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I was just reading through Paul Graham's article on "How to Do Philosophy" (

He mentions that philosophy has twisted in the wind for a while because so many smart people who realized that most articles lacked substance did not raise the alarm to others - mostly because it is very difficult to criticize works that are so hard to read.  Agreed...  But the greater reason is that there is no use in criticizing an essentially useless activity...

I studied math as an undergrad because I loved abstractions and patterns (Paul Graham got it half right when he said that math is a study of abstractions IMHO - abstractions without any patterns have little interest to mathematicians) - and I honestly could not understand any modern works of philosophy... I doubted my own intelligence when I tried.

So, it is refreshing to hear that so much philosophy is just drivel.

But Paul Graham's article finishes by encouraging us to write about useful but imprecise abstractions (after all the precise one's are in the domain of mathematics according to the article) to make philosophy a useful subject.  I would really like to know an example of this - generally, if I cannot create a concretized example of an abstraction in some way, I cannot make it useful... 

For example, when I studied OOP, it was not until I learned design patterns using these principles that I found OOP to be useful  (for those of you trolling my blog as a techie).

To take it further, in my opinion, the reason why differences in religion, and politics can be such a prodigious source for conflict is because people try to do exactly what Paul Graham suggests - but they come up with different results!  And because people have used logic or 'natural' thought to arrive at their conclusions only makes it harder for them to imagine others arriving at differing conclusions...

For those of us who are not politicians or religious leaders, perhaps even 'useful' philosophy is not a promising enterprise.




Posted on Thursday, October 18, 2007 6:51 PM Philosophy , Critique | Back to top

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