Monday, June 29, 2009

Thursday March 12-- Tapping Philosophy: Modernity

Hi Everyone,
Welcome back from break. Thanks to everyone who came out for womanhood. Sorry for the late email, I've been sick. Tapping philosophy will take place at it's normal time and place, 8:00 Thursday Yeat's pub, meeting for rides at Connelly around 7:30. Charles' topic looks to be both exciting and challenging! While I will not be able to make it myself, I'm confident this topic will generate a good discussion.

Philosophy in the Modern Age.

What is philosophy, or more specifically what is it in the modern era. Throughout history, each philosopher has given their own definition, from Plato’s relatively straightforward (and incredibly bitter) declaration in the Phaedo that it is “preparation for death” to Hegel’s “its time held in thought” (Phenomenology of Spirit). Yet these are only interesting points in the road. In the modern era of information where many news networks use advertisements which argue that “knowledge is power”, is it possible to imagine philosophy as any pursuit of truth as distinct from power? If not, is the modern man then necessarily trapped in what Strauss called the “joyless quest for joy”?

In the era of information is it possible that the democratization of information will lead to an increasingly democratic politics, where the power of majority faction slowly replaces republican liberty as the foundation for the modern political regime? If so, then is this information -- this power -- still an adequate basis for philosophy?

This is just the beginning of our problem. It is my position that in modernity, philosophy’s function is essentially political and that since political existence in a state necessitates information and knowledge of information (since it inevitably finds its way into political debate), philosophy must remain -- contrary to Richard Rorty’s arguments -- a system of studying, commenting on, and criticizing arguments raised by the social and (yes, even) hard sciences.

At the same time, the philosophers must know what it is that they are commenting on and questioning. So is the role of philosophy in the modern age then truly that of politics, that of the beautiful incomprehensible unreachable beyond, or that of the beyond as accessed in time?

These are just some of the questions that are floating around. But I’ll leave you with Rorty’s provocation to consider:

"From my point of view, it was very unfortunate that Marx, a great political economist, majored in philosophy . . . . I don't think anything I learned in philosophy school has been of any relevance to my changes in political views or my betterance of political deliberation."

Are Rorty’s political views and deliberations defective, or as they should be? Without a philosophy linked to politics, are we trapped in a “joyless quest for joy”?
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