P is for Philosophy
Philosophy (noun); an academic parlour game based on wordplay.
"Plato was a bore."
- Friedrich Nietzsche
Philosophy is something academics do in order to exclude others from their ranks, invoking obscurantist language and disinterested abstraction to the most pointless of questions.
It was not always such. Historically, philosophy played a very important role in society. In Ancient Greece, philosophers were scientists, traders and frequently teachers to kings and other leaders. Even with the establishment of Christianity in Europe, philosophy continued to have a strong role in public life and the role of government – even if it was the debased philosophical findings of SCHOLASTICISM.
Philosophy reached it's heyday in the 16th – 17th centuries, where, due to rising levels of education and affluence, literacy and schooling were more widespread, and a new breed of philosophers were able to engage actively in the important issues of the day – the proper scope of government, freedom of religion, the morality of torture and slavery and other similar debates. These philosophers were frequently noted for their accomplishments in other fields, as playwrights, or businessmen or doctors, and brought their philosophical knowledge to bear on the problems they faced in their daily lives.
However, unfortunately, that kind of philosophy is no longer very attractive. Instead, at roughly the same time as the philosophy above was having it's heyday, another type of philosophy was being born in Germany. It was obscure, it dealt with abstract issues and its practitioners were insulated from the society they theorized about. It will come as no surprise to discover than KANT pioneered this form of philosophy.
Alas, this kind of philosophy quickly came to dominate the entire field. As such, there are only two kinds of philosophy widely practiced nowadays – philosophy dealing with cognitive issues, keeping in the tradition of philosophy trying to trailblaze where science may follow, and the history of philosophy.
The key problem is that philosophy, which was meant to elucidate and clarify, communicate and promote understanding, has instead become unclear, a field filled with irrelevant jargon and dominated by people who mostly are separate from and dismissive of those outside their narrow academic circles. Philosophy becomes yet another signifier, an in-group out-group distinction which allows one to write off people as uncultured fools whose concerns and lives are of no importance or interest.
In side-lining themselves from modern society, philosophers have rendered their own field impotent and unimportant. The tragedy of this, beyond the neglect of the duty of these philosophers themselves, is that we could use those clarity of insights, the ability to draw links between apparently disparate phenomena and events now more than ever.