The Pragmatics of Philosophy

It has been awhile since I published my last post, but I have not stopped thinking about the ideas we talk about in the blog. The daily grind has prevented me from reading and writing as much as I want to, and that has gotten me thinking about the practical side of all of this.

Does Montaigne, or Plato, or even the Bible have anything useful for us as we go through our daily lives? On one level, I acknowledge that this is all an academic exercise, but I value the reading, writing, and conversations that happen here. Of course, the thinking is the most important part of it.

On another level, though, these works and this conversation make us better people and gives us something to use in the rest of our lives. That is the faith that underlies this entire blog. Still, I am left with the thought that it is incomplete.

These books tend to give us the ‘why’ of our lives, but not necessarily the ‘how.’ Over Memorial Day weekend, there were a lot of war movies on television, many focusing on World War II. As I watched scenes of Nazi’s and imperial Japan occupying other nations, I wondered what good understanding philosophy would be in the face of invasion. You have the philosophy that what is happening is wrong, but what can you do about it?

That is an extreme case. What good is philosophy in the face of an earthquake, hurricane, or wild fires like those in Colorado? What will it do in a drought?

Even in daily life, what does all of this do when we are thinking about how to conduct our professional and personal lives?

I’d like to think that this knowledge helps me make better decisions at all of these times. It will help me act as a better person. I would know what side to join in a war, what to prioritize in a disaster, and when to tell a boss or friend that something is wrong.

Still, the how sometimes bothers me. I sometimes think that something like the Popular Mechanic’s top 100 skills ( ought to be part of the curriculum for people in the humanities. That way, when the time comes to act, there is at least the beginnings of making something meaningful and right happen.

Still, I am open to suggestion, what skills should we all have if we hope to make our lives better and make the world a better place?



3 thoughts on “The Pragmatics of Philosophy

  1. It seems to me that, more than “handiwork” skills, what our species needs right now are the “skills” of love, cooperation, understanding, and compassion. The world, my country especially (USA), is so full of hate, prejudice, and ignorance that no amount of carpentry or technical engineering could save us. We need more people skills, I think. And in my experience, the humanities do teach us those skills.

    Of course, technical skills are going to become necessary for survival in the near future if our current trend of planetary destruction continues. But I feel we could reverse this trend with the people skills I mentioned. However, this seems almost hopeless, so maybe it is time after all for us to pick up the wrenches, hammers, and screwdrivers. In the grand scheme of things though, building and fixing things will not transform us into a better species. Love, compassion, and understanding will do that.

  2. When we all strive for excellence (arete in Greek) and seek eudaimonia (virtue) we are better people whether in everyday life or in the face of earthquake, hurricane or drought. Trying reading Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics.

  3. Certainly striving for excellence and having the skills of love, cooperation, etc. are important. They are answers to the question of “what do we need to do,” but they fall a little short of the how.

    Aristotle says that we need continuous practice (see my earlier post on the Ethics for more), but he seems to leave what that practice entails to us to figure out.

    I think skills will become more necessary for survival. I think there is a connection between what skills are necessary and the humanities. I don’t think it is one or the other. I am interested in what the best complements are.

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