Professor Kwame Antony Appiah on Philosophy

Professor Kwame Antony Appiah on Philosophy
Philosopher at Princeton University.


In an online interview with Big Think, an organization that put big ideas into action, Professor Kwame Antony Appiah said that his philosophy is that “everything is much more complicated than [we] first thought”. Professor Appiah notes that our lives are inextricably complicated, and that while we need “guides” or “pictures” “to make our way through “reality” and “morality”, none of them are however ever “completely right”. It is not that they are true or false but “more or less adequate of what they are trying to represent”.

The point is that there can never be a natural coherence between all of our beliefs and that this should predispose us to see a kind of merit inherent in each one of them. What we need to look for in any “picture” is for the “balance”, that is ” for what can be learned from every set of claims, every perspective that is reasonably on the table rather than trying to bang [our] way through to one correct picture even if to a small subject matter”.

It is for this reason that we must “listen to people who have policy views that [we] regard asprima facie preposterous, to try to figure out why they think what they think and to see that there might be something to be said for their view, and tell them how [we] got to [our] view and why it is reasonable and see whether we can if not come to agreement at least understand each other better, and sometimes not come to an agreement but shift each other’s positions so that we end up in different places as a result of the conversation even if we do not end up in the same place”.

For Professor Appiah, this philosophical picture flows from our “epistemological” position that knowledge is rather difficult to “come by”.  He concludes by noting that we might only have a “shot of coming by it if we pay attention to all of the many different attempts at the truth” in may “intellectual activities, the many sciences, disciplines, civilizations and cultures”.

Click here to access the video.

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