Austin claimed that we can actually DO something by mere pronunciaton of certain words. Following this logic, we can ask ourselves could we do something with philosophy?
Last night i had a really interesting conversation and philosophical counselling with a friend of mine, policeman. Few days ago his colleague said to him that philosophy doesnt have any real use in everyday life. In this post i will try to defend philosophy from such accusations and state my reasons for engagement in philosophical practice.
One year ago, i wanted to enroll in PhD studies in philosophy of language, so i needed to write motivational letter for submission. In that letter, it was expected of me to state in what way would my research contribute to scientific community. This was the hardest part for me to write, because i couldnt think of any reasonable argument by which i could justify the significance of my work. In real world, to be extremely honest, who would really care about what i wrote on Wittgenstein, Foucault or any other philosophical interpretation. Contribution to scientific community? Please! Writing some research papers, thesis or books on what somebody else said one thousand or one hundred years ago - where is the point of that, really?
Ok, i get it. It is, it really is very important to read all major philosophical works written by most brilliant minds in human history - but do we really need academics from all over the world to write the same interpretations of interpretations of interpretations of someone's work in order to understand it? No wonder my friend's colleague thinks of philosophy as useless, when he doesnt really have any use of any writings about Wittgenstein or any other philosopher. To be honest, now even i dont really see any use of doing PhD in such manner, other than getting a slightly bigger paycheck every month. But, that is not the reason i wanted to do PhD, not for the money. I like to see any of my work to be of use not only to myself, but to others as well.
After i did philosophical counselling with my friend, i asked him did it help in any manner, did he discover something new about himself and did he solve the problem he was worried about at the beginning. He replied that it surely helped him to find the answer to his problem and to view it from a different angle, so he can work on a solution in future. Interestingly, he also stated that policemen need more philosophy. Of course, not only policemen, but everyone, no matter of their profession, often need someone to talk to about their problems and to help them with thinking and reasoning process, after which they could work on concrete solutions - and if possible, doing this by not blaming their mother for everything. We also managed to agree to do next counselling session with his colleague. I am really looking forward to that.
So...what, some of you thought that policemen, car mechanics, truck drivers or any other sort could not philosophize? That philosophy is strictly academic discipline for scholars? Think again! In almost 2500 years of our history, there wasnt a single man described as wise as Socrates. Which philosophy department did Socrates attend? How many research papers or books did he publish? Philosophy is ment for everyone! Why? Because everyone can think and reason, and that is what philosophy is all about! This is what philosophical practice does - dialogue, thinking, reasoning, problem solving! I'd say this is where a philosopher can be of use to you, your family, your work, your everyday problems. This is why we need philosophy in elementary schools, in high schools, in everyday life. It can help us, only if we allow ourselves to think.
Why i want to DO philosophy? Because i want to give people something they can use in everyday life, because it can help them live better, do better, treat each other better. Philosophizing in dialogue with others can help you discover more about yourself, more about others. Sure, reading books and analyzing philosophical texts can also help in search for truth, knowledge or self, but never so intensely and with such impact as when talking to other human being. Consider why Socrates never wrote a line of text, why Plato choose to write only dialogues, and why both of them cherished living word more than anything else.
If i want to analyze other's work, i can write philosophiCALLY, but i can DO philosophy only by practicing it in dialogue with others. As a teacher, if i am giving lecture on philosophy, i am not doing philosophy, i am doing lecturing; but, if i constantly ask questions and make my students think and respond to me on any given subject, we are philosophizing, we are doing philosophy. If i delve into philosophical books and even write something about what i've read, am i doing philosophy or am i doing reading and rewriting?
As philosophers, we should also consider how many people in the world are familiar with Plato's views on, lets say, history, and how many people in the world everyday go to drink coffee with their friends and talk about problems, events, relationships...life. What would you rather spend your philosophizing gift on? Closed reinterpretations of someone else's worldview, or own contribution to well being of your fellow men? Yeah, i thought so!