“The reason philosophers have trouble agreeing, then, is partly because that is the nature of the subject (philosophers deal in questions that people in general don’t agree upon) and partly because philosophers go about their business by challenging assumptions and concepts. …
“Despite the inherent difficulty of, philosophy its value should not be underestimated. As recent discoveries in genetics and biotechnology have shown, it is impossible to know what to do with scientific discoveries without reflecting on what sort of a society we want to live in and what duties we owe to each other, our descendants and the environment. … None of these issues are questions for science or for art, but for philosophy.” ~Philip Stokes
The Important Job of the Philosopher
First, we have to define what we mean by “a philosopher”. Merriam-Webster says a philosopher is one who “studies ideas about knowledge, truth, the nature and meaning of life, etc.” By that definition, I think nearly all of us could claim to be philosophers. A real philosopher, we might say a professional philosopher, goes beyond just studying those thing, but forms opinions about them and shares those opinions. Another definition is, “a person who seeks wisdom or enlightenment,” and those are the real philosophers.
Some people seem to think than anyone who is highly opinionated and s willing to share those opinions with anyone who will listed is a philosopher. I think most such individuals would more accurately be called critics.
As Mr. Stokes points out, the primary purpose of the philosopher is to help us use knowledge, especially science, in a way that is beneficial for us and nature, and does not destroy us after a time. Some such philosophers are called Ethicists these days, but that is just trying to rename something considered too artsy and flighty (philosophy) with a more scientific name. An ethicist is still a kind of philosopher.
Where the problem comes in, and why philosophy and philosophers are not thought of too highly today, is that anyone can choose to be, or claim to be, a philosopher. Some simply study the philosophies of earlier philosophers, and simply reword or recombine those philosophical musings to form their own. That kind of “Philosopher” is naturally limited.
The Enlightened Philosophers
There are philosophers who don’t come by their philosophy simply by studying what other philosophers have written. These philosophers seek a higher knowledge and develop higher states of consciousness. In doing so, they gain real knowledge (Gnosis) rather than just simple opinions. They see how what appears to be a beneficial scientific discovery can cause great harm over time, or can be altered to become a powerful weapon or destructive force.
These philosophers aim at making us function together in a cohesive society that is beneficial to all,not just a select few, and not just big corporations who don’t care if their products are destroying the planet, or slowly killing people, as long as they make big profits selling them.
Interestingly, many such philosophers seem to express themselves best through poetry (Kahlil Gibran and William Blake, for instance). Perhaps it is because things we often don’t want to hear are easier to swallow when expressed through poetry.
Mr.Stokes says that ethical questions are not for the scientist or the artist, but for the philosopher, and he is correct. This seem to imply, though, that philosophy is not scientific. Actually, the process of achieving those high levels of consciousness necessary to be a good philosopher is scientific, but on a spiritual rather than material level.