What Use Philosophy?

Only Philosophy will teach the children well:

STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics), or STEAM (adding “Arts” to the preceding) are the latest (well justified) fashion in teaching children in the USA (inspired by China and Singapore). The method is spreading (and I contributed to push it). However, a subject has been forgotten, the most important: philosophy (and, in particular, the history upon which it rests!)

Like science, philosophy is a sum over histories. But it isn’t just that. Like science, philosophy is a method. Like science, the engine of philosophy is unbiased common sense. Yet, a more general method. Like science, philosophy uses facts, and is itself, among other things, a set of facts (not forgetting that ideas and emotions are, themselves, facts). Yet, philosophy doesn’t just use scientific facts (that is, facts beyond any suspicion). Like science, philosophy is a method of enquiry to guess further facts. Like science, philosophy establishes systems of thought. Like science, philosophy can use a single fact to put in doubt a system of thought, and build another. Unlike science though, philosophy can guess facts, and propose (or even establish) systems of thought on those guesses.

Hence philosophy, the philosophical method, common sense applied to whatever, is the key to major advances in science. Major advances in science call upon, and necessitate, guessing the imaginable. They call upon the philosophical method. No philosophical method, no major advances in science possible. Indeed, any major advance in science is built on new facts, and to go fetch those new facts require desire, hope, imagination, systems of potentialities, fancy financing on fumes, curiosity about what could be, etc.

Our bodies love to dance, in part because we love music, part of our dialogue with the universe. Learning to learn, or just to tolerate others’ music is not just pleasant, it’s enriching, a form of wealth which honors the spirit, source of all and any goodness, besides being our very essence!

Buridan’s momentum, force, inertia, relativity of motion and heliocentrism in the Fourteenth Century provide a  nice example of philosophy & science entangled:

Indeed Buridan (circa 1340 CE) guessed that Aristotle’s false physics depended upon neglecting air resistance and friction in general. Absent those errors, what was left was the theory of inertia, a particular case of impetus theory. Buridan noted that we can only ever observe relative motions. We cannot really know absolute motions. So if, for example, we happened to be in a boat going along a coastline, we really don’t know whether the boat we are in is moving or if the coastline is moving alongside us. Nicole Oresme pushed further the physics unmoved on a movable ship argument (replicated by Galileo 250 years later).

A consequence was that a heliocentric system, with planets orbiting the sun indefinitely (and the Earth rotating on itself) was a possibility. Buridan then slyly said that such a system couldn’t be distinguished experimentally from the one in “Scripture”, so we may as well believe the latter. It was an invitation to develop other observations.

Amazingly, both (rector) Buridan and (elected bishop in 1377 CE!) Oresme, having removed all reasons against heliocentrism, and having argued that it was more economical a system of thought, then said it couldn’t be decided, pointed out that this failure showed the limits of reason, and thus that reason couldn’t be used against (their) faith: “What I have said here, by way of diversion of intellectual exercise can in this manner serve as a valuable means of refuting and checking those who would like to impugn our faith by argument.”

“Argument” (reason) is a very powerful, says Oresme, but not powerful enough to determine whether the Earth moves or not. Similarly, if “argument” cannot answer a physical question about the world, we have to be very careful about arguing about faith. Oresme has therefore used rational arguments about physics, involving relativity of motion, to show rational argument can come short, in physics, and thus metaphysics (“faith”).

This is a magnificent example of how entangled science, philosophy and… faith, are.


Trying to teach science alone is trying to teach the chicken, how it moves, without its head (philosophy):

Philosophy goes much further than science and its scientific method, as the philosophical method, which uses whatever, enables to establish systems of thought using whatever, including emotions, songs and poetry (the great Twelfth Century philosopher was relatively as famous as the Beatles for his songwriting; even more than Buridan and Oresme, Abelard was in total war with the Catholic Church, namely Saint Bernard; he got emasculated and excommunicated for it…) In particular, philosophy establishes wisdoms of life: why and how to live. Can’t live without it. It may as well be taught, lest all young end up as Jihadists, snowflakes, or culture deprived nerds.

