Poch Peralta

Freelance Writer / Blogger,


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Is Philosophy Just a 'Syndicate'?

'...there is no such thing as “philosophy” - this word, concept, or school - in the writings and historical records...' - Thorsten Pattberg

'IN THE old days of the three European missions – imperialism, colonialism, and orientalism – scholars insisted on the existence of Asian “philosophies” and, naturally, they called Asian thinkers “philosophers.”

'The world could entertain such fancy claims because those were immoral, lawless, and unscientific times. Today, scholarship knows better. There are two major problems with the “philosophy” in Asia theory.

'First, no matter how much the West spends on indoctrination, there is no such thing as “philosophy” - this word, concept, or school - in the writings and historical records of India, China, or Japan prior to the arrival of the Europeans...'

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    Dec 21 2013: I just looked up what syndicate meant on Wikipedia and would agree it fits the definition as a group of people formed "to promote a common interest". To me, philosophy is a critique study of fundamental problems above all else. This study may be formal (consider the Schools of Thought in Ancient Greek) or informal (me just thinking about fundamental problems). The formalization, to me, suggests that philosophy is more than "just a syndicate" (which is also defined by Wikipedia as "self-organizing"). It is a formalized study, just as any other area of knowledge (from art history to chemical engineering). The ways of getting the knowledge may be very different, but it is a study nonetheless.
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      Dec 22 2013: If we consent to Wikipedia's definition, then Philosophy is a syndicate.
      But Wikipedia's definition is the most off and the least popular. These 5
      definitions from TheFreeDictionary prove that 'syndicate' is mostly
      accepted as a business term:
      syn·di·cate (snd-kt)n.
      1. An association of people or firms authorized to undertake a duty or transact specific business.
      2. An association of people or firms formed to engage in an enterprise or promote a common interest.
      3. A loose affiliation of gangsters in control of organized criminal activities.
      4. An agency that sells articles, features, or photographs for publication in a number of newspapers or periodicals simultaneously.
      5. A company consisting of a number of separate newspapers; a newspaper chain.

      'The formalization, to me, suggests that philosophy is more than "just a syndicate"...'

      It was good that you considered it that way Kai. If not, we should have disagreed.
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    Dec 22 2013: First of all, philosophy is a discipline, not a syndicate. To my knowledge most philosophers are broke and are not doing what they do for money so the power behind a syndicate does not apply at all.

    This is the best definition about the discipline I could find.


    Now if people in the east are not interested in things like truth, values and how to act, then no there is no eastern philosophy. However, the social moraes in the east are much stricter than in the west, so my guess is that eastern philosophy predates western. Heck, they probably showed the barbaric westerners how to socially strangulate themselves round about the bronze age...
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      Dec 22 2013: 'To my knowledge most philosophers are broke and are not
      doing what they do for money so the power behind a syndicate does not apply at all.'

      That's a brilliant argument I agree to Linda. LOL And I like your concluding style.
      Probably right too! Thanks for a break from boredom.
  • Dec 22 2013: The Indian equivalent of Philosophy is Darshan Shastra. The word Darshan means to see or have a vision. And the word Shastra means science of knowledge and intelligence. The complete word darshan shastra means to see through or have vision through the eyes of knowledge and intelligence.

    Darshan Shastra is as old as the civilization of India is .
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      Dec 22 2013: And Indian civilization is older than European's is, right Santokh?
      If so, Philosophy is real and not just a syndicate.
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    Dec 21 2013: Well 'Philosophy' is an English word, isn't it?
    People think about different things by that word and in my opinion there is an east-west divide still existing about that. The little that I know, taking an insight, a logic and the resultant worldview out of those and placing them unconnected with the flow of life on a purely intellectual space had been the gift of the west - starting from Plato. In the oriental thinking philosophy is much more visceral, intertwined with life's disciplines and more spiritual.
    It is meaningless to argue about the superiority of each stand, but we can observe the consequences and learn.
    About your last paragraph: As far as India is concerned the ancient authors of philosophy chose to write it in myths, stories and the way people live. Not books.
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      Dec 21 2013: Ahh...so back to semantics Pabitra? And it's great you
      involved the issue of east-west thinking divide. Philosophy might just be a
      syndicate in the West but not so in the East.

      You also opened the issue of referencing: Are western books more authorative
      than eastern folklore and myths? I don't think so.
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        Dec 21 2013: Me neither. Books are not sole territory of wisdom.
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          Dec 21 2013: 'Books are not sole territory of wisdom.'

