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The Value of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Dec 5th, 2019

Introduction

Russell landed in philosophy from mathematical backgrounds. Starting with mathematics was not by his choice. Every Cambridge student had to start up the first part of his or her degree with mathematics or classics. Later in his career life, he emerged as a subtle logician, historian and social critic who stood for what he believed philosophy offered without prejudices subjected to sacrificing his logical decisions.

For instance, he, at some time, found himself in trouble following his criticism on the American roles in Vietnam War. However, he could not back down his criticisms since according to him, this was the truth, truth emanates from reason and the reason is from the mind. One, in turn, should subject his/her mind to prejudices. His academic works on philosophy have been tremendously influential to areas such linguistic, epistemology, computer science among others.

Summary of the article Value of Philosophy

Consistent with the aim of philosophy, Russell believes that definite answers to some fundamental inquiries are not indispensable but rather the interrogatives asked in the process of introspection of what may turn out as truth of the knowledge being sort are. The philosophical questions expand the mind and hence knowledge (Russell Para.4).

He considers it as dogmatic to say yes or no to answers given to some fundamental questions. To him this undermines the capability of mind. In his evaluation of the value of philosophy, he does not give definite values of philosophy. Rather, he proactively involves the reader in the process of searching values of philosophy through a set of queries.

People inclined to the ideas of “practical men” may perhaps see philosophy as valueless. It is rather a set of “useless trifling, hair splitting distinctions and controversies on matters concerning which knowledge are possible” (Russell Para. 1). Russell criticizes this view by asserting that it emanates from misconceptions of the goods philosophy seeks to achieve.

It, therefore, stands essential to first free our minds from all sorts of prejudices and misconception before exploring the values of philosophy. Such a prerequisite is necessary since unveiling the truth encompasses subjecting any previously held “knowledge” and biasness to doubt, so that through reason all that is susceptible to doubt may be eliminated and remain with only that is beyond any reasonable doubt (Russell Para.8).

It is only to such people who believe that mind, similar the body, also need food that finds philosophy significant (Russell Para.3). Philosophy acts at the food for the mind, which gives it the capacity to function at its full potential tantamount to how body receives energy to carry on its obligations from the food we eat.

Philosophy aims at inculcating knowledge. However, it seeks to arrive at the knowledge through introspection of beliefs, convictions and prejudices to determine their value to support the claimed knowledge and assertion of uncertainties. An important value of philosophy is its intention to evaluate the components of whole and their associative with the whole (Russell Para. 5). Such an association is crucial in the determination of the existence of the world and all it is “believed” to house. This is a philosophical concept of “realism”.

Russell challenges the opinion by some philosophers that “philosophy could establish the truth of certain answers to such fundamental questions” (Russell Para.6). Such philosophers postulate how possible it is for one to prove how some religious beliefs are true. As part of value of philosophy, consequently, people claim that philosophy has the capacity to proof the truthfulness of such knowledge (Russell Para. 6).

Perhaps another critical value of philosophy is its inability no to subdivide the world into distinctive categories such “friends and foes” (Russell Para.10). Its object is to attempt and explain why such categorizations exist. Through reason, philosophy assimilates the mind and the universe (Russell Para.11).

He comments, “The mind which has become accustomed to the freedom and impartiality of philosophic contemplation will preserve something of the same freedom and impartiality in the world of action and emotion” (Russell Para.14). In this context, philosophic contemplation leads to (though held with uncertainties) freedom of mind and thought.

Critique

Somewhat important aspect of philosophy that is intriguing is the argument that deals with seeking knowledge through holding uncertainties perspectives of all beliefs on things that may arguably claim to exist by so referred “practical man”. In his article, Russell outlines some of the bodies of knowledge such as psychology among others, which he says are currently nowhere in the philosophical body of knowledge (Russell Para. 3).

He argues, “As soon as definite knowledge concerning any subject becomes possible, this subject ceases to be called philosophy, and becomes a separate science” (Russell Para.3). This takes us to the accusations of philosophy he voices in paragraph one; that “philosophy is anything better than innocent but useless trifling, hair-splitting distinctions, and controversies on matters concerning the impossible knowledge” (Russell Para.1).

People also argue that one of the ways that would ensure one acquires a greater value of philosophy is holding any belief with suspicion and through a set of questions which primarily do not necessarily have to have definite answers, unveil the truth behind the belief. The concern here is to know what the various scholastic philosophical works such as René Descartes’ proof of the existence of God meant.

Are they not supposed to provide mechanisms that ensure that people belief in God (who others have proved to exist)? Again, does his evaluation of the values of philosophy serve to inculcate a way of thinking inclined to his lines of view? Is he not prejudicing people’s minds by attempting to make them think the way he does concerning values of philosophy?

Work Cited

Russell, Bernard. The Value of Philosophy, 2010. Web. <>.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "The Value of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell." December 5, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-value-of-philosophy-by-bertrand-russell/.

References

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