Belief and Doubt

•May 25, 2010 • 1 Comment

It seems as if many philosophical conflicts in a variety of areas are a clash of temperaments geared respectively towards belief and doubt. Skepticism, in a very general sense of the term, is a temperament of doubt or the suspension of judgement. On the other hand, there are philosophical tendencies that reflect a temperament of belief in that they try to construct systems of thought and to positively justify particular ideas. A skeptical attitude wagers in favor of doubt because it values avoiding error, while a non-skeptical attitude wagers in favor of belief because it values the attainment of truth. These are value judgements which effect the kind of philosophy that people are likely to adopt.

Of course, it is probably too simplistic to attempt to broadly classify everyone into either of these camps, since many people are skeptics about some things and believers about other things. Indeed, to the extent that philosophy is thought of as something that one lives by, it seems impossible for anyone to be a “pure” skeptic or a “pure” believer about everything. An attitude of suspension of judgement about literally everything would essentially signify non-action; it’s part of the nature of being a human being that one has beliefs and acts on them. On the other hand, doubt is something that everyone experiences in one context or another. No one goes through life believing literally everything that they are told, and the abandonment of a belief is a possibility.

Nonetheless, people can have tendencies in these two directions and take philosophical positions that are broadly skeptical or positive (by positive I mean something involving an attempt at justification, or at least representing a certain bundle of beliefs that are advocated with some degree of passion). Some people build a particular elaborate system of thought and positively advocate certain ideas, and other people pride themselves on picking apart other people’s systems of thought while shying away from presenting some positive alternative. Some people are uncertain that any particular position on a topic is valid, while other people dig in to a particular position.

In their extremes, this is represented by dogmatism and pedantic nitpicking or an obcession with negation. From the skeptic’s perspective, the believer is a dogmatist. This may or may not be a caricature depending on the person and how their beliefs cause them to act. It certainly would be unfair to act as if passionately taking any belief seriously is dogma. But there certainly is such a thing as dogmatism, represented by closed systems of thought, a lack of critical thinking, and psychologically questionable ways in which people can act in the name of ideologies. Metaphorically speaking, dogmatism is what happens when a believer is imprisoned by their belief. The skeptic’s attitude is informed by caution against dogmatism, which is definitely understandable.

From the believer’s perspective, the skeptic is a party spoiler who has nothing constructive to offer, hopelessly obsessed with negating other people’s beliefs while asking questions or setting up the grounds for inescapable philosophical puzzles that have no practical weight. This may or may not be fair, depending on the person and what skepticism really means to them. Skepticism in a more epistemically agnostic sense should not be confused with positions of absolute negation or unqualified claims to know that such and such is false or non-existent, since that would also be a type of dogmatism. But there is something to this. Sitting around doubting that there is a mind-independent reality or that moral propositions can be true presents us with nothing particularly useful or practical. And at what point does skepticism devolve into nihilism?

I suspect that there are contexts in which one can be justified in holding on to beliefs while acknowledging the possibility of error, and doubting beliefs while abstaining from claiming that they have been absolutely disproved. To hold on to a belief while knowing that it is false or when one is presented with overwhelming evidence to the contrary is certainly problematic if not dangerous. Yet the notion that one must have absolute or even apodictic certainty in order to justifiably belief something is also ridiculous. Fallibility doesn’t mean nothingness, while probability and possibility don’t mean unqualified or absolute fact. Certainty has a threshold or spectrum. Beliefs can be added, subtracted, and modified over the course of inquiry and discourse, and this may require a certain balance of these temperaments.

James and Nietzsche on Truth

•May 9, 2010 • 2 Comments


William James, in his essays on pragmatism, declares truth to be a species of the good, as what is “good in the way of belief” or the power of an idea to “work”. This is a rather instrumentalist conception of truth in which truth is a means to an end, in which an idea’s truth is conceived of in terms of its “cash value” rather than as a metaphysical correspondence to reality. James did not deny that correspondence is a factor in truth so much as the notion that truth is reducible to a copy of nature or that it could be simplified to an abstract property detached from its practical weight.

This is definitely a controversial theory of truth in light of how people generally tend to think of truth. But James did admit that if his pragmatist theory of truth could be restated simply as “truth is what would be better for us to believe” or “what one ought to believe”, and this is much more in line with common sensical uses of the term. Where things begin to get more controversial is in how James justified truth or how he described the justification process: as malleable or plastic relative to its concrete benefit to our lives. This may come off as condoning crass opportunism or devaluing truth to the level of an instrument of power, which is a big part of why it is controversial.

