Ron Dai, PHD
The declaration of the end of philosophy by renowned philosopher of last century marked a troublesome stalling of the development of philosophy as a subject; so far the mainstream of professional philosophy has not recovered from this predicament. Therefore it has come to a moment that the development of philosophy, as the foundation of human civilization, is in need of a radical revolution. In this writing various causes behind the decline of professional philosophy would be examined and the prospects for the upcoming philosophical revolution would be briefly discussed.
Keywords: philosophy, decline, professional, logic, social dynamics, writing
It was found by Western philosophers in last century that professional philosophy was in the course of dying out; almost one century later the mainstream of philosophy is still in the midst of this inertial weakening streak. In order to get human civilization out of this global low ebb of philosophical development, we need first have an in depth knowledge of the reasons causing this decline. To facilitate our understanding on this we might simply describe what would affect the development of philosophy as two opposing forces: the one that would promote philosophical development and the one that would cause the decline of philosophical development. The outcome of the battle between these two forces within any region at a certain historical period would determine the rise and fall of the philosophical development at that spot. Obviously, in the past century or so, the pro philosophy force has been far less than sufficient to resist the power of the opposite force, and as a result it comes to a turning point at this generation for the need of a new global philosophical revolution.
When witnessed the severe setback of professional philosophy in last century, some wise people who were not professional philosophers came forward in an effort to rescue the deeply troubled professional philosophy. Jaspers, a renowned German philosopher of last century, when recalled why he changed his career from well paid profession of medical doctor to philosophy, made the following statement in his famous writing "My philosophy":
As the realization overcame me that, at the time, there was no true philosophy at the universities, I thought that facing such a vacuum even he who was too weak to create his own philosophy, had the right to hold forth about philosophy, to declare what it once was and what it could be.
Obviously, the joining of an outstanding talent like Jaspers did not slow down the decline of the professional philosophy because very soon his German compatriot announced that philosophy was dead . As a matter of fact, the dying process of philosophy did not begin in last century: the seed of the downturn of professional philosophy was planted more than two centuries ago when people started to be trained as professional philosophers in university classrooms and when the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant claimed that there is no more room for further development of metaphysics. Hegel, another German master after Kant, made such a lament in his great work “the Science of Logic” :
The fact is that there no longer exists any interest either in the form or the content of metaphysics or in both together.
For this, Hegel continued to comment:
If it is remarkable when a nation has become indifferent to its constitutional theory, to its national sentiments, its ethical customs and virtues, it is certainly no less remarkable when a nation loses its metaphysics, when the spirit which contemplates its own pure essence is no longer a present reality in the life of the nation.
For a long period of time in history after Hegel, not only was metaphysics tagged as a type of erroneous practices or even used as the title for various nonmainstream spiritual practices such as witchcraft or shamanism and so on, but also were many people tagged as metaphysics and then academically alienated or politically persecuted around the world. Furthermore, metaphysics was attacked in many places simply using the name Hegel or his famous dialectic logic. What would Hegel have felt if he could have foreseen that to happen?
Philosophy is a very special subject not only because it once conceived many nowadays independent subjects but also because current operations and future development of philosophy would impact every aspect of human life. On the other hand, as we might see in this writing, the edifice of philosophy is also profoundly intertwined with real life activities. For this reason, neither philosophy itself nor the reason why philosophy is declining as a professional discipline could be fully understood without looking into its connection with the real world of real people. This writing would provide an in depth dynamic analysis on the causes behind the predicament of philosophy, by targeting at the field of philosophy as a dynamic whole including its subject matters, approaches, human nature and social dynamic influences involved, as well as historical development pattern. This is a necessary way to analyze the issue in question since what might have caused philosophy to decline does not simply lie in the issues studied in the field as it might appear to be, but involves all major aspects of the subject as a social field, which warrants some dissections of the system of philosophy into very minute details as would be done in this writing. One tricky part of doing so is that it would inevitably involve analysis of human role in the system, which might be considered as not very politically correct when viewed from certain standpoints of view. However, without touching interest-based human factors we might not be able to have a clear understanding on why philosophy as a foundation of human civilization has been getting into its current weakening situation.
2. The energy required for philosophical development
The development of philosophy as a subject needs energy, just like the development of any other subject. The energy for philosophy as a science to develop mainly comes from two sources: 1) real happenings in real world and 2) achievements in the history of philosophical development.
Compared with experts in other fields, professional philosophers seem to be particularly passionate about emphasizing the history of philosophy, including the previous theories and related stories. As a consequence many people today are confusedly equating professional philosophy to the history of philosophy or to the reviews of philosophical works written in the past. We might sense such kind of confusion not only from amateur enthusiasts of philosophy but also from professional philosophers. While the basic principles in other fields are normally the first to be introduced to lay person by the professionals in those fields, the introductions by philosophers to non-philosophy audience could normally be characterized by a long list of names in the history of philosophy, which might be supplemented by volumes of summaries of or comments about their works by critics. This is because that the system of philosophy is normally divided according to the authors of various theories (e.g. the philosophy of Lao Tzu, the philosophy of Kant, the philosophy of Hegel, etc.), which is reasonable and is determined by the nature of the study of philosophy. However, the problem is that when introducing those historical figures, in most cases, not the original words of their works but some paraphrased summaries and comments by others are presented, which could often be found full of misunderstandings when compared to the original writings of the authors (one typical example is the use of Hegel as a symbol to attack metaphysics). As a matter of fact, even though previous achievements are important to the development of philosophy during any historical period, they are indeed not as critical as historical achievements to the development in many other academic fields that are constrained within certain existing frameworks or need to follow some well known formula. The main source of driving power for philosophical development should be whatever exists or happens in the real (physical, cultural, and logic) world rather than historical achievements.
