Another year is drawing to a close, and with it, another chance to reflect on past accomplishments. I’ve already written about my yearly goal-setting tradition, so this year’s ending post is something a bit different: What words does Alyssa live by?
Sociological concepts are controversial in the skeptic/atheist community. Many of its members don’t think of sociology as a “real” science, or otherwise dismiss the claims such a peculiar field makes as not holding up to the scrutiny expected in biology, geology, or physics. Criticisms of important sociological concepts like privilege tend to rely either on argument from personal incredulity or on hazy readings of introductory philosophy texts.
The funny thing is, philosobros who think they can undo sociological privilege with binary logic or harsh skepticism about the motives of other humans have only a few pages to flip before their own sources turn against them. Equally basic philosophical concepts and discussions underpin major sociological findings, and remind us to be aware of the limits of our own knowledge in other ways.
It’s easy to deride philosophy classes. Few people have jobs as philosophers, so the entire field is easy to dismiss as esoteric navel-gazing, dooming most of its practitioners to lives of unskilled menial labor. But there are few classes outside my specialization that I found more beneficial than my philosophy courses, because I acquired very valuable skills there. Philosophy courses present difficult problems, problems that require very careful terms and proofs, and set their students on them to flex and build brain pathways. Those problems touch on virtually the whole of human experience, between the various classical branches: What is real (metaphysics)? What is knowledge (epistemology)? What is truth (both)? What is beauty (aesthetics)? What is good (ethics)?
And every time my philosophy courses got around to that last question, one particular lump of nonsense would be treated with vastly outsized seriousness: the divine command theory.