woensdag 7 september 2016

The royal

Philosophy Essay Prize

2016 Prize Essay Competition
The Royal Institute of Philosophy and Cambridge University Press are pleased to announce the 2016 Philosophy Essay Prize. The winner of the Prize will receive £2,500 with his or her essay being published in Philosophy and identified as the essay prize winner.
The topic for the 2016 essay competition is:
Can there be a credible philosophy of history?
Many thinkers from classical times onwards have seen history as having a predetermined direction. Some have seen it in terms of inevitable decline, others in terms of progress to a utopian future. The idea that history has a predetermined direction has been criticised by many, who stress the unpredictability of the future in general or the effects of human freedom, creativity and ingenuity, or other ways in which the course of events may change radically. Are these or other criticisms conclusive, or is it still possible to hold a deterministic or evolutionary view, either despite the criticisms or by refuting them directly? Even given historical unpredictability in detail, are there still trends in history which can be discerned? If history has no direction, is there anything left to be said about the philosophy of history? Authors may address the question by considering some of the issues raised above or by attempting other approaches of their own.
In assessing entries priority will be given to originality, clarity of expression, breadth of interest, and potential for advancing discussion. All entries will be deemed to be submissions to Philosophy and more than one may be published. In exceptional circumstances the prize may be awarded jointly in which case the financial component will be divided, but the aim is to select a single prize-winner.
Entries should be prepared in line with standard Philosophy guidelines for submission (see http://royalinstitutephilosophy.org/publications/philosophy-information-for-authors/). They should be submitted electronically in Word, with PRIZE ESSAY in the subject heading, to assistant@royalinstitutephilosophy.org.
The closing date for receipt of entries is 3rd October 2016. 
Entries will be considered by a committee of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, and the winner announced by the end 2016.  The winning entry will be published in Philosophy in April 2017.

Can there be a credible philosophy of history?
Quite a mouthful to write an essay about. The days that something plain and simple like “lecture on ethics” would do are obvious definitely gone, history. In view of the circumstantial question I will submit no less than three different essays to answer.
The first essay consists of one word: ‘Yes’.
The second one is even a letter shorter: ‘No’.
The third one is the one you are currently reading.

Although it would be fun to have written the shortest award winning essay in the history of philosophy, I believe that none of the first two essays will get rewarded. Nevertheless, they serve a purpose. They try to make clear in a flash - an insight occurs always in a flash – that the question asked is a kind of a rhetorical question. It makes clear that the one who asks the question expects an argument. A single ‘yes’ or ‘no’ does not correspond with the meaning that the one who asks the question has given to ‘credible’. If there would be no such expectation, there would be no obstruction at all to reward a one-word essay. It would only be important to know what the jury is favorable of. Never take a chance with something so volatile like a personal preference! The only thing left to do is to leave no option open.
Still, I believe that there is a link in the question asked that cannot be broken, a link between ‘credibility’ and ‘argument’.  I have to admit that this ‘believe’ is a blind believe, it is not based on an ‘argument’. So, in contradiction with what is normally the case, ‘believable’ and ‘credible’ are not synonyms in this context, they are antonyms.

Can there be a credible philosophy of history?
Even if I should be inclined to answer the question with a simple ‘no’, he who asks the question is secretly demanding an argument. It seems to me that I can do nothing but go along in this ruthless logic. But by giving possible arguments for my “no”, I am undermining my own point of view. In the end, I will have to admit that by arguing that there cannot be credible philosophy of history, I’m doing quite the opposite of what I’m saying. So the conclusion has to be that there can be a credible philosophy of history. We have made a successful transition from ‘can there be a credible philosophy of history?’ to ‘there can be a credible philosophy of history’.

It remains however fascinating how a possible argument for the ‘no’ would look like. Only for the sake of curiosity of course. In order to do this, I would like to extend the subject from ‘philosophy of history’ to philosophy in general. Because why on earth would there be a difference between philosophy of history, philosophy of language, philosophy of medicine or philosophy of whatever regarding the credibility?
If you want to answer ‘can there be a credible philosophy of history?’, you have to answer ‘can there be a credible philosophy?’
A philosophy, any philosophy is credible if it is based on a valid argument.
Considering this, the remark must be made that there is something strange about the argument in the former paragraph. In retrospect (!), there are no ‘possible’ arguments, there are only ‘valid’ arguments and ‘invalid’ arguments.
Can there be a credible philosophy?
No. There ‘can’ not be a credible philosophy because there are no ‘possible’ arguments. Either there is a credible philosophy, a philosophy that is based on a valid argument, or there is no credible philosophy, a philosophy that is based on an invalid argument.
This conclusion however can hardly be called a satisfying breakthrough.
The question ‘Is there a credible philosophy?’ remains unanswered.

In order to find an answer, we have to investigate the essence of ‘a valid argument’.
What is a valid argument?
I’m aware of the danger of getting suspected. Getting suspected of shamelessly trying to change the subject from philosophy of history to philosophy of language, but please continue to read.
What is a valid argument?
An argument is valid when it is based on ‘that which is’.
You might take a detour. You might take a detour to ‘truth’ or you might take a detour to ‘reality’.  You might say that an argument is valid when it is based on the truth or you might say that an argument is valid when it is based on reality. But then I will ask ‘what is truth’ or ‘what is reality’. And sooner or later, I can be rather persistent, you will have to answer ‘truth is that which is’ or ‘reality is that which is’.
Philosophy is credible if it is based on that which is.

With that in mind, we can try to narrow our investigation back to the philosophy of history.
There cannot be a credible philosophy of history because there cannot be a credible philosophy.
Is there a credible philosophy of history?
There is a credible philosophy of history if it is based on a valid argument
Philosophy of history is credible if it is based on that which is.
On the other hand, there can be little discussion that history is ‘that which was’.
History cannot be ‘that which is’, it would be in contradiction of the definition of history itself.

Philosophy of history, it’s like humor in seriousness.
Humor cannot be found in seriousness. If so, the humor would not be called ‘humor’ but ‘seriousness’.
However, looking for it cannot be ridiculed.

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