Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Does philosophy matter?

"There are philosophies that we're living by even though we don't know it. That's what ideology is. Like the emphasis right now on being in a post-ideological era is ideological." - Astra Taylor

It's not hard, at first, to claim that philosophy is dead, irrelevant, lacks pragmatic application, is ineffectual, etc. This is because you can't touch any one thing made by philosophy. You can pick up a cell phone or walk on a suspension bridge and say "this is made by physics and engineering." You can take your Prozac or Benedryl and say "this is made by biology and chemistry." You could receive your stimulus check and say "this is made by public policy." But there is no single item that you can easily link back to philosophy as a discipline, and this is why people are so hard on it.

This approach in general is strange, because it relies on commodities, but let's pretend that it's important. Philosophy appears nowhere because it appears everywhere, or because it grounds the possibility of everything. It will not show its face in our small lives, but it looms in the background the whole time like Kaonashi AKA No Face:

By that I mean that it persists, with an eerie silence, behind our everyday lives and their frivolities. Every so often one remembers that our cell phones are manufactured in sweatshops by laborers who work for less than minimum wage not just because, but because many of their governments tried to become self-governing and end their colonial rule and they are still being punished for this. And these efforts at self-government were nearly always associated with the thought of one Karl Marx, who was a philosopher in the Continental tradition, the side of philosophy which is generally snubbed nowadays.

It's not that philosophy doesn't matter: it's that the impact of philosophy is something which we would like to forget, because it gets in the way of our innocent obliviousness. Philosophy is dead which allows it to live on in a multiple fashion.

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