July 12, 2017

Note on Amy Willis ‘Can majoring in philosophy make you a better person?’


Amy Willis argues: “Philosophy is the foundational discipline since it inquires into reality, truth, goodness and beauty, the objects of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics, as well as social and political philosophy. Adam Smith was a professor of philosophy, and Karl Marx had a doctorate in philosophy.”

This is only half true. Philosophy is also the foundational discipline of storytelling, sophistry, blather, and what later became social sciences/PR/propaganda/sitcom.

Smith and Marx are the iconic storytellers of economics: “… in fact he [Adam Smith] disliked whatever went beyond plain common sense. He never moved above the heads of even the dullest readers. He led them on gently, encouraging them by trivialities and homely observations, making them feel comfortable all along.” (Schumpeter)

Wikipedia says about Marx’s doctorate in philosophy: “Marx decided, instead, to submit his thesis to the more liberal University of Jena, whose faculty awarded him his PhD in April 1841.” Wikipedia fails to notice that Marx’s promotion was “in absentia”. This was the more liberal specialty of Jena to attract students.

“Hier bestand die Neuerung in der sogenannten „promotion in absentia“, die bis ins späte 19. Jahrhundert an vielen Universitäten nicht nur möglich, sondern fast der Regelfall war. Bei dieser Art der Promotion wurde auf die Disputation verzichtet. Weniger diplomatisch formuliert: Man konnte sich den Titel kaufen.”#1

In plain English, Marx bought the title. So the answer to ‘Can majoring in philosophy make you a better person?’ is NO ― neither a better person nor a better economist.#2

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

#1 Deutsche Universitätszeitung
#2 See ‘Marx, the moron

REPLY to MRW on Jul 12

You say “Copernicus, a Polish monk with little astronomical experience, picked up important Islamic documents in Italy and claimed them as his own.”

(i) “Copernicus was born and died in Royal Prussia, a region that had been part of the Kingdom of Poland since 1466.”* The Kingdom of Poland is something quite different from what is today called Poland.

(ii) Copernicus was not exactly a monk either: “Copernicus was his uncle’s secretary and physician from 1503 to 1510 and resided in the Bishop’s castle at Lidzbark (Heilsberg), where he began work on his heliocentric theory. In his official capacity, he took part in nearly all his uncle’s political, ecclesiastic and administrative-economic duties. From the beginning of 1504, Copernicus accompanied Watzenrode to sessions of the Royal Prussian diet held at Malbork and Elbląg and, write Dobrzycki and Hajdukiewicz, ‘participated... in all the more important events in the complex diplomatic game that ambitious politician and statesman played in defense of the particular interests of Prussia and Warmia, between hostility to the [Teutonic] Order and loyalty to the Polish Crown.’”*

(iii) “Aristarchus of Samos (ca. 310 BCE – ca. 230 BCE) was the first to advance a theory that the earth orbited the sun.”*

* Wikipedia

REPLY to Ben Johannson on Jul 12

For somebody who reads “Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius every single day” you are extremely retarded.

The point at issue is NOT whether “philosophy provides a path to bettering one’s self” but whether “majoring in philosophy make you a better person”.

Majoring at the University of Chicago makes NO better persons or economists just like majoring at Trump University.

REPLY to Matt Franko on Jul 12

You say: “STEM students don’t have time for Philosophy... too busy on math and science training”.

Tradition has it that this phrase was engraved at the door of Plato’s Academy: “Let no one ignorant of geometry enter”.

For the ancient Greeks held: philosophy = science = math. Today we have philosophy = sitcom blather.

TAKE-AWAY on Jul 12

Philosophy did not help much in economics, just the contrary, it is the ultimate cause that economics is still at the proto-scientific level.

Fact is that economists ― Walrasians, Keynesians, Marxians, Austrians ― never understood what science is all about.*

* See ‘Economics is not a science, not a religion, but proto-scientific rubbish

REPLY to Ben Johannson on Jul 13

Utilitarianism is the natural philosophy of most people. Utilitarianism asks what is it good for? Acceptable answers are: because it makes me a better person, is fun, is healthy, makes me happy, maximizes well being/welfare, is good for my family/community/country, guarantees me a place in heaven, saves humanity.

