In section 9.4, Appiah argues that the distinctive features of formal philosophy are not possible without written language. What are these features? How convincing is Appiah’s argument? Is he being unfair to nonliterate cultures?
Appiah defines formal philosophy as “modern western philosophy” which contrasts to what he calls, “folk philosophy”. Folk philosophy is informal, often conversational, and made up of beliefs of central questions to human life. Appiah believes that formal philosophy is superior or at least, more complex than folk philosophy, much because of its ability to be written. Formal philosophy makes more general claims because it must be relevant beyond a singular conversation. Therefore, it must provide context to a wide audience of readers. Formal philosophy can not just assume cultural understandings. This allows for more consistency in formal philosophy as well as the ability to compare and argue written philosophical statements. I don’t believe that Appiah is being unfair to nonliterate cultures, simply because I feel that his definition of formal philosophy naturally relies on written recordings. I believe it is possible however, for nonliterate cultures to make convincing arguments in a method that Appiah might classify as folk philosophy. While I think that formal philosophy’s relationship with writing is crucial, I am not convinced that formal philosophy is inherently superior simply because of this difference from folk philosophy.
What’s the most effective way to reduce the amount of bullshit in contemporary discourse? Be sure to use Frankfurt’s specific notion of bullshit—so in that sense, the question is really asking: What’s the best way to get people to care about truth when they speak or write?
Frankfurt understands bullshit as a lack of concern for truth. Bullshitters are not necessarily wrong, but they are fake. This difference between a liar and a bullshitter is important to understand so we can define truth and understand how people can care more about truth and therefore, stop bullshitting. Bullshit must be stopped at the root cause of the issue. We must avoid placing people in positions that they are unqualified for and that they must speak or act upon. If unqualified persons are removed from public positions, they will not be forced to bullshit. However, sufficiency and knowledge are hard to qualify, especially in an effort to preserve truth. If a relativist point of view is taken, we could understand that everything is bullshit in someway, because there is no universal truth. However, to simply provide a solution to Frankfurt’s fight against bullshit, I think we need to encourage humility among humans, so that we will not be over-ambitious and selfish in taking roles that we can not best serve.