Disgust With Philosophy

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I believe philosophical thinking is a necessary tool. But not for any knowledge or wisdom. The only valid use I find for philosophy is to REJECT ideas: most prominently those of philosophers. When students tell me they are interested in philosophy, I want to steer them away from it: what a futile waste of time!

Most defense of philosophy is a waste because there is no cladistic agreement about what philosophy is. Is it paraphyletic because science has been carved out from philosophy? Is it polyphyletic because philosophy has incorporated mathematics, which has a different origin? Is it simply some ancient grab-bag of subjects without real relationship? Or is it some ghastly organism with commensal origins like the eucaryotic cell?

It is easy to disbelieve in the vast majority of philosophy for the exact same reasons you can disbelieve in the vast majority of religion.

  • They contradict each other so very much that at most only a tiny fraction could be true.
  • They are usually not rooted in observed reality: they believe untestable things such as souls or morality.
  • They play stupid word games.
  • Their logic is grotesque.
  • They usually slide in is/ought fallacies or ideals/absolutes which do not exist.

I'm collecting a number of references to criticisms of philosophy.

Philosopher: "What color is the sky?"
Student: "Blue."
Philosopher: "Let us then proceed from the fact that the sky is blue to reason thusly...."
If only the student would observe that the sky is not always blue: it can be gray on a cloudy day, it can be black at night, and sun, moon, stars, clouds, birds, etc. can all make it different than plain, solid blue. If we say the sky is blue, that is not a fact: it is a vague observation or generalization, ignoring the many exceptions, ignoring the scientific explanation of scattering of sunlight and privileging daytime over nighttime conditions. It is not a valid premise that philosophy can be built upon. Most philosophy actually starts with such invalid premises, and it is not too difficult to spot them.

If you must study philosophy, I recommend Daniel Dennet as the philosopher I would criticize least.

The major real-world contribution from Philosophy is political liberalism, which is responsible for our modern societies.

An idea for a Truth course.

Some AI/futurists thin some philosophy has value: Here are some useful contributions of mainstream philosophy.

Anyway. If you and I agree that philosophy is an extremely sick field, that there is no standardized repository of the good stuff, that it would be a desperate and terrible mistake for anyone to start their life studying philosophy before they had learned a lot of cognitive science and math and AI algorithms and plain old material science as explained by non-philosophers, and that it's not worth my time to read through philosophy to pick out the good stuff even if there are a few small nuggets of goodness or competent people buried here and there, then I'm not sure we disagree on much - except this post sort of did seem to suggest that people ought to run out and read philosophy-qua-philosophy as written by professional philosophers, rather than this being a terrible mistake.
Eliezer Yudkowsky
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