Quietism (philosophy)

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Philosophical quietists want to release man from deep perplexity that philosophical contemplation often causes.

Quietism in philosophy sees the role of philosophy as broadly therapeutic or remedial.[1] Quietist philosophers believe that philosophy has no positive thesis to contribute, but rather that its value is in defusing confusions in the linguistic and conceptual frameworks of other subjects, including non-quietist philosophy.[2] For quietists, advancing knowledge or settling debates (particularly those between realists and non-realists)[3] is not the job of philosophy, rather philosophy should liberate the mind by diagnosing confusing concepts.[4]

Status within philosophy[edit]

Crispin Wright said that "Quietism is the view that significant metaphysical debate is impossible."[5][6] It has been described as "the view or stance that entails avoidance of substantive philosophical theorizing and is usually associated with certain forms of skepticism, pragmatism, and minimalism about truth. More particularly, it is opposed to putting forth positive theses and developing constructive arguments."[7]

Quietism by its nature is not a philosophical school as understood in the traditional sense of a body of dogmas. The objective of quietism is to show that philosophical positions or theories cannot solve problems, settle debates or advance knowledge.[8][9]

It is often raised in discussion as an opposite position to both philosophical realism and philosophical non-realism.[10][11] Specifically, quietists deny that there is any substantial debate between the positions of realism and non-realism.[12] There are a range of justifications for quietism about the realism debate offered by Gideon Rosen and John McDowell.[13]

History and proponents[edit]

Ancient[edit]

Pyrrhonism represents perhaps the earliest example of an identifiably quietist position in the West.[14] The Pyrrhonist philosopher Sextus Empiricus described Pyrrhonism as a form of philosophical therapy:

The causal principle of scepticism we say is the hope of attaining ataraxia (being unperturbed). Men of talent, troubled by the anomaly in things and puzzled as to which of them they should rather assent to, came to investigate what in things is true and what false, thinking that by deciding these issues they would attain ataraxia. The chief constitutive principle of scepticism is the claim that to every account an equal account is opposed; for it is from this, we think, that we come to hold no beliefs.

— Sextus Empiricus, Outlines of Pyrrhonism, Book I, Chapter 12

Some have identified Epicureans as another early proponent of quietism.[15][16] The goal of Epicurean philosophy is the decidedly quietist objectives of aponia (freedom from pain) and ataraxia, even dismissing Stoic logic as useless.[16][17]

The neo-Confucian philosopher Cheng Hao is also associated with advocating quietism.[18] He argued that the goal of existence should be calming one's natural biases and embracing impartial tranquility.[18]

Contemporary[edit]

Contemporary discussion of quietism can be traced back to Ludwig Wittgenstein, whose work greatly influenced the ordinary language philosophers. While Wittgenstein himself did not advocate quietism, he expressed sympathy with the viewpoint.[19] One of the early 'ordinary language' works, Gilbert Ryle's The Concept of Mind, attempted to demonstrate that dualism arises from a failure to appreciate that mental vocabulary and physical vocabulary are simply different ways of describing one and the same thing, namely human behaviour.[20] J. L. Austin's Sense and Sensibilia took a similar approach to the problems of skepticism and the reliability of sense perception, arguing that they arise only by misconstruing ordinary language, not because there is anything genuinely wrong with empirical evidence.[citation needed] Norman Malcolm, a friend of Wittgenstein's, took a quietist approach to skeptical problems in the philosophy of mind.[citation needed]

More recently, the philosophers John McDowell, Gideon Rosen,[13] and to a certain degree Richard Rorty[21] have taken explicitly quietist positions.

Varieties of Quietism[edit]

Some philosophers have advanced quietism about specific subjects such as realism[3] or truth.[22] These positions can be held independent of one's view on quietism about the entire project of philosophy.

Quietism about Realism[edit]

One may be a realist about a range of subjects within philosophy from ethics and aesthetics to science and mathematics.[23] Realists claim that a given concept exists, has particular properties and is in some way mind independent, while non-realists deny this claim.[24] Quietists take a third position, claiming that there is no real debate between realists and non-realists on a given subject.[25] A version of this position espoused by John McDowell claims that the debate hinges on theses about the relationship between the mind and the world around us that are unsupported or unsupportable, and without those claims there will be no debate.[26] Others, such as Gideon Rosen argue more specifically against individual cases of the realism debate.[27]

Quietism about Truth[edit]

