Part One The Edifice is Declining
What is philosophy?
The soul of philosophy
How philosophy operates in life?
The subject matter of philosophy
Philosophy and writing
Energy required for philosophical development
Two main causes behind the decline
Human fear of philosophy
The impact of the rise of science
The ripple of postmodernity
Closing Words of Part One
Part Two For the Rescue of the Edifice
A Meaningful Task
A Task to be Carried On
A Grand Project for Peace
Closing Words of Part Two
- Classification of Fundamental Cultural Components
- Exercise 1 of Philosophizing
- Exercise 2 of Philosophizing
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. As a matter of fact, any reasonable person would agree that the significance of the decline of philosophy or any announcement that philosophy is dead should be referring to the fact that for quite a long time philosophy as a profession has failed to play the role of directional leadership as it is supposed to be. Or we might say that people are disappointed of professional philosophy for its failure to catch up with human cultural development in political and economic as well as scientific and technological fields in the past couple of centuries. For this the renowned scientist Hawking made his famous comment of “philosophy is dead” and said “Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics.”
But no one would reasonably deny the importance of teaching young generations in school about the history of philosophical development and how to live with the help of wisdom shared by philosophers in the past; no one would reasonably deny the importance of philosophizing even for scientists in their own researches especially those avant-garde studies in physics; no one would reasonably deny the meaningful hard work that professional philosophers have been doing in some specific areas of philosophy. No one would even reasonably deny the fact that some philosophical movements at different times and different parts of the world did cause some radical changes of political status of mankind on this globe. The problem with those exciting movements is that when all political illusions caused by some false philosophies or short-lived philosophical inspirations faded away, people found that they have not been offered with true insight of life and long-lasting wisdom for their daily social political and economical struggles, for new scientific challenges, for a better understanding of new interpersonal relationship and human-machine relationship, or for a heads up of where our civilization would be heading towards. The public has been disappointed by the performance of professional philosophers in those respects especially after we entered the 21st century. Or we might say that while main stream philosophers are focusing their researches on some detailed knowledge that has not been covered by any other independent science, this world is desperately in need of being charged with new wisdom for various big issues and for the direction of where our civilization should move towards in this new millennium.
After we entered the new millennium one decade and a half ago, the status of human civilization could be best characterized by the contrast between extremely advanced science & technology and severe social crises and dangerous global conflicts around the world. This characteristic of our time is delivering a very clear message: the development of science & technology alone could save neither our economy nor our civilization in the long run. People might not expect nowadays philosophers to do what wise men used to do in history as it is often said in legendary stories, but they might still hold the dream that some wise people in this world who are specialized in philosophy could always tell them the logical causes of the troubles in this world as they have been impressed by those stories. While people do love and enjoy the wisdom from previous philosophical works especially those classic literatures, they would find that they could not find sound logical explanations from their contemporary philosophical institutions about why this world is getting ever more absurd when most people are all claiming and seeming to do whatever they have to reasonably do. Then what is really missing? The answer is clear: we are missing a philosophical body that could provide us with up to date wisdom for our ever updated new challenges in life, or new philosophical speculation about the logic behind the social dynamic events, or practical advice about what would be the better choices for the community when face difficult issues, as Plato dreamed of.
Human capacity of comprehending nature and society by scientific means is still much behind the requirement of correctly discerning the logical intricacy and foreseeing the dynamic consequence when things are getting complicated in general. For example, it has become a trivial phenomenon around the world today that people often spend hundreds of millions of dollars to do some large-scale project by applying scientific methods, based upon the so-called big data calculation, but then end up with economic recession rather than prosperity. On the other hand, the ancient discipline of philosophy is supposed to be specialized in finding logical relations based on grand facts without involving very detailed information of data. Therefore, in order to better understand why we are not getting the directional intelligent help from the professional community of philosophy as human beings have been expected since ancient times, we need to have a in depth examination about what is philosophy indeed and what happened to the profession of philosophy in the past centuries, especially the past one, which is causing this once the queen of our civilization no longer honored as used to be; more importantly, we need to find out how we could, collectively or individually, come for the rescue of this ancient edifice of philosophy so that it might be revitalized for the good of our civilization. This is the motivation of the writing of this book.
Western philosophers started to notice in last century that professional philosophy was slipping into a course of dying out. Concerned with the severe difficult situation in professional philosophy, even people outside that professional community, an ivory tower of elites for thousands of years, 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 edifice of 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 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?
What is philosophy?
Actually philosophy is not only is academic discipline, a profession, or a genre of cultural activities, it is more an integral part in the logic of human culture, which won’t actually dead or disappear no matter what happens to our civilization. The word “philosophy” comes from the Greek philos (loving) + sophos (wise) meaning literally love of wisdom. This “love of wisdom” tells that the very essence of philosophy is wisdom or we might say that wisdom is the soul of philosophy. Human beings are both intelligent and limited. But no matter how we view ourselves, wisdom is what defines us as human, or what guides us towards positive and meaningful life and away from mistake and destruction. The contrast of stupidity with wisdom or falsehood with truth would be an eternal theme of human civilization. Therefore, the death of philosophy would mean loss of love for wisdom, which would never happen as long as human beings would continue to survive as a civilization. I would come back to this question in part one of this book with more detailed discussion.
What’s wrong with philosophy now?
As discussed in the preface of this book, any claim that philosophy is dead or philosophy is declining should not be taken as referring to philosophy as an integral logical element in our civilization, or the fundamental human love towards wisdom, but as a reflection of the fact that philosophy as a discipline or more as a profession is not productive as worth of its noble reputation as the source of wisdom for the world. By no means could we afford to underestimate the impact of the impotence of professional philosophy, which is like an organ of utmost importance for human civilization, upon the health of our society. The symptoms of global-wise social confusion, absurdity, and confliction are all related to this professional impotence of philosophy. This world is ill because of the profession of philosophy has not kept fit for quite a long time. That’s why we need to diagnose the cause of the impotence and to find a plan or at least the direction of how to rescue the ailing giant or the endangered edifice of philosophy.
How could we diagnose the problem?
As we might see in this book, the edifice of philosophy is 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. We need 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 the logical pattern of how it is operated. 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 book. 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.
How should we rescue the ailing giant?
As a profession that is endorsed by the society for the supply of wisdom, philosophy not only should always set its foot in real world of real issue, but also would draw from real world for its own continuous replenishment of nutrition. Although the fundamental logic behind nature and social life never changes, some logical pattern in contemporary life could not even be imagined when the relevant technology or linguistic terms were not available back to centuries or millenniums ago. For example, Hegel could be considered the first person in western history who managed to bring down the philosophical barrier between material world and human mind based social activity with his logic[ ] and phenomenology. However, one fatal defect of Hegelian system is the lack of truly dynamic way of thinking, in the sense of understanding macroscopic events by the cause and effect of microscopic units, although his dialectic logic has been eulogized by many as the opposite to static and partial way of thinking. The reason for Hegel failed to enter the truly dynamic world, I would say, was because in his time the development of natural science had not brought the concept of dynamics as what is known to us today into the social domain as it did many years later, even though the word dynamics had been used for physics and the word of dynamic had been used in philosophy referring to powerful and active. Or in other words Hegel was lack of the language of dynamic as we are having today.
