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Apr 13, 2010
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The inevitable is occurring right before our eyes. The change is here as promised by the posthumous understudy of Alinsky. We are in the second stage. The trend is set as promised in Alinsky's words "A Marxist begins with his prime truth that all evils are caused by the exploitation of the proletariat by the capitalists. From this he logically proceeds to the revolution to end capitalism, then into the third stage of reorganization into a new social order of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and finally the last stage -- the political paradise of communism."

Does the above look familiar to you. God help this country.


liberal / progressive
Jun 4, 2007
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Philly, PA
The inevitable is occurring right before our eyes....Does the above look familiar to you. God help this country.

'Philosophy as a Humanistic Discipline' By Bernard Williams

1. In the formula "humanistic discipline" both the elements are meant to carry weight. This is not a lecture about academic organisation: in speaking of philosophy as a "humanistic" enterprise, I am not making the point that philosophy belongs with the humanities or arts subjects. The question is: what models or ideals or analogies should we look to in thinking about the ways in which philosophy should be done? It is an application to our present circumstances of a more general and traditional question, which is notoriously itself a philosophical question: how should philosophy understand itself?

Similarly with the other term in the phrase. It is not just a question of a discipline, as a field or area of enquiry. "Discipline" is supposed to imply discipline. In philosophy, there had better be something that counts as getting it right, or doing it right, and I believe that this must still be associated with the aims of philosophy of offering arguments and expressing oneself clearly, aims that have been particularly emphasised by analytic philosophy, though sometimes in a perverse and one-sided manner. But offering arguments and expressing oneself clearly are not monopolies of philosophy. Other humanities subjects offer arguments and can express themselves clearly; or if they cannot, that is their problem. History, for instance, certainly has its disciplines, and they involve, among other things, both argument and clarity. I take history to be a central case of a humanistic study, and it makes no difference to this that history, or some aspects of history, are sometimes classified as a social science - that will only tell us something about how to understand the idea of a social science. History is central to my argument not just because history is central among humanistic disciplines, but because, I am going to argue, philosophy has some very special relations to it.

A certain limited relation between history and philosophy has been traditionally acknowledged to the extent that people who were going to learn some philosophy were expected to learn some history of philosophy. This traditional idea is not accepted everywhere now, and I shall come back to that point. It must be said, too, that this traditional concession to history was often rather nominal: many of the exercises conducted in the name of the history of philosophy have borne a tenuous relation to anything that might independently be called history. The activity was identified as the "history of philosophy" more by the names that occurred in it than by the ways in which it was conducted. Paul Grice used to say that we "should treat great and dead philosophers as we treat great and living philosophers, as having something to say to us." That is fine, so long as it is not assumed that what the dead have to say to us is much the same as what the living have to say to us. Unfortunately, this is probably what was being assumed by those who, in the heyday of confidence in what has been called the "analytic history of philosophy", encouraged us to read something written by Plato "as though it had come out in Mind last month" – an idea which, if it means anything at all, means something that destroys the main philosophical point of reading Plato at all.[1]

The point is not confined to the "analytic" style. There is an enjoyable passage by Collingwood in which he describes how "the old gang of Oxford realists", as he called them, notably Prichard and Joseph, would insist on translating some ancient Greek expression as "moral obligation" and then point out that Aristotle, or whoever it was, had an inadequate theory of moral obligation. It was like a nightmare, Collingwood said, in which one met a man who insisted on translating the Greek word for a trireme as "steamship" and then complained that the Greeks had a defective conception of a steamship. But, in any case, the points I want to make about philosophy’s engagement with history go a long way beyond its concern with its own history, though that is certainly part of it.