Quietism about truth is a version of the identity theory of truth.[22] Specifically, Jennifer Hornsby and John McDowell argue against any ontological gap between our what we think is true and what is actually true.[28] Quietists about truth resist the distinction between truth bearers and truthmakers as leading to a correspondence theory of truth.[28] Rather they claim that such a distinction should be eliminated, true statements are simply one thinking truly about the world.[28] The target of these thoughts is not a truthbearer, but rather the facts of the world themselves.[28]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bakhurst, David (2005). The Oxford companion to philosophy. Ted Honderich (2nd ed.). [Oxford]: Oxford University Press. p. 779. ISBN 978-0-19-153265-8. OCLC 62563098. quietism, philosophical...Philosophy's proper role is therapeutic, rather than constructive: the philosopher diagnoses conceptual confusions.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  2. ^ Virvidakis, Stelios; Kindi, Vasso (2013). "Quietism". Oxford Bibliographies Online Datasets. doi:10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0184.
  3. ^ a b Miller, Alexander (2019), "Realism", in Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2019 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2021-04-10, Philosophers who subscribe to quietism deny that there can be such a thing as substantial metaphysical debate between realists and their non-realist opponents (because they either deny that there are substantial questions about existence or deny that there are substantial questions about independence).
  4. ^ Bakhurst, David (2005). The Oxford companion to philosophy. Ted Honderich (2nd ed.). [Oxford]: Oxford University Press. p. 779. ISBN 978-0-19-153265-8. OCLC 62563098. philosophy should not aspire to produce substantive theories (e.g. of the nature of meaning, the foundations of knowledge, or of the mind's place in the world), adjudicate disputes in science or mathematics, make discoveries...Philosophy's proper role is therapeutic, rather than constructive: the philosopher diagnoses conceptual confusions. Although the results of such therapy can be profoundly liberating, philosophy does not itself advance human knowledge.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  5. ^ Davies, Paul (2000). "From Constructive Philosophy to Philosophical Quietism". Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology. 31 (3): 314–329. doi:10.1080/00071773.2000.11007310. S2CID 170892223.
  6. ^ See also "Philosophers who subscribe to quietism deny that there can be such a thing as substantial metaphysical debate between realists and their non-realist opponents (because they either deny that there are substantial questions about existence or deny that there are substantial questions about independence)." https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/realism/
  7. ^ "Quietism".
  8. ^ Bakhurst, David (2005). The Oxford companion to philosophy. Ted Honderich (2nd ed.). [Oxford]: Oxford University Press. p. 779. ISBN 978-0-19-153265-8. OCLC 62563098. philosophy should not aspire to produce substantive theories (e.g. the nature of meaning, the foundations of knowledge, or of the mind's place in the world...philosophy does not itself advance human knowledge, but 'leaves everything as it is'.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  9. ^ Blackburn, Simon (2016). The Oxford dictionary of philosophy (3rd ed.). Oxford. p. 398. ISBN 978-0-19-179955-6. OCLC 945776618. there is no standpoint from which to achieve the philosophical goal of a theory about some concept or another.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  10. ^ "Quietism".
  11. ^ "Realism". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. 2019.
  12. ^ Miller, Alexander (2019), "Realism", in Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2019 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2021-04-10
  13. ^ a b Miller, Alexander (2019), "Realism", in Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2019 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2021-04-10, Philosophers who subscribe to quietism deny that there can be such a thing as substantial metaphysical debate between realists and their non-realist opponents (because they either deny that there are substantial questions about existence or deny that there are substantial questions about independence)...Quietism about the ‘debate’ between realists and their opponents can take a number of forms...This form of quietism is often associated with the work of the later Wittgenstein, and receives perhaps its most forceful development in the work of John McDowell...This is in fact the strategy pursued in Rosen 1994
  14. ^ Virvidakis, Stelios; Kindi, Vasso. "Quietism". Oxford Bibliographies. Retrieved 2021-04-10. The first conception of philosophical quietism in the history of Western thought is encountered in the approach of Pyrrhonian skeptics of the Hellenistic period, who pursued imperturbability, quietude or tranquility of mind (ataraxia) through suspension of judgment (epoché) and refused assent (synkatathesis) to any philosophical thesis.
  15. ^ Encyclopedia of philosophy. 10. Donald M. Borchert (2nd ed.). Detroit: Thomson Gale/Macmillan Reference USA. 2006. ISBN 0-02-865780-2. OCLC 61151356.CS1 maint: others (link)
  16. ^ a b Inwood, Brad; Jones, Alexander (2006). Encyclopedia of philosophy. 4. Donald M. Borchert (2nd ed.). Detroit: Thomson Gale/Macmillan Reference USA. pp. 300–303. ISBN 0-02-865780-2. OCLC 61151356. while Epicurus rejected logic along with many other specialized intellectual endeavors as useless. For Epicurus even physics mattered only in so far as it was essential to achieving tranquility.
