Deleuze teaches us that the question “what is the use of philosophy” is an attempt at irony and sarcasm, and deserves an aggressive answer. Philosophy has no concerns. It does not obey the State or the Church or any other established power.
The use of philosophy is to sadden. If someone’s thoughts do not annoy anyone or make anyone sad, it isn’t philosophy. Philosophy is terribly efficient in the harming of stupidity and turns stupidity into shamefulness. Efficient, and its only function to rip off the veil and expose the embarrassing hidden secrets. At best, philosophy is an “enterprise of demystification.”
Myth is glorious, because it is self-deceptive.
I was asked whether I was confusing ‘demystification’ with ‘demythologization.’ The definitions of each in the dictionary seem to suggest as much.
This is not the case. I don’t limit my thoughts with dictionary definitions to make my point, because that would only reduce it to triviality. My point is a little more complicated than that.
For instance, demythologization, for the theologian Bultmann isn’t necessarily “reinterpretation” that is free of mythical elements, a mere update of the cosmology of the new testament in order to harmonize with modern physics. Bultmann thinks it is an insight about authenticity, where one is open to the future and contingencies, and God that is not of this world. To be inauthentic is to be fixed to the past and the facts of the world.
Philosophy as an enterprise of demystification has a critical function where systematic and totalizing and nihilistic modes of thought are deconstructed in order to move beyond Platonism, French rationalism and German dialectics. As a Nietzschean slash Kantian, critical philosophy’s task is to identify the clay in the feet of the traditional idols of western rationality: not only God, world, soul, but also Beauty, Truth and the Good.
Demystification is a depressing episode where philosophy saddens, because we have beliefs and worldviews that are acquired unphilosophically (from environment or from subjective elements of character, etc). When we establish propositions about the world, easily performed with the firm convictions we hold, we are eager to seek approval and request others to accept them.
But in order to philosophize we attempt to be impartial, and more importantly, without having the issue decided in advance.
Dogmatism always begins from the conclusion that already determines the issue. Therefore, philosophising in the first place negates dogmatism, saddening those who rely upon it.
Some may object and insist that dictionary definitions are not irrelevant to the use of language.
I think they are relevant only as a description of how they are used. But they have little to do with philosophical thinking, because the definitions only describe how they are used in an unsophisticated way.
That means they are hardly helpful when making difficult and acute distinctions. For example, ‘belief’ and ‘knowledge’ are very crudely defined in most dictionaries. The lexicographer is not trained in conceptual analysis, and the definitions do not explain how the concept works. Hence, they are too short and too simple to even begin an analysis.
The implied connection between demystification and myth comes from establishing “myth” as a counterpoint to disappointment. Myth is glorious, because it idealizes certain elements and serves as an inspiration, to the point that idealism itself defines reality. Philosophy works the other way.