It is impossible to underestimate the value of philosophy in the 21st century as well as many centuries early. Knowledge and methods provided by philosophy can be applied everywhere: in natural sciences, industry, economy, education, medicine, political science, psychology, culture and people’s everyday life. All ancient philosophers, such as Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and others were constantly involved in the discussion of the value of philosophy. This problem also remained relevant in the modern world, because every philosopher, no matter whether he/she is only a beginner or already a professional, realize the importance to speak about the role and value of philosophy as the root of all sciences. Among the most obvious advantages of philosophy is critical thinking, which it teaches to all of its followers, ethics theory, definition and explanation of such basic concepts as matter, being, space, time and etc, explanation of origins of life on the Earth. Nowadays, it is possible to major in philosophy and become a versatile person having knowledge in all spheres of life.
The main goal of this essay is to speak about the value of philosophy discussed in the works by Plato, Socrates and Bertrand Russell and give personal view on this matter.
The first work on philosophy to be discussed will be “Plato’s Apology” written by Socrates, who was a prominent and ardent philosopher of the 5th century. This work is written in form of a dialogue, depicting Socrates speeches while he is defending himself in the court. In Plato’s apology Socrates defines such term as “philosopher” and explains the mission of any philosopher. Socrates was a kind of philosopher that was ready to die for philosophy but would never refuse to study it and obey its laws. Socrates viewed philosophy as the base to understand human inner world and to attain unique self-knowledge, which is very important to every human being. Philosophy for Socrates was the universal tool of reasoning, with the help of which all things could be defined and explained. In the Apology Socrates revealed his utter devotion to the truth, for which he was even ready to die. Socrates says: “The unexamined life is not worth living , which explained that philosophy for Socrates had an essential role and was more valuable even than his life. Socrates strongly believed in the power of reason, which he possessed by means of philosophy. In Plato’s Apology Socrates also discussed such philosophic concepts as wisdom, soul, life, death and life after death. However, the main reason which made Socrates deliver such speech in the court, was to explain why he was accused, which of course was wrong.
The next philosophic work which will be analyzed is “The Republic” by Plato, which is his most famous work in philosophy written in his mature years. However, the main emphasis will be put on the seventh book from “The Republic” called “The Myth of the Cave”, where Plato explained his idealistic point of view. For Plato the main values of humanity were the ability to speak and think, thus he used the allegory of the cave to explain why exactly these two activities were so important. In this book Plato referred to the misunderstanding of reality, because people depicted there saw the shadows but not the real objects, however, they perceived them as real. Plato supposed that people in the cave could talk. However, he said that they would talk about the shadows they saw, but not the objects that produced the shadows as they were unable to see the real things. Thus, the main point of Plato, which he tried to emphasize in his book, was that people give names to the objects according to their internal content, which is perceived with the mind, but not according to what can be seen with the help of eyes. When people in the cave turn their heads they see the real objects and realise how much they were mistaken, because they saw the shadows of the objects, but not their internal content. In his book Plato widely spoke about the importance of reflective understanding as one of the chief values of philosophy. The philosopher taught his followers to think and realize the reality in correct way in order not to make errors while perceiving the world around.
The last book concentrating on the matter of value of philosophy, which will be discussed below is “The Problems of Philosophy” by Bertrand Russell. Chapter Fifteen in “The Problems of Philosophy”, which is called “The value of Philosophy”, focuses on the major value of philosophy and reasons why philosophy should be studied. In his book Bertrand Russell says that “philosophy, like all other studies, aims primarily at knowledge” . The author underlines that the main value of philosophy is to provide people with knowledge about everything and to give clear answers to the questions posed by different people at different times. Philosophy is considered to be a mother of all sciences, on the base of which such sciences as mathematics, history, geography, political science, law and others were formed. Russell wrote “as soon as definite knowledge concerning any subject becomes possible, this subject ceases to be called philosophy, and becomes a separate science” . There are a lot of examples to prove it, just think that all famous mathematicians and physicians, including Newton, are also considered to be prominent philosophers. This happens not because these people wanted to be called so, but because in order to reach success in other sciences they had to study philosophy first. Bertrand Russell sees the main value of philosophy in its “uncertainty”, meaning that philosophy doesn’t always give the exact answers, but enables people with the ability to think and to reason. The author underlines the chief value of philosophy, which is “the greatness of the objects which it contemplates” . Philosophy as a science studies a great variety of objects despite their nature being positive or negative. A person studying philosophy will inevitably attain so-called “freedom of mind”, with the help of which he/she will be able to understand the nature of thinking and reasoning, to think critically and to perceive the reality objectively but not personally. “The mind which has become accustomed to the freedom and impartiality of philosophic contemplation will preserve something of the same freedom and impartiality in the world of action and emotion” . From the view point of Russell philosophy should be studied not in order to find answers to the questions, but in order to find questions to answer.
From my point view the value of philosophy lies in the following. First of all it provides people with knowledge necessary for problem solving. With the help of philosophy a person can find single best way out, rather than several decent ones. Philosophy grants people certain communication skills and writing skills. It teaches how to correctly perceive the reality and self, by showing how to do a study of the self. Philosophy enables people with effective methods of research and analysis, which play an essential role while studying in general, not just studying philosophy. And finally, such science as philosophy explains the origins and purpose of human life, the meaning of love, trust and other moral concepts.
1. Russell, Bertrand. The Problems of Philosophy. London: Routledge 1999
2. Stone, I.F. The Trial of Socrates. New York: Little and Brown, 1988