Some things just don’t appear valuable. Why should we value them, then?
And how do we get philosophy’s importance without actually getting into it?
It is very important we know why we should value things that don’t appear valuable. That’s why I’m sharing this story with you. This is gonna make you see things differently, and that’s something you can do for yourself.
Here it goes:
Once, a distant relative honestly asked me, how many philosophers are necessary for every 100 people?
In that moment I was astonished!
I had no answer for that and the very question seemed absurd to me.
I tried to tell her that the value of philosophy is not measured like this and it’s not possible to answer that question. But she didn’t seem very convinced and probably kept thinking that I didn’t know.
Philosophers don’t offer a service, like a barber or a nurse. So, it’s not possible to calculate how many of them we need according to the demand. – That’s what I had in mind!
But, later on, I was wondering why I was so astonished by that question and why I couldn’t persuade her of philosophy’s value. I was upset because I’m a philosopher and I couldn’t answer to her question properly. Then, I wondered: why doesn’t this question make sense?
I started asking myself how the value of philosophy differs from the value of services and, although I can see the value of philosophy, I wondered what could be an actual answer to that question.
I wanted to get to a number.
Since calculating was not the appropriate means to get to a number, precisely because there is no relation between philosophers and demand, I decided to try out the possible numbers and think how could each number be justified as an answer.
First, 0. Zero can be justified as an answer: ‘There is no need for philosophers since they don’t provide any service.’ Nevertheless, much of the knowledge we have nowadays would not exist without philosophy giving birth to the sciences. So, although 0 can be justified, it doesn’t seem to be a good option.
Then, 1. Well, ‘one’ could be good answer, because one person can speak to 100 and let them know about the important reflexions that he considers.
In this sense, any other number between 2 and 99 can be equally justified (not by quantity, but by the fact that whatever number of people I’m considering, these people can speak to others and let them know about the important reflexions that they do).
And finally 100. Can we justify that 100 out of 100 people should be philosophers?
If we consider philosophy as the ability of questioning the standards, evaluating arguments as valid or invalid, debating issues, considering different perspectives and presenting justification for them and having clarity about things. Yes, every single person on earth should have a little bit of a philosopher, for these abilities are the special character of humanity that distinguish us from all other forms of life.
See below the excerpt of an article on the importance of these abilities.
So, I can justify all of the numbers as an answer! And, if we can justify them all, this brings us to the same point we were before justifying none of them: there is no answer!
Is this due to an essencial impossibility to count how many philosophers are needed for every hundred people? No! Is this due to the impossibility of providing justification for the answer? No.
This is due to the very fact that there is no standard for a relation between philosophers and people (non philosophers). This is a confused question.
Asking how many philosophers are necessary for every hundred people is like as if one asks for the opposite of a table. Or the size of a number (unless one is referring to the font). Or the size of honey (unless one is referring to the comb).
Of course we can set the standards and say that the opposite of any object is the absence of it, or when it’s broken. And in the same sense, we can set the standards for the number of philosophers. But, as we normally consider things, there is no such thing as the opposite of a table nor the size of honey, nor the number of philosophers for every 100 people.
And that one can clarify this question to this point, this is where we can see the value of Philosophy!
Philosophy helps us to understand and see things in a clearer way.
This is what we need in so many circumstances of our private and public lives, and of our scientific investigations.
We need to invest in understanding!
So, that’s the message for today!
All the best,
PS. If you are interested in more pages involving the importance of philosophy, check these links:
This is an article written by researcher Charlotte Blease, from University College Dublin, about the substitution of many jobs by artificial intelligence and the philosophical skills that will be needed in the future.
Here is an excerpt:
“We will need people who are prepared to ask, and answer, the questions that aren’t Googleable: like what are the ethical ramifications of machine automation? (…) the Irish president Michael D Higgins provided a beacon of leadership in this area. “The teaching of philosophy,” he said in November, “is one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal to empower children into acting as free and responsible subjects in an ever more complex, interconnected, and uncertain world.””
This is a comprehensive article about the history of logic and how it enabled the invention of computers.
This is an interview with TV personality, philosopher and public speaker Jason Silva about his series of videos commenting on philosophical topics like existence, love and loss.
And this is an article written by Professor Angie Hobbs, from University of Sheffield, about philosophy as an immunization tool against doctrines that teach people what to think.
Here is an excerpt:
” (…) in a world where the deliberate spreading of misinformation is commonplace, and the phrases “post-truth” and “alternative facts” appear with disturbing frequency, it is vital that schools do all they can to help young people analyse and reflect on what they hear.”