Sunday, June 18, 2006

Ideas really matter

On behalf on the American Philosophical Association, John Cleese explains why philosophy is important. The short answer, of course, is that philosophy provokes thinking. While all of the short clips are worth a listen, here are a few I really liked:

Philosophy has been the sparkplug for the lives of heroes. (mp3)
Philosophy bakes no bread--but can enrich the meal of life. (mp3)
Would dictators suppress philosophy if it did not have real power? (mp3)
Global uniformity has benefits--but at what cost? (mp3)
Are our neighbors any good? Should we ignore them, or help them? (mp3)

I feel bad every time philosophers or theorists feel compelled to defend their usefulness, or justify their existence. (I feel even worse when I do it myself.) But here's the thing: as long as designers keep asking me when I'll get to the part that helps them actually make something, and as long as technologists keep telling me that their work is not political, I will continue to insist that we need to SLOW DOWN and THINK ABOUT THINGS a bit more.

From No Dogs | or Philosophers allowed

Update: Monty Python - International Philosophy (playing football with the great philosophers)



Blogger Chris said...

I feel worse that we don't have any career path for philosophers outside of academia, personally. We've done a poor job of weaving philosophy into the fabric of society. :(

By the way, you mentioned Feyerabend recently, but I didn't have time to comment.

The problem I am struggling with is how one reaches the confidence to express a view based purely on personal observation without devolving into something akin to mantics. You seem more comfortable with this; do you have a philosophical framework upon which to hang this approach, or is this simply a case of "swallowing the dillema?"

Thanks in advance!

Anonymous anne said...

hi chris - are you asking how i'm able to confidently blurt out so many things i can't prove? if so it's because i think proof is over-rated ;)

but seriously, questions of validity have always interested me. i generally follow patricia lather's work on interpretive validity, and i'm heavily influenced by luce irigaray's criticism of unitary knowledge and julia kristeva's rejection of essentialism (as well as other radical feminist critiques of knowledge).

so for me, it's not so much 'swallowing the dilemma' as it is playing by a different set of rules.

does this answer your question?

Blogger Chris said...

I don't have much of a belief in 'absolute proof' either (one can only prove something relative to one's prior beliefs, after all) but I have a specific issue with validating 'personal knowledge' in a culture that seems to lack any philosophical tradition to support this idea.

I guess what I'm looking for is something I can add to Wittgenstein, Kuhn and Feyerabend to produce a viable "subjective science".

Many thanks for the references - I will have a dig and see what it stirs within me.

Anonymous anne said...

chris - i'm really interested in this bit about "validating 'personal knowledge' in a culture that seems to lack any philosophical tradition to support this idea". my first reaction is to wonder why you place so much emphasis on tradition, rather than, say, critique.

the later wittgenstein is good, and you know i like feyerabend, but i have to admit that i start my sociology of science and tech class with kuhn just so that i can offer isabelle stengers' critique ;)

check out her excellent book, the invention of modern science, which always impressed me because of its focus on science (and knowledge) as process rather than product.

Blogger Chris said...

Thanks for this book recommendation - I've just ordered it. Sounds right up my street!

Why emphasise tradition? Well, by 'tradition' I really mean 'school of thought', I suppose (I was heartened by Feyerabend using the term 'tradition' to allow for science and religion to be considered equivalent entities!)

What I'm looking for are means by which one might express one's own personal experiences as 'knowledge' of a kind, but I lack any kind of epistemological framework to allow this to happen.

I feel my core problem is that my three degrees (astrophysics, computer science and cognitive science/AI) have taught me scientific practice from the point of view of the so-called 'hard sciences', but as a game designer I'm finding that my research is in the so-called 'soft sciences'. The result is a certain flailing as I try and find some secure philosophical footing from which to proceed. (Of course, the confidence of the hard sciences is ill founded, but it is nonetheless a more comfortable position to adopt).

It doesn't help that in my own philosophical investigations I'm gradually deconstructing the scientific edifice, but at the same time I'm conducting research (into how and why people play games) which I would like to believe should be considered part of the scientific tradition. The experience is not unlike unravelling the magic carpet I'm travelling on...

I do not have the luxury of being any more iconoclastic than I already am; my work is already avant garde enough without trying to operate in the absence of an existing 'tradition of knowledge', hence I am digging for a framework within which I might proceed.

Sorry this comment is so long - I haven't had time to shorten it. :)

Best wishes!

Anonymous Rob said...


Python Philosopher song


Post a Comment

<< Home

CC Copyright 2001-2009 by Anne Galloway. Some rights reserved. Powered by Blogger and hosted by Dreamhost.