Philosophy in the 21st century

Ramala asked:

What should be the role of philosophy in the 21st century? As we know, it is the era of technology. People have been moved so much by the technological breakthrough, a person with philosophical background naturally gets embarrassed in proving the relevance of his subject in the present day world. What should be the best way to stand with his subject?

Answer by Peter Jones

To me the real issue is not that this is a technological age, we could say that it has been one since Roman times, but that it is an age of quantum mechanics, relativity, dark matter, the Higgs field, string theory and so forth. Philosophy has failed utterly to keep up with these weird developments and now finds itself becoming increasingly irrelevant to the sciences. The attitude of physicists to philosophy is often straightforwardly dismissive. It is, as you say, embarrassing. More worryingly, it means that these days many professional physicist are hopeless philosophers, not feeling the need to investigate it or even seeing the point.

So perhaps the best thing 21st century philosophers could do is to get down to work to bring it up to date. I think there are signs that this is beginning to happen, but, as you point out, there is clearly a long way to go. As to how this is to be done everyone will have their own opinions. While it languishes in the 19th century, however, it will remain irrelevant and difficult to defend.

These comments would not apply to the philosophy of the East, which is a whole different ball game, but I’m guessing you did not mean to ask about that.

In the end there seems to be only one stand to take as a philosopher in any time or place, which is to strive diligently to understand how the world works.


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