We asked a range of Philosophy Bites interviewees the simple question 'What is Philosophy?'...Here are some of their answers: Listen to What is Philosophy? The Philosophy Bites podcast is made in association with the Institute of Philosophy.
In Simone de Beauvoir’s 1945 novel The Blood of Others, the narrator, Jean Blomart, reports on his childhood friend Marcel’s reaction to the word “revolution”: It was senseless to try to change anything in the world or in life; things were bad...
"You already know that Philosophyland is an awe-inspiring landscape with sceneries that seem impossible, marvellous fruits of thought that grow nowhere else, and astounding flowers of imagination that look more real than reality itself. You probably also know that most of the places where new discoveries can be made are highly inaccessible. Your perseverance and your mental strength will be put to test repeatedly.
It is now time to tell you something that you have not been told before, since we prefer to talk as little as possible about it. It is my duty to inform you that Philosophyland is also a highly dangerous territory. Some have permanently lost their sense of orientation here, others have disappeared mysteriously, and a few have even lost their minds. I am now going to inform you about the dangerous entities and places in Philosophyland. Before doing so, let me assure you that they can all be averted. You should always heed the warnings of your personal guide, the supervisor. When you find yourself in danger, never hesitate to call for help. If you wait too long it may be too late."
We tend to assume that solutions to philosophical problems look like scientific ones, only with airtight a priori arguments instead of fallible empirical ones. Whether our answer be positive or negative (i.e., that there is or can be no such thing as, say free will), successful problem-solving results in a discovery that something is the case, and characteristically philosophical knowledge of why this is... But what else could a problem be?
That’s an understatement. It might be surprising to think of a career as a philosopher as a potentially high impact ethical career - the sort of career that enables one to do a huge amount of good in the world. But I don’t think that philosophy’s impracticality is in the nature of the subject-matter. In fact, I think that research within certain areas of philosophy is among some of the most important and practical research that one can do. This shouldn’t be surprising when one considers that philosophy is the only subject that addresses directly the fundamental practical question: what ought I to do?
Michel Foucault (1926-1984) was an enormously influential French philosopher who wrote, among other things, historical analyses of psychiatry, medicine, the prison system, and the function of sexuality in social organizations.