As another example, the concept of data has never been so important as it is for this postmodern high tech era, and thus we might need to see what kind revelation we could have with this new significance of some vocabulary in various stages of history. Therefore, in order to keep philosophy as a discipline fit for different times, we need keep examining the fitness of its language and knowledge of logic as civilization progresses in time. The language and logic system of philosophy would also determine the methodology applied in philosophy or supplied to the public by the community of philosophy. Thus new discovery of logic pattern and new methodology from real world of real issues would be of utmost importance for the rescue the ailing giant and the future development of philosophy.
Obviously, the rescue of the edifice of philosophy is a too grand project for any single person to carry out. Accordingly this book is by no means an attempt for providing a thorough plan for the rescue. It is only aimed to serve as a wake up warning call to this world about the need and feasibility of rescuing the ailing giant. After the first part of this book, which would be devoted to the diagnosis of the cause for the impotence of the ailing giant of philosophy, I would discuss the preliminary plan for the rescue with some simple examples as the content of the second part of this book.
Part One The Giant is Ailing
WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?
In the prologue of this book I briefly discussed this issue. Before we look into what has troubled philosophy as a discipline, we need to know more about what philosophy is about to this world.
For an ordinary non-professional person who knows anything about philosophy, this question might signify how philosophy manifests itself in everyday life or we might say how philosophy operates in real world. Obviously this is closely related to the subject matter of philosophy or what philosophy is interested in as well as how philosophical theories are created.
So the answer to the question “what is philosophy” would involve discussions on three different levels: 1) the general social aspect: how philosophy operates in real world; 2) the subject matter aspect: what philosophy is interested in; 3) the composition aspect: how philosophy theories are created.
Obviously, all three aspect mentioned above would be determined by the essence of the soul of philosophy since they are just different manifestation of the soul. Therefore, let’s first look at the soul of the philosophy and then move on in the order of general social aspect, subject matter, and the composition matter of philosophy.
The soul of philosophy
In the prologue I briefly mentioned two fundamentals about philosophy: it is an integral part in the logic of human culture and wisdom is its soul. Since wisdom is what defines us as human, then the second fundamental determines the first fundamental and they are actually united as one.
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.
How philosophy operates in life
How ordinary people feel about philosophy is a very important manifestation of the essence of philosophy. Normally people would feel something statement, no matter read from a literature or heard from a movie or told by a friend, very philosophical if that statement reveals some logical or relational patterns behind the surface phenomena they have been familiar with. This is because people would sense the power of wisdom from that kind of revelation, which might be the most basic form of the operation of philosophy in life.
As a matter of fact, although rigorous and thoughtful nonfiction 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 in strict way, 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 many 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.
We might roughly 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 good philosophy or use of false philosophy might work as good as correct application of good philosophy. It is worth pointing out that, 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 many other academic systems that are constructed based on some restrictive but clearly defined axioms or physical laws, as an open system, philosophy theories normally work on top of some preliminary not-well-defined constructions, and human psychological acceptance of those not strictly composed preliminary constructions is an important base for philosophy to operate. To a large extent the most productive reading of good philosophical works is some kind of psychological resonance between the readers and the writers. This is especially true when we deal with some obsolete natural 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 statements 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 effect of erroneous practices of philosophy would be more obvious than at personal psychological level.
Lastly, let’s look at the fundamental theoretical layer. While philosophy is famous for rigorous reasoning as what was done by Aristotle, Kant, or many other famous philosophers, one confusing fact at this layer would be that philosophy perspective about the world could also be presented by fiction novels, which would allow unreal stories to be manufactured in the process of writing and unreal stories would inevitably involve unreal logic in its narrative. This fact itself is actually a manifestation of the great versatile nature of philosophy as a discipline to deal with all relations behind all being(s). Nonetheless, the backbone of philosophy is those rigorously laid out systematic nonfiction writings. This is because of the following reasons: 1) even though language used by general literature writing is much easier to apprehend than language used in serious philosophical discourse, the former would involve much bigger uncertainty in its meaning, and thus more flexibility for the interpretation of its text, than the latter because rigorously laid out theories normally possess high logical certainty in its expression even though they might also involve some false statements; 2) because of 1), even philosophical thoughts embedded in fiction literatures would often need to be explicitly summarized with clearly composed language in rigorous way.
Based on the above understanding it is very easy to see that the education and development of philosophy would be mainly carried on at fundamental theoretical layer, and thus strictness and thoughtfulness would be the basic requirement for people who are making use of philosophy at this layer. Besides, the applications of good philosophy and corrections of false philosophy at the other two layers would also need input from this layer.
As mentioned at the beginning of this section that the division of the above discussed layers is quite nominal. The reason to make that division is because when operating primarily at different layers philosophy does behave differently. However, in more general situations philosophy might operate at all three layers at the same time for one particular event. For example, people often summarize a philosophy with a simple central theme or a set of central ideas while ignoring the majority of the discourses of the philosophy behind that central theme or set of central ideas and then tag that philosophy with some ism. So much often if we carefully go through the original writings of an author, we might find that the summarized central theme or set of central ideas might not be the only important part to his philosophy or might even be opposite to his principal views. Correspondingly we often hear that some philosophers disagreed with the ism tags other people gave to them. This tells that the general social comprehension of a philosophical theory and the rigorous meanings of the original theory or what the author was meant to express might differ with each other. This is especially true when the original text is written in the genre of fiction stories. This widely existing phenomenon actually involves the operations of philosophy at all three different layers as discussed previously. First of all, the writing style might account for whether it would be easier to be mistaken by others. Some very rigorously written text might be very easy to be mistaken if the text is not easy to be comprehended. Secondly, personal reading and comprehending capacity of the readers would be a critical factor for this to happen; thirdly, maybe more importantly, that general social misunderstandings following a few critics or because of some other historical and cultural factors might cause the majority of the readers to misinterpret the main theme of the original philosophy. Besides, even if a philosopher agrees with the summarization of the main theme of his philosophy made by others, when he debates with another philosopher with so called opposite philosophy, we might find that they might just opposite to each other at certain point of view while agree with each other throughout the majority of their discourses of their theories. This tells that social stands of the authors for various reasons might also play very important roles behind the manifestation of philosophy in real world.