I have already started to talk about philosophy being this or that, and such and such being central to philosophy, and this may already have aroused suspicions of essentialism, as though philosophy had some entirely distinct and timeless nature from which various consequences could be drawn. So let me say at once that I do not want to fall back on any such idea. Indeed, I shall claim later that some of the deepest insights of modern philosophy, notably in the work of Wittgenstein, remain undeveloped - indeed, at the limit, they are rendered unintelligible - precisely because of an assumption that philosophy is something quite peculiar, which should not be confused with any other kind of study, and which needs no other kind of study in order to understand itself. Wittgenstein in his later work influentially rejected essentialism, and spoke of family resemblances and so on, but at the same time he was obsessed - I do not think that is too strong a word - by the identity of philosophy as an enterprise which was utterly peculiar compared with other enterprises; this is so on Wittgenstein’s view, whether one reads him as thinking that the compulsion to engage in it is pathological, or is part of the human condition.[2] It does not seem to me as peculiar as all that, and, in addition, we should recall the point which Wittgenstein invites us to recall about other things, that it is very various. What I have to say applies, I hope, to most of what is standardly regarded as philosophy, and I shall try to explain why that is so, but I shall not try to deduce it from the nature of philosophy as compared with other disciplines, or indeed deduce it from anything else. What I have to say, since it is itself a piece of philosophy, is an example of what I take philosophy to be, part of a more general attempt to make the best sense of our life, and so of our intellectual activities, in the situation in which we find ourselves.

2. One definite contrast to a humanistic conception of philosophy is scientism. I do not mean by this simply an interest or involvement in science. Philosophy should certainly be interested in the sciences and some philosophers may well be involved in them, and nothing I say is meant to deny it. Scientism is, rather, a misunderstanding of the relations between philosophy and the natural sciences which tends to assimilate philosophy to the aims, or at least the manners, of the sciences. In line with the point I have just made about the variety of philosophy, there certainly is some work in philosophy which quite properly conducts itself as an extension of the natural or mathematical sciences, because that is what it is: work in the philosophy of quantum mechanics, for instance, or in the more technical aspects of logic. But in many other areas, the assimilation is a mistake.

I do not want to say very much about what might be called "stylistic scientism", the pretence, for instance, that the philosophy of mind is the more theoretical and less experimentally encumbered end of neurophysiology. It may be suggested that this kind of assimilation, even if it is to some extent misguided, at least encourages a certain kind of rigour, which will help to fulfil philosophy’s promise of embodying a discipline. But I doubt whether this is so. On the contrary: since the scientistic philosophy of mind cannot embody the rigour which is in the first instance appropriate to neurophysiology, that of experimental procedures, the contributions of philosophers in this style are actually more likely to resemble another well-known phenomenon of the scientific culture, the discourse of scientists when they are off duty, the slap-dash programmatic remarks that scientists sometimes present in informal talks. Those remarks are often very interesting, but that is because they are the remarks of scientists, standing back from what they ordinarily do. There is not much reason to expect as much interest in the remarks of philosophers who are not taking a holiday from anything, but whose business is identified simply as making such remarks.

A question that intrigues me and to which I do not know the answer is the relation between a scientistic view of philosophy, on the one hand, and, on the other, the well known and highly typical style of many texts in analytic philosophy which seeks precision by total mind control, through issuing continuous and rigid interpretative directions. In a way that will be familiar to any reader of analytic philosophy, and is only too familiar to all of us who perpetrate it, this style tries to remove in advance every conceivable misunderstanding or misinterpretation or objection, including those that would occur only to the malicious or the clinically literal-minded. This activity itself is often rather mournfully equated with the boasted clarity and rigour of analytic philosophy. Now, it is perfectly reasonable that the author should consider the objections and possible misunderstandings, or at least quite a lot of them; the odd thing is that he or she should put them into the text. One might hope that the objections and possible misunderstandings could be considered and no doubt influence the text, and then, except for the most significant, they could be removed, like the scaffolding that shapes a building but does not require you after the building is finished to climb through it in order to gain access."

rest here: Threepenny: Williams, Philosophy as a Humanistic Discipline
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