Now, the very characteristic of philosophy is that it is NOT a wellness activity but the quest for something called truth without knowing what it is or whether it exists. Because the outcome is not known the question what is it good for is senseless. No serious philosopher promises to make anybody a better person. This is traditionally the claim of priests and gurus.

The philosopher Nietzsche, for example, arrived after a very long quest at this conclusion: “I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him? All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is the ape to man? A laughingstock or a painful embarrassment. And man shall be just that for the overman: a laughingstock or a painful embarrassment...”.

People who regard philosophy as a means to become better in the University of Chicago sense are a painful embarrassment for philosophers: “The earth has become small, and on it hops the last man, who makes everything small. His race is as ineradicable as the flea; the last man lives longest.”

To which the utilitarian philosopher answers: “One has one’s little pleasure for the day and one’s little pleasure for the night: but one has a regard for health. ‘We have invented happiness,’ say the last men, and they blink.”

Philosophy has no use value beyond itself and is therefore a NO-GO for economists who take utility maximization as their first axiom. All the more so, as economists in their bottomless incompetence have until this day not figured out how the economy works.* First things first is the first principle of practical philosophy.

* See ‘We are not yet out of the wood; in fact, we are not yet in it

REPLY to Tom Hickey on Jul 13

Roughly speaking, there are three realms: politics, science, and philosophy.

Science is well-defined: “Research is in fact a continuous discussion of the consistency of theories: formal consistency insofar as the discussion relates to the logical cohesion of what is asserted in joint theories; material consistency insofar as the agreement of observations with theories is concerned.” (Klant)

Whether the Arabs or the Greeks or somebody else has invented/developed science is a secondary question.

Scientific and philosophical thinking is characterized by the fact that the outcome is unknown: “A genuine inquirer aims to find out the truth of some question, whatever the color of that truth. ... A pseudo-inquirer seeks to make a case for the truth of some proposition(s) determined in advance. There are two kinds of pseudo-inquirer, the sham and the fake. A sham reasoner is concerned, not to find out how things really are, but to make a case for some immovably-held preconceived conviction. A fake reasoner is concerned, not to find out how things really are, but to advance himself by making a case for some proposition to the truth-value of which he is indifferent.” (Haack)

From this follows that science and philosophy on the one hand and politics on the other have to be strictly separated. And this is exactly how John Stuart Mill defined economics: “A scientific observer or reasoner, merely as such, is not an adviser for practice. His part is only to show that certain consequences follow from certain causes, and that to obtain certain ends, certain means are the most effectual. Whether the ends themselves are such as ought to be pursued, and if so, in what cases and to how great a length, it is no part of his business as a cultivator of science to decide, and science alone will never qualify him for the decision.”

This, though, is not what has happened. There is political economics and theoretical economics. The main differences are: (i) The goal of political economics is to successfully push an agenda, the goal of theoretical economics is to successfully explain how the actual economy works. (ii) In political economics anything goes; in theoretical economics the scientific standards of material and formal consistency are observed.

The state of economics is this: theoretical economics (= science) had been hijacked from the very beginning by political economists (= agenda pushers). Political economics has produced NOTHING of scientific value in the last 200+ years. As a result of the utter scientific incompetence of political economists economics is a failed science.#1

Something similar has happened with philosophy. Philosophy is thinking about the first and the last things and has no use value beyond itself. The attempt of politics/social engineering to use philosophy for the education of better humans which are better able to participate in a well-functioning society is, strictly speaking, an abuse of philosophy. Needless to emphasize that many philosophers volunteered for this job. Socrates was one of them.

What genuine philosophers and scientists strive for is to get ALL political agenda pushers off their back. Politics and science/philosophy have to be strictly separated. This holds first and foremost for economics.#2 So, right wingers and left wingers and liberals and conservatives and freemarketers and communists and what not, for ALL of you the time has come to leave.

#1 See ‘Economics is locked in idiocy: How could this happen?’ and ‘Economics between cargo cult, farce, and fraud
#2 See ‘Scientific suicide in the revolving door

ADDENDUM Credit where credit is due on Jul 14

It seems that it is the Hindus who have to be given credit for the invention of science/ mathematics: “Who developed algebra, Trigonometry, our numeral system and the concept of Zero to give basis for the European scientific revolution? Despite some common wisdom misinformation it was mostly Hindu and Jain Mathematicians.”

See YouTube ‘An Islamic Golden Age or Appropriation of Hindu achievements ?