          Great decisive statement! We have journals, eBooks, and
          blogs which are just as authorative.
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        Dec 21 2013: The form of delivery is not what makes something authoritative. Neither is the area of the world from which it comes.
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          Dec 21 2013: But do you think the form of delivery makes something authentic?
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        Dec 21 2013: I think that there are books, blogs, and ebooks that put forward great ideas and well supported theories and those that do not.

        I expect most people in their writing put forward ideas of which they are convinced, if that is what you mean by authentic.
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    E G

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    Dec 21 2013: I don't think philosophy is a 'syndicate' , simply because philosophy is like a science , physics for example , and the sciences are not syndicates ; philosophers and scientists can be part of some sort of syndicates because of what they are but it doesn't mean philosophy/one science is a syndicate .

    In the european and american cultural enviroment anybody who is a thinker or a wise man can be named a philosopher , that's why we say Jesus Christ , Confucius were philosphers . The word 'Philosopher' is just how we name somebody who is a deep thinker or a wise person , it doesn't matter the origins of that person .
    And of course , this name is tied to our cultural historical development .

    Does it matter so much how we name somebody ?
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      Dec 21 2013: I agree EG.
      'The word 'Philosopher' is just how we name somebody
      who is a deep thinker or a wise person...'

      I think we can simplify it further: If 'philosopher' is a common noun, and
      'Philosophy' is a proper noun, we can therefore claim that philosophy exists.

      'Does it matter so much how we name somebody?...'

      I say it does. When we name, tag, or endorse someone as an expert or
      professional, that someone goes higher on the pedestal -- which matters big.
  • Dec 20 2013: What are the names of the fundamental colors? How many are there?

    According to Newton, we have red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. Most people I know do not recognize indigo. They recognize only six spectral colors. There is evidence that Newton's inclusion of indigo was more due to his alchemetical beliefs--they HAD to be seven in number, since six had no mumbo-jumbo meaning--than to good observation. But let's move further afield. But let's move outside formalism and look at real language. A survey of 119 languages showed that a minority of them distinguished between green and blue as distinct, while a majority had one word for both. Does that mean that green and blue do not actually and cannot actually exist as distinct colors? Or does it mean that different cultures simply happen to slice up the world in different ways? After all, could not speakers of the non-differentiating languages claim that "blue does not exist" or "green does not exist" and that it is just a matter of "indoctrination" on the part of those whose languages do have such terms? Could they not claim that there is only ONE color that is dishonestly being split up by "immoral, lawless, and unscientific" people into the false "blue" and the false "green"?

    Philosophy does exist. Philosophy does not exist. Both of these statements are true, because the reality is more complex and continuous than that. What is the accurate, precise, and immutable border between chemistry and biology? What is the accurate, precise, and immutable border between biology and psychology? I could make a claim that "biology does not exist" and create an entire scientific edifice in which the functions of "biology" can be completely split up between "chemistry" and "psychology". Given that I professionally do all three, I assure you it can be done. The divisions are, ultimately, arbitrary and for the sake of convenience.
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      Dec 20 2013: If you ask a professional graphic artist like me what the basic
      colors are, we will answer blue, yellow, and red. All the other colors come
      from those three. I don't think I could accept any other answer because
      I can prove my statement.

      'What is the accurate, precise, and immutable border between chemistry
      and biology?...between biology and psychology?...'

      Who is legitimate to judge and answer all questions in the gray area?
      I see your point Bryan.
      • Dec 22 2013: If you ask a professional optical biologist what the basic colors are, you would get the answer "red, blue, and green", and you would be inundated with mountains of evidence to prove this. "Yellow" is just a mixture of blue and green when it comes to the way the eye works.

        However, if you ask a printer what the basic colors were, you'd hear "cyan, magenta, yellow, and black", and it could be proved by the printer showing an amazing panoply of color by mixing the inks properly.
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          Dec 23 2013: I would still accept the artist's proof above all Bryan.
          Mixing colors IS part of and exclusively the artist's job.
          Talking about 'gray area' lol
      • Dec 27 2013: Pigments are not colors. Pigments are substances that reflect certain colors. Light is colors. Our eyes cannot see yellow. Our eyes can see red, blue, and green. So-called "yellow" is just a mixture of blue and green, as anyone with understanding of the physical reality of color vision (which is of light, not of pigments) can tell you. Color is not pigment. Paints do not have color. Paints have physical properties that manifest in different reflectivities to different wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. It is these wavelengths that produce the neurological response that we call "color". Everything other than that is secondary interpretation and not part of the primary reality of color.

        Your volley.
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          Dec 27 2013: Wow Bryan. You will put to shame many 1970s art students
          and even professors with your 'lecture', which sounds like a philosophy
          lecture. I think your claim 'light is colors' finally made me concede
          because I know it's truth. Kudos again my new philosophy coach!
  • Dec 20 2013: If you look closely at most abstract concepts, you'll reach similar conclusions. Philosophy is hardly special in that regard.

