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russell.jpg (1196 bytes)Philosophy 102: Introduction to Philosophical Inquiry
Russell, "The Value of Philosophy"

1. Describe the "practical man."
2. Why must we free ourselves from the prejudices of the "practical individual"?
3. At what does philosophy aim?
4. With what type of questions does philosophy deal? Give an example.
5. In what does the chief value of philosophy lie, according to Russell?
6. Describe the instinctive person.
7. How does the self enlarge itself?
8. What is the relation of the philosophic mind to the world of action and justice? Can you suggest an example of an individual so concerned?

Recommended Reading

Introduction: Bertrand Russell was a philosopher, mathematician, and social reformer.
(a) Russell's parents died when he was a little child; John Stuart Mill was his godfather.
(b) He taught at Trinity College, Cambridge and was dismissed because of his pacifist activities during World War I.
(c) He supported himself through lecturing and writing from 1919 until the late 1930's.
(d) He accepted a position of the City College of New York, but before he could accept his duties, a judge denied his position saying Russell was a threat to "public health, safety and morals."
(e) The Nobel Prize Committee described him as "one of our time's most brilliant spokesmen of rationality and humanity, and a fearless champion of free speech and free thought in the West."
(f) Russell co-authored with Alfred North Whitehead, Principia Mathematica. He had hoped to reduce mathematics to logic.
1. Describe the "practical man."
(a) A Philistine: a person deficient in liberal culture; one whose interests are material and commonplace.
(b) The instinctive man is practical as is the man of self-assertion described later. He is not interested in providing for society and not interested in "goods for the mind."
(1) His friendships are "friendships of utility," not Aristotle's "friendships of the good." He is interested in people for what they can do for him.
(2) He is interested in "the answer" rather than how one gets the answer.
(3) He has a "them against us" mentality. In Vince Lombardi's words...
"Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."
"Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser."
(c) Contrast Leo Buscalia's prescription:
(1) celebrate life and
(2) develop a passion for many things.


2. Why must we free ourselves from the prejudices of the "practical individual"?
(a) The practical person recognizes material needs; he is less aware of goods of the mind.
(b) Philosophy can give a different kind of value to your life: not superadded to material value, but a value intrinsically different. Consider what Socrates said about "tending your soul."
(c) The philosophical mind has an awareness that goes beyond the daily round to an understanding of life and the world.
(d) Generally the practical person does not recognize...
In general, choices are not justified by their consequences.
Perception is not reality.
The excuse that "things turned out all right" is not always sufficient.
You can be right for the world, even though the world is not right for you.
(e) The practical person doesn't notice the world and other people because of his own worries that tend to feed upon themselves.


3. At what does philosophy aim?
(a) "What was the relation between philosophy and science in the past?" is a question which should be answered first.
(b) Consider the following sketch of the origins of the sciences; these figures were considered philosophers at the time.





625?-546? BC . Thales . .
582?-500? BC . Pythagoras . .
408-355 BC . Eudoxus Mathematics
about 300 BC . Euclid . . Elements
490?-430 BC . Empedocles . . theory of evolution
384-322 BC . Aristotle Biology De Anima
460?-377? BC . Hippocrates . . Airs, Waters, and Places (400s BC)
1546-1601 . Brahe . . Epitome of Copernican Astronomy (1618-1621)
1571-1630 . Kepler Astronomy
1473-1543 . Copernicus . . De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (1543)
1564-1642 . Galileo . . The Starry Messenger (1610)
1642-1727 . Newton Physics Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687)
1743-1794 . Lavoisier . .
1766-1844 . Dalton Chemistry New System of Chemical Philosophy (1808)
1798-1857 . Comte . . Course of Positive Philosophy (1830-1842)
1806-1873 . Mill Sociology
1858-1917 . Durkheim . . Suicide: A Study in Sociology (1897)
1842-1910 . James Psychology Principles of Psychology (1890)
1849-1936 . Pavlov . . Conditioned Reflexes (1926)
(c) Hence, as soon as definite knowledge concerning any subject becomes possible, this subject draws its own skilled practitioners. The subject leaves philosophy and becomes a science.
(1) Questions with definite answers come from fruitful presuppositions and are placed in the sciences. Philosophy, like science, aims at knowledge, but that knowledge can only come to fruition in another age in a science.
(2) The distinction between moral philosophy and natural philosophy was a division of the curriculum up into the twentieth century.
(3) Consider also the different kinds of degrees which are given as Ph.D.'s.


