What is Philosophy?

When I teach philosophy I usually start off by trying to explain what the academic discipline philosophy is. Doing this I use three quite different explanations, which I hope, eventually, will amount to the same thing, and one unified understanding, for my students.

Explanation 1 is historical and describes philosophy as the residual discipline. Explanation 2 is relational and describes philosophy as the ultimate discipline. Explanation 3 is internal and describes philosophy as the ontological and ethical discipline.

1. Historically, philosophy is the leftover academic discipline without any accepted method of achieving knowledge. Philosophy is what has been left in the dark whilst the other academic disciplines one after one have dawned upon us and been enlightened by evidence.

2. Relationally, philosophy is the fundamental academic discipline, being the intellectual foundation of all other academic disciplines. Philosophy is where you eventually arrive after consecutively having asked: “Why?”, regardless of where you academically started.

3. Internally, philosophy is the academic discipline basically dealing with metaphysics and value theory. Philosophy deals with the intellectual basis of the insistent and imminent pair: knowledge and behaviour. At each and every conscious moment you think and you act.



Reasonable Requirements of any Moral Theory

Normative ethics is an endeavour which at its core tries to give an answer to the question: “Which actions ought to be performed?”. Many answers to this question have been suggested throughout history, some more appealing than others, but most of them seem to carry irreparable faults. We humans might not have a correct answer to this question, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t find reasonable or even self-evident conditions which a satisfying answer must fulfil. By establishing such requirements I believe that it will become quite clear that some classical and highly regarded moral theories are simply not up for the task of properly answering this crucial question. This reveals somewhat of a failure of moral philosophy.

The first issue I want to address is the range of the question. Some moral philosophers believe that the question is only about answering so called “moral questions”, i.e., which actions ought to be performed in tricky situations, when how we should act is especially unclear, in social situations, or when we have conflicting moral instincts and intuitions. Questions that are not considered of interest are for example: “Which clothes should I wear today?”, or “What should you serve for dinner to your children?”. I find this view unacceptable. The range of the question isnt limited, especially not if the limit is arbitrary. The question needs to cover how one should act in all situations, simply because we want to answer the question. Otherwise we’re left without guidance and with uncertainty. This completeness criterion demands that the answer actually answers the question of which actions ought to be performed, in all situations.

The second issue I want to address are contradictions in the answer. The consistency criterion demands that the answer doesn’t contain any contradictions. The answer may not suggest that you should perform an action and at the same time not perform that same action, since this would constitute a contradiction. Such a contradiction would make it impossible to deduce which action should be performed in that particular situation, making the answer unsatisfying, to say the least. The contradiction even leads to worse consequences, since anything can be logically derived from a contradiction. Providing no guidance is, however, bad enough.

There is one additional issue I would like to highlight, an issue which rarely is mentioned or discussed. Commonly, normative ethics only concerns itself with human actions. The subspecies homo sapiens sapiens has understandably had a special place in philosophical discussions, but the question is not inherently only about one subspecies in the universe. The completeness criterion covers all situations in which somebody should perform an action, even if this somebody isn’t a human being. Human successors, alien life in other solar systems, and other species on Earth shouldnt be arbitrarily excluded.

It seems like an impossible task for any moral theory based on virtue or deontology to ever be able to fulfil the criteria of completeness and consistency, begging the question that if these moral theories can’t seem to achieve the very basics of reasonable or even self-evident demands, are they really worthy of any consideration at all? The only type of moral theories that seem to be able to provide a satisfying answer are consequentialistic. This reveals a failure of moral philosophy. Mesmerized by the illusion of human superiority, moral philosophy has lost its sights of the fundamental questions that it should answer.



En statlig björntjänst helt gripen i luften

När Konungariket Sverige har något alldeles sensationellt att föra fram, när dess slutsats är högst överraskande och anmärkningsvärd, i synnerhet när dess uppseendeväckande påstående kan komma att drabba en redan hårt utsatt etnisk minoritet, så bör statsmakten dubbelkolla sitt resonemang extra noggrant.

I all välmening publicerade Skolverket 2007 rapporten Romer i skolan – en fördjupad studie. Direkt under rubriken Tidigare studier av Skolverket står på sidan 20:
”Skolverket har på regeringens uppdrag undersökt romers situation i skolan vid flera tillfällen. I den kartläggning som Skolverket gjorde år 1999 konstaterades att många romska elever hade hög skolfrånvaro och att många romska elever inte fullgjorde skolan, men att detta varierade beroende på deras bakgrund. Många slutar redan i grundskolan och ytterst få, kanske någon procent, slutför en gymnasieutbildning. Rapporten framhöll att det fanns en misstro mot svensk utbildning bland många vuxna. Ett aktivt uppsökande arbetssätt från skolans sida visades vara framgångsrikt för att få eleverna till skolan, samtidigt som det bidrog till en ökad förståelse från ömse håll. Föräldrarna hade vanligen inga invändningar mot att barnen blev hämtade till skolan.”
En fotnot hänvisar till Skolverkets rapport Romer och den svenska skolan från 1999. Men i den finns inget stöd för det sensationella påståendet att ”ytterst få, kanske någon procent,” av ”romska elever” ”slutför en gymnasieutbildning”. Jag tror att detta påstående är helt gripet i luften och att det är en i raden av Skolverkets intellektuella, pedagogiska, och diskriminerande björntjänster.