As a professor in the department of philosophy, Kant was already aware of the defect of only learning the historical achievement of philosophy and the possible shortcomings as a consequence of doing so. He believed that real philosophy would not come from classrooms, or in other words, learning philosophy as a discipline would not create real philosophers. His understanding of this is very clearly reflected in his lecture note "Introduction to Logic" for students of philosophy discipline:
How, indeed, can Philosophy be learned? Every philosophical thinker builds his own work on the ruins, so to speak, of another; but nothing has ever been built that could be permanent in all its parts. It is, therefore, impossible to learn philosophy, even for this reason, that it does not yet exist. But even supposing that there were a philosophy actually existing, yet no one who learned it could say of himself that he was a philosopher, for his knowledge of it would still be only subjectively historical.
This very defect pointed out by Kant ironically became the reason why professional philosophers tend to emphasize the role of the history of the subject more than people in other professional fields as I mentioned earlier.
The most important source of energy for philosophy as a science to develop is indeed real happenings in real world, which determines that it is less important for philosophical workers to continue on the same track of what has been built by previous philosophers than people in other fields. A major feature of any philosophical theory is that it neither requires complex mathematical derivation nor relies on lab experiments and natural observations which would require specific equipments; the direct source of materials for philosophers to work on should be real life in real world plus historical literatures. Although historical achievements of philosophy do help people to open their mind in the explorations of the world, people do not need to use anything established previously (e.g. Newton’s Law) to work out their own philosophical theories as professionals in other academic fields. Consequently, philosophy is rather an open subject in the sense that it is not controlled by a set of strict axioms like math or contained in a framework of fundament laws or rules for operations like natural sciences, and it does not even need sensory stimulations as artistic works and accordingly does not depend on any technology or material for creating those stimulations. This makes philosophy such a special subject that is the most difficult to truly master but also in the meantime the easiest to make a fake or apparent expert of it. For the same reason, philosophy is also a subject that directly and inescapably influences every aspect of the life of everyone but still is full of fantasies and falsehoods. While misleading theories might cause immediate disasters in many other subjects, unrealistic fantasies and falsehoods in philosophy normally are of no danger of immediate practical disasters despite of their wrongful nature; and thus people would tend to ignore the negative impact of wrong philosophy since they might not even be able to sense the negativity when it leads along wrong direction.
One consequence of the lack of hard criteria in philosophy to judge right and wrong as in natural sciences is that the fight between right and wrong in the history of philosophy has been more difficult and thus much fiercer in many cases than in many other fields. Although logical consistency is a powerful tool for judging the validity of a philosophy theory, when things are getting complicated with subtle logic deep behind surface patterns, it might be very difficult even for professional philosophers to comprehend and tell right from wrong, not to mention ordinary people in the society. This makes it easy for sophists to play apparently logically valid but indeed specious futile word games, and specious word games have been the most powerful killer of philosophy since ancient times. Besides logical consistency, there are some other soft criteria for evaluating the worth of philosophy theories which include the clarity of discourse, beauty of composition, positive social impact, and so on. However, similar to the judgment of logic consistency, judgment based on those soft criteria is not easy and would highly depend upon the intellectual capability of the person who makes the judgment. Because of the lack of hard criteria, understanding philosophy theories, and thus appreciating the worth of the theories, would highly depend upon the mental echo, or intellectual resonance, between the readers and the writers, no matter for the logic or for the beauty and social values of the writings.
3. Two main causes behind the decline of philosophy as a discipline
People often attribute the decline of philosophy as a discipline to the rise of natural science, claiming that when the natural science was rising up it gradually took the place of philosophy. The main reason for people to have this misconception, generally speaking, is lack of understanding about the factors that get in the way of the development of philosophy as a discipline; however, when professional philosophers made comments like that, it might be considered as shirking their own responsibility, especially when they are renowned figures in the field. Although the rise of science would have some impact upon the development of philosophy as a discipline, as will be discussed later in this article, the main causes for the decline of philosophy are rooted in two areas: the content of philosophy and the social dynamics involved in the profession of philosophy, while the former also includes the understanding about what philosophy is really about.
Deficiencies of previous philosophical achievements in history are the primary cause for the mainstream philosophy to decline, which includes two types: the first is the intrinsic deficiency of philosophical achievements for creating new philosophy theories as noted by Kant , and the second is the insufficient help provided by the existing philosophical theories to the future development of philosophy, partly because of the deficiency in the logic of the existing theories. These two types of deficiencies are not the same but related. If the existing philosophical theories could have provided adequate help to the future development of philosophy, naturally, the deficiency pointed out by Kant would not exist; but on the other hand, we need pay special attention to the deficiency of the content of historical philosophical achievements because of its uniqueness compared to deficiency of contents of other subjects.
About Western philosophy, Whitehead said so famously:
The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.
