Talk:Philosophy

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High traffic

On 24 May 2011, Philosophy was mentioned in the mouseover text on xkcd, a high-traffic website. (See visitor traffic)

Semi-protected edit request on 7 January 2015[edit]

BoazBarak (talk) 18:48, 7 January 2015 (UTC)

Red information icon with gradient background.svg Not done: You would need consensus before adding such a link, which you are unlikely to get; but as the site is deemed suspicious/risky by McAfee, it won't be added in any case. - Arjayay (talk) 19:00, 7 January 2015 (UTC)

removal of "Criticism" section[edit]

After thinking about it, I would like to make sure it is at least mentioned on this talk page that a section has been removed, with this edit. I am not really sure I can follow User:Snowded's rationale, which was: "Dubious, philosophy of religion, by religions is a major field etc. etc This is too selective". To me it seems that the controversy it has always caused, is part of what is often seen as critical to understanding what philosophy is. In the classical formulation, philosophers saw themselves as providing a new type of knowledge, contrasting with both conventional/traditional knowledge and also "the poets". I don't think such criticism is uncommon or has ever stopped? That there is such a thing as "philosophy of religion" seems irrelevant. To preserve what is removed (which is not necessarily as good as it should be either), and also to allow comments if anyone has any, it was as follows:

==Criticism== − Although philosophy is generally know as a reflection to life, it has not been itself immune to criticism. Religions have been generally uneasy with philosophy.<ref>Buber, M. (1957). Eclipse of God: Studies in the relation between religion and philosophy. New York: Harper & Brothers.</ref> Authoritarian governments have also been recorded to be serious suppressors of philosophy and philosophers,<ref>Litwack, E. B. (March 01, 2011). Epistemic arguments against dictatorship. Human Affairs : Postdisciplinary Humanities & Social Sciences Quarterly, 21, 1, 44-51.</ref> particularly in dealing with those philosophers with more intense sense of criticism. In the world of philosophy itself, there are instances of works against philosophy or cautious of its pitfalls. [[Nigel Rodgers]] and [[Mel Thompson]] for example assert that while philosophy can enlighten, it can also mislead and delude.<ref>Rogers, N., & Thompson, M. (2004). Philosophers behaving badly. London: Peter Owen.</ref> French philosopher [[René Descartes]] says the greatest souls are capable of the greatest vices as − well as the greatest virtues.<ref>Hebert, L. J. (May 01, 2007). Individualism and Intellectual Liberty in Tocqueville and Descartes. The Journal of Politics, 69, 2, 525-537. </ref>

What do others think? Would it have been better to re-make the section?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 10:18, 19 March 2015 (UTC)

The section was very badly written, but it was referenced. The existence of a book titled "Philosophers behaving badly" suggests that there is criticism, and a better written section might replace the one deleted. Rick Norwood (talk) 12:13, 19 March 2015 (UTC)
Wasn't not having a separate criticism section a best practice on Wikipedia? WP:CRITS is not a guideline but I agree with its spirit. Criticism should be integrated into various sections of the article as and when it meets WP:DUE. Interestingly, the essay makes an exception for articles on particular philosophies and religions. Amitrochates (talk) 12:26, 19 March 2015 (UTC)
I tend to agree with both the replies so far pointing to problems with what was removed. Indeed I was thinking the section deletion raised other questions about whether something better could replace it, if anything. To me, philosophy is now and always was to some extent defined by what it is not, and indeed what it comes into conflict with (religion, law, story telling, natural science etc). There is a danger when writing about philosophy that we treat it as an obvious and simple concept that everyone knows about, and which exists "by nature" rather than by an alignment of historical accidents. The explanation of how western philosophy came into being, which might also have covered this also, has also become somewhat de-emphasized in this article.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 13:07, 19 March 2015 (UTC)

The most common criticism of philosophy is that it is too intellectual, and ignores common sense. I don't think that is a just criticism, but it is the criticism I hear more often than any other. Should the article mention this? Rick Norwood (talk) 13:54, 19 March 2015 (UTC)

