Philosophy is widely misunderstood and dismissed as having little relevance to human society. Some people believe that philosophy is primarily concerned with abstract realities. As a result, theory has no bearing on the modern world in which we live. These people believe that philosophical topics have little practical application since they are mainly speculative. Furthermore, the study of philosophy in universities is of limited benefit, and resources spent on it may be better spent on other, more important topics, such as research, in order to solve more pressing issues. In this paper, I will argue that philosophy is just as valuable as science to the preservation and advancement of human culture.
The Role of Philosophy in Society
Philosophy has a critical role in society. Human beings encounter numerous problems in the course of their daily lives and as communities. These problems vary in scale and gravity. However, through philosophy, people are able to examine these problems from varied perspectives. Although philosophy might not be able to solve these challenges and give solutions, it at least offers possible approaches that might be taken. This ensures that anyone or any community experiencing a challenge is not too weighed down with the challenges they are experiencing (Ndubisi 42). Philosophy, unlike science, does not claim to have specific answers for human problems. Nevertheless, humans and societies need philosophy. Through philosophy, humans have been able to address human problems rationally. Philosophy has the important role of enabling humans to look at the problems they encounter in society sensibly, whether in relationships or global environmental challenges, in order to come up with the best possible solutions. While science may offer specific solutions to our problems, philosophy help people settle on the best and most sustainable solutions to problems.
Philosophy is important to humans and society since it enables people to change their minds on certain beliefs (Ndubisi 43). People tend to act or interpret everyday experiences based on what they believe in. Consequently, beliefs greatly influence how people lead their lives. Philosophy offers a critical opportunity to question any beliefs that may not be rational. Therefore, philosophy has helped humans to shape and hone their mental faculties, resulting in the cultural advancements witnessed today. Similarly, philosophy can free an individual or a society from prejudices or stereotypes associated with ‘common sense,’ habits, and common beliefs of an era (Ndubisi 43). Therefore, philosophy facilitates intellectual independence, so that individuals can stand out from crowds. If there were no philosophy, people would be literally imprisoned by dogma and prejudices. They would not be able to question their habits and convictions. Philosophy has contributed to the advancement of society by presenting different opinions and perspectives, where many may have accepted what is unsuitable.
Another important role of philosophy is that it facilitated correct reasoning. It is not always enough to state what is. This is often followed by evidence and justification (Ndubisi 43). Consequently, philosophy encouraged individuals to examine their thoughts and ideas critically. The result is speech and text that is coherent and that can be understood by many. Such an activity also minimizes errors in communication. This way, philosophy presents a foundation for knowledge and communication between people. This characteristic of philosophy encourages individuals, including scientists, to question all that they are presented with before accepting it. Philosophy has enabled people to communicate and create knowledge without ambiguities.
Philosophy has a critical role to play in the age of globalization. Even though societies have become more connected and information may be exchanged instantly across the globe, there are still some people who remain intolerant to other people’s ways of life. Philosophers have the role of investigating occurrences, clarifying meanings, seeking to understand phenomena, while relating all of the above to values in the form of lived experiences of the individuals in question. Philosophers also have a role in articulating any insights they come across in their intellectual activities. In addition, philosophers have the duty to teach and communicate to the public any insights on the issues they are investigating (Sweet 15). Philosophers from different societies, therefore, could facilitate communication to prevent or minimize potential conflict. They could also increase understanding and tolerance between diverse cultures. Philosophy is important in today’s societies since it increases understanding and could minimize conflict between societies. Conflict between societies poses risks for advancement.
Philosophers engage in an activity that is very human in nature. Philosophers hold conversations and debates that inquire about everyday life and society’s problems. The purpose is mainly to investigate and understand. On the other hand, science seeks to understand and solve once and for all. While some may argue that science is more important since it solves out most pressing challenges, with resources invested into the inquiry process ultimately generating returns, philosophy also has a critical role. Philosophy encourages and facilitates conversations and debates on subjects that matter to individuals or groups. Those involved get an opportunity to develop their thought processes and learn different perspectives on the matters before them. Therefore, while science enables people to come up with new solutions to problems, philosophy enables individuals, and society, not to lose themselves (Hutchinson and Loughlin). Philosophy ensures that people and societies do not forget what is important to them, even as they pursue other interests and activities. Consequently, philosophy and science are equally critical, even complimentary. While science may advocate solely for progress, philosophy would advocate for meaningful progress.
