Definition: Philosopher (What Does A Philosopher Do?)

What’s it mean to be a philosopher? What is this thing we call philosophy?

We could say that it is a discipline by which we learn the craft of reasoning. So, many of us philosophize just as many of us repair machines, or do housework, or use mathematics.

But using these tools is different from demonstrating a mastery of them, or demonstrating one’s ability of surviving a competition with others who may do it better. Or creating innovative ideas using reason.

We could say that philosophy is a discipline in which we attempt to master the criteria for decision making in any field of interest. Or rather, the process of creating a set of internally consistent general rules (theories) of decidability in a domain of inquiry.

We could say that philosophy is a discipline in which we attempt to discover fundamental truths – but I would suggest that this is the same as determining the means of decision making – a network of interdependent, internally consistent theories – in any field of interest.

I’m going to provide a narrow definition of the discipline of philosophy. Because while many people philosophize, just as many people work with wood, few people succeed in mastery of it.

A philosopher’s job is to take new knowledge and understanding, and to reorganize the causes, values, decisions, and narratives of the current network of causes, values, decisions, and explanatory narratives to make use of the new knowledge, providing us with greater explanatory power, greater power of action, and greater parsimony between our model of the world we live in and objective reality. This is a better way of saying that a philosopher’s job is to increase the precision of model we use to determine courses of action in the world.

Conversely, it is possible to use reasoning to create errors, to create justifications and rationalizations, to create cunning but empty circumventions, and develop elaborate deceits. And it appears that many philosophers use the verbal craft of philosophy, not to create greater correspondence, but to advocate for a deception. And that is what most if all prophets do.

So reasoning, or philosophizing, can be used for good – meaning greater correspondence with reality, giving us grater control of reality. Or it can be used for ill – meaning non-correspondence with reality, giving others more control of us.

A philosopher reorganizes a network of theories in response to, by including, knew knowledge and understanding.

A logician is not a philosopher.


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