Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Applied philosophy

Though often seen as a wholly abstract field, philosophy is not without practical applications. The most obvious applications are those in ethics – applied ethics in particular – and in political philosophy. The political and economic philosophies of Confucius, Sun Zi, Niccolò Machiavelli, Gottfried Leibniz, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, Mahatma Gandhi, and others, have shaped and been used to justify the existence of governments and their actions.

A modern example is the political movement Neoconservatism which began as a philosophical tradition at the University of Chicago centered around Leo Strauss and his unique interpretations of the work of Plato. This intellectual movement went on to shape most of the politics of the George W. Bush presidency, demonstrating that seemingly "ivory tower" movements have real world consequences.

In the field of the philosophy of education, progressive education as championed by John Dewey has had a profound impact on educational practices in the United States in the twentieth century. Descendants of this movement include the current Philosophy for Children efforts. Carl von Clausewitz's political philosophy of war has had a profound effect on statecraft, international politics and military strategy in the 20th century, especially in the years around World War II. Logic has become crucially important in mathematics and computer science and engineering.

Other important applications can be found in epistemology, which aid in understanding the notions of what knowledge, evidence, and justified belief are. The philosophy of science discusses the underpinnings of the scientific method and has affected the nature of scientific investigation and argumentation. Deep ecology and animal rights examine the place of humans in the moral configuration of reality as a whole. Aesthetics can help to interpret discussions of art.

In general, the various "philosophies of..." strive to provide workers in their respective fields with a deeper understanding of the theoretical or conceptual underpinnings of their fields.

Often philosophy is seen as an investigation into an area not sufficiently well understood to be its own branch of knowledge. What were once philosophical pursuits have evolved into the modern day fields such as psychology, sociology, linguistics, and economics (among others).