Here is a bit of the love of more advanced wisdom. More advanced philosophy enables to listen to music others, less mentally advanced types, can’t hear. Therein a happiness others are deprived from. However, establishing new thinking inside one’s brain is expensive, not just expansive, and involves suffering. Thus, some whine, Nietzsche prefered suffering to happiness. (Not really true: Nietzsche observed that lions are happy, and  imagined them happy not to be mice… Bertrand Russell, like all good hypocrites, practicing the opposite of what they preach, disingenuously called Nietzsche not compassionate… While siding with the despicable Kaiser in World War One… while Nietzsche correctly vomited the preceding Kaiser already)

Here is a relevant philosophical perspective Buddha himself blithely ignored: IF ONE PREFERS SUFFERING TO HAPPINESS, HOW CAN THINGS GET WORSE? Verily, suffering and happiness are entangled: happiness is best experienced, like the best tsunami, with the contrasting experience, of a lowering of expectations…

Philosophy at its best. Science can’t do that.  

Science can study suffering, science can’t say why one should study suffering, and what to do with it. Only philosophy can do that, thus only philosophy can order science to get going.

We, humans, have been scientists, for millions of years, but so are we, because we love to be wise. That’s how we are. Neglecting the love of wisdom is neglecting us. It is easy to see how greedy potentates will want to neglect us. Let them not have it. In ancient Rome, philosophy failed first, followed by the failure of democracy, then intelligence. Teach philosophy to children, and, if you don’t, ultimately science and technology themselves will falter, as they did in Rome, barbarity will win, as civilization won’t be sustainable anymore. 

To finish how we started here, the most important subject to teach, with heart and mind, is the most encompassing philosophical attitude. How to do this with children? By teaching them the history of civilizations (notice the plural). Killing two birds with one stone. The rise of violent Muslim Fundamentalism in Europe, in particular France, is directly attributable to an astounding lack of knowledge of history among not just the young, but also self-described “intellectuals” (multiple shootings and wounded in France again today, March 23, 2918, in attacks claimed by Daesch, the so-called Islamist State… no problem we shall just live in a state of siege, adorned by shootings in the streets, schools, supermarkets…)

Generally when taught, in only in one hour, the rough circumstances of Muhammad’s ascent to the position of Mecca’s dictator, a discernible mental shift among young Muslims is discernible. It’s just astounding that this telling part of history is not taught anywhere in French schools (all the more as France is a direct political, cultural and legal descendant of the Roman State, half of which got violently invaded, and ruined… by the immediate successors (“Caliphs“) of Muhammad…

China, Europe, India, are the major scientific, and technological powers of civilization. It is no coincidence that they are also the philosophical superpowers.

Human is the philosophical animal. And science, facts known for sure, a consequence. Art also: try to make symbols that will last 50,000 years… without any science.

You want life and the pursuit of happiness? Let society pursue philosophy first!

Patrice Aymé




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9 Responses to “What Use Philosophy?”

  1. pshakkottai Says:

    Hi Patrice, Philosophy and Science were treated together in Rg Veda as I have mentioned before. The ancients studied all worthwhile fields of endeavor. Anyway I like your explanation of Philosophy before science!

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Thanks Partha! That India invented the zero is no accident: Indian “mythology” was relaxed with numbers, attributing (correctly) an immense age to life, whereas the Christians confused life with a fraction of the history of civilization!
      The Greeks had part of the modern numeration system. China invented it in appearance independently… Although news travelled well in Eurasia… Greeks and Indians were fully aware of each other, well before Alexander ridiculized himself by trying to conquer India, on his way to the Pacific Ocean (that was his plan, which didn’t resist contact with a serious Indian army…)… Yet the zero was something Greeks intellectuals didn’t dare to do, at least officially! Although Greek businessmen may have had it… It took India to forge ahead… While Europe was sinking under the Christian fascist superstition…

  2. Patrice Ayme Says:

    March 23, 2018. France reeling under the latest Fundamental Islam activity, with shootings in three places, finishing in supermarket. Gendarmerie Colonel who volunteered to replace a woman hostage, has died. Others died or are between life and death… Young Islamist punk with a 9mm handgun.
    Idiots are going around, wondering why it is happening to France: large, long lasting, multi-generational philosophical failure, that’s why…

    Patrice Ayme
    The problem with Islamism is not any different from the problem with the Catholic Inquisition in the Middle Ages. Its main enabling factor: most of those described as “intellectuals” in the West didn’t consider it a problem, even viewing Islamism as a form of liberation struggle!

