Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Two Attitudes Toward Philosophy

Philosophy is unserious to the worldly and 'practical' because it bakes no bread. To the religious it is unserious because it begets pride and does not lead unto salvation. "Not worth an hour's trouble," said Pascal. Both types, the worldly and the religious, dismiss it as 'mere theory' and 'empty speculation' but for opposite reasons.

Strangely enough, both types make use of it when it suits their purposes. Each justifies his own position philosophically. How else could he justify it? Assertions and arguments about philosophy are philosophical assertions and arguments -- and it cannot be otherwise. Such assertions and arguments cannot come from below philosophy, nor can they come from above it: metaphilosophy is a branch of philosophy.

Pascal wrote a big fat book of Pensees -- and a magnificent book it was. But why did he bother if philosophy is not worth an hour's trouble? Because he made an exception in his own case: his philosophy, he felt, was different! Well, all philosophers feel that way. All feel themselves to be questing for the truth as for something precious, even when they deny truth. None feel themselves to be engaged in 'empty speculation.'

One of the curious things about fair Philosophia is that you cannot outflank her, and you cannot shake her off. So you'd better learn to live with her and her acolytes.