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 Quietism (philosophy)

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mike lewis



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PostSubject: Quietism (philosophy)   Wed 12 Sep 2012, 3:42 am

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Quietism in philosophy is an approach to the subject that sees the role of philosophy as broadly therapeutic or remedial. Quietist philosophers believe that philosophy has no positive thesis to contribute, but rather that its value is in defusing confusions in the linguistic and conceptual frameworks of other subjects, including non-quietist philosophy. By re-formulating supposed problems in a way that makes the misguided reasoning from which they arise apparent, the quietist hopes to put an end to man's confusion, and help return to a state of intellectual quietude.

Quietism is by its very nature not a philosophical school in the traditional sense of a body of doctrines, but can still be identified by its methodology, which is to focus on language and the use of words, and its objective, which is to show that most philosophical problems are only pseudo-problems.

The genesis of the approach can be traced back to Ludwig Wittgenstein, whose work greatly influenced the Ordinary Language philosophers. One of the early Ordinary Language works was Gilbert Ryle's The Concept of Mind, an attempt to demonstrate that dualism arises from a failure to appreciate that mental vocabulary and physical vocabulary are simply different ways of describing one and the same thing, namely human behaviour. J L Austin's Sense and Sensibilia took a similar approach to the problems of scepticism and the reliability of sense perception, arguing that they arise only by misconstruing ordinary language, not because there is anything genuinely wrong with our empirical knowledge. Norman Malcolm, a friend of Wittgenstein's, took a quietist approach to sceptical problems in the philosophy of mind. More recently, two other philosophers to take an explicitly quietist position are John McDowell and Richard Rorty.

Richard Rorty on The End of Inquiry

Richard Rorty on Uncertainty

Rorty on Truth


Quote :

...but first there is a certain experience we must be careful to avoid...That we must not become misologues, as people become misanthropes. There is no greater evil one can suffer than to hate reasonable discourse. Misology and misanthropy arise in the same way. Misanthropy comes when a man without knowledge or skill has placed great trust in someone and believes him to be altogether truthful, sound and trustworthy; then, a short time afterwards he finds him to be wicked and unreliable, and then this happens in another case; when one has frequently had that experience, especially with those whom one believed to be one's closest friends, then, in the end, after many blows, one comes to hate all men and to believe that no one is sound in any way at all...This is a shameful state of affairs...and obviously due to an attempt to have human relations without any skill in human affairs.
—Plato, Phaedo, 89d–e

Plato's Socrates is warning the reader that, just as one should not hate his fellow man because they themselves were poor in judging character, they should not hate argumentation and reason — partake in "misology" — just because they may not be skilled enough to discern the flaws and strengths of an argument:

It would be pitiable...he [Socrates] said, when there is a true and reliable argument and one that can be understood, if a man who has dealt with such arguments as appear at one time true, at another time untrue [just as Socrates' argument had appeared to those present], should not blame himself or his own lack of skill but, because of his distress, in the end gladly shift the blame away from himself to the arguments, and spend the rest of his life hating and reviling reasonable discussion and so be deprived of truth and knowledge of reality...This then is the first thing we should guard against, he [Socrates] said. We should not allow into our minds the conviction that argumentation has nothing sound about it; much rather we should believe that it is we who are not yet sound and that we must take courage and be eager to attain soundness.
—Plato, Phaedo, 90c–e


Last edited by mike lewis on Wed 12 Sep 2012, 4:09 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Quietism (philosophy)   Wed 12 Sep 2012, 3:44 am

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The phrase fourteen unanswerable questions (Avyakrta in Sanskrit), in Buddhism, refers to fourteen common philosophical questions that Buddha refused to answer, according to Buddhist Sanskrit texts. Pali texts give only ten.

According to their subject matter the questions can be grouped in four categories.


Questions concerning the existence of the world in time:

1. Is the world eternal?

2. ...or not?

3. ...or both?

4. ...or neither?

(Pali texts omit "both" and "neither")


Questions concerning the existence of the world in space:

5. Is the world finite?

6. ...or not?

7. ...or both?

8. ...or neither?

(Pali texts omit "both" and "neither")


Questions referring to personal experience:

9. Is the self identical with the body?

10. ...or is it different from the body?


Questions referring to life after death:

11. Does the Tathagata (Buddha) exist after death?

12. ...or not?

13. ...or both?

14. ...or neither?

The Buddha remained silent when asked these fourteen questions. He described them as a net and refused to be drawn into such a net of theories, speculations, and dogmas. He said that it was because he was free of bondage to all theories and dogmas that he had attained liberation. Such speculations, he said, are attended by fever, unease, bewilderment, and suffering, and it is by freeing oneself of them that one achieves liberation.

The fourteen questions imply two basic attitudes toward the world. The Buddha speaks of these two attitudes in his dialogue with Mahakashyapa, when he says that there are two basic views, the view of existence and the view of nonexistence. He said that people are accustomed to think in these terms, and that as long as they remain entangled in these two views they will not attain liberation.

The propositions that the world is eternal, that the world is infinite, that the Tathagatha exists after death, and that the self is independent of the body reflect the view of existence. The propositions that the world is not eternal, that the world is finite, that the Tathagata does not exist after death, and that the self is identical with the body reflect the view of nonexistence. These two views were professed by teachers of other schools during the time of the Buddha. The view of existence is generally the view of the Brahmins; that of nonexistence is generally the view of the materialists and hedonists.

When the Buddha refuses to be drawn into the net of these dogmatic views of existence and nonexistence, he has two things in mind: the ethical consequences of these two views, and the fact that the views of absolute existence and nonexistence do not correspond to the way things really are. The eternalists view this self as permanent and unchanging. When the body dies, this self will not die because the self is by nature unchanging. If that is the case, it does not matter what this body does: actions of the body will not affect the destiny of the self. This view is incompatible with moral responsibility because if the self is eternal and unchanging, it will not be affected by wholesome and unwholesome actions. Similarly, if the self were identical with the body and the self dies along with the body, then it does not matter what the body does. If you believe that existence ends at death, there will be no necessary constraint upon action. But in a situation where things exist through interdependent origination, absolute existence and nonexistence are impossible.

Another example drawn from the fourteen unanswerable questions also shows that the propositions do not correspond to the way things really are. Take the example of the world. According to Buddhist teaching, the world does not exist absolutely or does not exist absolutely in time. The world exists dependent on causes and conditions--ignorance, craving, and clinging. When ignorance, craving, and clinging are present, the world exists; when they are not present, the world ceases to exist. Hence the question of the absolute existence or nonexistence of the world is unanswerable. Existence and nonexistence, taken as absolute ideas, do not apply to things as they really are. This is why the Buddha refuses to agree to absolute statements about the nature of things. He believed that the absolute categories of metaphysics do not apply to things as they really are.
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PostSubject: Re: Quietism (philosophy)   Wed 12 Sep 2012, 3:49 am









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