Do we still need Philosophy?


Students preparing for the ‘Unseen Text – exploring philosophical activity’ are always invited to ‘compare and contrast’ differing views of what philosophy actually entails. Never has a past paper presented philosophy in a disparaging or negative way. Sure enough, candidates to this Higher Level Paper are ipso facto ‘lovers’ of the subject, if not of wisdom itself. The extracts chosen for the critical perusal of candidates only reinforce this positive approach, leaving little scope for more trenchant considerations as responses generally do nothing more than nodding reverently at the unquestionable ‘relevance’ of the ideas expressed in the text under scrutiny.

In their preparation of this paper, students should therefore be exposed to unconventional views of the subject, such as Jeremy Clarkson’s in his book ‘Thinking Big’. Here, naked prejudice is proudly displayed as the TV presenter declares that philosophy is nothing but a ‘waste of time’ since ‘it settles nothing, has established no truths and has made no difference to the world’. Such a statement could, indeed, instigate a class debate about the actual achievements of philosophers in an ever-changing world of technology where moral values are constantly shifting. Perhaps, IB philosophers (in the making) could get more inspiration from Nietzsche who, for one, never hesitated to think outside the box of conventional philosophy.

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