  17. ^ Konstan, David (2018), "Epicurus", in Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2018 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2021-04-10, The philosophy of Epicurus (341–270 B.C.E.) was a complete and interdependent system, involving a view of the goal of human life (happiness, resulting from absence of physical pain and mental disturbance)
  18. ^ a b Chan, Wing-tsit (2006). Encyclopedia of philosophy. Donald M. Borchert (2nd ed.). Detroit: Thomson Gale/Macmillan Reference USA. pp. 144–145. ISBN 0-02-865780-2. OCLC 61151356. The chief task of moral and spiritual cultivation is to calm one's nature through absolute impartiality...Under the influence of Buddhism Cheng Hao also advocated quietism.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  19. ^ Blackburn, Simon (2016). The Oxford dictionary of philosophy (3rd ed.). Oxford. p. 398. ISBN 978-0-19-179955-6. OCLC 945776618. In philosophy the doctrine doubtfully associated with Wittgenstein...Wittgenstein sympathized with this but his own practice include a relentless striving to gain a 'perspicacious representation' of perplexing elements in our thought
  20. ^ Tanney, Julia (2015), "Gilbert Ryle", in Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2015 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2021-04-10
  21. ^ Kraugerud, Hanne Andrea; Ramberg, Bjørn Torgrim (2010). "The New Loud: Richard Rorty, Quietist?". Common Knowledge. 16 (1): 48–65. doi:10.1215/0961754X-2009-060. ISSN 1538-4578.
  22. ^ a b Candlish, Stewart; Damnjanovic, Nic (1996-03-28). "The Identity Theory of Truth". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Quietism Jennifer Hornsby (1997, 1999) and McDowell (on an alternative reading to that of Fish and Macdonald) endorse a version of the identity theory they see as truistic and which they put forward as an antidote to substantive theorizing about truth.
  23. ^ Miller, Alexander (2019), "Realism", in Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2019 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2021-04-13, The question of the nature and plausibility of realism arises with respect to a large number of subject matters, including ethics, aesthetics, causation, modality, science, mathematics, semantics, and the everyday world of macroscopic material objects and their properties.
  24. ^ Miller, Alexander (2019), "Realism", in Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2019 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2021-04-13, Generic Realism: a, b, and c and so on exist, and the fact that they exist and have properties such as F-ness, G-ness, and H-ness is (apart from mundane empirical dependencies of the sort sometimes encountered in everyday life) independent of anyone’s beliefs, linguistic practices, conceptual schemes, and so on. Non-realism can take many forms, depending on whether or not it is the existence or independence dimension of realism that is questioned or rejected.
  25. ^ Miller, Alexander (2019), "Realism", in Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2019 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2021-04-13, Philosophers who subscribe to quietism deny that there can be such a thing as substantial metaphysical debate between realists and their non-realist opponents (because they either deny that there are substantial questions about existence or deny that there are substantial questions about independence).
  26. ^ Miller, Alexander (2019), "Realism", in Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2019 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2021-04-13, One form might claim that the idea of a significant debate is generated by unsupported or unsupportable philosophical theses about the relationship of the experiencing and minded subject to their world, and that once these theses are exorcised the ‘debate’ will gradually wither away. This form of quietism is often associated with the work of the later Wittgenstein, and receives perhaps its most forceful development in the work of John McDowell
  27. ^ Miller, Alexander (2019), "Realism", in Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2019 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2021-04-13, Other forms of quietism may proceed in a more piecemeal fashion, taking constraints such as Wright’s realism-relevant Cruces and arguing on a case-by-case basis that their satisfaction or non-satisfaction is of no metaphysical consequence. This is in fact the strategy pursued in Rosen 1994.
  28. ^ a b c d Candlish, Stewart; Damnjanovic, Nic (1996-03-28). "The Identity Theory of Truth". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. While Hornsby and McDowell characterize the resulting view as an identity conception of truth, it is important to realize that they resist inflating the above remarks into an identification of truth bearers and truthmakers. To do so, they appear to think, is to move us beyond the truisms in a way which pushes us towards a correspondence theory of truth. The alternative appears to be to abandon the distinction between truth bearers and truthmakers entirely.

Sources[edit]

  • Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations. 3rd Rev Edn, Blackwell, 2002. ISBN 0-631-23127-7
  • Ryle, Gilbert. The Concept of Mind. London: Hutchinson, 1949. ISBN 0-14-012482-9
  • Austin, J L. Sense and Sensibilia. OUP, 1962. ISBN 0-19-881083-0
  • Macarthur, David. “Pragmatism, Metaphysical Quietism and the Problem of Normativity,” Philosophical Topics. Vol.36 No.1, 2009.
  • Malcolm, Norman. Dreaming (Studies in Philosophical Psychology). Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1959. ISBN 0-7100-3836-4
  • McDowell, John and Evans, Gareth. Truth and Meaning. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976. ISBN 0-19-824517-3
  • McDowell, John. Mind and World. New Ed, Harvard, 1996. ISBN 0-674-57610-1