Philosophy is difficult – Applied Philosophy – 1

Background – I recently started a technical blog. It has just 4 posts so far, 3 of which are about WPF1. I have not actively tried to promote it. Yet it gets some steady traffic mostly from search engines, something that has started to happen with this blog after 30 posts, despite the fact that 2 of the posts are on highly controversial topics (here in India) and despite the numerous comments I have posted at other blogs. 

Although this is not particularly surprising, the reason is important in the context of this series.

Consider my technical blog. What is its target audience? Software developers working on the same combination of platform, application type and framework as I am. How do people find the blog? By searching for specific keywords, chosen to lead them to a solution to a very specific problem. How do they evaluate what they find? By testing it directly (usually a matter of minutes, or at most of hours) and seeing if it works. Why do they return to the blog (if they do)? Because they have found working solutions in the past and expect to find them again or get alerted to issues they have not encountered yet.

Consider this blog. What is its target audience? Everyone (i.e, no one in particular). How do people find the blog? By any number of ways but mostly by chance. How do they evaluate what they find? By reasoning about it or by their emotional reactions or by some mixture of both. Certainly not by testing it (That would take weeks, if not months or years). Why do they return to the blog? Most of the returning visitors are those who already agree with the content.

This difference is inherent in the nature of the two fields – software and philosophy (and more generally any technical field and philosophy). Technical content is narrow in scope, specific in its application and indisputable in its validity. Philosophy deals with everything that is. Technical content (with the necessary background) is easy to understand, easy to apply and its benefits are immediate and tangible. Philosophical ideas are difficult to understand, difficult to apply to real life situations even after they are understood and their benefits are rarely immediate or tangible. Philosophy is difficult.

1) A not-yet-mainstream framework for writing desktop software applications for Windows.

2 Responses

  1. Perhaps the Rule of Inverse Interest applies: The more fundamental the subject of discussion the less interest there is, in society in general.

    If this rule is true (and not merely a cynical observation), then why? I think there might be several reasons operating together, but not in the same individuals:

    1. The more fundamental a principle is, the more intelligence is required is to formulate it or even to understand or challenge it if it has been proposed by someone else.

    2. We live in a division of labor society, whether in India or the USA, leaving philosophy as much a specialization as technology is, but with philosophy being a specialization whose content is often mistaken, difficult to apply, hard to test, difficult to grasp, and unremunerative (on the short-term).

    3. Many individuals who have the intelligence to do so, don’t pursue philosophical subjects because they are satisfied with the philosophy they already have–that is, they think they have no problem for which someone else’s philosophy can provide a solution.

    4. Inevitably, and by definition, in daily life there are more problems of application than there are problems of principles; and philosophy is the science of the most fundamental principles, while technology is the art of the most detailed (and numerous) applications.

  2. Burgess,
    You put the possible reasons very well.
    I believe point 2 in your comment is the most important reason. I intend to explore that further in part 3 of this series.

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