Philosophy (and its equivalents, as in parts of literary, critical and cultural studies) is distinguished from other disciplines by a more dedicated focus on theory. Many view philosophy’s self-exemption from ‘real world’ empirical testing as a non-issue or even an advantage, in allowing philosophy to focus on logically necessary truths. This paper argues otherwise. The purely discursive method of philosophy renders it into a collective ‘private language’, impairing the discipline’s ability to judge the quality of its own output.
Philosophy’s substantive conclusions are not testable without in-depth knowledge of the methods by which they are arrived at; knowledge which can (apparently) only be gained through an extensive program of study, in philosophy. This epistemic circularity renders the program (even one of self-study) into a ‘black box’ in which the internal influence of cognitive biases and conformity effects cannot be independently assessed. In contrast, tendencies towards semantic inconsistency, vagueness or vacuity in science (and other technical fields) are constantly disrupted by scrutiny and feedback across disciplines, as they cooperate on practical projects that demand a high degree of predictive power.
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About the Author
Ben Gibran is a writer with an interest in the theory and social science of communication. His work has been published in Journal of Publishing, Publishing Research Quarterly, The Philosopher and Essays in Philosophy, as well as online and in newsprint. He is the author of Why Philosophy Fails: A View From Social Psychology and The DIY Prison: Why Cults Work.