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07 February 2023 | Posted by angela.tuduri

Where are we headed? - Philosophy in the 21st century

Philosophy seeks answers to profound questions about existence, reality and knowledge.

Philosophy has always been a relevant discipline, seeking to understand the world and people through reflection and analysis. Today, philosophical studies have evolved to include new developments in areas such as science, technology and culture. 

In this post, we will explore contemporary philosophy and how it contributes to enriching our understanding of the world and ourselves in the 21st century.  

To approach the current reality in philosophical studies, we have the coordinators of the Faculty of Philosophy of La Salle-URL, Ignacio Peyra and Jordi Feixas, experts in the field.  

Starting point - Current philosophy 

Philosophy deals with essential questions about the nature of reality (metaphysics), knowledge, truth and science (epistemology), language and meaning (philosophy of language), mind and thought (philosophy of mind), ethical norms and values (moral philosophy), social organization (political philosophy) and, in general, human beings and their culture (philosophical anthropology). 

Philosophy has evolved considerably throughout history. Many claim that it is a study in the process of extinction, although experts confirm its importance in today's societies.   

When we dared to ask the campus experts about the importance and impact of contemporary philosophy, their response was resounding:  

There is a marked tendency today to relegate philosophical discourse to the status of a relic of the past, a decorative speculation with no real capacity to think about reality and exert an effective influence on the lives of men. 

But what has always been true is particularly true today: never more than today, because of the enormous multiplication of specialized knowledge, because of the enormous consequences that the use of technology has on our ways of living and thinking, because of the questioning of the very ideas of truth or human dignity that can derive from them, a form of reflection has become necessary which, as is proper to philosophy, approaches problems from a global perspective, questions the fundamental principles of reality, of knowledge, of individual and collective action and which, in short, tries to shed light on our bewilderment. - 

Changes in society towards a more technological and sustainable one has reframed the philosophical issues explored so far. Some of the most important recent changes include: 

New concerns and issues: 

The development of philosophy in line with social evolution has helped to channel new issues and concerns as challenges arise in society and in the world.  

Since its beginnings, philosophy has been characterized by the search for knowledge about the whole. In this sense, philosophy is open to the world around it, in order to understand it in its various facets.”

- Jordi Feixas and Ignacio Peyra, coordinators of the Faculty of Philosophy at La Salle-URL

Technological progress, innovation and resources are now different, allowing new areas of interest to emerge: 

  • Technological ethics: With the rapid advancement of technology, philosophy must face new challenges, which affect is addressing ethical issues related to privacy, security and freedom of expression in the digital world. 
  • Human rights: Philosophy is addressing issues related to human rights, including equality, justice and freedom, as challenges arise in society. 
  • Environment: The philosophy also focuses on areas related to the environment, such as sustainability, environmental justice and global responsibility. 
  • Identity and diversity: Identity and diversity, including gender equality, cultural diversity and social justice are also the order of the day in the sector. 

Development of new schools and philosophical currents: 

Contemporary philosophy has produced new schools and currents that challenge the principles of the humanist tradition. Among them we can find existentialism, pragmatism and postmodernism: 

  • Existentialism: This philosophical movement emerged in the 20th century and focuses on individual freedom and personal responsibility. It focuses on human experience and how people construct their identity and meaning in a world without a particular universal purpose. 
  • Positivism: positivism is a philosophical current that defends the primacy of the method of the natural sciences over any other form of access to knowledge. 
  • Pragmatism: It proposes a new idea of knowledge and truth, which are evaluated in terms of utility and practicality. 
  • Postmodernism: Postmodernism questions objectivity and universal truth. It focuses on the diversity and complexity of human perspectives and argues that truth is relative to culture and context. 

These new philosophical schools and currents are just a few examples of how philosophy continues to evolve and develop, offering new perspectives and approaches to life, knowledge and human existence, often in clear rupture with the hitherto prevailing perspectives. 

Undoubtedly, this world that we aspire to understand today presents an enormous complexity, so that the effort of philosophical reflection must seek dialogue with other disciplines.”

- Jordi Feixas and Ignacio Peyra, coordinators of the Faculty of Philosophy at La Salle-URL

At the same time, the twentieth century has also known, in response to the challenges posed by these schools, other currents that claim the dialogue with the great thinkers of the Western humanist tradition, and that aspire to reaffirm and update the principles that have always characterized it. They are, for example: 

  • Phenomenology: In the face of the crisis of traditional metaphysics, in the face of the expansion of psychologism and positivism to all fields of knowledge, this current was born as an attempt to make possible a new access of philosophy to things themselves and their primordial meaning. 
  • Neotomism: This current update the traditional system of Catholic scholasticism and its characteristic realistic conception of knowledge, claiming its full validity to confront and overcome the idealistic solipsism of contemporary systems of thought. 
  • Communitarianism: It appears as a response to the individualism of political liberalism and the problems derived from it. Despite their differences, communitarians defend the value of moral traditions and the necessary rooting of the individual in a communitarian whole that is decisive for the configuration of his identity. 
  • Personalism: Often emerging from the fields of Catholic or Jewish thought, personalism aims to break the dominant rationalism, enabling a system of categories capable of rethinking the specificity of the human person and interpersonal bonds, its irreducibility to other objects of nature and its link with transcendence. 

