Why do philosophers continue with their work, that is philosophy, when they know that most of their
questions are never gonna be answered or that most of the answers that they find out are gonna be
questionated and probably denied by many people because of the relative truth that everyone has?
Which is the real truth: relative or absolute?
Second question first. If anybody claims that the real truth is relative, they are claiming that it is true
that what is true varies from person to person. Another person can then say "Well, that's your truth,
not mine". So then it is not really true that what is true varies for different persons. Therefore,
relativism is self-defeating. This is the paradox of relativism. Anybody who wants to put forward a
relativist view has to show how that paradox is mistaken.
First question: my view is that philosophers continue because they believe that there are answers to
difficult questions. That is, straightforward relativism is false. However, straightforward absolutism
must also be false, because otherwise we would all have recognized the answers long ago. So, there
must be a middle ground. That is what philosophers are looking for.
Here's another way of looking at it. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you're right, that "real"
answers are hidden or just not there. But there is another kindof knowledge that philosophers do
have, and that is knowledge of how to think. That kind of knowledge, knowing howto do something,
may not result in an answer, or a clear answer. But it's a lot better than just stumbling around. In
addition, knowing how to think is applicable to other fields, not just philosophy. So a partial answer to
your question is that philosophers liketo think, and want to be able to do it well, and that's one reason
for studying philosophy.
Now, in fact, you are notright, and there areanswers to some questions. Not to all, and not, perhaps,
to the deepest and most interesting. But there are some questions that can be answered by
philosophy... but one of the frustrating things (to philosophers) is that as soon as a question is
answered, that answer, and its implications, are suddenly turned into a field of "knowledge", and it's
not considered philosophy any more. Physics, for example, used to be a branch of philosophy... until
we started getting answers. Now if you do it, you're a "physicist". Philosophy of mind used to include
what we now call "psychology"... but not any more, now that latter field is a sort of junior-grade (and
getting better all the time) science. So, there you go.
In addition, there are answers to some questions in philosophy. Some ideas have been thoroughly
discredited, and are now just historical relics... there are very few people, for example, who take
Plato's theory of Forms seriously (at least as he set it out). There's a lot of Medieval Scholastic
philosophy which is only of interest to historians at this point. Schopenhauer and the evolution of
societies has become both discredited and/or a branch of economics and political theory (philosophy
appropriated again). So again, some questions are indeed answered.
As far as the "real" truth goes... about what? How about this: if you look in front of you and see a wall,
and close your eyes and walk straight ahead, what will happen? That's about as absolute as you can
Steven Ravett Brown