    French Police Officer Arnaud Beltrame a true hero, has died after swapping himself with a hostage taken by a terrorist in #Trebes.
    Sir, you paid the ultimate sacrifice💙 May you RIP…

  3. johsh Says:

    The problem with “modern age” is not lack of philosophy, as every person has access to any information/philosophies they seek at their finger tips. In fact , there is too much.

    The problem is lack of “wisdom”. The kind of wisdom elders accrue over their lifetime. This was give utmost importance in some older cultures with concepts like “sage” , “gurus”, “teacher-disciple” concepts etc. India,/Chinese (“east”) old cultural literature is full of these notions.

    The “modern age” (advanced economies) lost it over last few centuries, as younger generation started feeling they could learn everything by themselves , they just have to go to school/college. And they call elders by their first name.

    With new information revolution, this only expedited. Confusion is exploding. Lack of clarity is rampant. Cluelessness is on exponential growth.

    “fake news” is just the beginning of the future nightmares.

    I guess the nature has to teach “modern human societies” few lessons.

    A culture has to develop. It is an organic thing, not one person can do. It is a “culture” thing afterall.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Johsh: All the points you make are excellent. All the notions starting with “sen” make an allusion to seniority. Such as Senate, etc. I would even suggest that the Proto Indo European root for old, SEN is the same as the one for sense (SENT, hence sentire, sensus (L) = sense (E))…
      The Old were the libraries, and sources of wisdom, for millions of years. This is why the human species has more old than the other species… Some whales can apparently live three centuries, in good, youthful health… However, humans have evolved much faster, something rendered possible by fast generational turn-over. Lionesses keep on reproducing until they die of old age, most species do… But human females can spend half their lives, so old, they are unable to reproduce: a testimony of the importance of wisdom (quite a bit the same for old males).

      So indeed, there is no more wisdom, nor even respect for wisdom, or even the notion itself. Zuck rules, complete with T shirt and the haggard look of the one who feels he has got to be wise as he is so wealthy (forgetting so was the case with the Mafia, Stalin, Mao, or Putin…) I came across complete lies spread by the Catholic Church (the…oldest institution), so the problem of lying is not restricted to the young. Actually, this is related and therein today’s massive essay on Constantine’s book burning, which is incoming…

  4. EugenR Says:

    Agree, philosophy is the foundation. I am sharing with you some philosophical thoughts of mine, explaining, why the religious fanatics have it wrong.

    Scientific approach to perceive reality negates the cultural approach, that is based on prejudices, faith in oversimplified explanation of perceived facts that are collected randomly and arbitrary, without criticism. This reality perceived without criticism is filtered through prism of culture, and the results are disinformation in form of febles, conspiracy theories, archaic pre concepts of reality, deeply infiltrated in the human individual and communal consciousness. This process brings to human being faith and belief systems, that within its own subjective reasoning, based on unverified facts create a whole belief system, either semi rational or mystical. The non scientific approach to reality is also starting with hypotheses, but it remains in this stage, with no data collection and with no following process of verification or refutification. The non scientific hypothesis is in principle lacking the method of accounter it with data with potential refutation.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Part of the fanaticism is related to the will to have just one God, while claiming It’s good. Clearly if there is just one God, it has got to be pretty bad, part of the time, as depicted in the Old Testament… But Christians, Catholics, don’t want to admit the occasional viciousness of God… Which both the Old Testament and the Qur’an freely admit, along the line of:’God may be vicious, sometimes, but He is God, Merciful…’

      Polytheism (India), AND tolerating many religions (not old India, but to some extent, old China… And the European Middle Ages, forced to tolerate the Jews, who were there first, not a small detail…) are weapons against fanaticism… YET, one has to impose respect for SECULAR law… (Not clear in present day Europe with Islam).

      Scientific is an interesting notion: it comes from the Latin “sciere”, to SAW… So science rests on some violence, on the ability to cut the crap… In that basic sense, there is nothing very new and mysterious about science: it’s good old common sense, developed during millions of years, outsmarting ferocious animals…

  5. G Max Says:

    Long live the music of wisdom!
    Just saw your massive attack against Constantine and Catholicism… Wow, lots to digest

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