the wheel for me is "Helps us to ascertain some degree of certainty about anything and everything." From my point of view as a self-diagnosed radical agnostic, I see this as an unattainable goal, save for perhaps "Something thinks therefore something is." ... Feb 25, 2023 at 16:21
  • ... Nevertheless, as a pragmatist, I have garnered a certain amount of formal education in fields such as maths, logic, computation and neural networks. If, for example, someone can come up with a scientific explanation for consciousness, I shall be fascinated. Until then merely discussing what it is or might be, as philosophers are wont, is fruitless AFAIAC. P.S. I appreciate your answer and your encouragement, no criticism is aimed at you :-) Feb 25, 2023 at 16:21
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    @chasly-supportsMonica Well you can criticize until your heart is content; no offense will be taken because as an absurdist, I don't matter let alone the views of a stranger in the Internet. That being said, my experience is that radical forms of skepticism are rife with contradiction. I suspect your radical agnosticism qualifies the same. I think you probably confuse certainty with meaning. There is more certainty than anyone can manage. It's the meaning that lacks. This response was 10 minutes, so I personally don't consider it comprehensive. Or even the 2 books I recommended...
    – J D
    Feb 25, 2023 at 17:40
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    Fallible knowledge is knowledge nonetheless.
    – J D
    Feb 25, 2023 at 17:42
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    @ "I think you probably confuse certainty with meaning" - You would have to unpack that for me to agree. I guess I am an absurdist too (if in fact you were being serious). However the absence of objective meaning in general does not exclude the possibility of finding subjective meaning in specific circumstances. Feb 25, 2023 at 18:10

In the light of some very useful comments, I will venture my own answer.

The essay by Bertrand Russell On the Value of Philosophy * as recommended by Mauro ALLEGRANZA was helpful. Here is what I gleaned from it:

It appears that philosophy is the science of the gaps. It is useful for discussions where we don't have a grasp of what we are talking about.

Once we understand at least the elements, we have a newly formed science with its own name that can be removed from philosophical discussion. This doesn't mean that our knowledge of the new field is complete - just that we have a foundation on which to build.

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    he says some questions "must remain insoluble to the human intellect unless its powers become of quite a different order from what they are now. Has the universe any unity of plan or purpose...". could well be humility
    – user64727
    Feb 25, 2023 at 16:06
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    While Mauro's recommendation isn't bad, it does beg the question what 'contemporary philosophy' applies to. I personally wouldn't consider Russell contemporary. ; )
    – J D
    Feb 25, 2023 at 16:09
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    @JD - "I personally wouldn't consider Russell contemporary" I would agree with that in that he hasn't progressed much further than the ancient Greeks! But then, who has? Dennett talks of lot of nonsense in my opinion, having read his pseudo-mathematical objection to solipsism. Feb 25, 2023 at 16:33
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    The view that philosophy is something that cannot provide knowledge unlike science is a shallow view of both philosophy and science. : )
    – J D
    Feb 25, 2023 at 17:32
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    @J D - In my view, neither philosophy nor science can provide knowledge - only beliefs. Those beliefs can of course be useful. Feb 25, 2023 at 18:14

What separates philosophy from other fields?

In other fields, if there is an answer to a question, there is only one answer. If there are multiple possible answers, we are simply lacking sufficient evidence to determine which one is correct. If none of them are more correct, the question is unknowable within that field.

In philosophy however, all questions have multiple answers; the point is not to find enough evidence to choose one over the other; instead, the point is to look into the nature of the different questions, and determine what it means to choose one over the other. Philosophy is about asking questions about questions and answers; and whenever philosophy answers its own questions, it can (and usually does) follow it up by asking questions about that/those answer(s). What you are left with is the infinite regress of why at the heart of philosophy. Whereas other fields, for pragmatic or other purposes, choose to end that regress, philosophy decides to revel in it. And in so doing, it inspires new fields and expands our perspective. That is its value.

  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
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    Feb 25, 2023 at 16:51
  • I like parts of this answer. However I would challenge "In other fields, if there is an answer to a question, there is only one answer" In physics we have the paradox of the double-slit experiment. Also we had Einstein's insistence on the "hidden variable" hypothesis in quantum theory. It has been shown that no hidden variables exist and so we have to abandon common sense. I believe that all philosophy is in fact what has been called "armchair philosophy." We can sit and think until the cows come home but we will never resolve anything that way. Feb 25, 2023 at 18:51
  • @chasly-supportsMonica The existence of a paradox in physics does not mean physics is not about finding the right answer in regards to questions within the topic of the physical reality. That paradox could be the result of lacking evidence, errors or it could simply be the result of a limitation/inconsistency of the theories involved (I covered this in the answer). To use an analogy; paradoxes in other fields are like structural defects of THE house, which are to be fixed; paradoxes in philosophy are a part of the structure of A house; one of many houses. Feb 25, 2023 at 22:29
  • "physical reality" - There lies the problem. By referring to reality, you are appealing to common sense and unfortunately common sense is notably deficient with regard to explanation. I refer you to this The Universe Is Not Locally Real, and the Physics Nobel Prize Winners Proved It scientificamerican.com/article/… Feb 25, 2023 at 22:34
  • @chasly-supportsMonica "By referring to reality you are appealing to common sense (...)". It appears we have a semantic difference causing confusion here. By physical reality, all I mean is the part of reality physicist study; the notion of physicality is definitely tangled in a whole mess of common sense, and although being (for some) the defining feature of the part of reality physicists study, the notion seems to grow exceedingly inapplicable to that which physicists study. Regardless of that, when I say physical reality, it is really just a placeholder for whatever physicists study. Feb 25, 2023 at 23:15

It is a hobby, where thou hast "fun" without any other or anything. All other hobbies need communication with others or things - hobby stuff.

If you are involved in games with others thou dost not need any philosophy.

It can create the borders and rules and can clean the world of all of them. But i don't think that you need philosophy as a hobby, because hobby it is to have fun with other or with stuff. So, better buy any stuff or get any friends.

BR called self a communist at the one time. He come to SU and talk with Lenin, Trotsky... but then he said: they are not true communists, they are fanatics, they refer to Marx all the time. I ll be only one true communist... And he was the most lonely communist all over the world. Strange hobby. Poor fun. Better to have fun with toys or buddies.

  • For some people it is better to be lonely but right. For others it is better to be deluded but in company. This presumably is why we still have Flat-Earthers, Marxists, and believers in Santa Claus. There is a third way - the one I prefer to take. Feb 25, 2023 at 18:32
  • @chasly-supportsMonica i think Santa supports communists, or why he is so red? Ofc i wouldn't believe him. And i think Santa is avatar of Marks, and he and communist want to create Flat-Earth. This communism is totally mad idea. "We should to go another way" Feb 25, 2023 at 18:54
  • I think engaging in philosophy is an attempt at self-development, but it takes a not useful approach, like "climbing the ladder of success, only to find it was leaning against the wrong wall." Self-awareness via meditation is more useful. And bothers other people less ;-)
    – Scott Rowe
    Mar 8, 2023 at 10:53

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