(Essay) Bertrand Russell’s Views on the Philosophical View – Brandon Skenandore
Total word count: 795
Time spent researching and writing: 2 hrs
In “The Value of Philosophy”, Bertrand Russell informs the readers of his views on philosophy and the difference between the negative view of philosophy and the Practical Man. This essay will explain his views on these different topics and what stance I take on them.
So first of all, what is philosophy? According to merriam-webster.com, philosophy is defined as “a: the pursuit of wisdom” and “b: a search for a general understanding of values and reality by chiefly speculative rather than observational means”. Also, from my time spent in my philosophy class so far I have come to understand that philosophy tends to rely on logic and reason rather than observation, and that definite answers are not necessarily a part or goal of philosophy as is asking questions that cannot necessarily be answered with scientific reasoning.
In this reading, Russell states that there is a perceived negative view from many of the public of philosophy and that it is trifling and irrelevant. Some of the reasons for this may be that the goods obtained from philosophy are not like other sciences. Philosophy is not necessarily driven by goals or aimed at improving the practical quality of life, like other hard sciences. Russell states that “many men… 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” (7). On the other hand, hard sciences tend to focus on producing products, inventions, or benefits to human life. This view, however, according to Russell, is a false impression and people need to be made known of the value of philosophy.
Now let’s take a look at the “Practical Man” as defined by Russell. This Practical Man is what most of us would think of when we thought about someone who is focused mainly on material things, or immediate needs. He or she may be hard working, family-centered, and possibly focused on immediate satisfaction, but may even be close-minded and maybe even reluctant of change. When I think of the Practical Man, I see someone who only looks at things as they appear and may take a substantial amount of things for granted. Now, I wouldn’t necessarily say that they are completely obstinate, but in America, where life appears to get easier and easier and quality of life goes up for the most part, it almost seems like more and more people are showing a “Practical Man” point of view in today’s society.
Russell also goes on to state that having a mindset based more on philosophy can improve the life of the Practical Man. He says that to the Practical Man the world tends to be “definite, finite, obvious; common objects rouse no questions, and unfamiliar possibilities are contemptuously rejected” (9). On the contrary, he says that, when you imply a more philosophical view to your life, “everyday things lead to problems to which only very incomplete answers can be given”. Philosophy can also help us to have a new look on previously familiar things. Russell also says that the Practical Man may feel confined and only focusing on what is of immediate interest for him or his family. With a philosophical view, your outlook on life will become more “calm and free” (9). This makes sense, because if you look at things in this new outlook, things that you were used to will be perceived completely different, which I think is good for your mind, instead of confining yourself to the narrow-mindedness of the Practical Man.
So what do I think of all this? I personally agree with Russell’s views. I think that it is not healthy for the mind if you do not expand it and question things that you would normally take for granted. I think that one good example of this is moving to a new place. Although this does not necessarily project the philosophical view directly, I think it is a good example. About two and a half years ago I moved here from Seattle. Because of this, all of the things that were familiar to me were changed and I got a fresh start in almost every aspect of my life. While this may not be the perfect example of having a philosophical mindset, I think that it helps to understand the process that one may go through with a philosophical view, such as questioning reality and looking at stuff from a different perspective. I also think that it is healthy to open up your mind to the things around you. It almost seems to me like you will just have a better life if you think about things philosophically. I think it is a great attitude that will help to keep your mind sharp and happy.