PHILOSOPHY: an academic exercise characterised by the love of the wisdom of its own corpora

In a very broad sense philosophy is the process of imposing an elevated tier of intellectual simplifications on both physical and social reality using a preferred perspective. Fundamental simplifications of existence involve identifying consistencies like days and stars and rocks and living things. Secondary and perhaps higher simplifications are philosophical in the sense that they involve making further abstract simplifications about the fundamental consistencies. 'All beans are dicotyledons', 'all species evolved from unicellular organisms', and 'the folded dimensions of the universe were created at the initial singularity' are three typical 'philosophical' simplifications of increasing abstraction. Where the hypothetical philosophical simplification can be tested in controlled circumstances and demonstrated to be repeatable, it becomes 'science'. Where it remains untestable and idiosyncratic opinion it endures merely as a philosophical perspective embraced by subjective inclination. Thus imposing a central orbit model on planetary motion is testable, has proved to be capable of improved predictive accuracy for periodic consistencies, and thus has become 'scientific', whereas imposing behavioural limitations of law and ethics and religion upon a social perspective, only remains in place whilst the imposers retain the power to enforce submission.

Much of the irrelevance of the upper echelons of arcane philosophy, is that the philosophizing is expected to start from the point of view of philosophy. The entire exercise becomes an incestuous process of introspective disputation. When academic philosophers lecture about historical philosophy, dispute in learned journals about the convergent minutiae of esoteric language connotations, and have no personal existential operational perspective, then philosophy has become an organized self-serving priesthood. Much philosophical literature consists of intricate and casuistic debate about the detailed properties of faeries. Many, if not most, of the subjects of speculative dissertation, such as the nature of truth, knowledge, belief, propositions, ethical imperatives and the like, are nothing but extraordinarily sophisticated and intelligent opinions about diverse species of faerie. Those professional philosophers who don't have personal philosophies, and who lecture and write papers which are designed to impress fellow philosophers by the devious and acute display of linguistic manipulations, continue a tradition which we now call sophistry.

The attempts by means of ethical and political philosophy to aspire to guide human behaviour with a selected set of social injunctions, is always biased by the cultural background of the rule-maker. The supposition that it is possible to impose a desirable cultural simplification on the complexities of existence, is only a notch short of futile. The pragmatic reality of nature is that the behavioural norms of the dominant group are imposed upon individuals, in such a manner that the continuance of the group is not threatened. The dominant group will devise pseudo-intellectual justifications for their self-serving behaviour as a public relations exercise, and will tolerate only those deviant behaviours which do not appear to be any sort of threat. To survive, an ethical or political philosopher proposing an alternative set of desirable behaviours will need to attract substantial support rapidly and in considerable secrecy.

Sophisticated philosophy is a redundant and irrelevant exercise for most. If one is preoccupied with physical survival in a conflict war zone, or struggling to obtain food, or wrestling with one's ethnic or psychological identity, then the stress of involvement in these circumstances ensures that few resources can be allocated to abstract reflection. No amount of philosophy will alter the fact that life is chaotic and seemingly unfair, and the pragmatic skills of deception and ingenuity are often the only options for continued survival. It must be said however, that one of the advantages of carefully evaluating the relevance and significance of moral dilemmas and imperatives and endeavouring to make decisions as to what action one might take, or what direction in life to favour, is that by procrastinating long enough, there is a very good chance that events will have taken over and the problem will have gone away.