At the core of the philosophy of Plato is his theory of forms; however, Plato did not really elucidate very clearly what on earth the Forms or Ideas are, otherwise not only many footnotes could have been saved but also many mistakes in those footnotes could have been avoided. Although Plato’s Forms have been discussed abstractly, that concept is behind our general confusion about the relationship between the ideal and reality, which is still and would continue to be a puzzling issue for scholars to ponder upon. When people tried to apprehend eternal truths from the noisy world, they often have to resort to the power of ideal models; but ideals presented in theories tend to have two shortcomings: 1) ideal concepts employed in theories might come with limitations on its own logic; 2) there might be deviations between the ideal concepts and reality. They are indeed two common shortcomings of any theory in any academic subject. Generally speaking, the cumulative inheritance within each subject and the feedback from observations or quantitative results of applying theories in practices would normally offset the negative impact of above mentioned two shortcomings and push the subject continuously move forward. But in the history of the development of philosophy, when people were examining existing theories, they often failed to enjoy the significance demonstrated by those ideal realms, but only interested in criticizing how much the ideals of the theories were deviating from reality; the new theories that were created based upon the criticisms of old ones would inevitably introduce new ideals, and then some of its valuable ideas would be denied by others later on because of their own deviations from reality. One negative consequence of this type of practice is that we might see some severe pause or setback of disciplinary development from time to time in history, the worst case of which so far might be the century’s long attack on metaphysics.
However, the focus on the deviations of ideals from reality happened with its own rationality since the most important value of a theory, after all, is to provide positive guidance to activities in real world. But obviously the main reason why philosophers might sound worrying more about the deviation of the ideals from the reality than professionals in other fields is the lack of the hard criteria of judgment in philosophy. In other fields, with the understanding that no ideal value would match any real number exactly, people would look for some satisfactory tolerance of errors; however, in philosophy, there is no such thing of sophisticated numerical tolerance of errors. The consequence is that people would be pickier on the deviations of the ideals from reality which are easier to apprehend than the vitality of the logic behind a theory. The setback of the development of philosophy caused by this kind of practices could also cause discontinuity of social rational thinking. This negative effect is a phenomenon peculiar to the development of philosophy. In addition to that, the development of philosophy is also limited by the general level of the advancement of human civilization (especially the level of scientific and technological development) at any moment of history. Many ways of thinking common to nowadays people were impossible 2000 years ago since the social and the natural logic behind could not even be sensed at that time. Although ideally we might say that even in Plato's time the social and the natural logic that we face today could also be abstracted out through speculation, but the limitations in real life made it so difficult to do and thus that kind of speculation was virtually impossible. Such historic limitations itself is an important cause for the insufficient help provided by the content of the existing philosophical theories to the future development of philosophy that we discussed earlier.
3.1 What is philosophy interested in?
In fact this is also related to such an old question of "what on earth is philosophy doing?"
The word "philosophy" comes from the Greek philos (loving) + sophos (wise) meaning literally love of wisdom. This meaning itself demonstrates the wisdom of the ancient Greeks because that the love of wisdom is what fundamentally differentiates a true philosophy from sophistry as well as from other disciplines or craftsmanship that focus on specific knowledge and skills. For this reason, the word philosophy represents a universal knowledge system for no matter what the content of any specific philosophical theory is, it is the crystallization of the wisdom of the philosophers.
One of the main reasons that caused the mainstream professional philosophy to decline is that the mastery of knowledge about the history of philosophy or comment about philosophical works, instead of the love of wisdom as expected by the ancient Greeks, has become a major interest in the field of philosophy. It has even become the main measure of a person's knowledge of philosophy. It has been quite a popular thing that discussions or comments on past literatures, rather than presentations of new ideas and perspectives, become not only what philosophy writers are most proud of but also what reviewers of philosophy writings are most interested in and valued. It is not rare when how many references cited, especially how many popular ones, rather than how many valuable ideas presented becomes the main consideration for determining whether an article would be accepted to publish or not. This tells that not only authors are often lack of the capacity for creative thinking but also the reviewers are often lack of the capacity for understanding and appreciating novel creative thinking. Consequently people tend to focus their attentions to the number of references cited, especially how many references written by famous authors, since that is a hard criterion and easy to judge. Therefore, the ancient standard for independent speculative thinking or philosophizing has become obsolete and traded for the hard criterion of how many past works are reviewed or cited in a philosophical writing.
In fact, as an open discipline that is established based on love of wisdom, the subject matters of philosophy should cover all being(s) that exist(s) or could have existed, or more precisely speaking, the relations between all being(s) since we learn about any being through its relationship with others.
However, over the past few centuries, the mainstream philosophy has got very confused about what philosophy on earth should be interested in, and that confusion finally led to the announcement of the death of philosophy in Europe last century .It might sound surprising that this confusion was caused to quite a big extent by one of the best occupational skills of philosophers: summarizing and simplification. Over the history, some philosophers often described philosophy as finding solutions to so called big questions. Although different philosophers might have been considering different questions as big, what could be viewed as big by philosophers must be something like “what is being, what is human, what is universe, what can we do, and so on”. While such kind of simplification could help philosophers to organize their own thoughts and help readers understand theories of philosophy, it would also greatly mislead readers and philosophers themselves as well. In fact, the reason why philosophers could reduce the studies of philosophy to answers to a few so-called big questions is because that there are complex relations between different beings, and philosophy is interested in exploring all the relations behind all beings, and thus different philosophers could reach similar simple questions from their own different life experiences or different quests for different life issues.
Nonetheless, although people could classify many complex issues with a simple question, knowing the answer for a simple question, or more precisely learning some common features of a collection of real world issues, is still very far away from knowing the logical connections behind those issues, which could not be deduced by interpretation of answers to those simple big questions. Therefore, if not as a convenient means of organizing knowledge, then the reduction of complicated philosophy system into quests for big questions would be nothing more than creating illusory pleasure of having gained ultimate understandings; meanwhile, by narrowing the goal of philosophy, it could also be very misleading for people, professional and non-professional, when dealing with issues in philosophy. On the other hand, the fact that different philosophers could reduce philosophy to different sets of big questions reminds us that simplifications could only serve as a means to facilitate their discussion upon issues but by no means as the real ultimate questions of philosophy as often called so. This is not only because people could arrive different sets of big questions from different angles, but also because we are definitely not sure whether all those big questions could accommodate all the existing logical connections behind all being(s), just like that we already know a great part of universe but we still cannot say that we already know the complete universe.
