Philosophic Thought in France and the United States: Essays Representing Major Trends in Contemporary French and American Philosophy

By Marvin Farber | Go to book overview

DESCRIPTIVE PHILOSOPHY AND THE NATURE OF HUMAN EXISTENCE

Marvin Farber*


I

Recent and current philosophy in the United States reflect the aim to serve the ideals of a strict scientific procedure, although there is also ample evidence of the influence of practical motives, going all the way to irrationalism. Perhaps the greatest achievement in American philosophy is seen in the field of logical inquiry. The attempt to construe philosophy as logic was vitiated by excessive narrowness in the version of logic. In any case, the traditional functions of philosophy included the task of clarifying ultimate or basic ideas; of synthesis, with the aim to achieve the best possible world view at a given time; and of the formulation of a philosophy of values. It is only an artificial restriction to a methodology excluding such functions, aided by a limited test of meaning, that some philosophical writers were able to exclude all reference to reality and values.

The prestige of science has nowhere been greater than in the United States, and it has made its impression on philosophy. The philosophical expression is often one-sided, as seen in the emphasis upon physics, biology, psychology, or any one of the social sciences. What purports to be a rigorous scientific philosophy may thus take a single science as its model; or it may be an attempt at a synthesis, which is inevitably limited by the writer's specialized equipment, if not by his motives.

This is also seen in the case of philosophies which are allegedly descriptive. The great success of descriptive procedures in the special

____________________
*
Born in 1901. B.S., 1922, Ph.D. 1925, Harvard University. As a travelling fellow of Harvard University, studied with Husserl and his group in Freiburg. Professor of philosophy and chairman of the department, University of Buffalo. Guggenheim Fellow, 1945-46. President of the International Phenomenological Society and editor of the quarterly journal, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, since 1940. Author of works listed in the bibliography, and of numerous contributions to philosophical publications.

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