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The Value of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell: Importance, Objective, and Relevance

What is the Value of Philosophy according to Bertrand Russell?

The Value of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell. According to Bertrand Russell, what is the value of philosophy? Why should we value it? Additionally, according to Russell, what are the aims or objectives of philosophy? Lastly, based on everything you have learned in this course (use specific examples of philosophers that we have read), would you agree with Russell? Why or why not? Be sure to respond to all parts of the topic question and to all questions raised in the topic description. The result should be an essay composed of paragraph.

Do not copy the topic question onto your paper. Your answer to each topic question should total 2-3 pages typed single-spaced and with one inch margins all around, or the equivalent. Shorter papers will not be accepted. Please put your name on your paper and your class number. Please also number the pages in the paper. Submit your paper in either .doc, .docx, or .pdf format. Do not submit your paper by email. I would even suggest keeping an electronic copy and/or a hard copy of your paper. In responding to the topic you have selected, consult and discuss material only from the texts that we have read as well as your own notes. The entire content of the paper must not be merely a summary of what this philosopher(s) says. It must also include your own reasoning, made explicit in writing. If you choose to agree with this philosopher(s), you must include your own assessment of whether they have made valid arguments, provided sufficient or compelling evidence for the points they made, or have made some other contribution to your understanding of the topic.

You should also explain why you concluded that philosopher’s arguments or positions were compelling or valid (or not). Include reasoning, not unsupported opinions. Be sure to reference the primary texts that we are using. Do not use outside sources unless stated otherwise. You will need to show what you think the philosopher(s) mean by what they say and demonstrate that by direct quotations. Show what in the text supports the reasoned inferences you make about the philosophers’ meanings. Quotations must not make up more than twenty percent of the paper. Your reasoning, analyses, and arguments are central to this paper. Make sure you use proper citations. Use footnotes, endnotes, or in-text annotations whenever you quote a source. If you are not sure of how to use footnotes/endnotes or parenthetical annotations, how to cite a text properly, or how to write a bibliography/reference list, consult the online MLA Style Manual, or Chicago Manual of Style. If you prefer to use another standard method of documentation (APA style, for example), that is fine too. I do not care which style of citation and documentation you use (MLA, Chicago, APA), as long as it is consistent and complete.

The Aims and Objectives of Philosophy

Having now come to the end of our brief and very incomplete review of the problems of philosophy, it will be well to consider, in conclusion, what is the value of philosophy and why it ought to be studied. It is the more necessary to consider this question, in view of the fact that many men, under the influence of science or of practical affairs, are inclined to doubt whether philosophy is anything better than innocent but useless trifling, hair-splitting distinctions, and controversies on matters concerning which knowledge is impossible. This view of philosophy appears to result, partly from a wrong conception of the ends of life, partly from a wrong conception of the kind of goods which philosophy strives to achieve.

Physical science, through the medium of inventions, is useful to innumerable people who are wholly ignorant of it; thus the study of physical science is to be recommended, not only, or primarily, because of the effect on the student, but rather because of the effect on mankind in general. Thus utility does not belong to philosophy. If the study of philosophy has any value at all for others than students of philosophy, it must be only indirectly, through its effects upon the lives of those who study it. It is in these effects, therefore, if anywhere, that the value of philosophy must be primarily sought. 

But further, if we are not to fail in our endeavour to determine the value of philosophy, we must first free our minds from the prejudices of what are wrongly called 'practical' men. The 'practical' man, as this word is often used, is one who recognizes only material needs, who realizes that men must have food for the body, but is oblivious of the necessity of providing food for the mind. If all men were well off, if poverty and disease had been reduced to their lowest possible point, there would still remain much to be done to produce a valuable society; and even in the existing world the goods of the mind are at least as important as the goods of the body. It is exclusively among the goods of the mind that the value of philosophy is to be found; and only those who are not indifferent to these goods can be persuaded that the study of philosophy is not a waste of time. Philosophy, like all other studies, aims primarily at knowledge. The knowledge it aims at is the kind of knowledge which gives unity and system to the body of the sciences, and the kind which results from a critical examination of the grounds of our convictions, prejudices, and beliefs. But it cannot be maintained that philosophy has had any very great measure of success in its attempts to provide definite answers to its questions.

If you ask a mathematician, a mineralogist, a historian, or any other man of learning, what definite body of truths has been ascertained by his science, his answer will last as long as you are willing to listen. But if you put the same question to a philosopher, he will, if he is candid, have to confess that his study has not achieved positive results such as have been achieved by other sciences.

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