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What is the Duty of a Contemporary Philosopher?

September 14, 2013

This is a post of mine from the google community, The Great Philosophers. I think it is an important question for discussion in the changing times we find ourselves in:

For many philosophers their duty is largely taken up with academic responsibilities. As such they tend to be quite conservative figures, not keen to say anything too radical that may undermine their position. Saul Kripke and Charles Taylor come to mind here as having some great ideas, but not being willing to take them to their natural conclusion, or to influence their own lifestyle and outlook very much. And then you have scientists and other people who decide to dabble in philosophy, often with dangerous results. The likes of Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins. They tend to create a mismatch of dubious far-reaching philosophical conclusions drawn from apparently clear and authoritative scientific premises. Literary figures are also often not averse to a philosophical foray. Sartre, Camus, and even Nietzsche may come under this head.

So is there even such a thing as a PURE philosopher anymore? It is very difficult to get people to listen to your voice in this era, solely based on saying truthful and reasonable things. You nearly always must have some social authority on other grounds to back it up. Such as an academic role, a scientific role, a media role, a literary role, a political role etc..

I think if one is to practice the duty of being a pure philosopher, the only approach is a consistent procedure of practicing what you preach. Of taking your ideas about truth and reason as a source for your own conduct and behavior in society. From here can come an autonomy in your actions that is a source of authority in its own right.

So if you learn it to be a truth that all people are unique, then respect and embrace the uniqueness that different people bring to your life. The boundaries between what IS the case, and what you think OUGHT to be the case are fluid. If you think something ought to be, but isn’t, that doesn’t make things hopeless. You can change what IS by consistently practicing what you think OUGHT to be. This is a central human freedom, and one the pure philosopher is there to safeguard.

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