My personal approach to Philosophy holds that any human effort ought to be conducted as a form of Areté, that is, Craftsmanship. This is not to be construed as a sort of snobbishness which examines only the nature of the final production, but also gives consideration to the spirit in which the work is performed. A concern and attachment to the outcomes obtained, and to any chain of consequence which follows, ought more to be encouraged than discouraged, as any effort to address these further consequences may be greatly appreciated by those effected by them, but a concern to encourage excellence in the practice, from even the most humble beginnings, is not wise to neglect either.
While there are vital endeavors in which the final production must meet certain standards, the vast majority of human efforts harm no one if they are done as well as can be done by any particular individual just as they are, with whatever materials and techniques are available to them, and this concern with the consequences to which others are exposed will dictate whether or not the production is worthy of their representation of it as a finished work. While formal training seeks to have any production rise above the formal and public standards set, there is always a need to practice the techniques as they are taught, and there must be a context in which these skills may be practiced without fear of consequences beyond the ability of the student to critique their own work.
The guidance of a more experienced practitioner may be necessary to highlight the many dimensions of the work, and the successes and failures of any single production. Such a mentor should also be able to address the many subjective facets of producing a work, and the experiential stances which favor improving future productions. This ought to hold even for Philosophy itself, and it is my belief that this attachment to outcomes is of the greatest importance in the practice of any endeavor in which the production itself has no tangible and measurable features, but largely has the internal discipline of the practitioner as its greatest assurance of quality, and the practice of Philosophy is certainly among such disciplines.
Allow me to give an example of how I have personally applied such an attempt at a craftsmanship of Philosophy. There is a problem in “Chicago School” or “classical” Economics of the value of a sunk cost, and under what conditions a rational actor should “cut their losses” in the event that the goods or services obtained would seem to be of diminished value. If a person purchases a ticket to an outdoor concert, and pays a modest price for the ticket, say, twenty dollars, and it begins to rain during the concert, they may stay for the concert so long as the rain would seem to pass in a short time, but if the rain continues for longer than a certain interval of time, say a half-hour, then it is presumed that a rational actor would cut their losses and leave the concert, as it no longer seems to have the same value it would under better weather conditions.
If, however, the concert ticket cost significantly more, say one hundred dollars, then many such persons in the same context would stay for the concert for a far greater period of time, despite the fact that it continues to rain throughout. In classical economic terms, this is an irrational choice, as the sunk costs cannot be restored, and the value of the goods has dropped significantly. Behavioral economics says that this is the sort of behavior that is actually observed, but does not truly explain why this should be so. I have a theory as to why, and it is meant to meet with the approval of those who see themselves as rational agents, and justifies such a decision in rational terms as well.
At the outset of this process, I sought to place myself in the position of such a person, and was determined to highlight the rationality of any such actor making a similar decision. This is in accord with the high value I place upon the Original Position, which allows me insight into the similarities of human values between myself and others, rather than being dismissive of their qualities and capabilities, in order to “explain” what cannot be explained otherwise, using the traditional approach of demeaning others to seem more expert or informed, an approach highly favored by the more insular academic doctrines which insist that academic and professional thinking is of an entirely different caliber from those techniques used without the benefit of academic training and discipline. If I were to make the same sort of decision as to whether or not to stay for the concert, how would I justify my decision in “rational” terms?
What goes unmentioned in the typical statement of the problem is why I should pay so much more for the second concert rather than the first. If each concert is of equivalent value to me, what could possibly induce me as a rational economic actor, to pay so much more for the second concert as opposed to the first? The question points directly at the answer with scant effort: the two concerts cannot possibly be equivalent in value! The problem, as typically framed, assumes that I would pay significantly more for the second concert, and yet also presumes that attending the second concert is no more valuable than the first! If I presume that such behavior is rational (it clearly isn't, and no argument of “relative scarcity” can make it rational), then concluding that staying for a concert that I personally value that much more can be made to seem “irrational”, because I am investing more time, in addition to more money, in the second endeavor, and the equivalency of the two has been “baked into” the entire consideration of the problem.
I also, even earlier on in considering the problem, had to find my way around concluding that the difference in behavior was due strictly to matters of pride, prestige, and saving face, and here again, the Original Position recommended against such an approach: not that I would not stay for the concert out of sheer pride, but that looking back on such a choice with pride as my only justification would make me feel ashamed of my pettiness and insecurity! This latter points to a wide variety of human experience. When is insecurity a matter of simply not being in a position to further your own interests, a rational concern of scarcity, and when is it simply an envy of others’ abundance, for which their is no constructive solutions at all, but only destructive “solutions”? Sadly, the inability to apply the Original Position to problems of individual and social behavior would seem to be a prime example, for which some rightly feel a deep animosity toward all things academic. Nowhere do we see the real methodologies of Science in the “Social Sciences”, as they are always more busy fitting the data to the theories, and seldom attempting to fit the theories more closely to the data. I hope the example I have tried to set here will make any such efforts of your own, toward the latter technique, more productive.
And how about those Bills fans, huh? Gotta love ‘em!