Nihilism and Revolution

The End of Philosophy

What happened to just thinking?
Rebecca Wolsak, Inter Pares

With only one class left, my degree from the prestigious philosophy department of the University of Pittsburgh is not far away. Since my first class I have muscled my way through philosophy’s greats. Plato’s Republic? Piece of cake. Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason? Easy as pie. Even phrases like panta rei and cogito ergo sum are pushovers to me.

Yet despite all of this heavenly knowledge that has been bestowed upon me, I am left unsatisfied. My professors amaze me with their ability to clearly elaborate on any subject, but they never apply their timeless wisdom to reality. Instead of rigorously debating the problems of today, my professors lull the class to sleep with lackluster lectures on trivial topics. Do I possess a priori knowledge? What is the form of me? Am I a thinking thing? Let’s be honest: being lost in the clouds never saved a child from starvation and it never will.

My grades are determined by how well I can regurgitate uninspiring thoughts. I had a class last year, for example, which covered modern philosophy. One of our main subjects was Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy. We found several flaws in Descartes’ arguments but instead of constructing our arguments against his conclusions, we were forced to merely summarize them. Such mediocrity and mental garbage drives me to one simple conclusion: philosophy is extinct.

If we are to believe that philosophy is some guy’s opinion, then we have forgotten the essence of philosophy. Philosophy is the touchstone of all progress. We must remember that philosophy is the purest form of dissent. If we do not ask questions, if we do not question authority, if we do not pressure ourselves, then society will never advance. All progress comes from change, and philosophers used to be the backbone of change. Whether we go back thousands of years to Socrates’ “corrupting the youth” or more recently to Bertrand Russell’s condemnation of the Vietnam War, it is obvious that philosophers used to take a stand against a callous system. Now they simply summarize and overanalyze all the irrelevant aspects of life.

This “magnificent” philosophy program I have experienced is a glorified course in writing book reports. Philosophy has been badgered to death by dogmatic opinions and shallow thoughts.

What happened to just thinking?
What happened?


Jordan Romanus

90 comments on the article “The End of Philosophy”

Displaying 41 - 50 of 90

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Darrell

I take your point to be that the instructors in your philosophy program have missed the point of their own program: knowledge/thinking comes from experience and not just books. As some readers have pointed out, there are ways of getting there other than university classes, which raises the question of what are universities then doing. I think what you are experiencing, and I say this after teaching in universities for more than thirty years, is the triumph of careerism, which is also the triumph of utilitarian capitalism over humanism. This was not always the case, but if you consider that universities are places that order social privileges and access to power the conclusion follows that they are designed not for thinking but for ensuring continuity.

At the end of the day, if you chose to study philosophy at a university you must have had some purpose in mind. Be honest with yourself on this one because it's critically important to your life. If it was to expand your thinking, you don't need a university course and in fact that could better be done independently with like-minded friends. If it was to "get a better job", consider how you will think in that job as a consequence of your university experience. Best of luck in either case as maintaining your integrity in modern times is a constant struggle.

Darrell

I take your point to be that the instructors in your philosophy program have missed the point of their own program: knowledge/thinking comes from experience and not just books. As some readers have pointed out, there are ways of getting there other than university classes, which raises the question of what are universities then doing. I think what you are experiencing, and I say this after teaching in universities for more than thirty years, is the triumph of careerism, which is also the triumph of utilitarian capitalism over humanism. This was not always the case, but if you consider that universities are places that order social privileges and access to power the conclusion follows that they are designed not for thinking but for ensuring continuity.

At the end of the day, if you chose to study philosophy at a university you must have had some purpose in mind. Be honest with yourself on this one because it's critically important to your life. If it was to expand your thinking, you don't need a university course and in fact that could better be done independently with like-minded friends. If it was to "get a better job", consider how you will think in that job as a consequence of your university experience. Best of luck in either case as maintaining your integrity in modern times is a constant struggle.

My

University of Pittsburgh sounds like they have a pretty traditional department faculty. Besides, the cartesian dualism, beginning with descarte, is a huge problem with the philosophical tradition. You sound like a person who enjoys reading about life.
If you are looking for something more contemporary, I think it fits your feelings about doing something to generate better hope for humanity, I would recommend Richard Rorty's piece entitles 'Trotsky and the Wild Orchid' (I have a pdf of it.), a very good essay about a philosopher who dealt with your same concern about social injustice and self-education.
Don't be discourage plebe.

My

University of Pittsburgh sounds like they have a pretty traditional department faculty. Besides, the cartesian dualism, beginning with descarte, is a huge problem with the philosophical tradition. You sound like a person who enjoys reading about life.
If you are looking for something more contemporary, I think it fits your feelings about doing something to generate better hope for humanity, I would recommend Richard Rorty's piece entitles 'Trotsky and the Wild Orchid' (I have a pdf of it.), a very good essay about a philosopher who dealt with your same concern about social injustice and self-education.
Don't be discourage plebe.

JuliaEm

Modern philosophy is not dead, its in a different from that is not taught in academic settings. the RZA just published the Dao of Wu and K'Naan's lyrics are of a 'Dusty Foot Philosopher' ..both explore the wisdom gained from experience and action. ...Unfortunately Western ways of thinking dominate our academic system and we lose a great deal of important philosophy.

JuliaEm

Modern philosophy is not dead, its in a different from that is not taught in academic settings. the RZA just published the Dao of Wu and K'Naan's lyrics are of a 'Dusty Foot Philosopher' ..both explore the wisdom gained from experience and action. ...Unfortunately Western ways of thinking dominate our academic system and we lose a great deal of important philosophy.

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