Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Philosophy is a Never-ending Dialogue

The School of Athens, by Raphael
Many modern readers regard philosophy as a procession of great figures whose ideas are supposed to be final. But that is not the right view of philosophy. There is no figure in philosophy so great that his ideas cannot be attacked. Julia Annas makes an interesting comment in her book Ancient Philosophy (Page 17):
Ancient philosophy (indeed, philosophy generally) is typically marked by a refusal to leave things opaque and puzzling, to seek to make them clearer and more transparent to reason. Hence reading ancient philosophy tends to engage the reader’s reasoning immediately, to set a dialogue of minds going.  
Ancient philosophy is sometimes taught as a procession of Great Figures, whose ideas the student is supposed to take in and admire. Nothing could be further from its spirit. When we open most works of ancient philosophy, we find that an argument is going on – and that we are being challenged to join in. 
In philosophy, everyone is a mortal, everyone dies, and every philosophical idea can be attacked. You can argue against any idea—you can even argue that the reality that you see with your own eyes does not exist and several philosophers have done that in the past with great success. The process of arguments and counter-arguments never ends in philosophy.

A piece of knowledge is philosophy only so long as it is being defended by philosophical arguments, and where there are arguments, there will always be counter-arguments. If scientific proof is found for any philosophical idea, then that idea will cease to be philosophy—it will be regarded as a scientific or mathematical fact.

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