There is a problem with a criticism section in this context as criticism happens within the discipline or other aspects of the discipline. If there was a movement to ban Philosophy as a subject, or if the odd 'science has replaced philosophy' comment was more than a debating point and clearly referenced third party sources then there might be a case to mention it. The idea in the original edit that religion opposes philosophy was a nonsense when all religions have philosophies and formal study thereof. Changing the western bias of the history would be a good idea if there are sources. Too intellectual is a general criticism of all the humanities, philosophy is just one of many. Controversies over teaching philosophy in schools would be worthy of inclusion. The suggestion that philosophers behave badly (while undoubtedly true) does not imply a false discipline but simply comments on human nature ----Snowded TALK 06:17, 20 March 2015 (UTC)
  • I think the extension of the word "philosophy" to cover Indian and Chinese philosophy, and the narrowing of the term so that it no longer normally includes natural science, are both known sources of difficulty which we need to handle in this article. What I mean is that there are clearly more or less narrow ways of defining philosophy, and how it contrasts with other types of "wisdom literature". Does this sound wrong? Just seems to be something we need to deal with.
  • I am not so clear what the relevance is of saying that religions have "philosophies". I think these are far from being "the rule" and also far from being consistent with the narrowest definitions of either philosophy or religion. Being simplistic, faith is demanded by religions, and called bad by philosophy. It seems to me one extremely sourceable story which is often said to encapsulate what philosophy is, is that Socrates was sentenced to death for bringing new gods to the city. It is not only pious people who question the arrogance of philosophy but also for example Aristophanes. Surely we all know there are volumes and volumes about this "battle" between philosophy and its competitors. A famous chapter in the story is surely Al-Ghazzali versus the medieval islamic philosophers.
  • Concerning contemporary criticism of philosophy from scientists, I can't think of any sourcing and am not really seeing it as a big concern. I think this might indeed be Snowded's concern about the deleted section. Maybe someone else can find something, but for now can see Snowded's point. Certainly modernism (including modern science) is founded upon the idea that metaphysics is a waste of time. But many philosophers would agree, so this is more a debate between schools of philosophy.
  • OTOH there is of course still criticism of philosophy from the religions, and from the "poets". (Again, many of the ones I am thinking of are of course influenced by the modern critics of philosophy within philosophy itself, such as Nietzsche.)--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 10:31, 20 March 2015 (UTC)
I don't know of any religion that doesn't practice the discipline of Philosophy .... ----[[User:SnowdedTALK 14:09, 20 March 2015 (UTC)

We argued for more than a year over whether philosophy included writers in India and China. I seem to remember Snowded being around at the time. We really do not want to relive that. Whether a religion has a philosophy depends on the religion. Catholics do. The more enthusiastic religions may not. For example, if you speak in tongues or whirl in circles, you may be trying to prevent rational thought. Rick Norwood (talk) 14:58, 20 March 2015 (UTC)

I may have been assuming a too serious definition of religion :-) My point was that you can't say Religion is opposed to Philosophy (the original edit) when all the major religions teach Philosophy in seminaries or equivalents ----Snowded TALK 15:43, 20 March 2015 (UTC)

Of course I agree. Rick Norwood (talk) 22:04, 20 March 2015 (UTC)

But not everyone does, and this is indeed an old subject in philosophy and in religion. It partly depends upon whether religion implies unquestioning faith. Anyway let's say that there is a tension between the two?--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 08:02, 21 March 2015 (UTC)

Then there is a tension between rigid materialism and philosophy with some scientists denying philosophy. Why single out religious from the body of extremists? ----Snowded TALK 10:08, 21 March 2015 (UTC)

I did not mean to. I pointed to a tension between faith and questioning which has been a big factor in the real world history of philosophers. But there are indeed other "tensions" contra philosophy and I did not mean to write those off. The way I see it, we are exploring what could or should have been in the removed section.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 10:59, 21 March 2015 (UTC)

I still don't see a case for a section. Mentioning religious fundamentalists opposing philosophy in the section on Philosophy of Religion might make sense if its referenced and significant. Ditto the fundamentalist 'scientists' to borrow Midgley's wonderful label in the Philosophy of science section. ----Snowded TALK 11:26, 21 March 2015 (UTC)

a motion for revising the lead[edit]

a move for revising the lead, among other things[edit]

This article needs work.

It is rated #1 vital and a "C" in quality. I agree on both counts.

With an M.A. in philosophy and PhD in the works, I am doing my part. (I'm studying ethics, metaethics, philosophy of mind, among others, and doing what I can on those articles and sub-topics.)

When I need to learn something about philosophy, I rarely use Wikipedia. I use Stanford regularly and (in a pinch) the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Wikipedia has notoriously bad philosophy articles. But lots of nonphilosophers use WP.

We can do better. Drawing from books, encyclopedias, and articles from established philosophy journals, those of us who care enough about WP to make it visitable and informative can do so.

Is this about 'philosophy' in its broadest and most historical meaning or 'philosophy' in its varied contemporary meanings? WP is not supposed to be cutting edge, but encyclopedic. So I move that we discuss more of how philosophically has been historically understood (especially in the western philosophy sections) than how (some) moderns understand it.


This article has multiple issues:

  • The opening line says philosophy is the "study of ... problems." Plato, Augustine, Marcus Aurelius, Boethius, Scotus, etc. were not studying "problems." They took themselves to be studying reality, existence, knowledge, etc. -- the things themselves. Philosophers study their own concepts, study history, but also study "being qua being."
  • The lead calls philosophy a "study" when it might include words like "questioning" "exploring" etc.
  • The first link is to the "reality" article which is, frankly, a not so good article. The ontology article is much more philosophical and less... garbled.
  • In the list of topics is "Values". Value is a loaded word that implies all evaluative concepts are subjective concepts. There is no clear and undisputed definition between facts and values (for instance, "farmer" as a concept includes evaluative content, since someone who claimed to be a farmer but killed all his crops would not be such. See (Foot 2003). Better would be to discuss particular evaluative terms like the good, beauty, excellence, veridicality, etc.
  • The first topical section is epistemology. Why not metaphysics? Why not ethics? Socrates (for instance) was more concerned with the good than he was with knowledge, relatively speaking. This Florida State Philosophy page has metaphysics first as well.
  • There is no discussion of conceptual analysis, which is what Frank Jackson, Robert Brandom and others think philosophy is all about.
  • There is no discussion of metaphilosophy, which is sort of what this article is about.
  • The distinction between historical and topical is very half-heartedly carried out. There is a a ton of historical stubs and only a few topical stubs -- and they are mostly stubs.
  • Ethics and political philosophy fly under the same heading, and need citations.
  • There is no discussion of the relation between (historical) science and (historical) theology. Questions about what is real overlap with scientific questions (are electrons real? quarks?) and theological questions (are miracles real? angels?) -- and these are different from "specialized" fields like philosophy of science and philosophy of religion.

