Academic journal article Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

Introduction: The Future of Philosophy

Academic journal article Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

Introduction: The Future of Philosophy

Article excerpt

The closing down of the philosophy department at Middlesex University, along with the downsizing of philosophy departments in Britain, USA, Australia and elsewhere, signify, if this trend is not successfully fought against, the coming to the end of an era in higher education, and perhaps, an era of civilization. (1) This is the era dominated by the Humboldtian model of the university that began with the establishment of the University of Berlin in 1810. With this model, which all countries had to embrace in some measure because of its manifest superiority, philosophy was not just one discipline among others. It was the transdiscipline that questioned the assumptions and interrogated the values and claims to knowledge of all other disciplines, revealing their significance in relation to each other, asking new questions and opening up new paths of inquiry. (2) In accordance with its origins in Ancient Greece, the goal of philosophy was to provide the foundations for an integrated understanding of the cosmos and the place of humanity within it through which people could appreciate the meaning of their lives and define their ultimate ends. It had the responsibility for engaging with the broader culture and its problems, for investigating the relationship between culture, society and civilization, and for working out how people should live and how society should be organized. As Friedrich Schelling, one of the philosophers who had a major influence on the founding of the University of Berlin, proclaimed: 'Philosophy must enter into life. That applies not only to the individual but also to the condition of the time, to history and to humanity. The power of philosophy must penetrate everything, because one cannot live without it.' (3) Philosophy was central to the formation of individuals and society, and it was the core of the university.

It is not only what the collapse of the Humboldtian model of the university presages for the future of philosophy departments that raises the issue of the future of philosophy, however. What many philosophy departments have been passing off to their students in the name of philosophy is really anti-philosophy dressed up as philosophy, if the word 'philosophy' (love of wisdom) has any meaning at all. Many academics in philosophy departments have been undermining not only philosophy but the Humboldtian model of the university and all that it represented for over a century. Despite such academic degeneration, philosophy could be and was kept alive by people outside philosophy departments, many outside academia. Much of the most important philosophy over the last hundred years has come from mathematicians, scientists, historians, artists, writers and public figures who reflected deeply on their particular disciplines, crafts and professions and related their work to broader developments and problems of civilization. Alfred North Whitehead, Bertrand Russell and Edmund Husserl, who began their careers as mathematicians, are obvious examples. What is of greater concern at present is that philosophy itself is slowly being eliminated, not only from academia, but from public life, culture and society. In the new business oriented universities with their career oriented students, there is little place for philosophically reflective mathematicians, scientists (natural or social), historians or law professors, let alone philosophers. Outside universities, the educated public, who used to read works of philosophy, is aging. Fewer and fewer people now read works of philosophy or engage in philosophical reflection. Those philosophers remaining are losing their audience. Although there is evidence that some young people sense that there is something fundamentally awry with their culture, are searching for deeper meaning to and a broader perspective on life and are looking again to philosophy for insight, the status of philosophy has seldom been at such a low ebb.

Of course philosophy has been marginalized in the past, and there have been very few times in history when philosophers have not complained about the lack of appreciation of their work. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.