In addition to all we have discussed in this section, one more important related issue is the peculiarity of the social effect of philosophy in contrast to the social effect of science and technology. For science and technology, a few scientists or engineers in a closed office could create something that might change the world, even if only another quite few people understand how their theory works; similarly, a team of workers in a secured workshop could manufacture something that might bring revolution to the living style in ordinary households. For this reason, individuals, labs, companies, or countries often make efforts to protect their scientific and technological secrets. However, for a philosophy theory, only if it could be known by the vast public, would its true value be realized in this world. This is determined by the fundamental difference between science and philosophy (see Appendix A): science is for reliable knowledge but philosophy is for wisdom.
The subject matter of philosophy
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 original 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 . This confusion was actually caused to quite a big extent by one of the best occupational skills of philosophers: summarizing and simplification, although it might sound surprising. 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 could 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. 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 the philosophical exploration, 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 some 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.
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.
Actually it might be even very hard to clearly separate literature writing and philosophical writing since some philosophers might prefer presenting their philosophical views about life through fiction stories or novels (Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to two philosophers Camus and Sartre primarily for their novel writing). However, there are two basic differences between general literature writing and philosophical writing: 1) the fact that people could distinguish ordinary literature writers from philosophers who write novels could tell us that there is some fundamental difference between philosophical fiction writing and general literature writing, for it would not be hard to sense the intention of the author to express his philosophical view about the world through stories (e.g. “Notes from Underground”) in the former while the latter in general would be mainly for entertainment. 2) There is clear difference even between philosophical novels and nonfiction philosophical writings. While authors could share their own philosophical understanding about the world vividly through storytelling, or even make some explicit philosophical statements, normally only logically rigorous discourse or reasoning could reveal systematic relational patterns or logic causes behind what we can observe in nature and social life, which are the backbone of philosophy, and consequently the task of developing new philosophy system would be mainly accomplished with nonfiction systematic philosophical discussions. I will further discuss the comparison between fiction and nonfiction philosophical writing in next section. In the rest of this section, all my discussion would be referred to nonfiction philosophical writing. Nonetheless, for literature works, general or philosophical, excellent writing skill of course would play a fundamentally important role since enjoying beauty of writing is basically what reading literature is about.
Compared with those two extreme cases, scientific and non-philosophical literature writing, 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 an 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 [15, 16] 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.
ENERGY 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 subject 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.
TWO MAIN CAUSES BEHIND THE DECLINE
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.
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:
- Proficiency in the history of philosophy or demonstration of ability to understand historical works of philosophy;
- Superb talent of writing (including being proficient in the language used and knowledgeable of relevant cultural and historical background)
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.
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.
It is worth pointing out that the fear of philosophy might coexist with the love of philosophy in the same person. One might love to enjoy wisdom in certain area of life but scared to face the truth in some other area of life.
THE IMPACT OF THE RISE OF SCIENCE
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[ ].
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. If we look back at the development of 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, and the area of philosophy of language. In the area of logic, the most important contribution would be the work of Nobel Prize Laureate the British philosopher Bertrand Russell,. However, although the vast amount of his work remains valuable philosophical literatures, the core of his work in logic soon became an independent subject of mathematics, together with the work of mathematician Gottlob Frege. This could be viewed as another typical example of the territory of philosophy being sliced a piece off by a specific science since that part of originally philosophical territory would be no longer for the exploration of future philosophers. Some revolutionary change of view about the role of language in human civilization is another major progress in the history of philosophy in last century. The importance of language has been extensively aware of by wise men since ancient times no matter in Occidental or Eastern part of the world. But since last century, human knowledge about this ancient topic has been enriched with the following two new items of fundamental importance: 1) language is not only tool of communication, but also directly impacting our way of thinking. Although this conclusion could also been found from some ancient literature, it did not become a common knowledge in academia, not to mention the public, until last century; 2) there is no absolute mapping between any natural language and reality and it is the relational patterns within the structure of signs that produce the meaning(s) of any part of our language. The investigation about the impact of language in philosophical understandings by Ludwig Wittgenstein, a student of Bertrand Russell, and the linguistic work by Ferdinand de Saussure has been considered as the main initiative work for this progress, while the work of many others could also be contributions to this grand project together with the philosophy of logic,,, with the help of modern psychology. Although the development in philosophy of language and logic has already had profound influence in our global culture, the study in this area has not become a completely independent science but remained as field in philosophy in the form of cross-disciplinary studies for further advancement. Closely related to this is philosophy of mind,,, which would continue to develop independently of but with the help of psychology. Although studies in this area have obviously enriched our knowledge about the metaphysical nature of how human mind operates in addition to what we have been told by psychologists, currently we have not seen revolutionary breakthrough in this area. People are still struggling with issues like the significance of quale. Philosophical digestion about what Benjamin Libet  found in his experiment on the low level mental process is still rudimentary. Discussions about the relationship between the phenomenological knowledge between different people has not surpassed the theory of correlation between private worlds (or perspectives) of Russell. Philosophy of science might be considered an added territory since it emerged as modern science was in its course of rising up. It 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, Philosophy of science not only failed to bring sustained momentum to the development of philosophy, but even inadvertently brought confusion to the public that social problems should also 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.
The influence of philosophy as a profession upon the development of nowadays theology is minimal. Although many readers might relate anthropological and sociological studies to professional 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 and people are dreaming that science with high-tech means would help them to solve all their problems in those fields, which contributes to the global crises we have been facing to in recent decades. It can be seen that before any revolutionary breakthrough could happen in 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.
The Ripple of Postmodernity
Since the turn of the 20th century, human civilization has been in a historical stage that bears its own special cultural mark and termed as postmodernity. While compared to all its preceding cultural stages including what was once called modernity, this postmodern historical stage could be characterized by revolutions and diversity in many cultural aspects including science and technology, art, and politico-economic changes, and the correspondent global life style and interpersonal relationship changes. It first started with some radical changes in natural science when people were told that space and time was no longer independent with each other and matter could exist in both particle and wave forms at the same time. Then the world experienced some brutal wars and global political turmoil and turnaround (for good or bad) which challenged and changed many traditional views of value. Then artists followed up with their rebellion styles against traditional sense of beauty when expressing their inner feelings about the world that was no longer as what had been told by ancestors. That was followed by new technological breakthroughs and the correspondent industrial revolutions which brought the world into a so called high-tech era with new types of interpersonal relationship that were not familiar to this world.
However, the collective reaction of philosophers, as the supposed professional thinkers, to these radical global changes could be characterized as confused and downtempo although they have been very busy to catch up. Actually most philosophers seem to be busier with commenting existing philosophy theories and formalizing their descriptions with various ism’s than producing new thoughts. While the formalization of how to introduce historical works could make it easier for the education of philosophy, which is no doubt one of the most important tasks for philosophy as a profession, it could also be very misleading without the lead of a continuation of productive thinking; one typical example is the erroneous attack on metaphysics started by professional philosophical circle.
