Philosophy is an abstract term many know and use today. Using philosophy, people across centuries have developed humanitarian and social studies, of which we now find major benefits. The problem for some who wish to study philosophy now is this: what do you do in philosophy professionally? Well, there are some easy answers when you look at the current events in philosophy that make up the major headlines. Here are 5 examples of current events in philosophy that give you valuable insight on the field of study.
The Trans Question Gets Philosophical
Philosophy has always been about debating. The debates raging from the early ancient Greek civilizations to now have always been changing. Depending on the current problems or interests at the time, philosophy often ebbs and flows around what's current and hot. At the same time, its roots are very traditional and strict in nature. Some who consider themselves philosophers are not anything of the sort, and that goes for even some who hold doctorates in the study. The key to philosophy is asking universal questions and pondering their answer with no ulterior motive. In a polarized society like ours, that's hard to do. Yet, it is what makes philosophy such an intricate form of education and practice.
Lately, social issues have been much more public than ever before. Because of the internet, amateur debates now take place all the time online. We see people argue over various values and beliefs, and unfortunately, they often yield poor results. For starters, people without philosophical training know nothing about actually answering these questions. Also, the idea behind online debate is rarely to solve a problem, more or less so advocating to just continue its existence. Philosophy is not about being wrong or right, it's about finding a truth, whether universal or subjective.
Trans Rights and Philosophy
The debate over transgender individuals is a hot a topic as any in the world. Some countries in Asia and Europe outright deny trans people any rights whatsoever. In the U.S., however, the debate is a bit more staunch. The value of trans rights is in question by some. Some believe they step on the rights of women in a feminist lens. These people are considered trans-exclusionary radical feminists. The concept, while not new, is currently the subject of a lot of philosophical study and debate. Overall, the idea of excluding someone's rights is a great example of ontological philosophy, or the concept of values in society as a form of study.
One particular trend in philosophy as it pertains to the trans question is understanding why people believe things that they do. It's not an easy question, especially to generically label across a group of people. Nevertheless, philosophy asks individuals to look into the issue, and much of mainstream debate does not yield valuable analysis. For years, philosophy has been missing in K-12 programs. Now, it's evident, as more people debate social issues without any sort of idea of how to articulate their values and beliefs in a meaningful way.
The Philosophical Study of the Trump White House
Another hot button issue is the policymaking of the Trump administration, and predominately Trump himself. A big subsection of philosophy is epistemology, or the study of knowledge. A big question in the current state of politics is the role that knowledge plays in a “fake news” society. Fake news, loosely, is the concept that says knowledge is not created equal. There's a big philosophical debate about what is true in the news and politics right now, and it's filled with divisive discourse that pulls people away from objective reality. There are, for too long, various groups looking to upend the order truth brings to society, and tear it away for political and ideological gain.
In philosophy, the idea behind truth is tricky. Sure, there is a capital ‘T' truth to some things in life. For example, we know that we live on planet Earth. Or do we? See, the tricky thing about philosophy is each mind has its own free will to create the confines of a reality in which some things are true. Of course, the agreed upon things that we all utilize, like the idea in the United States that a dollar bill is valuable to some extent, is a bit harder to argue against. Thus, when it comes to opinions, some look to bend truth to make it what they'd like it to be.
The Philosophy of a Democracy
A democracy functions solely on the premise that people come together to solve issues. In a representative democracy, the idea is that people, who live in that democracy, elect officials who represent them in political votes. Rules are tough to put into place when truth is in question. When the people elected to represent citizens of a democracy fail to agree on what is right and wrong, that's cause for debate. When the people elected to represent citizens disagree on what is true, however, that is how a democracy fails to work.
It's terrifying how the philosophy of the Trump White House has transformed the way we discuss the truth. Philosophy is meant to help in seeking out the truth, not redefine it and look to utilize it for personal gain. The same goes for both sides of the political machine in the United States, regardless of ideology. Current events in philosophy insist that the way in which we think and debate is falling apart, and little goes against that first impression. The goal now is to recreate a place in which philosophy can sustain logical conversations. For many, the hope seems dim. But, as this is just another time in history, things like this happen. Philosophy is a key to unlocking the deadlock.
Philosophy Student at Baylor Takes on the Ethics of Education
When people talk about philosophy, they often mention the past. Philosophy up through World War II has been a driving force in politics and current events. It seems like the dawn of the TV and radio, among other things, took away from written word. There are a ton of places in which philosophy still plays a vital role today. Academia is of course still concerned with philosophy, but there are a lot of people who don't see these things play a role in the real world. Current events in philosophy point to major improvements on the field, but there are a lot of things that mainstream media fails to promote and cover.
Recent grads in philosophy get asked all the time about what they plan on doing with a philosophy degree. For students, it's hard to be questioned so often. It's also incredibly incorrect, with philosophy still influencing every major field of study in the liberal arts repertoire of higher education. To be fair, many do not understand philosophy as a field of study. Nor do they know what it has to contribute to the world. A particular area where philosophy intersects with other fields is education. Entire courses on the philosophy of teaching methods rule education majors for years, and at every level. One recent philosophy student mastered this intersection expertly. Current events in philosophy point to this being a growing concern for business professionals.