In the past centuries the meaning of philosophy has been repeated narrowed by influential philosophers, but that could not make change of the fundamental nature of philosophy, which is to study all the relations behind all being(s). This is because that the human nature of loving wisdom would always drive people, especially those with strong philosophical speculation ability, to ponder upon the hidden relations behind whatever they are experiencing or observing in life. This kind of naturally happened intellectual activities would not intentionally follow any artificial definitions, no matter given by which level’s authoritative person, and the results of these activities often do not fall into any known category of disciplines but exhibit the love of wisdom, and thus they would be naturally classified as philosophy. Thus no matter what kind of confining interpretations would be given by big men in professional philosophy, with whatever motivations, for what philosophy is about, philosophy as a discipline will always be interested in all the relations behind all being(s). But on the other hand, the subject matter of any particular academic discipline obviously must belong to the existing relations behind all being(s), and therefore how to draw the line between philosophy and other specific disciplines would naturally become a concern. First of all, we might see a natural and simple division here: in principle philosophy is concerned with all the relations behind all being(s), but when it comes to a field that has been explored by some specific discipline, philosophy needs to get help from that specific discipline to obtain relevant knowledge. However, due to the fact that philosophy and specific sciences would follow different methodologies, even in the territories of specific sciences (e.g. economics, futurist studies) philosophy might also play important but different roles from those specific sciences.
Social dynamics is another major source that contributes to the decline of philosophy as a discipline, in addition to the weakness in the content of philosophy (including misunderstanding about what philosophy should be interested in). Here the so-called social dynamics is referring to the ensemble of all dynamic factors that might affect human social activities. For example, the philosophical views of a graduate student would generally be consistent with his professor, either because he does agree with his professor's views, or because he does not understand or does not have other views, or he simply wants to please his professor so that he could smoothly get his degree, and so on. The negative impact of social dynamics upon the development of philosophy might far beyond what might be assumed to be by many people who have never thought about this matter.
Philosophy as a discipline is to survive and develop in the real world. The need to survive in the real world creates a serious temptation for professional philosophers to place the pursuit and protection of personal interests of survival above various needs for the development of the subject, just like in any other disciplines. The reversed priorities of the needs of the subject and the needs for personal benefits has been exacerbated by the openness of philosophy, especially by the fact that philosophy lacks the hard criteria as in natural sciences or the capacity to be easily apprehended and appreciated as for arts. Human society is a complex organic structure with inequality of social positions as a basic characteristic; the so called civilized human society is able to operate because of this inequality, which is also true for academic community. The status of people in a society is sustained by a complicated dynamics for which fairness is the main driving force,. For the development of a discipline, its true vitality comes from the inherent logic of the theories for its subject; all other would either help or hinder the growth of this vitality. Thus, the stronger the cohesion of the inherent logic of a subject, the less possible for its vitality to be affected by social factors that are not directly related to its inherent logic, vice versa. It would be easier for the development of a subject to be influenced by social interests or its particular human relational environment when the cohesion of its inherent logic gets weaker, which could cause the subject to be weakened. If we can agree on the above discussion then it is not difficult to conclude: the development of philosophy is easier to be influenced by social interests than other disciplines for its openness as we mentioned earlier.
As Kant pointed out that no one can call himself a philosopher who cannot philosophize ; however, unlike in other disciplines with the help of strict mathematical framework, clear observation results, detailed statistics, or visual expressions where people could easily reach commonly agreed judgment of value by directly making use of the inherent logic, as mentioned earlier that the appreciation and recognition of any philosophizing would largely come out of the intellectual agreement or resonance between readers and writers. This determines that, based on the principle of fairness, various factors that are not related to the inherent logic of philosophy, including social factors and some other academic factors, would be severely involved in the judgment of the academic quality of philosophy works, which would then further influence the general development of philosophy.
Two factors deserve special attention, which are important for philosophy writings but not directly related to the inherent logic:
These two factors are easy to be recognized and approved by others in general and thus very easy to be accepted as the objective criteria for judging the quality of a philosophical writing. However, although those two factors are often considered by the public, professional and non-professional, as an integral part of philosophical vitality, they are really not. We have discussed earlier that the knowledge about the history of philosophy, no matter how much of it or how good of it, does not make a person good at creating new philosophy; meanwhile the relationship between writing proficiency and the development of philosophy might far more complicated than most people would have thought.
3.2 Philosophy and Writing
For most people philosophy primarily means philosophical aphorisms by some historical celebrities and some personal speculation about life, which usually do not involve lengthy writing; but for a dedicated philosopher, professional or a non-professional, writing is a very important part of philosophy. The significance of writing for philosophy could be well demonstrated by comparing philosophy with science and literature. For scientific papers, since the most important criteria for judging scientific achievements are mathematical derivations and experimental results, people are most concerned about the so-called substantive content rather than literary style (of course, if a paper is also literarily good in addition, then it will be more appreciated); this is why there are certain formats for scientific writings and it is even taught in middle school how to write scientific papers. For literature works, writing of course plays a fundamentally important role since that is basically what literature is about. Compared with these two extreme cases, scientific and literature writings, the significance of writing for philosophy is not very easy to grasp. On the one hand due to the fact that philosophy is for wisdom it is easy to give most people an impression that, similar to scientific writings, only the content instead of the style of writing is important for philosophical writings; but on the other hand not only all the past orthodox philosophy theories are lengthy in writing, but also anyone who is serious about philosophical discussion would soon find out that the biggest challenge he would face is not how to think creatively but how to discuss his ideas through a good writing, for in the process of writing, not only would new ideas be made more satisfactory but also would some seemingly creative but immature or flawed views be eliminated.
