International Conference 2012

Abstracts Detail

Philosophizing on Philosophy.

Philip W. Balsiger

University of Erlangen-Nuremberg

One of the challenging topics raised in the outline of the PIN workshop is the question, how philosophy has to change for being able to contribute to real-world problems. In my talk, I will try to approach in a more systematical manner a bunch of questions that are growing out of this statement. Therefore, some fundamental premises have to be considered. The statement given in the outline of the workshop is claiming, that philosophy in its current state is not seriously focusing on such problems that are raising from ordinary life. Hence, in the most general sense it first has to be analyzed whether this statement is true or not.

If at least, such a first analysis identifies some indicators that could be figured for being plausible, we seriously have to discuss not only the capabilities of both sides involved in the given statement, but also the expectations that are related to both, philosophy as well as the so- called real-world problems.

Therefore as a first step, tentatively an answer has to be sketched on the essentials of philosophy. Particularly it has to be checked, whether philosophy indeed is a coherent, quasi- institutionalized setting of universal thoughts. Further on, it has to be examined generally if philosophy can be reduced to just a pragmatic instrument, and if this would be the case, under what conditions and up to what extent such a reduction is justified. The title of the workshop, the outline of potential topics of the workshop, and when assuming that philosophy may take various forms, as e.g. a disciplinary one, it is always presumed that philosophy is kind of a closed consilience. This to me, is stated as the core hypothesis of the workshop.

In opposition to this assessment, we could also claim that philosophy is a phenomenon simply related privately to individuals and therefore nothing else but a hodgepodge of arguments, justifying ideas, which in the end are inappropriate for solving any kind of problems. If proof should be given of this latter alternative hypothesis, then the starting statement of the outline needs to be reformulated. But given this case, what kind of implications we then would have to consider instead?

To test the performance of Philosophy in solving real-world problems, we also have to analyze what type of problems exactly is meant when such problems are specified as “interdisciplinary” ones. This specification implies a premise on the side of the real-world problems. According to the general topic of the workshop it seems to be quite clear that real-world problems are challenging Philosophy due to their interdisciplinary character. But is it appropriate to specify real-world problems as “interdisciplinary”? Is this specification not just the confession that the scientific system today is excluding problems due to its disciplinary structure?