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Manchester Armchair Philosophers Meeting 16th January 2013 is Philosophy Relevant Today Lloyds Bar Chorlton Manchester

Why philosophy is still important in the 21st Century.

Manchester Armchair Philosophers Meeting 16th January 2013 Is Philosophy Relevant Today? Lloyds Bar Chorlton Manchester 

As an icebreaker, attendees were invited to express their current moods, which ranged from cold, curious, bouncy, cool, depressed, non-committal, settled, tired, relaxed, optimistic, hibernatory and the colour orange, among others.

We quickly recognised that philosophy can be very pertinent to the present day, especially in applied ethics, and moral philosophy.

Philosophers can be seen as dangerous – rational disciplined thinking can be one of the few ways left in which we still can think for ourselves. It is not something archaic and purely historical, though some philosophies have been taken over by the disciplines of science, psychology, sociology, etc.

There are still questions that science can’t fully address, such as the nature of love and romance. Some contributors see philosophy as just as essential to being human as breathing, eating and procreation. Philosophy allows us to see if our thinking is as valid or relevant as anyone else’s.

Philosophy is a critical, analytical instrument, good at questioning assumptions, theories, beliefs and hypothesis, though it is less useful in presenting answers, as any answers generated are also questioned. Philosophy constantly vivisects and dissects everything, including itself.

Philosophy as that which precedes and fills in the gaps in scientific knowledge was a recurrent idea among the group in the discussion. My own sense of its relevance applies philosophy more to ethical concerns, such as questions of switching off life support machines for the terminally ill, voluntary euthanasia, a woman’s right to choose an abortion, etc.

Philosophy can demolish someone’s certain or dogmatically held beliefs especially in metaphysics.

A major area of philosophy is statecraft. Machiavelli questioned how ruthless political leaders should, can and must be in The Prince. His opponents can easily overthrow a weak leader, while a tyrant will anger his subjects into violent revolution. The ruthless leader knows how to wield punishment and reward – merciless with enemies but merciful when expedient. His work can serve as a blueprint for ruthless efficiency or as a dark satirical warning against it.

Marxist theories taught and still teach us the importance of class struggle, welfare, and the value of the everyday citizen. His impact on history, economics and political theory will always be with us.

Alan Turing’s theories on testing computers and robots for similarities to humans have far reaching application in IT, and research into artificial intelligences.

To some philosophers are heretics – people like their cosy certainties, which philosophers can destroy all too easily. Philosophies, especially in Deconstructionalism, can be over-analytical, even disappearing in their own puffs of logic. Upsetting the status quo too much can lead to alienation, or in the case of Socrates, execution / martyrdom.

Words like science, democracy, consensus, moral thinking.

One commenter defined philosophy as the search for the light switch in a dark room. Another observer noted that while he wouldn’t have had Socrates executed, he wouldn’t follow him on Twitter either.

Philosophy for many in the group is synonymous with thinking, questioning, and challenging – the very existence of the Armchair Philosophers Group shows that many of us feel as if what we do is important and interesting today, just as it was to the Pre-Socratics.

Arthur Chappell

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