The quality of a philosophical paper is normally not judged by ordinary people who do not care about writing but by those (professional or non-professional) who do care about writing, and thus the proficiency of writing would naturally become an important part of judgment. However, the important role of writing in the development of philosophy also becomes important non-philosophical factor that might hinder the development of philosophy. The special relationship between philosophy and writing might be very confusing. Simply put, A good writing skill (including the knowledge of history and a good literary proficiency with quick-witted smooth discourse plus good sense of humor) does not make a person capable of developing a new philosophy; not only that, those with outstanding writing skills but without true talent of philosophizing would be the most powerful to mislead the readers to accept non-philosophical factors including sophistry as the core of philosophy, and thus become the most formidable impediments to the development of philosophy. But on the other hand, the development of philosophy cannot be completely independent of philosophical writing, which makes philosophy different from many other disciplines.
Philosophy theories are created by kneading thinking and writing together. Not only is the formation of any philosophy theory inseparable from philosophical writing, but also are many philosophical ideas produced in the process of writing, and thus it is not exaggerating to describe writing as the production process of philosophy. But philosophical writing is different from general writing even though it requires the general writing skills as its basis. Despite the fact that the development of philosophy depends on writing it would be a big mistake to make the general or literary writing skills the main criterion for philosophical writings, which indeed is an important reason to lead Western philosophy go astray in the past century. In fact, philosophical writing is a very special type of writing. Although it is impossible to completely differentiate philosophical writing from general writing, the same as that it is impossible to separate human mind from flesh, but we still can appreciate the value of a really good philosophical article based upon its rigorousness and comprehensiveness as well as whether it could provide some new perspectives of thinking and so on. Philosophical writing is a special topic and deserves further special discussions dedicated to it.
In addition to the academic factors that are not directly related to the inherent logic of philosophy, some academically related social factors would also affect the development of philosophy. The social selection mechanisms  for the authoritative persons to be created in the field and their ways to affect others to survive and grow within the field are among the most important ones of these. One very special mechanism among those is the mechanism of publishing philosophical books and articles. This is because the publication of philosophy books and articles is directly related to the development of philosophy as a living body, and also because it directly shows how the social resources, under the influence of the social factors within the field of philosophy, are distributed for the development of philosophy. This would provide a typical example of the influence of social dynamics upon the development of philosophy.
3.3 How philosophy operates in life
The development of philosophy is not only impacted by the way philosophy theories are created but also greatly impacted by how philosophy operates in real life of real world. While rigorous and thoughtful writings are the backbone of philosophy, the operations of philosophy in real world might take very different ways from what philosophers might expected when they work on their theories. In fact, one peculiar thing of philosophy is the way it operates in life. Philosophy as a subject is developed through sophisticated theories that provides in depth knowledge about logic and metaphysics. We might even say that human civilization is constructed on top of the system of sophisticated philosophical theories. However, unlike scientific theories that are constructed based on strict logic and have to be used with strict logic, when philosophy operates in real life it does not always follow strict logic or in meaningful metaphysical forms. Very often in everyday life people might use the same aphorism for very opposite meanings in different circumstances and it is also not very strange to see people to use false philosophy in life but end up with positive outcome. This apparently messy nature of philosophy could make most orthodox philosophers including the greatest ones in history feel very troublesome, and it is actually a basic reason why false philosophy or sophistry could gain their popularities among some people. However, since the way how philosophy operates should also be a study subject of philosophy, we should not simply ignore the non-orthodox or casual ways of philosophical usage but need to have better understanding of them.
In general, we might divide the ways of philosophical operation into three layers: 1) fundamental theoretical layer; 2) social practical layer; 3) personal psychological layer.
Obviously the above said three layers are not clearly separated but entangled with each other. Let’s first look at the 3rd layer, i.e. the personal psychological layer. At this layer, philosophy might act in apparently most erratic way since sometimes wrong application of the good philosophy or use of false philosophy might work as good as correct application of good philosophy. However, despite the fact that philosophy might act irrationally at this layer, personal psychological nature is actually also a very important base for any rigorous philosophical theories to function rationally in real life. This is because unlike those that are constructed based on some restrictive axioms or physical laws, as an open system, philosophy theories normally work on top of some preliminary constructions, and human psychological acceptance of those not strictly versed preliminary constructions is an important base for philosophy to operate. The most productive way of reading good philosophical works is to a large extent some kind of psychological resonance between the readers and the writers. This is especially true when we deal with some obsolete languages used in ancient works. However, since logic itself is connected laterally and vertically in space and time across any cultural dimension, although wrong applications of good philosophy or uses of false philosophy might bring some limited positive effect, the continuation of wrong practices with philosophy would inevitably bring forth detrimental consequences in personal life.
