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Many philosophers say that philosophy is neither an art nor a science yet philosophy departments are usually in Arts Faculties at universities. How do you feel about this and do you think philosophy should be its own faculty? Are there any contemporary neo-logical positivists who think it should be classified as a science?

Many philosophers would love to have their own "faculty" or "school" or "college" within a university administrative structure, if only because then the "chair" of their department would become a "dean" who has more power over the purse strings than a mere "chair" :-) More seriously, the location of a philosophy department in a college or university is typically more of a political than a (if you will excuse the expression) philosophical decision. At my university (State University of New York at Buffalo), philosophy used to be in a Faculty of Social Sciences (so, depending on whether you think that social sciences are sciences or not, there's an example that appears to classify philosophy as a science), but, as I understand it, that was for political reasons: the then-new Faculty of Social Sciences was perceived to have more political or financial clout than the Faculty of Arts and Letters. It is now in a College of Arts and Sciences, so it's unclear how our administrators think of it. On the...

How are branches ("or fashions") of philosophy created or are they created without consensus? For example, I see on Wikipedia, a philosophy a mind, a philosophy of science, a philosophy of pain, and so on. But why not a philosophy of the fashion industry, why not a philsophy of simple living and so on?

I agree with Andrew Pessin. If you agree with Plato that The one who feels no distaste in sampling every study, and who attacks the task of learning gladly and cannot get enough of it, we shall justly pronounce the lover of wisdom, the philosopher. then, for any x, there can be a philosophy of x , which would be the philosophical investigation of the fundamental assumptions, methods, and goals of x (including metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical issues). As Richard Bradley has said, "Philosophy is 99 per cent about critical reflection on anything you care to be interested in". As to which values of x succeed in becoming an established part of philosophy, I think Pessin has it right: It's a question of how many other philosophers also want to study x philosophically; it's not a question of whether x is somehow antecedently "worthy" of being discussed philosophically. Anything has that worth potentially.
I agree with Andrew Pessin. If you agree with Plato that The one who feels no distaste in sampling every study, and who attacks the task of learning gladly and cannot get enough of it, we shall justly pronounce the lover of wisdom, the philosopher. then, for any x, there can be a philosophy of x , which would be the philosophical investigation of the fundamental assumptions, methods, and goals of x (including metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical issues). As Richard Bradley has said, "Philosophy is 99 per cent about critical reflection on anything you care to be interested in". As to which values of x succeed in becoming an established part of philosophy, I think Pessin has it right: It's a question of how many other philosophers also want to study x philosophically; it's not a question of whether x is somehow antecedently "worthy" of being discussed philosophically. Anything has that worth potentially.

If there IS philosophical progress, is it worthwhile to read philosophy that was written before you were born? Isn't the most current understanding of philosophy the most valid? For example, we now know Newtonian physics is false at the quantum level; wouldn't it stand to reason that after two hundred years Kant's moral philosophy has been refined or superceded and should not be followed in its entirety? If there is NOT any philosophical progress and philosophical questions are inherently unresolvable, then is the entire field of philosophy futile? If philosophers can't even agree on what the aims of philosophy are, then does that mean Marx's philosophy is as equally valid for people to follow as that of Aristotle's?

I agree with Ian for similar reasons (see my Unsolvable Problems and Philosophical Progress ) So, because we both agree that there is philosophical progress, is it worthwhile to read philosophy that was written before you were born? Yes, for at least two reasons: First, of course, some of that philosophy might consist of good reasoning that has not been improved upon. Saying that philosophy progresses doesn't mean that old philosophy is "wrong" in any way (any more than saying that science progresses doesn't mean that old science is "wrong"). Second, philosophy is best thought of as a conversation that has been going on for at least 2500 years. One of the best ways of joining that conversation is to read "transcripts" of its earlier stages.

What would you say is the best resource for learning philosophy at the level of an absolute beginner? I have tried MIT OCW, reading articles on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and taking out books from the library -- none of it makes total sense to me. Usually I get the general idea, but I feel like I'm missing something. Should I continue using the Stanford Encyclopedia/will I gain enough from it for it to be effective? Are there other, better ways? Thanks for replying ^_^

My favorite for beginners (although the author is somewhat out of favor with some professional philosophers these days) is Thomas Nagel's What Does It All Mean?: A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy . It raises all of the interesting questions in a readable fashion, but leaves the answers to the reader. (And the author of The Story of Philosophy , by the way, spelled his name "Will Durant".)

A recent questioner asked if there are any more dialogue-based--as opposed to strict question-and-answer format--places on the internet to discuss philosophy. The replies took the questioner to be implying a kind of unregulated "philosophical chat room" where anyone can throw out their dubious reasoning and call it philosophy. That may characterize many internet forums, regardless of the subject matter, but there is, I think, a middle ground between this site's ask-the-experts format (which I greatly appreciate, don't get me wrong!) and chats/blogs by people who are totally unqualified to comment meaningfully on philosophical issues. Are there any blogs that you would *recommend* for the level of discourse that, at least sometimes, is displayed there between professional philosophers and, perhaps, thoughful "lay-people" (i.e., where philosophically disciplined and thoughtful people talk to each other)?

Here are two suggestions. The first is less of a philosophy blog and more of a metaphilosophy blog, but it often has useful links to other blogs that you might like: "Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog / News and views about philosophy, the academic profession, academic freedom, intellectual culture...and a bit of poetry" http://leiterreports.typepad.com/ The second is also not quite a philosophy blog itself but a philosophy metablog, with summaries and pointers to other philosophy blogs: "Philosopher's Carnival" Its location seems to move around and is always posted on the Leiter Report. The current version is at: http://ichthus77.blogspot.com/2012/02/philosophers-carnival-138.html

How is "philosophical progress" made, assuming it is made at all? And on a related note, are philosophical theories ever completely abandoned (considered "wrong"), or do they simply adjust to criticism?

The philosopher Benson Mates once characterized philosophy as a field whose problems are unsolvable. This has often been taken to mean that there can be no progress in philosophy as there is in mathematics or science. But I believe that solutions are always parts of theories, hence that acceptance of a solution requires commitment to a theory. Progress can be had in philosophy in the same way as in mathematics and science by knowing what commitments are needed for solutions. In a sense, this means that sometimes philosophy "progresses" backwards , by coming to understand what extra assumptions are needed to solve its problems. (I've written about this in a technical paper-- "Unsolvable Problems and Philosophical Progress" (American Philosophical Quarterly 1982)--and in an essay for a non-technical audience-- "Can Philosophy Solve Its Own Problems?" (SUNY News 1984). There was also a recent symposium on this topic at Harvard, and some of the talks from that symposium can be Googled online.

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