What James was militating against is a strong rationalistic trend that runs throughout the history of philosophy in which such matters are thought of in very abstract terms, as metaphysical absolutes that seem to have no connection with anyone’s practical experience. Hence, James wants to push the question of what practical difference a given idea will have for people’s lives if it were true or not true. If it makes no practical difference, then James seems to want to say that it is nonsensical to talk about it, that truth can only be meaningful in terms of concrete and goal-oriented applications.

It should be noted that there is a sense in which this challenges the commonly used (and abused) dichotomy between fact and value. James was very interested in being factual, but he described facts in explicitly value-laden terms, as entangled with values. He was engaging in a questioning of the value of truth, and he ended up defining truth explicitly in terms of its value for humans. While it could be said that there is a certain positivistic strain in James’s thought, his theory of truth seems to go against attempts to establish a purely dry, disinterested or “objective” calculus for what can constitute a fact. Truth isn’t value-neutral according to James.

There is another philosopher who has associations with different traditions who could be said to have made a similar investigation about the value of truth. That’s Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche’s writings are littered with various aphorisms and unusual questions about truth. But it appears that in comparison to James, Nietzsche wanted to challenge the value of truth. They have a similarity in that they speak of truth as something that is relative to values, but Nietzsche pushes the question of why falsehood or other things that are not strict “truth” couldn’t be instrumentally valuable. The question becomes “why truth?” more than “what is truth?”.  

There appears to be a certain tension between the ideas of Nietzsche and James on this. James defines truth as something that must necessarily be good or valuable in a practical sense, while Nietzsche proclaims that truth may be a folly and that non-truth may have indispensible practical value in terms of survival and coping with life. The picture that Nietzsche paints, at least in this interpretation, is one in which practical life and civilization largely runs on useful fictions and noble lies. Part of Nietzsche’s message is precisely that truth is not necessarily what is useful and virtuous.

James’s theory of truth, viewed in such terms, could be reduced to a theory of what James thinks that truth should be or what particular kind of truth matters. But from James’s pragmatist standpoint, he’s describing what truth actually is. Nonetheless, there may be a sense in which what both James and Nietzsche were getting at amounted to something similar, only with different terminology. What James calls truth amounts to a provisional belief that can be done away with when it becomes impractical. Nietzsche simply didn’t want to call this “truth”, because he was granting a meaning of “truth” that is absolute and rationalistic, and then going on to question the value and sensibility of such a thing. James questioned such a thing as well, but he keeps the term “truth” in a much more fallibilistic sense.

It may be that James’s new formulation of truth is simply something that Nietzsche would not have even wanted to call by the name of truth. Perhaps he would have called such a thing an interpretation or a useful belief while denying it the baggage that comes along with calling it “truth”. These two thinkers are most certainly not polar opposites on the question. Both of them challenged the conventional notion of “the truth” in some singular, essentialist, and transcendental sense. Both of them were trying to come up with new ways of thinking in reaction to the dominant Western philosophical tradition going back to Plato.

The main difference between them on this question seems to be, to borrow one of James’s own terms for philosophers, a matter of temperament. Nietzsche is much more polemical and critical in his attitude, while having what might be called an elitist streak. In contrast, there is a sense in which James had a profound respect for the common man and wanted to defend everyday experience. James’s underlying purpose seems to have been constructive and reformative, while Nietzsche has more of an explicit reputation as a negator. Perhaps it’s true that something of value could be found in both approaches.

Reconciliation and Dissolution

•April 28, 2010 • Leave a Comment
Philosophical Dialogue

Philosophical Dialogue

I’ve often found myself viewing many of the dichotomies or absolute dualisms that tend to be taken for granted in philosophical discourse to be questionable. It certainly isn’t the case that I think of all dichotomies as false, but there may be good reasons for being skeptical of typical categorizations and avoiding dogmatically digging into a particular side of a dualism. There are many conflicts between two apparently opposite positions on various topics, which on closer examination may end up either being reconciled in a more nuanced position or dissolved in light of a position that is outside of the shared paradigm in which the dualism resides.

The method of reconciling antinomies or dualisms in a synthesis is associated with dialectics. To be clear, this does not necessarily mean that one is a Hegelian, since the general use of such a method was not invented by Hegel and does not require one to necessarily accept a Hegelian philosophy. It is possible for someone to make a limited use of dialectics while denying that it is properly applicable to everything. In this sense, dialectics refers more generally to the resolution of false dichotomies and logical contradictions that cease to be contradictions when one takes additional factors into account or looks at the bigger picture.

