Philosophy as a profession is blessed with leisure and exempt from an obligation to be socially useful or productive, and so has a special obligation to address fundamental questions about the meaning of the human project not otherwise on the contemporary agenda. This is not an undertaking that requires technical language or special skills. William James described the deceptively simple task of philosophy as saying something true about things that matter. That said, it is hardly the prerogative of philosophy to adjudicate which are matters of crucial importance to a given culture. Moreover, philosophical investigations are of a kind that remain open and without final resolution and there is at the heart of philosophical inquiry a deep conviction that everything matters. This suggests that there are important concerns for contemporary philosophy beyond professional disagreements about propositional validity and utility. Among these is the cultural task of providing a framework for accessing and assessing emergent issues that independently make claims upon the mind and spirit of the world‟s peoples.
In the ordinary affairs of everyday life, philosophers have little to say that is not available equally to any thoughtful and sensible person—no special authority, for example. to make pronouncements on issues of abortion or euthanasia. Inevitable conflicts about such issues may resist definitive solution, and only be properly resolved meaningfully within the life-field of those persons for whom resolution is crucial. However differently it may be conceived, philosophical inquiry is rightly pitched at a deeper level of consideration than popular counsel on personal action or public policy. But just what is this deeper level and framework of accessibility to things that matter? In an age shorn of absolute values and eternal verities, there still exists a sense of eternal variables—foundational values common to a conception and continuance of the human project that I will try to address in the notes that follow.
Document Object Identifier (DOI)
Kimmel, L. (2005). Culture and the Philosophy of Moral Life: The True, The Good, The Beautiful, and The Sacred. Analecta Husserliana, 85, 433-441.