The division of styles of philosophy into the so called continental and analytic by different natural language backgrounds or the so called different traditions without mentioning some further connections to previous works could also be confusing to young readers. While readers might learn some historical stories by looking into the historical path of this division, they don’t really gain much for learning different ways of expressing ideas in philosophy. Actually if you carefully compare the style of Bertrand Russell with the styles of Aristotle, Kant or even Hegel you won’t see any fundamental difference in their analytical styles. Therefore, if we are more interested in training young generations for creative philosophical thinking and writing, instead of solely making them in awe of the sophistication of precedent achievements, we might be better off telling young readers different styles of philosophical theories by directly focusing on writing styles instead of by different natural language backgrounds or some more eccentric names for something unfamiliar to most readers. For example, while Nietzsche might be considered very analytical in his philosophical discourses, if we compare his works with Kant’s (or Aristotle’s or Hegel’s or Russell’s) then we might properly say that Nietzsche’s works is more descriptive and Kant’s (or Aristotle’s or Hegel’s or Russell’s) is more analytical although both of them are very insightful. In fact, any analytical work would be built with descriptive work since any reason of analysis applied in an article would be descriptive itself, but would go deeper behind the surface phenomena for reasons or patterns of reason or basic concepts than relatively more descriptive works. But if we compare the works of Nietzsche’s (or Kant’s or Aristotle’s or Hegel’s or Russell’s) with the works of Camus’s or most of Sartre’s, then we might feel the contrast between analytical (no matter how descriptive it is) and literarily expressive. Actually if we compare philosophical writing with scientific and literature writing, then we could see that some philosophy works might be closer to scientific writings and some others might be closer to literature writings. This is a manifestation of what I discussed earlier that philosophy is interested in all relations behind all being(s) or we might say that it is a manifestation of the great diversity of the subject matters of philosophical investigation. In the comparison between the works of Nietzsche’s (or Kant’s or Aristotle’s or Hegel’s or Russell’s) and the work of Camus’ or Sartre’s, we could sense that the former is closer to scientific writings and the latter is closer to literature writings. If we present the comparison of different styles of philosophy in terms of different styles of writing instead of the use of different natural languages of writing or some tag names with complicated historical imprints, then it would be easier for readers to capture the real differences between different authors, which will assist them better appreciate the works and learn the approaches of those authors.
In addition to the dynamic reasons discussed previously, one important reason why the professional philosophy community seems more interested in the presentations of historical works of philosophy, instead of new thoughts about new reality, is the great difficulty to capture the dynamics behind this ever complicated world and then present them with clear descriptive language or analytical language. This lack of capacity to provide metaphysical descriptions with clear and analytical language resulted in a sad phenomenon that in the postmodern times people learn the contemporary philosophy more from life itself or its correspondent cultural manifestations in different forms than from writings of professional philosophers. Even for philosophers, very often they choose literary language instead of descriptive or analytical language to express their perception about the world, which has been reflected in the fact that the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to two philosophers (Camus and Sartre) primarily for their existentialist novel writing.
Existentialism once was the most influential philosophical movement in the middle of last century and is still a well known school (let’s borrow the term of school here even though it might be very controversial for existentialism) of philosophy. Its central claim is as Sartre  laid it out that existence precedes essence. The existence that is of the central interest to existentialists is referred to the status of intelligent human being who acts on his own will. The line of logic for this claim could be traced back to the famous Cartesian statement “Cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am)”. While for Descartes the significance of that statement was just a logically rigorous sentence free of any illusion caused by human sensation, which could thus be used as the starting point of his philosophical meditation, it has been widely interpreted as that human mind precedes human physical conditions, partly because of the dualist belief of Descartes. Hegel further developed that idea into that the significance of human life primarily lies in human mind instead of human body as he pointed out  that we are in the possession of our thought which permeate all our ideas −− whether these are purely theoretical or contain a matter belonging to feeling, impulse, will. Basically following such a theoretical line of thought that human beings are primarily intelligent beings and secondarily physical or social beings, existentialists, theist or atheist, all stand for the idea that each individual is solely responsible for giving meaning to life and living it passionately and sincerely, or authentically. However, while the statements of Descartes and Hegel are logically sound, the existentialist generalization of the same idea to a universal principle of life is logically defective since in an open society people are all interconnecting with each other not only physically and emotionally but also logically. Therefore, the so called meaning of life or real social and physical status of any single individual cannot be solely determined by his/her will no matter what angle of view he/she would like to take when looking at it. Consequently, as a social experiment to build a philosophical foundation for human civilization as a replacement of traditional or religious values, existentialism obviously failed to bring real long lasting vitality to the development of philosophy. Existentialism soon lost its momentum and popularity since its manmade foundation is logically partial and lack of a thorough examination of real human nature (existentialists might even refute the concept of human nature) and social dynamic relationships.
Some politically biased philosophies did cause the world’s political landscape to change dramatically in last century, but they also failed to lead the development of philosophy itself despite their proponents claimed so. Although philosophical discussions on political and ethical issues (e.g. philosophy of justice) have always been ongoing and remain productive,, the current global and local crises and turbulences tell us that those discussions by professional philosophers in this particular area obviously have not created decisive impact on the politico-economic life around the world. One observable deficiency in the discussion in this area is that the discussion is still focusing on applying locally ideal logic to macroscopic issues without delving into the dynamic details of interpersonal systems.
Postmodern philosophies are generally considered as relativistic for they all bear some relativistic marks here or there. However, the relativistic nature of postmodern way of thinking of the public is not entailed by postmodern philosophies as people often claimed, contrarily, the relativistic views in postmodern philosophies are rather the delayed reflection of the relativistic nature of postmodern reality all around the world. First of all, the relativistic behavior of nature revealed to us by scientists has undoubtedly and profoundly influenced postmodern philosophers’ way of thinking. More importantly our scientific knowledge about nature which would be considered as the most creditable has been under constant modification and update by scientists, which has been repeatedly reminding us of the relative nature of our knowledge system due to our limited capacity to know things. Besides, revolutionary changes of the political status or political movements in many places around the world subverted the traditional concept of authority in the society. Similarly, in academic society and in schools around the world scholars or students more tend to doubt authoritative theories than ever in the history due to the general awareness of the vulnerability of the academic authority to mistakes. Furthermore, technological breakthroughs, especially the arrival of the high-tech and big data era, created the new life styles and interpersonal relationships that had never been witnessed before. Meanwhile extensive international migrations or tourism and intercultural communications and exchanges helped to broaden the vision and open the mind of people towards life styles and social norms; the commercial and industrial globalization helped to further shaken monotonous traditional social standards in different areas around the world by bringing different cultural values closer.
