Philosophy: The Value of Sticking Your Neck Out

I recently read (or listened to anyhow) a book called The Dream of Reason: A History of Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance by Anthony Gottlieb. Now I am not that interested in ancient philosophy and philosophers, or at least wasn’t before this book. My general point of view is (was?) that we owe ancient philosophers a huge debt of gratitude for their dream of using reason to understand the world. But I also believe that their theories were all just shy of 100% hogwash and no rational person today (thanks to our scientific knowledge) would ever choose to be ‘an Aristotelian’ or some other follower of one of the ancient schools – unless they were doing it for purely religious reasons. (I tend to give people a pass if they are doing it for religious reasons.)

I’m probably wrong in this opinion, since there are many very smart and sincere philosopher’s today that are Aristotelians. But, given my bad attitude, I’m not likely to give them the time of day to convince me otherwise.

With this attitude, is it really that surprising that I have made little effort to study philosophy? But here I think I’ve erred. For after reading a book like The Dream of Reason, I can see that there is immense value in understanding the historical problems that these philosophers were grappling with and to look, with 20/20 hindsight, at what their graspings eventually led to.

And one of the key lessons of the book, if I were to pick one and call it the main theme, is that no matter how wrong you are, if you at least try to use reason, you are probably on the right track. In short, the book screamed to me “Stick your neck out and be wrong! Only the Rejectionists (i.e. people that point out all the problems of other’s beliefs but advance none of their own) truly fail in the realm of Reason!”

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The Myth of the Framework Introduction: What Your Philosophy?

Agellius once asked me what school of philosophy I most believed in. He wanted to try to understand where I was coming from better. (This is typical of Agellius. He is a very sincere guy.) It is well known that Agellius is a Thomist because he’s Catholic.

I wasn’t quite sure what to answer him. I am actually generally hostile to modern variants of ancient philosophies. My feeling is that just as scientific theories give way to better theories, we should let the ancient philosophies die out and only go with the newer ones that fit what we now know about the world.

This isn’t a slam on ancient philosophy at all. We owe a great debt of gratitude to the ancient philosophers for having created our modern world. But I would have as many concerns over a modern “Aristotlian” as I would over a modern “Newtonian.” [1] In light of our current knowledge about General Relativity, what the heck would a modern “Newtonian” even look like? And should we take him/her serious?

But, of course, I feel very differently about many modern philosophers. In particular, Agellius happened to ask me this question not long after I had discovered Karl Popper and had found that my worldview strongly matched with his philosophies of epistemology (i.e. theory of how we gain knowledge.)

So I told Agellius that I was a Popperian. I think this is actually the first time I had ever called myself a Popperian like that.

I’m still not sure if I regret it or not.

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