It could be said that this is a manifestation of a certain sense of monism or holism, in the most general senses of these terms which has to do with much more than the traditional mind/body problem in philosophy. Dualism, in the sense in which I’m using the term, refers to any metaphysical dichotomy, while a holistic take on such issues refers to the resolution of philosophical dualisms between particulars in the whole. The kind of issues in question often do seem to relate to the old question of particulars vs. wholes that goes back to the Greeks. To the extent that a dialectical method aborbs conflicts between particulars in a whole, it resonates with holistic perspectives.

But there are other ways in which dualisms may fall apart. In some cases, it seems like it’s not that there is a reconciliation of a conflict in which both sides are different aspects of a higher truth, but that both sides of the conflict are just plain wrong. The philosophical problem simply dissolves. It may be that precisely what the two sides of the conflict share in common is a faulty assumption or a confusion, or that the very idea that there is a problem to tackle in such a context is nothing more than the product of over thinking or amounts to an empty excercise that is completely detached from anything with real pragmatic significance. In such a case, philosophy could be viewed as ivory tower scholasticism in contrast with everyday human life and its concerns.

To varying degrees, this kind of dissolution of dualisms and traditional philosophical problems can be associated with pragmatism and ordinary language philosophy. It also resonates with some interpretations of Heidegger. But one need not necessarily be an adherent of such particular philosophies to take such an attitude at least in certain contexts. To an extent, this could be considered the cynical layman’s view of philosophy, although I don’t think it would be fair to condemn philosophy as a whole on such grounds. Even within philosophy, there have been certain ways in which philosophers have concluded that certain problems are the spawn of overly abstract constructions.

I tend to think that both the dialectical method of synthesis and the more pragmatic method of dissolution both have valid uses depending on the context. But I would be skeptical towards employing them reductionistically or as complete systems to apply to every question. An overly applied dialectical method would seem to rationalize real contradictions and lead to utopian notions of some sort of absolute, while a pragmatic dissolution of all philosophical issues would seem to rationalize willful ignorance or a blanket dismissal of questions that do matter. Yet they do seem to make sense depending on what we are talking about. So I ultimately contextually support both.

Metaphysics and Epistemology

•April 19, 2010 • 1 Comment
I don't know, I found it funny.

I don't know, I found it funny.

In the classical Western conception of philosophy, the fields or disciplines within philosophy are generally categorized in a certain hierarchy. This is a hierarchy in which certain categories of philosophical discourse are considered to be fundamental to others, that there is a certain order in which they must be categorized. Traditionally, metaphysics (the inquiry into the nature of being as being or the ultimate nature of reality, as a foundation for all other more specific inquiries) is conceived of as being the foundation that philosophy starts with, followed by epistemology (the inquiry into the nature of knowledge, truth, and justification).

Metaphysics deals with the most abstract and general questions. What it attempts to address is much more universal than any particular scientific inquiry, prior to any formal scientific investigation. If it is thought of as being prior to epistemology, then it could be said that metaphysics tries to describe the fundamental nature of reality independently of the question of how we have knowledge of it. As a consequence of this, it may make sense to characterize metaphysics as an inherently rationalistic or non-empirical endeavor, with its conclusions being reached purely through reflection or meditation. It may be for precisely this reason that certain later philosophers have attempted to dismiss the field of metaphysics, particularly as something that has been or should be replaced by science.

To put the problem another way, it is unclear how metaphysics can be done without at least implicitly already functioning on the basis of an epistemology or how metaphysical claims can be justified independently of an epistemological account of their truth. The moment that a metaphysician claims to know something about the fundamental nature of reality, they seem to have begged all of the questions of epistemology. The very idea of being able to say something about reality, in a way that is by definition completely outside of what can be known, becomes suspect. Because of this, particularly starting with Kant, philosophy took what might be called an epistemic turn, with epistemology replacing metaphysics as the foundational discipline in philosophy.

Of course, it would be misleading to act as if philosophers stopped doing metaphysics after this. In fact, it could be argued that even those philosophers that attempted to escape metaphysics remained within its margins in their very attempt to escape it. While the trend may have changed in the direction of abandoning the notion of metaphysics as the foundational starting point for philosophy, philosophers continued to make what amount to metaphysical assertions as conclusions of other areas of philosophical inquiry such as epistemology and philosophy of language. In some cases, natural science has been treated as a metaphysic by people who pride themselves on opposing metaphysics.

