Why Philosophy Matters

If law is a practical profession, then philosophy must be a practical profession. Both are attractive because they change some system or status quo–law is more concretely practical in this respect because it *works within* an established system (viz. the institution of the law) to dispute a particular subsystem (e.g. the constitutionality of torture). Philosophy is less concretely practical because it operates within no particular institution,  but for the same reason it is more broadly applicable. Think of a circle, in which practicality lies in the center. Law would be closer to the center because it’s more practical, but it would also be limited in scope for that reason. The law cannot criticize its own foundations–you don’t object to torture because it’s wrong, but because it’s illegal. Philosophy, on the other hand, is capable of criticizing anything. It has no institutional backing; it’s independent, unsupported, and uncompromising.


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