Then let’s look at the second layer, i.e. the social practical layer. Since philosophy operates in a society through its effects on the individuals of the society, it might seem that we don’t need to pay special attention to this layer. However, there are three reasons for us to look into this layer in addition to the personal psychological layer: 1) personal philosophy would normally bear marks of some common philosophy at societal level even though there might be many contradicting philosophies in a society. Therefore, the knowledge about this fact and how a person’s philosophy of life is influenced by the society is of practical and theoretical value for understanding how philosophy operates in life; 2) at societal level, philosophy might influence people through various ways including explicit expression of philosophical verses or implicit direction through political, economical, and cultural interactions; 3) Similar to the personal psychological layer as discussed above, in social practices wrong applications of good philosophy and uses of false philosophy could also create limited positive outcome under certain circumstances. But since at societal level, common philosophy would impact a multitude of people concurrently, the negative side of erroneous practices of philosophy would be more obvious than at personal psychological level.
Lastly, let’s look at the fundamental theoretical layer. This is the backbone of philosophy. The education and development of philosophy is mainly carried on at this layer, and thus strictness and thoughtful would be the basic requirement for people who are making use of philosophy at this layer. Besides, applications of good philosophy and corrections of false philosophy at the other two layers would need input from this layer.
3.4 Human Fear of Philosophy
In addition to the internal academic and non-academic influences as discussed above, the development of philosophy would also face social resistance from many people, and one reason behind the social resistance is the fear of philosophy. There are three main factors behind human fear of philosophy: 1) generally speaking philosophy reveals truth and some people might be afraid that truth could hurt their interests; 2) philosophy theories are usually very difficult to grasp; 3) philosophy theories often directly deal with the ways of thinking and people are often scared to be told how to change their ways of thinking. The first factor has been discussed in volume over human history and the second factor is trivial common knowledge. I will only discuss the third factor in this context.
We might have a better understanding about why people might fear the change of their ways of thinking by analogizing the role of mind to the role of the boss of a business. When a business suffered loss due to poor management, the boss might fire some employees or change some managers, but as long as the company is privately owned, then the only person who would not be replaced is the boss himself (herself), even if the boss was the main person who caused the loss and others just did whatever the boss asked them to do. This is because the company belongs to the boss, replacing the boss would mean that the boss loses his (her) ownership of the property; therefore, the replacement of the boss is beyond all feasible options to the boss. In human society, individuals or social groups act basically in accordance with various social or personal philosophies. In this sense, the philosophically influenced mind is the boss of individuals or social groups. When a person or the majority of a society is dissatisfied with the existing situation, it is easy for them to turn to some scientific or technological or even literary books for help. But if you then point out to them that their main problem is actually their own way of thinking and thus what they should really look for is a new philosophy that can change their way of thinking, then you would more likely be rejected just similar to an attempt of replacing the boss of a privately owned business.
Since a new philosophy would normally attempt to change some popular ways of thinking, the fear of change their ways of thinking would often make many people view any new philosophy as intimidating. Furthermore, the emergence of new philosophy would not only threaten the social status of those who have established their authoritative positions based upon some old philosophical systems, but might even cause some professional and non-professional people, who are familiar with some old philosophical theories, to feel the loss of their own importance to certain degree. These people might resist the new philosophy as a defense of their own importance or their social status.
3.5 The impact of the rise of science upon the development of philosophy
As mentioned earlier, people often blame the rise of science for the decline of philosophy. However, the fact is that the rise of science provides tremendous power that is essentially favorable for the development philosophy with its subject matter covers all relations behind all being(s). And thus the rise of science is not a menace to the development of philosophy as a subject at all, but it does become a threat to those professionals of philosophy whom have been considered by the public as equivalent to the discipline of philosophy itself; and the rise of science is not a threat to the potential of the development of philosophy through those professional philosophers either, but it does pose a greater challenge to professional philosophers and thus become a threat to their social power and personal survival. This is because if the rise of science had any negative impact upon the development of philosophy that would be to increase the difficulty of the professionals during the development of philosophy, not a threat to philosophy itself at all, whether as a professional discipline or as an integral part of human civilization. The main challenge to philosophy as a discipline caused by the rise of science is that the territory for traditional philosophy has been made narrower.
This is because each subject of natural sciences, when it would have grown mature enough after being nurtured by philosophy and become independent, would take away a piece of land that might have been in the realm of traditional philosophy for thousands of years. This might bring forth a sense of crisis of running out of sources of ideas for those professional philosophers who stay in the profession of philosophy after the divorce of some scientific subjects from philosophy. It has been a very common practice in the field of philosophy that philosophers find their research topics from literatures of past philosophical works, most of which are in the territory of traditional philosophy. Consequently, once some more part of the territory of traditional philosophy is sliced off by newly emerged subjects, it would be more difficult for them to find research topics and future directions. This has been having obvious serious impact upon the development of philosophy as a discipline. Since the professionals in the discipline of philosophy have not been able to make any effective effort to offset this impact, some authoritative figure of the scientific community in the 21st century repeated the famous verdict of last century that philosophy as a profession is dead.
If we look back at the development of world philosophy over last century, we might find that the most fruitful work in modern Western philosophy was in the area of logic, a fundamental component of the ancient subject of philosophy. The British philosopher Bertrand Russell is rewarded a Nobel Prize for his work in that area. However, his work in logic soon became an independent subject of mathematics, together with the work of mathematician Gottlob Frege. The existentialism, which basically attempts to develop along the line of Hegel's ontology  and his phenomenology and promotes an anti-traditional social value as its principle of life, has failed to bring real vitality to the development of philosophy due to the lack of natural basis in its logic. Although some politically biased philosophies did cause the world's political landscape to change dramatically in last century, they also failed to lead the development of philosophy itself despite their proponents claimed so. Philosophy of science helped to clarify the boundary of natural science and thus provided a useful guidance for scientific thinking and helped the popularization of natural science across the world. However, it not only failed to bring sustained momentum to the development of philosophy, but even inadvertently brought confusion to the public that social problems should be studied by applying the methods of natural science. Since the logic territory of natural science is only a limited subset within the overall context of human civilization, any idea that studies of social problems must follow the approach of natural sciences is misleading.
