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The future of philosophy

John Searle

pp. 2069-2080

There is no sharp dividing line between science and philosophy, but philosophical problems tend to have three special features. First, they tend to concern large frameworks rather than specific questions within the framework. Second, they are questions for which there is no generally accepted method of solution. And third they tend to involve conceptual issues. For these reasons a philosophical problem such as the nature of life can become a scientific problem if it is put into a shape where it admits of scientific resolution. Philosophy in the 20th century was characterized by a concern with logic and language, which is markedly different from the concerns of earlier centuries of philosophy. However, it shared with the European philosophical tradition since the 17th century an excessive concern with issues in the theory of knowledge and with scepticism. As the century ends, we can see that scepticism no longer occupies centre stage, and this enables us to have a more constructive approach to philosophical problems than was possible for earlier generations. This situation is somewhat analogous to the shift from the sceptical concerns of Socrates and Plato to the constructive philosophical enterprise of Aristotle. With that in mind, we can discuss the prospects for the following six philosophical areas: (1) the traditional mind-body problem; (ii) the philosophy of mind and cognitive science; (iii) the philosophy of language; (iv) the philosophy of society; (v) ethics and practical reasons; (vi) the philosophy of science. The general theme of these investigations, I believe, is that the appraisal of the true significance of issues in the philosophy of knowledge enables us to have a more constructive account of various other philosophical problems than has typically been possible for the past three centuries.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1098/rstb.1999.0544

Full citation:

Searle, J. (1999). The future of philosophy. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 354, pp. 2069-2080.

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