In addition, as mentioned previously that, during the postmodern times it has become a common knowledge in popular culture that there is no absolute mapping between any natural language and reality and it is the relational patterns within the structure of signs that produce the meaning of any part of our language. The awareness of this simple basic nature of language actually has a very profound effect on human philosophical thinking due to the fundamental importance in our everyday life. Back to 200 years ago, the claim that “our representation of things as they are given to us doesn’t conform to these things as they are in themselves, but rather that these objects as appearances conform to our way of representing them… things as we experience them should be distinguished from things as they are in themselves” by Kant, together with his famous use of the German term noumenon, spawned the course of systematically studying the so called phenomenology first started by Hegel[ ] and then continued by others in the following centuries after them. The peak of that venture seemed to be reached by Russell  with his speculation about the correlation of private worlds as mentioned earlier. It seems that only after human civilization entered the postmodern times, with the help of modern psychology, the significance of the difference between what we see and what it is in itself started to be fully appreciated by both the academia and the public. This appreciation together with the awareness of the independence of language from its objects in real world undoubtedly endorses the relativistic way of thinking among the public, which is then naturally reflected with enhancements in various cultural forms including philosophy theories.
All these radical social cultural and politico-economic changes without any precedent similarity in the history have burned their imprints on philosophical theories that have been created during the period of postmodernity. Despite the downtempo reaction to the radical cultural changes in the postmodern times by professional philosophy community became the main reason for some renowned philosopher and scientist to announce the end of philosophy [1, 2], we still have definitely witnessed some thoughtful and inspiring works of wisdoms, in addition to what I have mentioned previously, by renowned philosophers during this historical period in the areas of humanity, and more.
Finally, 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. Comparing to the radical changes in all aspects of our civilization in the postmodern times, what has happened in the field of professional philosophy would look like a mild ripple in a small pond.
Closing Words of Part One
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 ancient flow of the river of philosophy, we are in the need of a new revolution of mainstream philosophy, and once again this would require the participation of those who are not in the mainstream professional philosophy circle but dedicated in the development of philosophy, 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 any 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 long 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 weakened 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 even the understandings of classic works while 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 which 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.
To be completed
Appendix A. Classification of Fundamental Cultural Constituents
Human cultural activities are rich and varied, and they could all be broadly classified into the categories of art, philosophy, science, theology, literature, and mathematics, or combinations of some of these categories. These basic categories not only have different logical roots of their own, but also correspond to different characteristics of human thinking. In this appendix I would discuss how we could better understand the differences and connections between basic constituents of human cultural activities, by taking into consideration of factors of language, use of data, the way of thinking.
In a broad sense, the so-called culture is referring to the general way of living in a society, which might be recorded and reflected in different forms of intellectual works. Human activities are the basis of any culture, and human activities can be roughly divided into physical activity and mental activity. Since physical activity is governed by the mind, even when discussing categories of physical activity people would focus on the different forms of their mental guidance, rather than the intensity of physical activity itself. For example, although swimming and ball activities are all physical activities, but what determines their different forms is the mental activity behind body movements: when in the water the human mind would guide the body to swim and when in a ball game the human mind would guide the body to make movements of playing the ball game. Therefore, when we analyze the basic classification of civilization, it is more meaningful for us to focus on the characteristics of the mental activity involved rather than the characteristics of physical activity.
Human culture could be interpreted by a network of infinite dimensions of abstract concepts. Those dimensions are not completely independent but are intertwined with each other; correspondingly, the separation of cultural constituents is relative. Different cultural constituents are logically coupled and mutually influenced in a very complicated way. Human beings grasp knowledge about the differences between those constituents naturally as each constituent was gradually formed through history. But during this naturally happened process, some misunderstandings about the relationships between those constituents also occurred due to the complicacy involved. Although it seems that we could easily identify different cultural constituents in everyday life by the contrast between the respective representative characteristics of each constituent, misunderstandings as a result of complicacy could cause social confusion about the relationships between those constituents.
Ideally speaking, it seems that we might just naturally work with whatever cultural constituent when we need to and thus no need to bother with the categorization of cultural constituents at all. However, there are three basic reasons (among many others) to substantiate the need for a clear understanding of the demarcation between different cultural constituents: 1) it could help us to better organize our efforts for personal training and education; 2) it could help the society to reasonably allocate resources for a balanced progress of human civilization; 3) it could help better understand the interdependence between different cultural activities and thus reduce the deficiency in practices due to some blind mutual rejection between cultural constituents.
For example, even following the same manual of operation, different people could make very different performances for the same task requirement. This phenomenon is usually described using the term “talent”. We might find that, as would be discussed in next section, the cultural connection behind the difference between the common text of instruction and the personal talent is tied with the distinction between the cultural activity that we normally call as art and the cultural activity that could be generally referred to as philosophy due to historical reasons.
As another example, it has been for quite a long time that even professionals in the communities of science and philosophy could not clearly identify the distinction between these two fundamental cultural constituents of our civilization. As mentioned previously, people might not even consider that there is any base at all for having the criteria of distinguishing science from philosophy since it seems that we might just deal with science in scientific domain and deal with philosophy in philosophical domain. However, the problem is that we do not live in an ideal world, but live in a real world. One of the most fundamental problems in real social life is the allocation of resources, and those who have the power to allocate resources normally do not understand or even do not intend to understand when to use science or when to use philosophy. They only need some formal authoritative statements about the meanings and values of science and philosophy, and then make their decisions to allocate resources in accordance with those statements. Therefore, if the main stream society is overwhelmed by the idea that philosophy is no longer useful they would then reduce the resource allocation to philosophy. One of the simplest examples is that, because philosophy as a discipline has been repeatedly announced dead by academic authorities, in many websites, including some namely academic websites, we could not find philosophy in their list of subjects. Although setting up such a subject type actually only involve very limited extra resources (it might just be that the programmer adds one more metadata to the database), but as a consequence of the societal derogatory attitude towards philosophy, very often people do not want to assign any resources, even in the smallest sense, to philosophy as an independent category.
Therefore, if we could, by clearly differentiating the roles of philosophy and science in our life, point out that philosophy, as a logical category, still has an irreplaceable and extremely important position in the continuation of human civilization we could help to formally articulate the value of its existence through in an authoritative way. Then those who have the power to decide on the allocation of resources but do not personally understand the value of philosophy, would not arbitrarily cancel the allocation of resources to philosophy.
Another more serious and practical example is that it is typical around the world today that people often spend hundreds of millions of dollars to do some large-scale project by applying scientific methods, based upon the so-called big data calculation, but then end up with economic recession rather than prosperity. The cause behind this type of phenomena is the over-dependence on scientific means and the derogatory attitude towards the role of philosophy in social practices. Social practices without the guidance of advanced philosophical thinking, regardless of super capacity and high accuracy of data collection, might fail due to the error in their directions. This might sound like a plain teaching which could be comprehended by high school students. But in real social practices, even elite experts could forget this type of basics and make costly high-level errors which might seem to be too simple from the results. A very important reason behind this is that people are not clear about the functional dividing line between philosophy and science as will be discussed in this Appendix, and thus unwisely attempting to solely count on advanced scientific and technological means in the places where philosophical speculation are critically important.
