On this page, I will anonymously post some reflection emails that 1) are good examples of the length and content (showing that you have read closely and carefully!) that I would like to see in a reflection, and 2) make observations or pose questions that may be helpful for the whole class to see and consider. These reflections also exhibit impressive diversity in their writing style, with a distinctive voice coming through in each one, yet they are all examples of philosophical thinking. These go to show that there is certainly not one good way of doing philosophy!
On Bertrand Russell’s “The Value of Philosophy”
Most people today don’t value philosophy as much as other subjects. However, philosophy is related to everything in the universe. As the article stated, “The whole study of the heavens, which now belongs to astronomy, was once included in philosophy; Newton’s great work was called ‘the mathematical principles of natural philosophy’. Similarly, the study of the human mind, which was a part of philosophy, has now been separated from philosophy and has become the science of psychology” (1). It is fair to say that those subjects were in some ways derived from philosophy. Moreover, philosophy has infinite values because there are unlimited answers to it. In the words of Russell, “Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions, since no definite answers can, as a rule, be known to be true, but rather for the sake of the questions themselves”(4). The process of discovering answers to philosophy could take years, decades, and centuries. This is what makes philosophy valuable, unique, and mysterious.
I like how most sciences and psychology used to be considered philosophy until they are separated as their own studies.
Philosophy is useful as it allows us to go beyond common sense and gets us out of our small world so that we can wonder about things that didn’t seem possible before in our mind.
The idea that there can be knowledge that is not thought of or created by the mind is intriguing and gives me hope that there are things beyond what we can imagine possible.
I didn’t understand what philosophy was for but reading this it told me how it is for increasing what we think is possible and to increase our imagination.
How is it possible to think of things the mind can’t create?
While reading Bertrand Russell’s “The Value of Philosophy”, I found myself agreeing with many things that he said, but I also realized that he had many interesting things to say about philosophy. I agree with Russell when he says that “those questions which are already capable of definite answers are placed in the sciences, while those only to which, at present, no definite answer can be given, remain to form the residue which is called philosophy” because I’ve noticed that philosophers usually try to answer hard questions like “what is the meaning of life.” I was not surprised when Russell said that the study of the mind used to be considered philosophy because a long time ago, we did not know much about the human mind and when it comes to questions that seem impossible, philosophers are the ones who try to answer them. I think that psychology should still be considered somewhat philosophical because there is so much about the mind that we don’t know. I think that the most interesting thing Russell says is that contemplation “makes us citizens of the universe, not only of one walled city at war with all the rest.” This line stood out to me because I support what says because I believe that asking philosophical questions will help us become more involved with the rest of the world and if everyone is thinking like this, we can all become more involved with each other which can lead to more unity across the globe.
“The Value of Philosophy” by Bertrand Russell took a lot longer to read than I had initially expected. Through this reading, I was able to understand the basic differences between philosophy and science. For example, I learned that philosophers cannot be definite about their bodies of truth. I was also able to get an insight of why philosophy should be studied. Towards the end of the reading, Bertrand discussed “the Self”, which I was somewhat confused about. Overall, I was able to grasp a general idea of what philosophy was about and what its beliefs were.
The sky is jet-black and a breeze is rustling the local vegetation. Hidden in the darkness a lioness waits, focused on her prey, striking and killing her prey. The attack is heard by a nearby tribe. One of the tribesmen looks towards the source of the noise but sees nothing. His eyes begin to drift around, finally focusing on the dark sky. Doing something no other creature does he focuses on the darkness. Out of the darkness for every pinpricks of light that pops into focus a new question appears.
This discovery is not forgotten, rather it becomes the foundation of civilization. Impossible questions are asked. Some that generations will devote their lives to answering but never fully understand. Eventually over generations the objects in the sky will be understood, tracked, recorded, passed down in myths and legends. They will be used as beacons for navigation, tracking the seasons, and cultures. A few eons later, one pinprick on the backdrop of emptiness will be a spacecraft on its way to land on the unknown.
The value of questions is not only important because of what it represents but also what it will lead to. The impossible distances the stars in the night sky are, or the fusing elements that compose it, are as unknown as the space they are suspended in to those that first asked the questions. However by contemplating on its nature, new fields of science are born to seek to understand it. While philosophy does not provide the answer to a question it does provide the road map to answering it. Philosophy is valuable because of the questions it creates. From the answers that philosophy leads to, new questions are born. Ones which cannot be solved, instead they are reflected on. The answers may be held back by technology, time, or forces of nature but understanding can be gained as well by reflecting on the questions themselves.