Philosophical debates revolve
Recently there has been a disappointing tendency in some philosophy circles toward a philosophical relativism claiming that any response to a given philosophical problem is as valid as any other. Whether this inclination has been thanks to an interest in political correctness, appeals to the nature of subjectivity, or in simply avoiding confrontation, it has led to an intellectual standstill that has tarnished the once illustrious profession of philosophy.
This brief essay will argue against this trend in an effort to shift the discourse back to the problem itself as opposed to giving in to the seeming comfort of relativism that avoids holding philosophers accountable to their position. Philosophy is a difficult endeavor, perhaps the most difficult one can choose as a profession. For this reason it needs to be taken seriously and it needs to apply its knowledge to people’s everyday lives in a practical manner. The days of the aloof and elite philosophy and philosophers need to be abandoned.
Philosophers need to speak in a language that is legible outside the academy if they wish to remain relevant in today’s rapidly changing world. This is not a tract against the need for philosophy, as some scientists and mathematicians seem to inherently propose; instead it is a call for philosophy to step into the (post)modern era through the adoption and defense of a particular stance on a given problem in the service of a progressive dialectic aimed at greater understanding (McTaggart). That being the case, the significance of which stance to take becomes central to the philosopher’s project.
Furthermore, how that position is taken and how it is defended ultimately determines the validity and justification of that decision. The lens of history has showed which particular philosophical ideologies have succeeded and which have failed. However philosophy, while drawing time tested lessons from history, needs to concern itself with the present and the future. The justification for a taking a stand relies on a philosopher’s ideals and moral leanings as they engage philosophical problems.
That being said, the cultural, political, social and economic context will also drive and shape the issues that have the most relevance to the time. According to Stanford University’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy, relativism’s common theme is that ‘some central aspect of experience, thought, evaluation, or even reality is somehow relative to something else’ (Relativism). In this fashion, the particular context and issues of the time are subject to an individual’s personal experiences that determine notions of knowledge, truth, values, etc…
. However this does not prove that just because everybody has their own subjective experience that each interpretation will be equally valid regarding a certain philosophical problem. This is not to say that the power of subjective reasoning should be ignored or placed outside of a philosophical stance, far from it. Rather, subjective experience should be incorporated and utilized into the argument but not at the cost of undermining the argument it seeks to become a part of. Subjective experience only holds currency in its relation to other points of view.
For this reason the resulting synergy of sound argumentation creates a more nuanced and deeper resolution of the problem than does the retreat to the enclave of metaphoric nihilism of philosophical relativism. In this spirit, the best philosophy will be inclusive, contextual, relevant, and applicable to the most pressing issues of the time. Works Cited McTaggart, John & Ellis McTaggart. Studies in the Hegelian Dialectic. Retrieved from http://www. class. uidaho. edu/mickelsen/ToC/McTaggart. htm Relativism. (2003). In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy online. Retrieved January 20, 2009, from http://plato. stanford. edu/entries/relativismSample Essay of PapersOwl.com