Many fields that are considered as natural sciences, such as medical sciences and psychology, have been exclude from the territory of philosophy long time ago. Although many readers might relate anthropological and sociological studies to the professional field of philosophy, professionals in those fields would consider their work not as philosophical but as some special sciences which heavily rely on statistics and data collection. In contrast to those two fields, some other fields like economics and futurist studies are closer to the field of philosophy since the great logical complicacy in those fields could not be resolved by the power of high-tech and big data alone but would demand very sophisticated philosophical insight; unfortunately, on the contrary, philosophy has been greatly ignored in those fields, which contributes to the global crises we have been facing to in recent decades. Although philosophical discussions on political and ethical issues have always been ongoing, the current global crises and turbulences tell us that those discussions by professional philosophers in the particular areas obviously do not have much positive effect in the world. The influence of philosophy as a profession upon the development of nowadays theology is minimal. Knowledge about the importance of language for thinking especially philosophical thinking is also one important part of Western philosophy of last century; although the quest in this area is still open and could continue to be an important philosophical issue in the coming years, it seems to have been generally agreed that philosophical awareness in this area has been completed and the rest would be for psychology and linguistics to follow. Closely related to this is philosophy of mind, which would also continue to exist independently of but with the help of psychology. However, currently we have not seen any revolutionary breakthrough by professional philosophers in this area, while some folk philosophers who do not work as professional philosophers but directly work with grass root people have been quite active in this area, and they have brought many valuable thoughts to this area which have obviously not received enough attention from the professional circle.
It can be seen that before any revolutionary breakthrough could happen in the field of philosophy, the rise of science does indeed threaten the existence of philosophy as a profession by carving out massive piece of land from the territory of traditional philosophy and thus further marginalizing philosophy as a profession. In addition, perhaps ironically, when the development of mainstream philosophy is virtually stalling, it is found that people are still far behind a fully understanding of many classic works of philosophy written in human history, which would also be one of the issues that need attention by philosophers in the future.
4. Closing Words
The torrent of philosophy started off from ancient Greek (as well as some other places around the world) and passed through the river of history for three thousand years. She has been nurturing our civilization and giving birth to rich amount of fruits, while at the meantime it has also been continuously drawing new energy out of the civilization as its own driving power. But finally in the latest few centuries she lost the momentum against the dissipative resistance on her way and has gradually winded into narrow and shallow water.
We could already get an idea from the above discussion in this writing, which is by no means exhaustive, that the causes behind the decline of mainstream philosophy as a discipline are quite complicated. To revitalize the historical flow of philosophy, we are in an urgent need of new revolution of mainstream philosophy, and this requires those who are not in the mainstream professional philosophy circle but dedicated in the development of philosophy to come out for the rescue of the mainstream philosophy once again, just like what Jaspers did in last century. Furthermore, the decline of the existing mainstream philosophy also provides an opportunity for those non-mainstream philosophers to inject fresh blood into the mainstream philosophy. When resources are given to a professional field by the society, it would always come with expectations that the society would be imparted with advanced professional knowledge of that field. This is also true to the professional field of philosophy that has been proudly occupying the resources provided by the society but has not succeeded to meet the public expectation in recent decades. As an enterprise of hundreds of years’ history, the mainstream professional philosophy has also established a complicated hierarchy within the field based on the level of academic and administrative authority (note: the meaning of so-called academic authority could be very relative in terms of academic capacity, and it might even not be entirely determined by academic concerns). This is very common for all disciplines when they get mature after years of development. The good side of this hierarchy is that a well established internal structure of a discipline could help to facilitate knowledge transfer, professional training, and organizing scientific research activities within the discipline; however, it is also the substantial foundation that sustains the reversal priority of personal interests and academic interests of a discipline as discussed earlier. Besides, although the public would generally view the professional organizations of any discipline as equivalent to that disciple itself for their positive role in the development of that discipline, the ultimate reason for the existence of any discipline is its internal logic rather than related professional bodies. For this reason, strictly speaking, although the professional bodies are in control of the resources allocated by the public to each relevant subject, the development of a subject is not entirely dependent on the existence of professional bodies, which is especially true for a discipline like philosophy that is of great openness as mentioned earlier. For the development of a professional academic discipline, the positive and negative influences of its internal social structure would vary as the vitality of its inherent logic changes. The weaker is the vitality, the easier would the social structure within the discipline be manipulated, with its resource and power, for personal interest related activities, and vice versa. However, on the other hand, the so-called non-professional development of a discipline (i.e. development by people who are not in the professional circle that occupies the resources for the discipline) is usually restricted by the professional social structure internal of the discipline. Therefore, the non-professional development of a discipline would indeed become not only more important but also relatively easier when the restriction upon them from the professional circle gets weaken when the professional development of the discipline stalls. As mentioned earlier, the seed of the plight of the mainstream professional philosophy was planted centuries ago, and one important outcome of that seed is that nowadays mainstream professional philosophy is lack of creativity and understanding of classic works even with many smartest people are devoting to it. That situation creates a pressing need for new ideas from outside of the professional circle to be introduced into the mainstream philosophy context. In this sense, the current difficult situation in the development of mainstream philosophy is indeed a prelude to the birth of some brand new philosophy to this world.
