The Ends of Philosophy

Is philosophy in need of a rethink?

What is the point of philosophy? As science claims to tell us more and more about reality, does philosophy need to reconsider its relationship to reason and to truth?

In this issue of IAI News, philosopher, author and musician, Andrew Bowie, argues that philosophy has failed in its task to justify what we think we know. Reason alone, he says, cannot uncover reality. But could paying more attention to the arts help philosophers ask new, more vital, questions?

Within the framework outlined by Bowie, philosopher Justin Diekemper and theoretical physicist Julian Barbour continue their head-to-head debate from last issue. At stake is the very nature of time. Diekemper argues that if we are ever really to understand time, then we cannot do without philosophy. But Barbour disagrees: science will ultimately take precedence over philosophy, he says.

Meanwhile, two very different thinkers tackle the thorny question of identity. Entrepreneur, CEO and author Margaret Heffernan argues that ignorance might not simply be the absence of knowledge, but, in some cases, a deliberate act. If ignorance is a choice, the question is: who are we really trying to protect? By contrast, philosopher Barry C Smith questions the limits of consciousness. From Freud to neuroscience, consciousness has been dethroned many times. So why do we still cling to the idea that we are in control?

Lastly, Oxford professor Rana Mitter interrogates China’s role on the world stage and the difference between soft and hard power. Global influence, he argues, is now a matter of economic, rather than military, strength. But is this a short cut to Armageddon?


 Image credit: Jef Safi


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