The Nature of Philosophy video series

As readers may remember, this past Spring we went through a long series of posts (27, to be exact) that presented in serialized form my book, The Nature of Philosophy: How Philosophy Makes Progress and Why It Matters. (You can download the whole shebang in one setting, here.)

Over the past few months, Dan Kaufman and yours truly have taped a series of video conversations that present the main ideas of the book to a broader public, and the series is now completed and available for viewing or downloading at my YouTube channel (as well as on the Sofia channel at MeaningofLife.tv).

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The Nature of Philosophy: the full shebang

Nature of PhilosophyWell, here we are. I started this experiment back on April 1st, and we are finishing it exactly two months later. What you have been reading during this time is a rare — but hopefully increasingly less so — attempt to bring professional philosophy to a wider public. The blog serialization of The Nature of Philosophy: How Philosophy Makes Progress and Why It Matters was designed to reach both whoever of my colleagues may wish to pay attention (they should, given the topic), but also people who have an interest in philosophy but are neither professionals nor are normally inclined to read technical books in the field. To put it another way: the future of philosophy is too precious, from a cultural perspective, to be left in the hands of philosophers alone, and this is my modest contribution to the wider debate on the nature and status of this ancient discipline.

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Where Do We Go Next? — IV

Polling survey[for a brief explanation of this ongoing series, as well as a full table of contents, go here. Note: this is the last entry in this 27-part series]

What do philosophers think of philosophy?

I am about to wrap up my tour of what philosophy is and how it works, which has taken us throughout these seven chapters to examine subjects as disparate as the Kyoto School and Quineian webs of beliefs, the history of progress in mathematics and the various theories of truth as they apply to the explanation of scientific progress. Before some concluding remarks on the current status and foreseeable future of the discipline, however, it seems advisable to pause and reflect on what philosophers themselves think of a number of issues characterizing their own profession.

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Where Do We Go Next? — III

Toolbox[for a brief explanation of this ongoing series, as well as a full table of contents, go here]

The tools of the trade

We have already discussed at some length one important — if controversial — philosophical tool: the deployment of intuitions. I find it interesting that rarely critics and defenders of the use of intuition in philosophy bother to look at the broader literature on intuitions in cognitive science, which is actually significant and covers fields as diverse as chess playing, nursing and the teaching of math. I have discussed some of this literature elsewhere (Pigliucci 2012), but a quick recap may be useful in this specific context.

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Where Do We Go Next? — II

Digital Humanities[for a brief explanation of this ongoing series, as well as a full table of contents, go here]

Yet another challenge: the rise of the Digital Humanities

A very different sort of challenge to the traditional conception of philosophical inquiry comes from the idea of the so-called “Digital Humanities” (DH). This is a complex issue, which includes both administrative pressures on academic departments to “perform” according to easily quantifiable measures and a broader cultural zeitgeist that tends to see value only in activities that are quantitative and look sciency (the broader issue of scientism [3]). I will not comment on either of these aspects here. Instead, I will focus on some basic features of the DH movement (yes, it is another “movement”) and briefly explore its consequences for academic philosophy.

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Where Do We Go Next? — I

The future[for a brief explanation of this ongoing series, as well as a full table of contents, go here]

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” (Søren Kierkegaard)

Philosophy has been declared dead by a number of people who have likely never read a single philosophy paper or technical book, and philosophers themselves have at times been the worst critics of their own field (Chapter 1). The discipline is vast, with a very long history marked by traditions so different from each other that one can reasonably question whether they can meaningfully be grouped under the same broad umbrella (Chapter 2). The field has seen internal revolutions as late as the middle and late part of the 20th century, with some philosophers going so far as claiming that major branches of their discipline ought to be handed over to the natural or social sciences (Chapter 3).

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Progress in Philosophy — V

philosophy[for a brief explanation of this ongoing series, as well as a full table of contents, go here]

But is it useful? On the difference between chess and chmess

“Philosophy is garbage, but the history of garbage is scholarship,” said Harvard philosopher Burton Dreben, as quoted by Dennett in chapter 76 of his often delightful and sometimes irritating Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking (2014). One could reasonably wonder why an illustrious philosopher approvingly quotes another illustrious philosopher who is trashing the very field that made them both famous and to which they dedicated their lives. But my anthropological observations as a relative newcomer (from science) into philosophy confirm that my colleagues have an uncanny tendency to constantly shoot themselves in the foot, and often even enjoy it (as we have seen in Chapter 1).

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