While it could be said that metaphysics begs the questions of epistemology, it could also be said that epistemology begs the questions of metaphysics. Asking what can be known and how we can know it either presumes or implies something that can be known, some sort of reality. What is knowledge if not knowledge of something? The main trouble that epistemology has always faced is a matter of bridging the gap between the knower and the known, and those who do epistemology have always been tempted to draw metaphysical conclusions from how this relationship is conceived of. In short, epistemology is inherently caught up in the debate between realism and anti-realism.

The more that epistemological inquiry leads one to a justification of knowledge claims, the more fuel is given to realism. The more that epistemological inquiry leads one towards skepticism of knowledge claims, the more fuel is given to anti-realism. Of course, it is conceivable for someone to reject that we can genuinely know or prove the existence of an “external reality” while simultaneously believing that it does exist, but by the terms of their own philosophy they have no epistemic ground for believing so. On the other hand, one could retain such a radical epistemological skepticism while thinking that an “external reality” is not falsifiable either, leaving the question in a complete null zone.

But without delving into the question of realism and anti-realism in full detail, the main point here is that it seems hard to do epistemology without metaphysics rearing its (ugly or pretty, take your pick) head. At the same time, it seems hard to do metaphysics without epistemology. So I am suggesting that there is a sense in which the two are intertwined and there are some problems with thinking of either of them as absolutely foundational for the other. General philosophical discourse will almost inevitably deal with both epistemology and metaphysics at the same time. It seems impossible to absolutely separate the two.

My main purpose here has not been to sell any particular metaphysics or epistemology, but to engage in a “meta-philosophical” meditation on the relationship between the two. If there is any persuasive purpose here, it is to give something to chew on for both those who think of metaphysics as “first philosophy” and those who like to attack metaphysics. I hope that I have succeeded in doing that.

Philosophy and Science

•April 16, 2010 • 2 Comments


What is the relationship between philosophy and science? There are numerous views on this question. Some treat philosophy as constituting a queen of the sciences in and of itself, either treating philosophy as a discipline with the sole purpose of grounding science (which tends to be associated with positivism) or adopting a view that completely eliminates any substantive distinction between philosophy and science. Others consider science to essentially be at the same level as any belief system, with science and its methods being treated as nothing more than a social convention that has no more inherent weight than any other social convention, which is a view that can be found in elements within postmodernism. Still yet, there are other views that are more subtle than these extremes.

Of course, this question partially hinges on what on considers philosophy and science to be in the first place. What constitutes science and not-science? If science is defined so broadly as to essentially refer to any search for knowledge, then the distinction between philosophy and science would seem to dissolve. On the other hand, if science is defined more narrowly as a particular discipline or set of disciplines that deals with a certain scope of questions and employs a certain scope of methods, then philosophy could possibly be distinguished from science. Generally, epistemology is understood to be the discipline within philosophy that addresses the fundamental questions of “what is truth?” and “how do we know anything?”, questions that are prior to the enterprise of modern science.

If science is viewed as being dependant on the prior establishment of an epistemology, then it would seem to follow that science is not foundational or stand-alone, that science could be said to need and stand or fall along with philosophy at least insofar as epistemology is concerned. And from a historical standpoint, what we now call science or “the scientific method” did in fact arise from epistemological inquiry in western philosophy. In fact, there was hardly any distinction: what we call “science” was “natural philosophy”. But in consideration of this, some questions arise: if we consider the philosophical foundations of science as already being established, what further use do we have for philosophy? Why can’t philosophy just end there and we can push forward using nothing but science?

Indeed, in the context of positivism, this is exactly what many analytic philosophers have attempted to do: resolve the problems of epistemology so that we can do away with philosophy and get on with the business of doing hard science. But all of these attempts have encountered some strong objections. For one thing, it is based on the attempt to establish a fully self-justifying and closed system (and we would at least like to think that science is a dynamic, malleable system). It can also be objected to on the grounds that it inherently presupposes values or value-laden notions that its own system would have to consider outside of the scope of scientific (and hence epistemically justified) inquiry. In short, the very attempt to establish its rules necessarily has to break its own rules.

The presupposed notions of scientism that such an enterprise involves are also questionable. Scientism refers to the belief that science and its methods, particularly the natural sciences, constitutes the totality of possible or justified knowledge (and this has nihilistic implications with respect to other areas of inquiry, such as social sciences, ethics, and aesthetics). It can also be thought of as the treatment of science as an ideology, an ideology in which science is attempted to be applied in contexts beyond its proper scope or treated as an authority to appeal to. Another way to put this is that science is treated as a metaphysic in the name of opposing metaphysics.