The greatest difficulty for those philosophers who are not working in the professional circle is the lack of a platform of their own, and thus it is difficult for their voice to be heard in society or academia. As a result, it is very difficult for them to communicate with people inside and outside the field. But they have a unique natural advantage that their thinking would not be bound by the framework set by the professional authority in the field because they are coming from a wide range of social background instead of sitting in the campus office building from the day of graduation, and for this reason their vision and ideas are closer to the ultimate goal of philosophy: all relations behind all being(s). As mentioned earlier, the real world happenings should be the main source of the development of philosophy, and thus the fact that non-mainstream philosophers who have been working in different sectors of the world are closer to various aspects of real world would enable them to directly absorb nourishment from life.
Although the fundamental significance of the development of philosophy lies in the development of its inherent logic, as a discipline philosophy cannot develop independently of those (professional or non-professional) people who are working in the field and living in the real world. Thus, the development of philosophy would experience a cyclical fluctuation because of various dissipative causes in social environment including human weaknesses. When it comes to the trough of the fluctuation, it means that a new revolution of philosophy is coming. After experienced a massive landslide of philosophy for more than one century, we are now facing the need of a great and thorough revolution of philosophy.
Over the past thousands of years, reflections about nature, logic, faith, human nature and society have provided the main sources of material for the speculations of philosophers. In nowadays society, the task of philosophical speculation about nature has been mainly assumed by the highly developed natural sciences, but as human beings continue to expand the fields of science and technology, philosophical thinking will also play a more and more important role in exploring new scientific areas. As for faith related philosophical thinking, due to the special nature of faith itself, it is hard to predict at this stage how it might move in the future, although philosophical thinking does help people in their faith life. Although logic has become a specialized discipline, a thorough philosophical exploration of social and natural logic would certainly continue and expect some new breakthrough in the future. Meanwhile we are still facing the need of a much delayed philosophical digestion about the impact of the shock waves of the rise of high-tech and globalized market economy upon the political, economic and cultural life on this globe. One serious issue behind the astonishing progress resulting from the advanced technology and economic systems is the replacement of human labor by machines which would pose much greater threats on human civilization than ever happened in human history. This would obviously involve some in depth analysis on human social dynamics which is still far beyond the reach of the general understanding of human civilization. Therefore, in the coming new philosophical revolution, reflections about human nature (including life, nature of mind, general psychology, and so on), logic, and social dynamics would still play very important roles. The major breakthrough in the development of philosophy in these areas would create inestimable impact upon human political, economic and cultural life; the knowledge taught in philosophy classrooms would also be gradually changed as this revolution goes on.
Based on the analysis we have gone through so far in this writing, we could reasonably foresee that the upcoming philosophical revolution would first occur in some areas which is not traditionally studied by mainstream philosophers, and then as the impact of this revolution upon social political, economic, and cultural life grows, it would finally get into the mainstream philosophy classrooms in universities and then high schools. This will be the necessary revolution for human civilization and will help human civilization to move back to the right track amid severe crises around the world after we enter the new millennium about 2 decades ago, no matter how it will come and how ferocious it will be……
 The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking, by M Heidegger, 1969 URL：http://evans-experientialism.freewebspace.com/heidegger8a.htm
 On My Philosophy, K Jaspers, 1941, URL: https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/jaspers.htm
 Kant once made such a declaration in his “Critique of Pure Reason”:
Metaphysics, according to the concept of it that I shall present, is the only one of all the sciences that can be made so complete that there’s nothing left for our descendants to do but teach it for whatever purposes they have—not being able to add anything to its content. (Or at least the only one of the sciences for which this can be done in a quite short time and with not much effort—though the effort must be concerted.)
------------ Critique of Pure Reason, by I Kant, 1787 URL: http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/assets/pdfs/kant1781part1.pdf
 Science of Logic, by G Hegel , 1816, URL: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/hl/hlprefac.htm, § 2
 Introduction to Logic, by I Kant, URL: https://archive.org/stream/kantsintroductio00kantuoft/kantsintroductio00kantuoft_djvu.txt
 Process and Reality -- An Essay in Cosmology, by AN Whitehead, URL: https://archive.org/stream/AlfredNorthWhiteheadProcessAndReality/Alfred%20North%20Whitehead%20-%20Process%20and%20Reality_djvu.txt
 To be listed here.
 The meaning of social dynamics is similar to the meaning of its counterpart in natural science, i.e. the dynamic cause and effect relations.
 A Short Introduction to the Paradoxical and Dynamic Nature of Fairness, by R. Dai, 2016, J. Civil & Legal Sciences, URL: http://www.omicsgroup.org/journals/a-short-introduction-to-the-paradoxical-and-dynamic-nature-of-fairness-2169-0170-1000168.php?aid=66991
 A brief discussion on fairness analysis, by R. Dai, 2015, Outskirts Press.
 The Grand Design: New Answers to the Ultimate Questions of Life，by S Hawking and L Mlodinow,2010, London: Bantam Press, 2010
 Phenomenology of Mind, Hegel, 1807 URL: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/ph/phconten.htm
 Dai R (2016) One Paradoxical Nature of Market Economy. J Socialomics 5: 167. doi:0.41 72/2167-0358.1000167, URL: http://www.omicsgroup.org/journals/one-paradoxical-nature-of-market-economy-2471-8726-1000167.php?aid=73880