Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Does Philosophy Need a Methodology?

Unlike scientists and mathematicians, most philosophers do not rely on empirical data—they philosophize from the armchair. But armchair philosophizing often leads to the development of ideas which look good in theory, but do not work in practice. Perhaps some kind of philosophical methodology is needed to ensure that philosophical theories are in tune with reality.

Today I started reading The Cambridge Companion to Philosophical Methodology, edited by Giuseppina D’Oro and Søren Overgaard. In the book’s introduction, the editors talk about two forms of philosophical methodology — descriptive and normative. Here’s an excerpt:
Within philosophical methodology, one can distinguish between descriptive and normative questions. Descriptive questions concern the methods that philosophers actually use (or advocate), or have used (or advocated) historically. We might inquire, for example, how large a proportion of the current philosophical community design and conduct experiments as part of their philosophical research. By contrast, normative philosophical methodology concerns not what philosophers actually do, but what they ought to be doing: what the correct or proper methods of philosophizing are. Since most will agree that the majority of philosophers actually conduct their research from the armchair, arguably the most interesting challenge that methodological ‘naturalists’ raise is a normative one. 
As most philosophers are armchair philosophers, the chapters in the book discuss and defend the normative methodology for developing and propagating philosophical ideas. Unlike science and mathematics, philosophy does not add to the human knowledge, it only provides a clear understanding of what is already known. But if philosophy is not adding anything to the human knowledge, then why should it be based on empirical methodology?

I will have more to say on this topic after I have finished reading this book.

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