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Is philosophy a cultural phenomenon, or does it transcend culture?

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  • Occasionally I like to take stock, so to speak, and consider the issue of 'philosophy' itself, as a topic for discussion.  How do you 'define' philosophy?  How would you describe the work of philosophers?  Can there be a good general statement of 'philosophy'?

    It seems that our May meetup is a good time to do this again.

    There are many views on the nature of philosophy --- books, articles, internet items etc.. If you need to refer to some of those, you should not have any trouble finding a wealth of sources.  But I will focus on three statements on philosophy that a writer, Richard Berstein, made in an Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on John Dewey, a few decades ago (which is when the best modern philosophical thinking occurred). He stated the following:

    ...philosophy is dependent on -- but should attempt to transcend -- the specific culture from which it emerges.

    ...the function of philosophy is to articulate the basic principles and values of a culture, and to reconstruct these into a more coherent and imaginative vision.

    ...philosophy is .. essentially critical, and as such, will always have work to do.

    (Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. by  Paul Edwards, Collier-Macmillan,1967, volume 2, page 385)


    Let's take each of these statements in turn and try to evaluate them.  To what extent do they ring true to you?  To what extent do they capture important aspects of philosophy as you see It?  If you think they fall short, overstate, or mislead in characterizing the work of philosophy, where does that happen?







    We invite participants to join us and bring your questions and comments on this topic. We meet once a month to discuss topics and issues in philosophy. Normally our discussion will focus on the announced topic; but occasionally we allow for an open, free flowing discussion. Our discussions are open to all levels of experience.

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