4. With what type of questions does philosophy deal? Give an example.
(a) Russell gives the following examples--note how these correspond with the main divisions of philosophy.

Russell's Question

Branch of Philosophy

Has the universe any unity of plan or purpose? Is consciousness a permanent part of the universe? Ontology (Metaphysics)
Is there hope of indefinite growth in wisdom? Epistemology
Are good and evil subjective? Axiology: ethics and aesthetics
(b) To answer such questions, we, in part, survey human knowledge. The above branches of philosophy are the main divisions of philosophy.
Ontology (Metaphysics): the study of what is really real.
Epistemology: the study of knowledge, its scope and limits.
Axiology: the study of values.
Ethics: the study of the good and what constitutes a good life.
Aesthetics: the study of the beautiful.


5. In what does the chief value of philosophy lie, according to Russell?
(a) Philosophy seeks knowledge, but...
(b) Recognizing that there is no absolute certainty, philosophy shows unsuspected possibilities about matters of fact. "Do Copernicus and Tycho Brahe see the same thing in the east at dawn?
(c) Hence, philosophy increases the possibility of knowledge through the reduction of dogmatism.
(d) The chief value is the "greatness of objects which it contemplates":
Epistemology truth
Ontology reality
Ethics the good
Aesthetics the beautiful
(d) Thus, philosophy gives freedom from narrow and practical aims: an escape from the daily round.


6. Describe the instinctive person.
(a) The instinctive person lives in a prison of his own making--much like an animal.
(b) The instinctive person tends not to look beyond what is before him at the moment.
(c) Being unaware of the larger world can put our private world in ruins.
7. How does the self enlarge itself?
(a) Enlargement of self is Russell's expression for the person of liberal culture, wide interests, reflection, understanding, and self-motivation.
(b) The phrase "share in infinity" is synoptic philosophy. Consider the following example. What, specifically, would an expert in the following fields of knowledge have to advise about the purchase of floor covering in the new science building?
linguistics sociology economics
religion anthropology biology
psychology political science genetics
history business botany
ecology astronomy mathematics
physics geology computer science
chemistry geography art
music literature communications
animal behavior physical education theater arts
(c) Enlargement of self takes an objective view to escape from the instinctive circle of the daily round. When you see yourself as a process, you see yourself developing as you will be. (E.g., why are beginners afraid to make mistakes? After all, if one did not make mistakes, one would not be a beginner.)
(d) Do not define yourself in reaction to what others say you must do: self-reliance
(1) Pursue an interest for its own sake--not what it can do for you.
(2) Recognize that there are many possibilities for solutions--not just the pragmatic, dogmatic "right or wrong" opposites.
(3) Being motivated for a desire for knowledge lead to a richer view of the world.
(e) By way of contrast, the way of self-assertion views the world as a means to its own end and sees the world in terms of itself: pragmatic, dogmatic, instinctive, and direct.
(1) On this view, getting results or getting the right answer is more important that understanding how such things are accomplished.
(2) This view leads to a limited and impoverished view of the world--there is a lack of creativity and a lack of play with things.
(3) If one is self-assertive, then even minor slights are taken personally. There might be other reasons for an individual's behavior that do not involve you.
(4) Enlargement of self does not shape such dualisms as the "them against us" mentality."


8. What is the relation of the philosophic mind to the world of action and justice? Can you suggest an example of an individual so concerned?
(a) The key to this question is "impartial contemplation." Taking sides is almost always a dogmatic position.
(b) Our external physical states such as money, job, car, make little difference if you are reaching your life goals. This issues is happiness vs. misery rather than a question of being an auto mechanic or a corporation executive.
(c) The philosophic mind is open and nonjudgmental. Such a person does not expect other people or situations to change just to fit what that person wants in order for that person to be happy.
(d) The philosophic mind has the recognition that it could be wrong in any situation.

Recommended Reading:
Hiam G. Ginott, Between Parent and Child, New York: Avon, 1965.


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