Where Philosophy Falls Apart

Philosopher ReasonI’ve been very critical of philosophy over the years and for very good reason because philosophy tends to get misused a lot. There are times where philosophy is useful, such as when it keeps debates and discussions on the proper, logical, non-fallacious path and keeps people from saying things that are simply unjustified and unjustifiable.  However, there are plenty of times when philosophy is pointless and a lot closer to religion than anything else.  When people start using philosophy as a means to describe reality, for instance, that’s pointless.  Philosophy doesn’t have the mechanisms to keep people objective, to test conclusions, etc. like science does.

That was the point that I made to someone who recently argued that reality didn’t exist without perception.  If there wasn’t an intelligent entity to experience reality, then reality, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t exist, it is the perception of an intelligent entity that gives reality form and thus makes it real.  This is, of course, complete and utter bullshit.  The universe was around for billions of years after the Big Bang before it is likely that any intelligent life developed anywhere, if indeed any intelligent life but us has ever existed.  Does this mean that, before that first human precursor evolved that very first  gleaning of intellect, nothing existed?  Well, very likely so according to this guy.

So I pointed out that we have objective evidence pointing all the way back to the Big Bang that yes, there was a real universe and unless he wants to suggest that human perception simply made it look like there was a previous existence, he was simply wrong.  He paused for a moment and then acknowledged that the universe did actually exist before intelligence, it just didn’t mean anything because perception gives reality “meaning”.

You just can’t win with these people.  In that, they are just like the religious and for pretty much the same reason.  They are desperately trying to justify what they already believe but they have no good reason for actually believing it.  It’s something that feels good to them and they think the emotion is good enough to think that it’s actually true.  This goes for all kinds of empty believers.  It goes for solipsists.  It goes for libertarians.  It goes for theists.  These are people who want to feel good about what they believe so they just lie to themselves and pretend that what they believe is true, even if it cannot be demonstrated to actually be so.  Philosophy, like religion, does a good job, to rationalize these unsupported belief systems and they build their entire worldviews on top of that rationalization.

I also find it sad that philosophy, again like religion, tends to rely heavily on that old, tired logical fallacy, the appeal to authority.  If you have a discussion with an armchair philosopher, they will almost always rely on “this philosopher said this” and “that philosopher said that”.  So what?  I’m not debating them, I’m debating you.  I want you to justify those beliefs and if you can’t attaching the name of some old philosopher to the argument doesn’t make it any better.  I’m no more impressed by saying “David Hume says…” than I am with “Josh McDowell says…”  So what?

Ultimately, it’s all just opinion and unjustified opinion at that.  There are questions that cannot be easily answered but just because you want an answer to an unanswered question doesn’t mean you get to make one up and be taken seriously.  This goes for the religious and the political and the social believers.  Just because you want a thing to be true doesn’t mean it actually is true unless you can rationally justify it.  Waving your arms around and pretending it means anything does not justify a damn thing.

4 thoughts on “Where Philosophy Falls Apart

  1. Was just listening to the latest Thinking Atheist, when Seth Andrews mentioned the following article on Science 2.0: http://www.science20.com/writer_on_the_edge/blog/

    The writer describes himself as, "a science writer based in a creativity research lab at a university in Hong Kong. I love reading Science 2.0 and the popular science journals…"

    The article makes interesting points about how scientists are discovering we're pretty much hardwired to be metaphysical, and it can and has been exploited for socialization reasons. Then the writer drifts off into philosophy-land, speculating in a post-modernist way about all sorts of stuff, eventually ending with a few condescending platitudes to the various readers, both atheist and theist (although he seems to lean towards the idea that there is indeed no such thing as atheists).

    Theists are jumping all over this article, saying it proves their god exists, and how stupid atheists are to stubbornly resist the "truth". The writer occasionally replies to an odd comment, patting the poor child on the head and cooing, "there is something wonderful about human irrationality", or something equally vague. Scan through the commentary — you'll get a good laugh.

    1. The issue, I think, is that so many people shoot for the lowest conceivable denominator, the most stupid, irresponsible, irrational people out there now set the standards because we don't dare tell these people they are idiots. It might make them feel bad! This isn't just in religion either, it happens across the board. If someone does something stupid, you immediately have all the accommodationists come out of the woodwork, screaming that we can't criticize them for being stupid, we should expect them to be stupid and anything bad that happens to them as a result of their stupidity isn't their fault, it's because the standards are too high.

      I go the opposite way, I think society needs to continually raise expectations, we need to demand more from people, not less. It's the only way to actually improve society overall. Otherwise, we're just wallowing in the pig slop and never getting any better.

  2. Why do you judge philosophy on the basis of the rantings of a person who obviously is not a philosopher, probably has no or little familiarity with philosophy and is not engaging in philosophical discourse, but rather is spouting a bunch of uninformed opinion.

    If you are going to diss philosophy then have the balls to actually take on the writings of actual philosophers. I would dearly love to witness a conversation between you and an actual philosopher. I don't think you'd be up to the task. By the way, are you or are you not aware that logic and rationalism are branches of philosophy?

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