The aim of philosophy: Satisfying curiosity or attaining salvation?

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In this essay I begin with remarks made by Bernard Williams that there are two main motives for philosophy, curiosity and salvation, and that he is not 'into salvation'. I seek to make the case for the claim that philosophy, at its best, should aim at a kind of 'salvation'. In the first section, I discuss the problematic character of the world that philosophy should aim to address as a matter of seeking a kind of salvation. I identify this as the problem of 'cosmodicy', i.e., the problem of how to justify life in the world as meaningful and worthwhile in the face of extensive evil, suffering, disorder, and the like. In the second section, I discuss how Williams's claim not to be 'into salvation' is not entirely accurate. Although he rejects a certain 'grand' traditional picture of salvation, he still seeks a more minimal kind insofar as headdresses the problem of cosmodicy. This comes through in his advocacy of 'humane' philosophy and in his attempt to support the values that arise for us from within our historically contingent forms of life. I argue here that Williams is wrong to reject the human concern for a larger cosmic significance. In the final section, I discuss two secular attempts to address the issue of cosmic significance: viz., those of Thomas Nagel and Paolo Costa. I also briefly consider here what a theistic perspective has to offer. I conclude by suggesting that if I am right that philosophy, at is best, should aim at a kind of salvation, then this means that the philosophy of religion should have a central place in any philosophy curriculum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-310
Number of pages20
JournalEtica e Politica
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science


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