Meta-Philosophy: An Essay on the (F)Utility of Philosophising

My friends sometimes tell me that I shouldn’t philosophise too much but rather enjoy and experience life directly in a state of mindlessness. I have counter argued that such an attitude is only possible once you have convinced yourself of the futility of philosophising, which apparently is a process that you need to go through via the very medium of philosophy, which is reason.

The purpose of this essay is to explore for myself the (f)utility of philosophising as a means to come to “correct knowledge”, which Patanjali calls “Pramana” in the Yoga Sutras by reasoning this out in a quasi-philosophical manner. Correct knowledge as defined by Patanjali is knowledge obtained by direct untainted experience, deduction or truthful testimony. It is opposed to knowledge obtained by imagination, hallucination, speculation, incorrect reasoning or interpretation, from dreams or from memory.

I choose not to follow the traditional methodology of philosophy for reasons that will become clear in the course of this essay. Although I ultimately desire to develop my own alternative methodology, the present essay is a first exploratory attempt. It is a first brainstorm to order my thoughts, which by no means I claim to be exhaustive.

Whenever we use the word “philosophising” we have a certain meaning for this word in mind. Although each individual probably has his/her own definition of this terminology, for the sake of this essay I distinguish two classes of philosophising:

1) Philosophising by layman, which essentially amounts to reasoning and arguing about certain mental concepts, based on ill or fuzzy defined definitions and which relies on a non-systematic way of reasoning, which is allegedly based on “common-sense”.

2) Academic philosophy. As to this form of philosophy, Wikipedia gives a definition: “Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument.”

I did not study philosophy, so my type of philosophising appears to fall a priori in the first category. But I hope to be able to explore by rational arguments based on my common sense, in what way both methods have their inherent flaws and positive points or at least are ultimately (f)utile in their attempts to come to “correct knowledge”, in the sense that Patanjali uses the word in the Yoga Sutras. An analysis of Pramana, will have to wait until the end of this essay however.

As such this attempt is a kind of “philosophising about philosophy”, which makes it a kind of Meta-philosophy. Wikipedia defines this as follows: “Metaphilosophy (sometimes called philosophy of philosophy) is ‘the investigation of the nature of philosophy.’ Its subject matter includes the aims of philosophy, the boundaries of philosophy, and its methods. It is considered by some to be a subject apart from philosophy, while others see it as automatically a part of philosophy.”

In this sense my present meta-philosophical attempt is not futile, that -if it works out well- will save me from wasting time on futile future philosophising and possibly make clear which type of philosophising has utility for me. In this sense it is not part of academic philosophy, in that I intentionally choose to avoid the “generally systematic approach” of academic philosophy, whilst still relying on the rational argument.

One of the problems with the academic approach (as the ruling thesis of what philosophy is supposed to be) is that an essential part of its general systematic approach relies on providing new definitions of the terminologies used.

Although it is necessary to clearly know what one is talking about, academic philosophy often loses itself in a typical association-type think fever, the quagmire of semantics, leading to hopelessly long lists of definitions, before you have even started to reason. Although cumbersome, time-consuming and rendering the text to be read utterly boring, it seems an indispensable pre-condition.

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