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Jaime Nubiola, Professor of Philosophy, Unviersity of Navarra

The role of the Philosophy

Fri, 19 Nov 2010 09:50:01 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper

I teach my students details of an immense landscape that they may never be able to traverse". This is how Ludwig Wittgenstein, the Viennese philosopher considered by many to be the most profound thinker of the 20th century, described his own work . This is how I also see my classes or the articles in which, following the Socratic tradition, I try to stimulate the creativity staff of those who listen to me or attention to invite - to urge - my readers to think at their own risk. As Hannah Arendt emphasized, the greatest danger that looms over our lives is ultimately banality. Superficiality is, it seems to me, one of the basic components of contemporary culture. Stopping to think is almost always considered in bad taste and Philosophy is often dismissed as unintelligible or irrelevant. In our society, the "soma" of Brave New World -which dissipated all worries and melancholy- is now part of the usual per diem expenses of young and old.

Compulsive attention to visual and auditory entertainment media so effectively narcotizes the human spirit that it renders thought superfluous and prevents attention from being paid to the pressing problems affecting humanity today. Only a few, almost always on the margins of society, keep the serene torch of thought amidst the media hullabaloo; they listen to each other and try to endorse with their lives the primacy of creativity staff over the lethargic collective consumerism. They are the artists, the teachers of Philosophy, the mystics and all those to whom it matters more to be than to have, those who value more to love and to be loved than to climb the social ladder.

The Philosophy has never been fashionable. Already the first of the philosophers, Socrates - whose birthday we commemorate this week - was forced by his fellow citizens to put himself to death for irritating the powerful of Athens and disturbing the youth with his teachings. Today the Philosophy is not valued either, but the fact that Unesco has established the third Thursday of November of each year as the "International Day of the Philosophy" makes it possible that at least once a year the Philosophy as an institution is in the news and can appear in the pages of the press. Some think that the Philosophy has lost the contact with the people, because it has become a sophisticated scientific task completely unintelligible to the ordinary citizen.

There is undoubtedly something of this: all knowledge in the last two centuries has experienced a formidable development thanks, at least in part, to its specialization. However, it is worth remembering that the Philosophy is not - it cannot be - a mere academic exercise, but is rather an instrument for the progressive critical and reasonable reconstruction of the daily internship staff and community.
The rigor of the specialization must always be compensated by the human relevance of the search and improvement staff. The claim to truth is not satisfied with contemplation; it always aspires to improve the life of human beings. A Philosophy that detaches itself from genuine human problems - as much of the modern Philosophy has done - is a luxury that we cannot afford at this point in the 21st century.

John Dewey wrote in Reconstruction in Philosophy that " Philosophy recovers itself when it ceases to be a resource for dealing with the problems of philosophers and becomes a method, cultivated by philosophers, for dealing with the problems of men." With Hilary Putnam-perhaps the greatest philosopher alive today-I believe "that the problems of philosophers and the problems of real men and women are connected and that it is part of the task of a Philosophy manager to achieve that connection." This and no other is for me the role of the Philosophy.