Lastly let’s look at a well known but might be sensitive example is the relationship between philosophy and theology. Although philosophy has been a very important tool for the development of theories of different theologies, it is also very often rejected in religious practices or in the faith life of many people. The reason is actually connected to the fact that philosophy a grand family of a great variety of expressing forms. While some philosophical theories are focusing on exploring logical connections or metaphysical patterns behind natural and social behaviors, some philosophical theories (e.g. existentialism) attempt to offer some principles of life, which make them in conflict with faithful beliefs and theological doctrines. Due to the limitation of human language usage, the above mentioned conflict between some philosophical and theological doctrines, we could observe that philosophy is often rejected as a whole by people in religious or faithful activities simply for the term philosophy. An analysis about the distinction and connection between philosophy and theology could help to reduce the misunderstanding between people in these two different social cultural domains.
The classification of cultural activities discussed in this writing would be based upon the main characteristic of each cultural constituent, not by drawing sharp lines between different territories, which means that activities within each cultural constituent might be overlapped with activities in other cultural constituents. This is because human social activities are always full of complexities, and thus division between different constituents, whether it was formed naturally over history or defined artificially, could not be an absolutely exclusive division like division between chemical elements, but rather a fuzzy separation with each other mutually infiltrated. The reason why we could make the classification of cultural activities by use of the main characteristic of each constituent could be better understood by analogy with human face sketch. A grand master might show the lifelike face of a person with a few strokes because he is able to catch the basic characteristics of a face. Similarly, the key for us to defining (or comprehend) a cultural constituent here is to seize its main characteristic in comparison with others.
Since language is the most fundamental element of all human social activities, let’s start our discussion with the corresponding relationship between human mind and language.
Art and general philosophy
The capacity to think is what differentiates human from any other species on earth. Language is not only the basic medium of human social activity, but also a basic tool of human thinking. Therefore, the different ways of using language would be reflected in the characteristics of different intellectual activities, and thus could be used as one basic criterion for classification of human cultural activities. In the first chapter of Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu pointed out: “Thus when it is not named, we would like to sense it through its effects; and when it is named, we could see its boundary.” This sentence tells us that human knowledge of an object is developed through a process from no name to named in such a way: For anything without a name, we could sense the existence of that thing by our sensation of its effects (i.e. light, heat, taste, or abstract social logic, etc. that we might sense from it); once anything is given a name, we would be able to better perceive it by its contours and details of its existence, as well as the limitations of our language description about the existence. This argument provided by Lao Tzu is obviously consistent with our life experience. In fact, in that sentence Lao Tzu identified two basic categories of human thinking: linguistic thinking and non-linguistic thinking.
Now if we compare the cultural activity that we call as art with other types activities such as philosophy, science, theology, literature, mathematics and any other system that need to operate based on either written instructions or lengthy literature, we might find that although the creative process of an artist also involves many techniques that could be expressed by use of language, the creation of every single artistic work would involve some unspeakable artistic sense of the artist; and the artistic talent special to each person mainly lies in the realm which cannot be reached by completely following the instructions by language. Furthermore, the term of artistic is often widely used every other type of human activity besides what could be named as art itself. For example, people might enjoy some artistic way of playing complicated political games, or the artistic style of leadership, or artistic use of the text is a valuable skill in writing essays or composing stories or philosophical papers. The artistic performance in any type of activity is the manifestation of what people considered as talent, which basically implies that it is beyond what language could describe. On the other hand, although an artistic creation process would frequently involve unspeakable senses, the existence of the art schools itself could tell that some characteristics of previously unspeakable senses could be captured by use of language gradually and then elevated to philosophically comprehended or technically repeatable procedures. This is also true for the collective development of the talent in any other field, which is one basic process of the evolution of human civilization.
Therefore, the use of language in a mental process could be used as a key factor to distinguish what we called as art from other cultural elements. Here we need to further clarify that although artistic could be characterized as non-linguistic mental process, not every perceptible but unspeakable mental activity could be considered as art; only those that would have manifestation and beauty in various senses could be called artistic. At the meantime, we might classify all other cultural constituents collectively as general philosophy category for traditionally many of those constituents (such as various sciences and technologies or mathematics and literature) were either part of philosophy or considered closely related to philosophy.
Without the classification according to the use of language discussed above, it has been a difficult task to formally distinguish art from philosophy even though it might intuitively sound like a simple job. We might even often hear professional artists or philosophers make such a statement that art is philosophy and philosophy is art. A clear formal demarcation between art and general philosophical activities discussed here could undoubtedly help people in personal talent related education and training and much more.
Finally, we should be all aware that the division of art and general philosophy (as I named here) in life exists naturally just as the division between two basic categories of thinking pointed by Lao Tzu. The discussion is this section is only for arousing the public awareness of that naturally existing division.
Philosophy and science
Within the general philosophy category as named in last section, the division between science and philosophy is of special importance not only because traditionally the natural boundary between these two ancient fields have been always vague but also because confusion about the relationship between them has become a cultural root of many serious social crises today.
Although the history for both philosophy and science could go back to thousands of years ago, the subject matters of many modern sciences were traditionally territories of philosophy. In fact, philosophy has nurtured the seeds of many sciences and then given them birth when they were ready to become independent. Besides, philosophy has also been providing directional guidance to the development of science since ancient time. On the other hand, philosophy has kept drawing fresh strength from scientific discoveries and making replenishment of its own repository of knowledge from metaphysical summaries of scientific achievements. That has been the common knowledge about the relationship between philosophy and science for centuries. However, what is missing in the above picture about the relationship between philosophy and science is a clear description about the logical line that could be used to clearly separate the territory of science and philosophy. This vagueness about the distinction between philosophy and science is one important reason (among many other reasons) that led to the announcements of the death of philosophy by renowned figures in the communities of philosophy and science.
While professionals are focusing on philosophy as a professional discipline when discussing whether philosophy is dead or not, our civilization is actually affected by philosophy in many different ways at different levels of life. No one would deny the value of philosophical thinking for this world including for scientific work even though philosophy has been announced dead as a profession by some scientists. Strictly speaking, even though the public might often view the profession of philosophy equivalent to philosophy itself, the significance of philosophy as a cultural constituent of our civilization is determined by the role and logical position of philosophical thinking and methods as well as relevant theories in the civilization.
In this section I would discuss the characteristic of philosophy as a cultural constituent in human civilization instead of a profession, within which the professional philosophy is only a subset. In real life, people could naturally judge whether certain cultural activities belong to science or philosophy, just as with arts and general philosophy as I discussed earlier; nonetheless, there still has been great confusion about the relationship between philosophy and science. One of the most important causes of the confusion is the lack of clarity about the positions and roles of philosophy and science in civilization. This lack of knowledge has a long history, but becomes even more serious with the development of modern sciences.
