7/13/2010

Philosophy and masturbation

There are two things Karl Marx says about philosophy that I think every philosopher should give some thought to:

(1) Philosophy is to the real world as masturbation is to sex.
(2) The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.

I don't think (1) is true of all philosophy, but it is easy to philosophize in such a way that all we are doing is no more than finding our way out of a conceptual maze we have created, a maze that does not tell us anything beyond itself. It would be fun, intellectually, if we got out of the maze, and in a sense this would be solving the problem. But we should also ask: Why does it matter?

As for (2), I am not sure philosophers should always try to change the world. On the other hand, it is not unreasonable to think that some philosophy (such as social and political philosophy, normative ethics, and even some philosophy of mind) has the potential to change the world, though it may take a long time.

(1) and (2) are, of course, related. If one's philosophy is nothing but conceptual masturbation, it should be not expected to be able to change the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment