The Problems With Philosophy These Days

by David M. Petersen

It seems to me that people doing philosophy these days, in general, have a kind of fear of abstract concepts. I'm sure this can be linked to not wanting to go too far out on a limb with one's colleagues, who are also experiencing the same fear. I think that this situation leads to very skeptical, anti-visionary philosophy that is unable to 'get out of its own way,' so to speak.

I have to ask, where does this go as far as the future is concerned? The post-modernists believe that we can never build a metaphysics that can completely describe reality, and are thus content to smugly shoot down every attempt to do so. I, however, believe that we must continue to try to build a metaphysics, and that this process is completely necessary for the continued evolution of the human race. If philosophy is currently unable to do this, than it has ceased to perform its most valuable function for humanity, its large-scale visionary capacity in relation to visualizing ultimate reality.

This is an ultimately huge difference that exists between skeptical and visionary philosophy. Skeptical philosophy goes nowhere and makes no contribution to humanity unless it is combined and used in tandem with visionary philosophy as a governor, so to speak, keeping abstract claims from becoming too wild. A ramification of this ultra-skeptical situation that seems to exist today is that the people "doing" philosophy appear to need way too much support for abstract assertions - such as the idea that the universe is a four dimensional object and our lives are four dimensional 'objects' inside it, for example. I can visualize this very well, but counting it out in a paper becomes very difficult. What is really required is that the reader try harder to visualize it using his imagination, because I will never be able to detail this picture in my head with language in a way that forms the image perfectly for the reader, without his help.

What is really needed is new way of thinking to do philosophy. Imaginative, integrational thinking, not analytical thinking. In other words, philosophy has become an endeavor that involves synthesis and integration of large ideas, or looking alot more at the forest than the trees. The analytical, hairsplitting, reductionist tendency that people display has worn out it's welcome. This overly analytical tendency makes it hard to see very big relationships, which is what your working with when you are looking at reality on a large scale; how does evolution reconcile with the idea of a creator, for example?

In other words, philosophy has more to do with the way an abstract framework of ideas fits together to explain reality, not how incredibly well each abstract idea can be supported, although this is of course is important as well. It's really a matter of emphasis. I've had several instructors ask me, "but how can what you say be proved?" My response to this is that I'm doing philosophy, not science, and what I say doesn't have to be proved. It only has to be compelling so that it could possibly lead science or religion, and thus humanity, in a certain direction.


Below are some links to papers that were critiqued by my instructors. Follow the links within the text to see the resulting debate:


The Continuity of the Universe


A Critique of Nietzsche



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