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Letter :Thinking for ourselves

From Professor Stephen R. L. Clark

Sir: I am, of course, delighted that Francine Stock ("We can't bank on trust alone", 1 March) should reckon that philosophy, and Annette Baier in particular, is worthy of her attention. I am, however, puzzled by the identity of the "traditional male philosophers" who would sniff at Professor Baier's use of "real life" examples.

Philosophers have been using homely examples since the days of Socrates, and have almost all - including those malign figures Plato, Descartes and Kant - concerned themselves with vital political issues of their day.

The doctrine that morality depends upon right feeling has also been respectable, at least, since Aristotle's time. As an editor of The Journal of Applied Philosophy, I can testify that philosophers -and even traditional male philosophers - are still concerned with vital, and with homely, issues.

Most of us at least half agree with the thought identified by George Berkeley, that "he who hath not much meditated upon God, the human mind and the summum bonum, may possibly make a thriving earthworm, but will most indubitably make a sorry patriot and a sorry statesman".

Those who do not, or will not, think for themselves - and learn to think more clearly - will find that all their thoughts and acts have been thought out by others. Philosophy is that attempt to think.

Yours faithfully


Department of Philosophy

University of Liverpool


2 March