The Value of Philosophy

In Bertrand Russell’s The Value of Philosophy Russell explains the importance of studying philosophy and why it must be done. Russell stresses the fact that philosophical questions are necessary for mankind to be liberated. Russell explains the value of philosophy to our lives. Russell also explains that philosophy like other areas of study is about knowledge; and the problem with that. Russell concludes his essay with explaining to us how philosophy sets us free. If our society was free from poverty and disease there would still be much to be done to produce a valuable society.

That is because philosophy is as valuable to the brain as food is to the body. Russell states that the study of philosophy is vital for the effect of mankind. A “practical” man is someone who only realizes that the body needs food to survive but has no idea that the mind needs food as well. We must recognize that philosophy must be studied in order to keep us wondering and questioning.

The next point Russell makes is that philosophy is a study of knowledge much like history or science. Philosophy cannot maintain that it has had a great measure of success in providing answers to its questions.

Russell uses the example that if you were to ask a mathematician, a mineralogist, or a historian what definite truths has been ascertained by their science, their answer will last as long as you are willing to listen. But if you were to ask a philosopher the same question he will confess that his study has not achieved positive results such as those of other sciences.

The problem is that as soon as definite knowledge becomes possible it is no longer called philosophy. The study of the heavens used to be philosophy, now it is known as astronomy.

The philosopher Isaac Newton studied the human mind, which is now known as psychology. Finally the main point that Bertrand Russell makes in his essay is that philosophy ultimately sets us free. He enlightens us that a man who never thinks philosophically, the world tends to become definite, finite, obvious. There is a widespread philosophical tendency towards the view that tells us man is the measure of all things, truth is man made, that space and time and the world of universals are properties of the mind, and if there is anything not created by the mind it is unknowable and of no account for is.

This view is wrong, has the effect of robbing philosophic contemplation of all that gives us value, since it fetters contemplation of Self. In order to keep our minds healthy the study of philosophy is a must. When you open your mind to philosophical reasoning you become a citizen of the universe. Philosophical contemplations enlarge not only the objects of our thoughts, but also the objects of our actions and our affections. “In this citizenship of the universe consists of a man’s true freedom, and his liberation from the thralldom of narrow hopes and fears. ”- Bertrand Russell.