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As Jacques Harthong, our late mathematics teacher at the ENSPS, once said in a meeting with students: "You will not reinvent philosophy; the Greeks already did that 2000 years ago !". It is with this in mind that I have presented a few classical topics here, referring to the book "Pratique de la Philosophie de A à Z". In answer to the question “Why teach philosophy ?”, I quote Georges Pascal’'s preface of the Bordas "“Philosophie/Religions"” encyclopaedia (written by Roger Caratini):

"We often question the purpose of philosophy. We wonder “Why have philosophers ?”, assuming that philosophical speculation is futile and teaching philosophy is therefore pointless. Nowadays especially, we like to oppose philosophy and science, insisting on the precision, accuracy, rigour and potential of scientific knowledge. It is said that scientists, not philosophers, have transformed the world and made mankind’s domination of nature possible, without which human life as we know it could not exist. So we conclude that we must train scientists, not philosophers, and that education should focus on the sciences rather than philosophy.

However, adopting such assumptions entails forgetting that science originated in philosophy. Metaphysics, even of the Descartes school of thought, is not incompatible with the development of physics, due to its radical distinction between body and soul that enables separate study of the body. It also requires forgetting that science is never an end in itself and that, while factual knowledge is useful in life, it is nevertheless through a certain philosophy that people live their lives. And it means forgetting that while science essentially answers the questions we ask ourselves about the nature of things or, more precisely, the laws of phenomena, these questions (although important) are nevertheless not essential to humankind. Our peers are always more cause for problems than things are and we all ask ourselves a number of questions that science will inevitably leave unanswered.

In saying that philosophy is a reflection on the human condition and fate, we no doubt highlight what matters most. It is for this reason that no-one lives without a more-or-less defined philosophy. In even the smallest of our actions we can identify a certain idea we have of human life, and this idea is specifically philosophical. Consequently, the true interest in the study of problems or doctrines of philosophy lies in its ability to enable us to become more aware of our own philosophy. The diversity of systems should thus not be used in argument against the purpose of philosophy. Plato or Aristotle, Descartes or Spinoza, Kant or Hegel: they can all equally help me to define my personal attitude to the issues I may face in life. Whether I adopt or reject the ideas of any philosopher, I am all the while reflecting on the human condition and vocation. Who could dare to say that such reflection is futile or without purpose ?

With this perspective in mind, we can appreciate why philosophy cannot detach itself from either human sciences or religion. The information we bring to modern psychology and sociology should not be irrelevant to the understanding of human nature. Yet the different religions, for their part, are also humankind’s creations and bear witness to our fundamental need to understand our place in the Universe. Hegel said that philosophy is a reflection on religion. It may be other things as well, but the link between philosophy and religion is substantial enough for a publication to unpretentiously discuss both the philosophical study of problems and systems and the study of major theological concepts. As it is presented, the brilliant work of Roger Caratini is invaluable for those who are interested in mankind’s passions and thoughts, obligations and aspirations, weaknesses and requirements, woes and greatness, reality and dreams. And as Pascal said : «To ridicule philosophy is really to philosophize »."

Here are the different themes and philosophers presented :

ps : join like me the Cosmology@Home project whose aim is to refine the model that best describes our Universe

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