Science vs. Philosophy
Some individuals may argue that philosophy offers no advantages for societies and cultures considering philosophers simply spend their time arguing among themselves for the sake of arguing. However, speculation is not always the end of a philosophical activity. Indeed, essays are often the media preferred by philosophers to communicate not only their musings and questions but also their findings. The essays often critically examine the questions posed and offer explanations with evidence. Consequently, the products of philosophical activities, primarily thought, may be found in well-written essays that can be consumed by the public. Furthermore, such essays may be subjected to as much critique as scientific essays and journals. Although philosophy seems largely as an activity pursued and confined to individuals’ minds, which is not often the case. The products of such engagements may be found in print and may be consumed by all who are interested.
Some people may contend that science has contributed the most to human advancement and thus should be accorded more resources and attention if we are to solve the world’s pressing challenges, which increase day by day. Although on the surface, it seems like science has contributed the most to the advancement of society and cultures, it could be argued that these sciences were birthed by philosophy. Most inquiries begin as a philosophical activity, with questions asked regarding a phenomenon. With time, certain fields have matured enough to stand on their own. Although scientific disciplines like biology and medicine may seem very advanced and useful, compared to philosophy, they must have begun as simple philosophical inquiries and discussions regarding the nature of living things and matter. Therefore, philosophy has made great contributions to knowledge creating and the advancement of societies. The sciences are founded on philosophy, which trains people to reason rationally.
The sciences have indeed introduced many innovations that have proved useful for humanity. The biological sciences have come up with cures for serious ailments, while other scientific fields such as engineering have enhanced transportation and communication. However, this does not imply that they are superior to philosophy in their role in society. In fact, the products sciences need philosophy in order to be useful in society. Today, the adoption of technology across the world comes with challenges. Inventions are churned out at very rapid rates so that even policymakers are not able to make regulations to govern their application in time. In addition, some inventions raise ethical questions, for example, stem cell research, in the medical sciences, which may imply chaos due to diverse and extreme viewpoints from different circles. Different cultures, religions, and even races may have conflicting opinions following the introduction of controversial inventions. Philosophers may encourage dialogue in case of such circumstances, by presenting diverse views and critically examining the emerging issues. Philosophy, therefore, is still important and may provide guidance to science. In this case, therefore, none is superior, but both fields need each other to contribute to society.
This paper attempts to highlight that philosophy remains important in modern society, even as important as science. Philosophy today is not as popular as science. This is because science has gained a reputation based on grand innovations and mesmerizing possibilities associated with modern-day technologies. On the other hand, philosophy has remained to be associated with senior scholars who sit back, think, and discuss otherwise mundane issues about life, in general. It is undeniable that science has had major contributions to life in society. This has also been accelerated by globalization and increased adoption of information technologies. Nevertheless, philosophy remains as critical, owing to its role in encouraging debate on both simple and complex phenomena, including science.
Although philosophy may not solve our pressing problems as quickly as science would, it offers an equally important opportunity to discuss the problems at hand. This is useful as it points us to the potentially best solutions, and if not, the simple act of debating relieves some anxieties. Through philosophy, we are also able to challenge our long-held beliefs through critical thinking and make changes where necessary. This could be just as illuminating as novel scientific findings. Science seems superior to philosophy in the present age owing to the ubiquity of scientific tools in our lives. However, it is critical to note that some of the most advanced sciences began as philosophy, before graduating into specialized fields. In addition, philosophy sometimes plays a complementary role to science, for example, where ethical issues emerge in the practice of science, which require restraint and critical reasoning.
Philosophy is just as valuable as science in the preservation and advancement of human culture. While science may come up with new tools and toys rapidly, philosophy ensures that there is order in the use of these tools and toys.
Hutchinson, Phil and Michael Loughlin. “Why Teach Philosophy?” Kenkmann. Teaching Philosophy. 2009. 38-54.
Ndubisi, Ejikemeuwa J O. “The Role of Philosophy in Contemporary Society: The Nigerian Experience.” Humanity and Social Sciences Journal (2015): 40-46.
Sweet, William. “On the Role of Philosophy in the Age of Globalization.” Sweet, William and Pham Van Duc. Rethinking the Role of Philosophy in the Global Age. Washington, D.C.: The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, 2009. 13-18.