What value does philosophy bring to the society? Just as philosophy does not give one absolute answer to the questions it asks, giving a definitive, all-encompassing answer to the question of philosophy’s value to the society seems impossible.
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The existence of philosophy is the result of the humanity’s search for knowledge about the fundamental problems of human existence. The debates philosophers had over the centuries could not be won by either side since many of the fundamental problems of philosophy can be interpreted in many different ways.
As such, for an outsider, it might be difficult to understand the value of philosophic research. As with many other advanced sciences, the output of philosophic research is not immediately apparent and seems esoteric in nature. As such, in order to understand the value of philosophy to the society, it is important to consider what the focus of philosophy as a study is.
The subject of philosophy as a study is all-encompassing: it includes all general and fundamental issues concerning our universe. Philosophers sought to understand the meaning of life and the point of human existence. Philosophers raised troublesome questions about knowledge, consciousness and reason, and many questions which cannot be definitely answered. However, although the subject of philosophy is too broad and complex to define, it can be argued that the value of philosophy is not in some sort of tangible output, but in the process of study itself.
People tend to have a very limited view of the world. The broad subject of philosophic research means that people come to realize how vast and complex our world actually is. The study of philosophy broadens people’s view on the world and introduces them to many different perspectives on fundamental issues. The numerous perspectives enlarge people’s thoughts and allow them to roam free. People’s curiosity is limited by the view of the world available to them.
Philosophy discusses such issues that make us better understand ourselves and the reality around us. As it was mentioned before, philosophy occurred as a response to people’s curiosity. Our ancestors wanted to understand themselves as rational beings and the reality about them. The fact that philosophy is still relevant means that we want to understand the same things. Philosophy allows us to examine the world from many different viewpoints, and learn some of the answers for difficult questions we ask ourselves. Philosophy broadens our knowledge about the world and the fundamental problems present.
While some of the questions discussed by philosophers are obscured, it does not mean they are not important or relevant. The answers to such questions, as what is right or wrong, have direct implications for our life. If, for example, we consider something bad, we will avoid doing that. Philosophy raises important questions about what is moral and what is not, and philosophic discussions led to the creation of a separate discipline, called ethics, the study of fundamental values which help an individual or organization achieve ethical integrity. The important questions discussed by philosophers allow us to understand what is valuable, and what is specious, and determine the way we see ourselves and the reality around us.
We make generalizations and assumptions because we do not know everything about this world. It is important to know not only what to think, but how to do it. Philosophy challenges people to find answers to strange and obscure questions, and thus develops people’s ability to think and find solutions to difficult problems. Philosophy prompts people to think, to leave behind their convictions and beliefs and step into the unknown realm of knowledge. The value of philosophy is, therefore, in uncertainty. The search for meaning and the search for knowledge is what drove our society to the point where we are now. If the search is stopped, then the progress is stopped. Philosophy keeps the progress going.
Like other academic disciplines, philosophy is focused on knowledge. However, once a certain definitive body of knowledge is attained, it stops being philosophy. The broad scope of philosophy led to the development of many separate academic disciplines, such as psychology and sociology. By challenging human thinking, philosophy helps the humanity find new sources of knowledge and develop a greater understanding of certain issues. Once such understanding is developed, is becomes a part of another academic discipline, and the focus of philosophy remains on such knowledge that cannot be currently obtained. Some of that knowledge is bound to remain out of reach.
The subject of philosophy is as broad and diverse as the reality itself. The questions, raised by philosophers, are too complex to be answered definitely. The value of philosophy is, therefore, in the study of these questions which allows people to gain a better understanding of reality and broaden their horizons. The value of philosophy is, also, is not in the answers it gives, but in the infinite possibilities and speculations is presents us with. The search for obscure philosophic questions is one of the reasons the society is able to progress and develop.