Excerpt from Perspectives in Philosophy: A Book of Readings Besides these two activities, there has been yet a third that, unlike the others, is close to the etymology of philosophy. Philosophers have sometimes tried to provide not only a vision Of the world in which we live, but standards and guides for individual and social action as well. The principles of right and wrong, the norms of. Associative life, the meaning of the good life - such concerns have been central to the philosopher's search for wisdom.
In pursuit of the real and the ideal, synoptically and descriptively, philosophers have usually engaged in a fourth activity that we shall call criticism or analysis. Perhaps less exciting, yet essential to the philosophic spirit, analysis has included a critical assessment of the assumptions or presuppositions and of the methods upon which common sense, the sciences, and even philosophy rely. Analytic inquiries have also been directed toward key terms like real, true, good, matter, mind, space, and time, which play a central role in all systematic thinking. Here the philosopher - whatever his ultimate goal may be is simply searching for fundamental clarity and understanding.
These four activities, then - the speculative, the descriptive, the norma tive, and the analytic - seem to describe the philosopher's work. But how shall we view these activities in their interrelationship? Some philosophers would answer that they are all parts of an inclusive philosophic activity, and any philosophy that aims to be truly adequate must include all Of them, as did those of the great classical philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, Spinoza, and Hegel. Another group of philosophers would regard these activities not as parts but as different kinds of philosophy, the implication being that the student must choose one kind from among them. This is the view held by many philosophers today. Some follow the lead of men like Ludwig Wittgenstein, arguing that philosophy can be neither speculative, descriptive, nor normative, and that it should therefore limit itself to the activity of analysis. Others, such as the followers of John Dewey, contend that philosophy's chief business is normative, that it should be primarily a search for the ends and values that give direction to our collective human activities. Only a relatively few contemporary thinkers, such for example as those influenced by Alfred North Whitehead, urge that philosophy should return to its original speculative interests as well.
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