    Though this hardly makes it irrelevant. Countries, morality, ideology, and depending on who you ask, religion as well are also nothing but concepts in people's head's.
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      Dec 20 2013: But Nadav pal, do yourself believe it's just a concept?
      I might see it as just concept. But could you see it as just semantics?
      • Dec 21 2013: Its a concept that relies on semantics to be expressed, same as most abstracts.

        Whether its got some mystical ancient origin, or is a modern concept made to sound ancient by historians doesn't really matter all that much, practically speaking. What's important is that its here to stay.
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          Dec 21 2013: Yes. You made it clear now Nadav.
          It RELIES on semantics -- NOT semantics per se.
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    Dec 20 2013: From wikipedia we have the following: Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.[1][2] Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument.[3] In more casual speech, by extension, "philosophy" can refer to "the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group".[4]
    The word "philosophy" comes from the Ancient Greek φιλοσοφία (philosophia), which literally means "love of wisdom"

    To me, then, the word "philosophy" refers to an area of a study, a set of beliefs, concepts, and attitudes, or the "love of wisdom."

    The article to which you refer, as I understand it, mainly opposes calling Eastern or Asian thinking about these questions "philosophy," as the word comes from Greek and was coined after much early Eastern thinking.

    Is that what you understand to be the concern of that author?
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      Dec 20 2013: I'm not really concerned about the concern of the author Fritz.
      What I'm concerned about is the historical dates. Since the author used
      the dates of the European missions, I think I can say that Greece proved
      philosophy exists because it was historically much earlier.

      The author's conclusion:
      'Plato had always designed for the philosophers to rule.
      Soon we might be looking at their dictatorship.'

      When I started studying philosophy, I also tried various philosophy forums.
      It was a nasty experience. I discovered that academic philosophers are
      mostly snobs. When I started my blog Plato on-line, it started as a site about
      philosophy. I changed my genre because of the elitist academic philosophers.
      Although I don't believe that real philosophers could be our dictators.
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        Dec 20 2013: I don't think it has come to pass that philosophers rule anywhere.

        I do not know any academic philosophers personally. I do know some academics who might be considered snobs but also people who have little education who are snobs.

        I think too that an academic style of speech and argument is off-putting to some people. An observer may assume a scholar is a snob simply because his natural speech is more formal and arguments more careful than most people's conversational speech. An observer may assume a beauty who ignores him is a snob when she might simply be shy.

        I am surprised to hear academic philosophers participate in popular forums. Scholars have such easy access for serious intellectual discussion to colleagues at the university and at conferences that I wouldn't think many venture into popular forums very much looking for it.

        Are you sure the people you encountered were academic philosophers rather than "pretenders?"
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          Dec 20 2013: Sure I'm sure Fritz because most of their profiles say they
          are collegians. Anyway, I consider them pretenders because
          real philosophers are supposed to be open and great conversationalists.
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        Dec 20 2013: In addition to what Fritzi said, I see philosophy as a precursor to science.

        "'Plato had always designed for the philosophers to rule.
        Soon we might be looking at their dictatorship.'

        Back in PLato's time, Philosophy basically was what science is for us today.
        Philosophers back then were the top of the intellectual ladder, so assuming that philosophers one day will rule the world made sense back then.
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          Dec 20 2013: Great insight Harald. But it's a sad and rare case where
          an early fact is no more applicable today.
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        Dec 20 2013: What do you mean Poch ? The importance of philosophers ?
        I do think they are still important today because they try to look at fundamental questions from a broader perspective.
        For example the principle of "falsifiability" that was coined by Karl Popper and is a key aspect of the scientific process, comes from philosophy.
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          Dec 20 2013: I never doubted the importance of philosophers.
          What I meant was when 'philosophers one day will rule
          the world made sense back then.'
  • Dec 23 2013: Philosophy is the strive to wisdom in the form of a discussion. This discussion is propelled by questions which we seek to answer. All thinking people ask such questions. These questions are called philosophical questions. For example How do I know whether my actions are right or wrong? Even the questions "Is Philosophy just a Syndicate?" Is a philosophical question.
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    Dec 21 2013: @Poch : I am more drawn to authenticity than authority. Prints are only part of it.
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      Dec 21 2013: Authenticity is indeed the better word. I just used the word 'authority'
      because I think it was more apt for the issue of referencing.
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    Dec 20 2013: Is Philosophy purely semantics, i.e., just the interpretation of a word,
    sentence, or other language forms?
    • Dec 20 2013: No, semantics is a branch of philosophy.
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    Dec 20 2013: Purely semantics.