I am trying to work on each of these in time. My goal is to make it noncontroversial (impossible-- how about not too controversial) and clear enough for non-philosopher Wikipedia readers to glean something and keep reading.

Right now, just the new lead. that reads as thus:

"Philosophy is the general study of being, thinking, speaking, and life." With clarification, of course, these broad (and easily understandible) terms can introduce metaphysics, causality, epistemology, logic, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, ethics, politics.

I even prefer this to the current: "In a broad sense, philosophy is an activity people undertake when they seek to understand fundamental truths about themselves, the world in which they live, and their relationships to the world and to each other." (Florida State)

Just a few thoughts. I need comments from editors with M.A. and PhD in philosophy. That's all for now.


CircularReason (talk) 01:32, 9 May 2015 (UTC)

personal identity[edit]

I added the topic of identity in the lead because it is one of philosophy's fundamental and enduring questions. Snowded demurred.

While I appreciate the pushback, the question of identity is indeed fundamental.

  • The question of identity is a species of metaphysics, which is arguably the most fundamental.
  • The question of identity is, specifically, the question of how any particular entity is just that entity through time and through changes -- i.e., what is a substance? what is a thing at all?
  • The question of identity is the question] of what it means for me to be a person. I appear to be one thing through time and through change. Am I?
  • The question of identity is enduring -- it is asked by the earliest and most recent philosophers. It is asked by Socrates (in Phaedrus 230a) ("As I was saying just now, I investigate not these things, but myself, to know whether I am a monster more complicated and more furious than Typhon or a gentler and simpler creature, to whom a divine and quiet lot is given by nature.") by Kant in his discussion of the transcendental ego, by Hume in his Treatise of Human Nature, and many contemporaries like Thomas Nagel (View from Nowhere) and others.


So yeah, it is a fundamental of philosophy by any account. Any reason to think it's not?

Pragmatically, it's smart to include the question of identity early in a philosophy article that gets lots of readers, because it is a very accessible introduction for nonphilosophers to some of the fundamentals of philosophy, like what makes a substance, what is time, what causes change, first-person consciousness, mind, introspective knowledge, and knowledge in general.

CircularReason (talk) 02:11, 9 May 2015 (UTC)

It falls within the other areas and there are overlaps with Anthropology and other disciplines. I'm the last person to disagree its important, but it is not one of the main divisions of the disciplines per University Course descriptions and the major encyclopaedia/dictionaries as far as I know, The same applies to causality which I have also removed. Its not a matter of our opinion however, you need to work from third party sources which summarise the field not from primary sources such as Nagel. This is particularly true for the lede which has to be properly sourced. I also made the point in my last edit summary that a lot of collaborative effort went into agreeing the current lede. So please bring proposals here first and get agreement. Why insert causality rather than Free Will for example, but Free Will would not be listed one of the major divisions, in part because it is a subject in all those divisions. If you include Identity and Causality there are a dozen other subjects that could be added in. The lede is about the major divisions of philosophy ----Snowded TALK 12:12, 9 May 2015 (UTC)
Agree with Snowded. We should describe the topic the way most mainstream sources do. TFD (talk) 15:36, 9 May 2015 (UTC)
Thanks, Four Deuces. Can you elaborate on what you mean by "most mainstream sources"? I am indexing the sources currently listed as "introductory" and most of them list "Mind" or "Mind-Body" as a main issue. CircularReason (talk) 23:09, 9 May 2015 (UTC)
You talked above above about "personal identity." Now you are talking about "mind" and "mind-body." If you want to change the subject, set up a new discussion thread. TFD (talk) 00:07, 10 May 2015 (UTC)

"Introductory texts"[edit]

I motion to move "* Think: philosophy for everyone Lively and accessible articles written by philosophers pre-eminent in their fields, for a broad audience. Free articles are available online." from "Introductions" the the "External Links" section or remove it. It is a journal -- albeit an accessible one -- with ongoing and rotating topics and not a dedicated introduction to philosophy.

CircularReason (talk) 23:07, 9 May 2015 (UTC)

What do you mean? It is not a Wikipedia article, therefore we cannot move it. TFD (talk) 00:10, 10 May 2015 (UTC)
The point seems to be that the link in question, which currently exists in the 'further reading: introductions' section of this article, seems inappropriate in that position, and should be either relocated elsewhere in this article, or removed from this article. Endovior (talk) 18:25, 12 June 2015 (UTC)