The London Libertarian

The London Libertarian

About the blog

Commentary and debate on politics, economics and culture from a libertarian perspective. To Libertarian Alliance Website >

Anyone can make individual contributions on any subject covered in this blog by emailing


PhilosophyPosted by Jan Lester Tue, April 01, 2014 14:17:36

philosophy One conception of philosophy is that it is about the rigorous *critical examination of fundamental assumptions that people usually take for granted, if they are even aware of them (or, for short, being pedantic about presuppositions). Thus it may appear to some people to be a sort of intellectual trouble-making and the enemy of *common sense. And they will be right. But philosophy includes a very practical trouble-making on which much human progress ultimately relies. For, pace Shelly (1792-1822), it is nearer the truth to say that philosophers rather than poets are “the unacknowledged legislators of the world”. Perhaps George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) did not have it entirely wrong, although aiming at “Maxims for *revolutionists”, when he wrote that, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” At least if “unreasonable” is taken to mean ‘intellectually uncompromising’, for philosophy is inherently reasonable. In *fact, there is not much more to it as an activity—for it is not really a subject in which there is a clear body of knowledge—than insisting on being scrupulously reasonable. Out of philosophy’s fundamental reasonings are born most *ideological and *moral theories. And ultimately these are what ‘rule’ each *society.

Philosophy has four main branches: ethics, epistemology, metaphysics and logic. Ethics, or moral philosophy, is about how people ought to behave and live. Epistemology is about what and how, if at all, things may be known. Metaphysics is about what kinds of fundamental things exist and the nature of that existence. Logic is about the principles of valid inference. There are various other branches, including *political philosophy. But almost any subject, issue or assumption can be treated philosophically. We should also note that most major disciplines started as philosophy and only became independent once they were sufficiently developed. And some philosophers, including this one, do not accept that they can be genuinely independent (for instance, science cannot avoid metaphysical assumptions and is thus a subset of metaphysics).

Political philosophy includes ideology and morals. It was revived in the previous century largely by John Rawls (1921-2002) in his A Theory of Justice, 1971, (see *original position). Thanks to the response to Rawls’s book by Robert Nozick (1938-2002) in his Anarchy, State, and Utopia, 1974, *libertarianism has been taken more seriously in *academia. And since then libertarianism has experienced a considerable revival; for it is really only classical *liberalism. If libertarianism is ever again to become the dominant ideology of the *intellectuals and eventually even common sense, then Nozick’s book will have been the leading philosophical catalyst. However, this is not to imply that all or even most of his arguments on this subject are the ones that best survive critical scrutiny. Nor is this to downplay the importance of *economics in defending *liberty. A balance of philosophy and economics has been attempted throughout this work.

A Libertarian Dictionary

  • Comments(0)//