Some may go even further than this and question the enterprise of epistemology as “first philosophy”. Is epistemology itself not circular? Is it not the search for the truth about truth or knowledge about how knowledge is acquired and justified? In other words, are we not inherently presupposing something, the very thing that we are inquiring into, in order to even make the inquiry? How is it possible for us to step outside of an episteme or a conceptual scheme in order to establish an epistemology? These kind of questions have led some to speak of the death of philosophy (at least philosophy as normally understood), not in the name of supporting the enterprise of science, but toward the end of leaving us in a state of a total relativism between worldviews in general.

This later notion, which is more closely associated with recent trends in continental philosophy (with the glaring exception of Richard Rorty), seems to do the opposite of scientism in a sense. It doesn’t simply reject scientism, it rejects the notion that natural science can be any better of an explanation for things than mysticism, or at best it treats science and its methods (and all disciplines for that matter) as purely conventional beliefs that come and go according to the particular needs and agreements of people within an intellectual community or participants in an ongoing discourse. It tends to treat scientific (and philosophical) theories as texts to apply hermeneutics to, or as pure “social constructs” that can be analyzed strictly in sociological terms.

I say that this is the opposite extreme of scientism because while scientism is a totalizing ideology on the behalf of natural science, such (largely postmodern) claims seem to represent another totalizing ideology that applies the lense of certain methods of literary criticism and various disciplines within what is deemed “the social sciences” to everything. If scientism does not properly limit the scope of natural science, this does not properly limit the scope of “social science”. This can be considered ironic in that postmodernism tends to be associated with an opposition to totalizing ideologies, and yet it appears to contain a movement towards certain totalizations within it.

Due to such considerations, there is a sense in which I view some of the conflicts between analytic and continental philosophy, particularly in the context of the question of science, as a conflict between an emphasis on different disciplines in the sciences. In my view, each of these disciplines have a proper context or scope. This isn’t to say that there cannot be valuable interdisciplinary relations, but that problems arise when a particular discipline sets itself up as a metaphysic or a totalistic explaination for everything. Perhaps one way to put it is that I think various disciplines can deal with different aspects of the same phenomenon and I object to attempts to completely reduce a particular phenomenon to its treatment within the context of a particular discipline.

To be clear, this is not an expression of relativism so much as a vibrant contextualism. I do not think that all disciplines and methods are equally valid or can always be applied simultaneously to the same thing. But if you appeal to the natural sciences in the name of debunking moral and aesthetic judgements, or if you appeal to literary criticism and sociology in the name of critiqueing theories of physics and biology, I think that you are engaging in a serious error. You are overextending a discipline beyond reasonable boundaries. My philosophy of science is pluralistic, but not to the point of abandoning basic standards of reason. I reject positivism and scientism, but I don’t reject the idea that science is a more reliable means to knowledge than mysticism or any old social convention that someone happens to adopt. I reject postmodern excess, but I don’t reject the idea that science is limited in its scope, does not represent the totality of possible knowledge, and that knowledge is not a purely linear accumulation that solves everything. And that may be a hard pill for the partisans of analytic and continental philosophy to swallow.

Introduction: Philosophy and Meta-Philosophy

•April 15, 2010 • 3 Comments
The Thinker

The Thinker

My name is Alex Strekal, otherwise known online as Brainpolice. I will be using this blog to share and discuss philosophical ideas. My experience with philosophy mostly comes from a combination of reading books and articles in my own free time and engaging in discussion and debate with people online, although I also have taken some philosophy classes at college and I am considering majoring in philosophy. I consider myself to be a student of philosophy and a “philosopher” only in the casual sense of someone who thinks about and discusses questions that are often associated with philosophy. In many ways I take the attitude that I am still learning and will never stop learning or having a reason to learn more, even if I think I’m right about many things.

A good deal of my time has been spent concentrating on political philosophy, largely within the context of what is relevant to the ideas of libertarianism and anarchism, but such a discourse inevitably lead me to other areas of philosophy (such as meta-ethics and epistemology) due to the begged questions that political discourse revolves around. Hence, the purpose of this blog is to focus on philosophy in a more general sense, although what I write may sometimes have implications for politics. This means that I intend to touch on just about every area of philosophy to one extent or another: metaphysics, epistemology, logic, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, philosophy of science, ethics, aesthetics, and so on.