Then how should we look at the difference and connection between science and philosophy? In fact, the development of modern technology and economic system provides us with a good perspective about the relationship between science and philosophy:
Science relies on data, whether calculated of a formula or results of numerical simulations, or production records, or obtained from laboratories, or collected from natural observations, or those of statistically significance (e.g. the results collected by poll questionnaires); in short, the establishment, verification, and application of scientific theories are all dependent on data. But philosophy only relies on purely logical speculation, not on data.
The logical speculation mentioned above is not just logical reasoning in a narrow sense, but a broader mental activity including logical reasoning, which might also be called philosophize. There are two points that need special notice. First, although logical speculation is also required in science, if the content of a discipline does not involve any data or mathematical formulas other than logical speculation, then it becomes a field in philosophy rather than a science. Second, although the establishment and development of science and technology depends on data, scientific conclusions and knowledge are often expressed in qualitative form, which is the overlap of science and philosophy (a typical example is the variety of popular science literature at different levels of difficulty). In addition, in the social field, the meaning of the data mentioned here is not limited to computable values, but also involves other forms of data, such as strings used in the IT industry.
The above criterion could be used very effectively to judge whether an article or a project or a specific professional field belongs to philosophical or scientific category. In fact, in ancient Greece philosophy was regarded as the source of wisdom (or love for wisdom) and science the system of reliable knowledge. In other words, according to ancient Greeks, the essence of philosophy is wisdom, while the essence of science has two basic aspects: knowledge and reliability. This should be the starting point for us to identify philosophy and science. It is not hard to see that the criteria for identifying science and philosophy as mentioned above, which is based on the dependence on data or pure logical speculation, are obviously in line with the basic characteristics between philosophy and science laid down by ancient Greeks. The reason why the ancients did not put forward the criteria mentioned here would be because the concept of “data” has never been so important and obvious as today. Philosophy should advance with the times, and this section is an effort to help philosophy to advance with the times.
It is also important to note that, although science has been considered as a vocation to provide reliable knowledge since ancient Greece, this does not mean that scientific knowledge is always reliable. For example, from time to time we might hear some reports from some medical or pharmaceutical experts that some theories that were considered correct a few years ago are wrong now. Therefore, the reliability (of science) itself is relative. Some people might insist that science as a whole is reliable based upon some scientific principles, such as repeatability and falsifiability. Such an assertion is itself relative as well because as to any repeatable and falsifiable instance you cannot guarantee that it will be reliable; otherwise there will not be the previously mentioned phenomenon that scientific conclusions are constantly updated.
As we know that scientific work (especially the avant-garde theoretical work of physics) is full of logical speculation and philosophy itself often cites scientific conclusions. In fact, in any particular scientific research process no one could completely rule out philosophical speculations, just like no one could completely rule out philosophical thinking in everyday life; meanwhile, metaphysical enlightenment based upon scientific achievements are main sources for new philosophical advances, and scientific conclusions cited in philosophical writings actually have become philosophical knowledge. This intertwining situation between science and philosophy would make it apparently impossible to divide science and philosophy as I am trying to do in this writing.
For this we need to be clear about the difference between the cultural categorization at the level of the disciplines and the relationship of different types of thinking for any specific mental process. The criteria for categorizing cultural constituents proposed in this article are based upon the roles or logical positions of those constituents in human civilization. Therefore, when we come to judge whether a project belongs to philosophy or science, we would not attempt to strictly exclude philosophizing from a scientific project or exclude scientific knowledge from a philosophical project. But rather we should base our judgment upon whether the primary methodology of the project is data collection or purely logical speculation. Similarly, when we judge one specific discipline is a philosophical type discipline or a scientific type discipline, we should apply the same way of thinking. Generally speaking, a project could be a combination of scientific and philosophical ones, and some interdisciplinary disciplines could also include be a mix of philosophical and scientific practices.
People often diminished the value of philosophy after science rises up for that philosophy does not have a clearly repeatable or falsifiable standard as science, and as a result we cannot distinguish between true wisdom and sophistry. However, the fundamental value of philosophy is to provide wisdom, and correspondently the key to judge good and bad philosophy is the logical resonance (or intellectual resonance) between readers and writers, which demand much higher intellectual standard than identifying the authenticity in science. This demand of high intellectual standard is the main cause for the general lack of ability to judge good and bad philosophy without hard criteria as in science. But if the right of existence of philosophy as a discipline is denied simply for that the discernment of a good philosophy demands a higher level of mental capacity, it would be not only an absurd coward’s thought, but also a violation of the basic human principle of pursuing truth. For thousands of years, human civilization has been moving forward as the result of struggle between truth and fallacy even though discerning good and bad philosophy requires a high standard of ability. Unfortunately, over the past century or so many people in the mainstream of the world have been trying to use the so-called positivist way of thinking to deny the value of the existence of philosophy for its lack of hard criteria of judging good and bad theories. Consequently, human civilization as a whole has paid a huge sum of the cost for the stalling of the development of philosophy. Nonetheless, because science and philosophy are not two mutually exclusive disciplines but two complementary disciplines, not only science needs to use philosophical speculation and philosophy needs to use scientific conclusions, but also we could surely use science to verify the correctness of philosophical theories, which would make up to a large extent the general lack of high level of philosophical thinking ability. The reason why advanced philosophical thinking is generally missing in nowadays social practices is because of the lack of people who are talented in this aspect. There are two main reasons for the lack of philosophically talented people in nowadays society: 1) dereliction of duty of professionals in some sense in the field of philosophy; 2) the bias in social selection and education as a result of the neglect of the importance of philosophy at the societal level.
Theology and philosophy
While theists and atheists disagree with each other in their beliefs throughout the world, even atheists would not deny the fact that religious beliefs have a profound and significant impact on human civilization. The theoretical system corresponding to religious belief is called theology.
According to Bertrand Russell, philosophy is something intermediate between theology and science. When discussing the division of philosophy and science earlier, I mentioned that philosophy depends on logical speculation. The logical speculation here is not the logical reasoning in a narrow sense, but the so-called philosophize. The main difference between the logical speculation and the logical reasoning in a narrow sense is that metaphysical thinking in the logical speculation as named here is normally informative and initiative, not just limited to logic derivation based on the information contained within the original knowledge. And philosophers, in their enlightening or ground-breaking metaphysical thinking, often rely on some sparks of wisdom coming to their mind in a mental status that is generally called inspiration.