Changes in perspectives and approaches: 

Perspectives and approaches in philosophy have also changed over time, reflecting new knowledge and theories in other disciplines, as well as cultural and political changes. Changes in perspectives and approaches in philosophy are influenced by several factors, including the advance of other disciplines, cultural and political clashes, and new scientific theories and discoveries. 

  • Scientific advances: Advances in science and technology, and the enormous anthropological challenges they pose, have led to new questions and challenges in the sector, such as the ethics of artificial intelligence and biotechnology. 
  • Cultural and political changes: Cultural and political changes, such as the struggle for racial and gender equality, have led to the creation of new perspectives and approaches in philosophy, such as critical philosophy and feminist philosophy. At the same time, some of the solutions proposed in these fields, which tend in some cases to radically question the link of today's society with its past and tradition, have given rise to the need to propose visions that nuance or counteract their eventual problematic derivations. 
  • New theories and discoveries in the social sciences: Theories and discoveries in disciplines such as psychology, anthropology or sociology have influenced philosophy and have led to new approaches and perspectives on topics such as consciousness and identity. The philosophical debate then focuses on assessing the relevance of such contributions, on examining their methods and the relative place they can occupy in a global vision of reality which, by their very nature, they cannot provide. 

Advances in technology and science: 

Advances in technology and science have also had a significant impact on philosophy, raising new ethical and fundamental questions about the nature of knowledge and existence. Some examples include: 

  • Ethics of technology: The emergence of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and biotechnology, has raised important ethical questions about how they are to be used and regulated. 
  • Nature of knowledge: Advances in neuroscience and psychology have challenged the traditional notion of knowledge and have led to new approaches in the philosophy of knowledge. 
  • Metaphysics: Innovation in cosmology and quantum physics has challenged our understanding of existence, the nature of reality and has generated new discussions in the field of metaphysics and the relationship between science and philosophy. 

Studies in Philosophy - demand increases 

In an increasingly interconnected and globalized world, the ability to analyze and understand ethical, political and cultural issues is crucial for sustainable development and the construction of a just society.  

The growing demand for experts in philosophy is due to the need for critical thinking and logical reasoning in society. In an environment where information is accessible online, it is more important than ever to have the skills to analyze and evaluate information accurately and rigorously.  

In dialogue with the great voices of the Western philosophical tradition, philosophy students learn to analyze and evaluate arguments, to understand different doctrines, and to develop their own perspectives and opinions. 

In addition to academic skills, studies in philosophy can also foster personal development, encourage reflective and critical thinking, and improve communication and problem-solving skills. 

Philosophy Program - La Salle-URL 

The Bachelor's Degree in Philosophy, the Bachelor's Degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and the Master's Degree in Research in Philosophy and Humanistic Studies at La Salle-URL are university programs focused on philosophical training and offer a solid foundation in theoretical and methodological aspects. 

How do you address contemporary concerns related to technology, ethics and sustainability in today's world? 

The School of Philosophy at La Salle-URL is located on a campus with schools and faculties of engineering, business, digital arts and architecture. This allows our students to share space and activities with people from different academic and professional backgrounds, something that connects them with problems and debates from other areas of knowledge and other areas of reality. As a result of this interaction, philosophy students are placed in an unbeatable context to think closely about the challenges posed by the type of society we have, as well as its technical and sustainability issues. 

More specifically, they do so through courses in Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Technology or History of Science, where students encounter the major questions raised by today's world and reflections on it. In addition, in the Faculty's bachelor's and master's degrees, students share classes with professors who, in their research work, devote their efforts to thinking about current problems linked to technical development - from applied ethics to artificial intelligence, including bioethics or transhumanism. 

In an educational environment such as this, both the recourse to the great minds of our tradition and to the contributions of the most recent thinkers, allow us to prepare the students of the Faculty of Philosophy to face the challenges of the present. With criteria, critical sense and argumentative capacity, both oral and written. -  

Our aim is to provide students with the necessary tools for any form of future professional career linked to the discipline: both academic life and the derivation to other fields where the philosopher's own capacity for reflection and abstraction can play a fundamental role (consultancy, cultural industry, journalism, business, etc.)”

- Jordi Feixas and Ignacio Peyra, coordinators of the Faculty of Philosophy at La Salle-URL

Studying philosophy at La Salle-URL is a unique experience that allows you to delve into the most relevant topics in the field. The programs aim to train professionals capable of understanding, analyzing and applying philosophical concepts in society. 

During their studies, students will have the opportunity to acquire knowledge about the history of philosophy, ethical and political theories, epistemology and metaphysics. In addition, students are taught to think critically and to reason logically in order to solve complex problems. 

With its focus on professional training, you will learn to use the tools necessary to understand and apply philosophical concepts in society. 


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