In my view, philosophy is not something that is restricted to academia. I do not think that one has to be formally educated or participate in academic institutions to be a philosopher or to adequately have knowledge about philosophy. In light of this, it could be said that I have a certain anti-elitist streak, although I do not take it to the level of being outright conspiratorial or anti-intellectual. It’s not as if I think that everyone in academia is an evil marxist or some kind of post-modernist out to corrupt the youth. Nonetheless, I do have some problems with the way that philosophy tends to be taught in academia and I resent elitist attitudes about education that seem to rule out self-education and informal methods as a potentially valid means to knowledge, or the implication that one must learn in accordance with a particular canon in order to properly be involved with philosophy.

While I inevitably have positions that I think are correct at least provisionally and have strong intuitions about certain matters, I do not consider myself to be someone who strictly adheres to or functions as a partisan for the ideas of a particular thinker or school of thought. It seems clear to me that flaws can be found in every philosopher, even the best of them. To be a complete (insert some thinker’s name here)-“ist” is to sacrifice the independence of one’s thought, and I think one will find that some of the best ideas are those that combine elements of different thinkers to create something that their systems could not accomplish on their own. Closed systems and philosopher-idolatry are to be avoided. I don’t believe in philosopher kings.

With this being said, I don’t think that randomly combining what appear to be blatantly contradictory ideas or creating a bizarre word salad in the name of being original is a good thing either. I am not a hyper-relativist about philosophy itself, which is to say that I don’t think that all philosophies and philosophers are equal. I do not favor reconciliation for its own sake. I most certainly do not support trying to combine just about anything to the point of obliterating any distinct meaning to various terms and points of view. If someone does present something that seems counter-intuitive to fundamental distinctions, I require them to justify it. If they are just playing with semantics to redefine common terms, then I think that they should be honest about that. While there are sometimes unfair charges of obscurantism based on someone’s genuine lack of understanding, there is such thing as obscurantism and it is something that deserves to be called into question.

The reader has already been given a little glimpse into my own philosophy simply through me talking about philosophy itself. I’ve already engaged in what’s been called “meta-philosophy”, which is discourse about philosophy (or philosophizing about philosophy, which may seem to be a paradox). Indeed, this poses an interesting question about exactly what philosophy is or where it begins and ends. Is it possible to talk about philosophy from outside of it, or is one implicitly already engaging in philosophy in the very attempt? On the basis of what criteria can we be said to be escaping philosophy? Does philosophy set the parameters of our discourse or does our discourse set the parameters of philosophy? Can philosophy die or commit suicide?

Some may say that these questions are just a product of thinking too much, while others may say that they are the central questions one has to face. I’m not going to sway one way or the other at the moment, but simply present the question to you. What is the value of philosophy and how does it distinguish itself from and relate to its other? Perhaps philosophy courses would benefit by starting out with a meditation on this (and this doesn’t mean simply defining philosophy as “love of wisdom” or treating the question for only 10 minutes), rather than diving right into metaphysics or at the beginning of a canonical history of philosophy. Perhaps it is wrong to think of metaphysics as “first philosophy”, when it is, paradoxically, meta-philosophy that is “first philosophy”. On the other hand, maybe this line of thinking just sets oneself up for a vicious circle that is inescapable.

In either case, I pose this question to you out of curiosity. I also ask this question because, once put in context, it is actually something that various philosophers have conflicted over for a while, especially after the 19th century. In particular, the relationship between philosophy and science and between philosophy and literature has been a rather haunting question. Does modern science make philosophy obsolete, a left-over remnant of misguided notions from the past, or does modern science depend on and come from philosophy, standing or falling along with it? Should philosophical works be analyzed as literature or through the methods of hermeneutics? Can any particular philosophy present us with a final conclusion about reality that calls for no further modification, or a historical end-point? What happens when philosophy is fully historicised?

These sort of questions involve some significant issues that I intend to discuss. Ultimately, as a result of discourse that is considered to be within philosophy, philosophy ends up becoming its own subject matter at some point. While philosophy could be thought of as a sort of meta-discipline that underlies all others, in the sense that it wrestles with the most fundamental and abstract questions, it can bump into some rather odd chicken/egg problems in which its own status becomes a question. A conflict emerges between what appears to be what it is contingent on and what is contingent on it, which results in some serious questions about how to demarkate disciplines. Pursueing this question will inevitably lead us towards the philosophy of science and the philosophy of language in particular.

Among other things, I intend to attempt to address these questions over the course of this blog and I hope to recieve some contributions to such a dialogue from others. So with that in mind, I now close this introduction.