The fundamental difference between theology and the other disciplines is that the basis of theology is neither general logic speculation nor data analysis, but supernatural revelation. In general, there are two levels of revelations: one is the general doctrine level and one is the everyday personal life level. We might see that philosophy is close to theology in sense that inspirations in the creative work of philosophers are often very spontaneous and not follow any strict logical line of human reasoning, which share some mental similarity with the form of personal revelations when they come to human mind. Actually for those philosophers who do receive personal level revelations during everyday life, they might feel that the inspirations for their philosophical work and the revelations for their faith life could often be united as the same.
Besides, although theology is primarily based on revelation, theological discourse often employs a large amount of logical reasoning. In connection with our previous discussion of the relationship between philosophy and science, we can see that Russell’s claim that philosophy is a domain between theology and science is reasonable.
Literature and philosophy
A typical example of the close relationship between literature and philosophy is that the Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded to a number of philosophers, including Bertrand Russell mentioned above, for their philosophical contribution to humanity. Very often, people could enjoy profound or inspiring philosophy of life from the literature books they read, and good writers often get their reputation for the philosophical insight provided in their works. As a matter of fact, among the Nobel Prizes that were awarded to philosophers, two of them were primarily for the literature writing or novel writing of the authors (Camus and Sartre). One of the basic commonalities between literature and philosophy is that both are using language as their professional tool, and thus the general creative and refining work on the use of words by literary writers would also provide a better tool for the creation of philosophical theories by philosophers.
Literature and philosophy as disciplines deviate from each other at two different levels: 1) between literature and non-fiction philosophy theories, the former focuses on the use of words without regard to the rigor of logic and thus allows fiction, and the latter focuses on philosophizing with rigorous logic; 2) between general literature and philosophical fiction writings, the former is mainly for general entertainment and the latter emphasizes on expressing the philosophical view of the authors about the world.
Mathematics and science and philosophy
Mathematics is most closely related to science because mathematics is a fundamental tool for the data-dependent science. However, the boundary between mathematics and science is also evident: mathematics deals with relationships that are numerically meaningful or can be expressed in numerical meaningful ways, whereas science needs to provide explanations of the natural and social phenomena of real world.
Mathematics is also often associated with philosophy, not only because mathematics itself, like any other discipline, is the object of philosophical research, but also because mathematics, like philosophy, is highly dependent on logical thinking. However, the boundary between mathematics and philosophy is simple and clear: mathematics is only concerned with numerically meaningful relationship, while philosophy cares about the relations between all being(s).
Non-Science/Quasi-Science and philosophy
From the previous discussion we have learned that among science and philosophy, since ancient times, the value of science is providing the society with a reliable knowledge system while the value of philosophy is providing people with wisdom to explore and understand the relational logic of being(s); however, human beings do not always acquire knowledge through the so-called reliable ways or by very wise speculations. A large amount of human knowledge has been the good sediment out of unreliable erroneous information relayed from person to person in everyday life, after all the fake part were eliminated; also a large amount of human knowledge has been obtained through some approaches that are conditionally reliable only under very specific circumstances but cannot be simply promoted to generally reliable accesses to truth. Even the reliability of science is relative, which can be seen from the fact that old scientific conclusions continue to be replaced by new scientific conclusions. Besides, social practices that would normally be considered as scientific might also involve something that definitely doesn’t belong to authentic scientific activity. For example, scientists often acquire important insights from informal interpersonal conversations which help them to make significant progress in their scientific research, but those conversations obviously cannot be categorized as strict science. Therefore, while a clearer definition of an idealized discipline such as science or philosophy can help us to allocate social resources more effectively so as to facilitate the use of scientific or philosophical methods to help people acquire truth or solve problems, we should not naively exclude practices that do not fall into ideal categories of science and philosophy completely from feasible options for people to access knowledge and solve problems.
What we should do is not denying the diversity of human civilization, but rather is to emphasize that scientific methods could help people to improve the reliability of the acquired knowledge and philosophical knowledge and training could help people to better understand and the logic and various existences in life more intelligently. We need to tell people that the violation of scientific principles in life could often lead to bad or even catastrophic consequences, rather than denying the diversity of ways and means by which human beings could acquire knowledge and solve problems. Neither should we attempt to expand the boundary of science unlimitedly nor should we even attempt to apply scientific methods to treat all aspects of human civilization. We should never attempt to make the so-called scientific transformation of philosophy and literature.
In real life, when people are lack of scientific means and the capacity of high level philosophical thinking, some simple practical ways could be feasible options. Since many of that kind of practices cannot be called scientific for they do not meet formal scientific standards (i.e. repeatability and falsifiability, etc.) and thus we might classify them as non-science. For the non-scientific class, even though we also are aware that they might not be very reliable without further logical scrutiny or some scientific examination, we should not rule out their validity under certain circumstances. The reliability of various non-scientific activities will increase when the proportion of scientific methods and strict logical thinking involved increases; so we might call those non-scientific activities with relative high reliability as quasi-science.
It is important to emphasize that, while non-scientific activities should not be excluded from valid options of human access to knowledge and effective solutions to problems, false philosophy, as opposed to truly effective philosophy, should be rejected as a highly undesirable way of thinking for life or academic activity. Here the so-called false philosophy refers to the use of futile word games or the wrong logic of thinking. All human activities are carried out under the guidance or influence of people’s mental activities, and therefore systematically expressed seemingly reasonable but invalid word games or the wrong logic would lead to failure or disaster, and thus must be rejected. So even when acquiring knowledge or solving problems through non-scientific activities we should use wisdom and follow right logic, that is, even non-scientific activities need correct philosophical thinking.
Human cultural activities are rich and varied, but they could all be broadly classified into the categories of art, philosophy, science, theology, literature, and mathematics, or combinations of some of these categories. Although as we have mentioned above, a large part of everyday activity might not fall into any of the basic constituents mentioned above but could be call non-scientific or quasi-scientific, if we focus on the effective ingredients in these activities, we could still roughly classify many of them as scientific or philosophical. For example, politics and economics are often classified as philosophical and scientific. People might tend to view them as branches of philosophy for their logical complexity and the consequent reliance on a high level of speculation; but on the other hand, they might also be naturally classified as science for their dependence upon the reliability of data to a great extent.
Philosophy is special in all cultural constituents discussed in this writing since all other constituents are objects of philosophical research, and for this reason the discourse in this writing is laid out around the relationships between philosophy and other individual constituents…..
Appendix B to be completed
Appendix C to be completed
 The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking, by M Heidegger, 1969 URL：http://evans-experientialism.freewebspace.com/heidegger8a.htm
 The Grand Design: New Answers to the Ultimate Questions of Life，by S Hawking and L Mlodinow,2010, London: Bantam Press, 2010
 The Republic, by Plato, trans. Allan Bloom, Basic Books, URL: http://www.inp.uw.edu.pl/mdsie/Political_Thought/Plato-Republic.pdf
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 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.)
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 The meaning of social dynamics is similar to the meaning of its counterpart in natural science, i.e. the dynamic cause and effect relations.
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 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
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