The Ethics of Education
The concept of education is valued by nearly everyone in America. That being said, methods of education vary from state to state, and even town to town. Kirsten Kappelman Welch is a recent fellowship earner and student of the intersection of education and philosophy. Her research primarily consists of the ethics of education. More specifically, the idea of teaching values in the classroom. It's often said that teachers should not share their values in the classroom. Yet, it's nearly impossible to separate individual beliefs from our professions.
Welch's research posits that strong values from religion inherently effect teaching, especially in higher education. With more freedom in a college classroom then any other, teachers are more likely to share their views. This has an effect on students, whether it's intentional or not. Her research is going to be the focus of a new conference panel, as well as a colloquium on her studies. It's a great way to prove that philosophy is still very relevant. Needless to say, Welch is a great example of what philosophy can accomplish today.
Philosophy Class on the Question of Business Ethics Emerges as New Intersection
Speaking of ethics, a lot of people fail to see certain professions as ethical. Business is especially negatively viewed. The problem with some jobs is the question of what is right and what is wrong. Ethics, as they pertain to philosophy, are an inherent question worth investigating. The early philosophers saw ethics as one of the most human forms of questioning we can offer to each other and the world. The idea of right and wrong predates philosophy, as well as organized religion and other moral-based groups. Right and wrong mean different things for everyone, and a big question is what constitutes these definitions. For starters, people who are considered bad do not seem to have high moral standards. This is an overgeneralization, and does not pertain to everyone. Yet, it's a popular belief.
For example, someone who commits a crime is not just seen as doing something wrong. They are inherently wrong in the opinions and eyes of many. It's not until a premise is introduced that people start to judge them more fairly. Think of Les Miserables and the lead character, Valjean. He steals bread, which is wrong, but he does it to feed his sister's children. Is that wrong? Philosophy says it's worth investigating. Back to business, literally; the business world is riddled with questionable practices.
Business and Ethical Decision Making
A new consultation firm is concerned with this very issue. Businesses who are seen as unethical can now turn to an ethics firm. That's right: a group that helps move your organization to a more ethical light. The company is even founded by a man who is seen as morally questionable. After accusations of sexual harassment, Colin McGinn left his teaching job. Now, he runs a company centered on ethics. It seems a bit odd, but it makes a point within itself. How do you judge what is right and what is wrong?
Never mind the man's past. This is about his company, above all else. The firm looks to inject ethics into business plans all over the United States. Through meetings and conversations, the firm will consult companies looking to make more ethical decisions. In philosophical tradition, identifying problems systematically is how you approach an issue. That's exactly what McGinn's firm does. The goal, as with any consultation firm, is to get clients to sign on for help in guiding their corporate moral compass. Will it be popular? It's too early to tell. Current events in philosophy will surely follow this phenomenon.
The Political Views of Philosophy Students
A recent study looked into a long pondered question. For years, people have wondered what draws students to philosophy. It is impossible to make a single conclusion for every single student. Yet, studies often try to identify patterns that may point to an answer. The issue with this methodology is the threat of incorrectly assuming something that leads to further work. For years, people have assumed students at college are more liberal than conservative. Conservatives go so far to blame colleges for promoting liberal ideology. As it turns out, liberal ideology is only the cusp of philosophy student's beliefs. Liberal, for philosophy students in this survey, might be too far to the right. Current events in philosophy point to this being a huge question.
The political spectrum is just that. From the left to the right, various ideologies lie on a single plane. This method allows people to not be viewed as one belief, but rather a level of ideology. Someone can be a conservative, but lean more towards the middle. This would mean they are moderately conservative, which differentiates them from full or strong conservatives. The idea behind studying ideological placement on the political spectrum is to find out what beliefs are tied to certain groups of people. Religious people, for example, tend to be farther right on the political spectrum. On the other hand, atheists tend to be farther left on the political spectrum.
Philosophy Students on the Political Spectrum
The study concluded that philosophy students tend to feel better or more comfortable with socialism. To put it plainly, this is not a surprise to many in the field. Philosophy has progressed to a point where many identify major issues with the American and Western political systems. Not to mention, capitalism as a whole. Political philosophers in particular have grown incredibly hostile towards capitalism since the mid 19th century. Marx, Engles, and Gramsci, for example, embody philosophy's tendency to point out flaws in the processes of capitalism. As it pertains to students, these beliefs are not clearly indoctrinated into classrooms, nor is it clear that students bring these thoughts with them to college.
For a long time, students have been assumed to be liberal in general terms. Overall, that's supported in this study, at least for philosophy students. The study also shows that right leaning political beliefs are far from the norm in most majors, but that has much more to do with global ideological trends before 2008 than it does a truth about the higher education system.
Philosophy is not a part of the past, or even limited to the present. The future is full of philosophical considerations to be brought to the political and social world. Hopefully the push comes sooner than later so current events in philosophy can take a forefront in modern discourse.