- Beyond Philosophy
What is philosophy? If it is anything it is the domain that aims to answer the most substantial questions in a foundational way. It attempts, for example, to provide an account of Truth or Knowledge in a manner that answers these questions in a way that can be understood as ‘scientific’. The attempt, therefore, is to make ‘objective’ or ‘universal’ certain domains of inquiry.Read the rest of the essay here.
There is more to philosophy than this, however. In virtue of the inquiry into the problems that are most fundamental, philosophers, privilege their domain of inquiry. Philosopher have a sense that their inquiry is in some way special… that it stands distinct from other inquiries. How justified is this? What is the current status of the inquiry?
Rorty is famous for saying ‘Philosophy is Dead!’ What did he mean by this?
The pursuit of foundationalism has followed two different paths that find their basis in two differing perspectives on the foundations for knowledge. The most central philosophical distinction, dating back to Plato, was that between forms and essences and sense impressions… qualia, and so on. For the former, there was something fundamental that resided outside of one’s direct experience of the world… something essential that we are hopefully able to access. Popularly this frame of reference is known as rationalism.
Empiricism which found its roots in the work of Locke, Berkeley and Hume, was a response to rationalism… It asked all metaphysicians who spoke of transcendent realms… how do you know? What is the basis for your knowledge? Empiricists steadfastly assert that the source and foundation for all of our knowledge is sense experience and everything that we can infer needs to start with this foundation.
Then along came Immanuel Kant who served to bridge this divide by constructing an account, in his magnum opus, the Critique of Pure Reason, that suggests that knowledge is constructed by categories in the mind that impose order on an unstructured external world. So persuasive was this account that it completely shifted the playing field and the way we view knowledge as well as our relation to the world. In effect, Kant bridged the divide between rationalists and empiricists.
This is the first major step in collapsing the distinction between subject/object… private/public… inside/outside…