One of the most important services that philosophy can offer us is teaching us how to think. However, to me it seems that the traditional way (from what I’ve seen) of approaching the teaching of philosophy and its history is not even conceived to achieve this aim.
In books and philosophy courses, the fundamental ideas of each epoch are generally studied and critiqued, with alternatives then offered. They are put together with other contemporary ideas or with those of the past and future. Yet in this, hardly ever do they go deeper into how ideas were engendered in the process itself.
The analysis of such a process is often hidden, and little is done to unravel it. However, great philosophers such as Aristotle, Hegel and Mach devoted much energy to discovering the “ideo-genetic mechanism.”
I will demonstrate what I’m referring to with some examples. When philosophy deals with Thales of Miletus, one of the first Greek sages, they speak about his search for a principle behind everything that existed, and of his distancing himself from myths. However, I have never run into an analysis concerning the path followed by this philosopher in considering that there must be a principle for all things, and that this must be only one and not multiple ones.
Unless we know the techniques of thinking, we will not have learned how to fend for ourselves, and we won’t be able to teach anybody else to do the same. For that, I believe that the focus with which one studies and teaches philosophy and its history must radically change.
We should not only teach how to developmentally and cohesively tact together ideas already conceived, but to teach the methods for engendering them, methods that can be as formal, exercisable and perfectible as in mathematics.
Let’s look at the example of Leibniz. This sage of the 17th century was at the same time a philosopher and a mathematician. Within the framework of this latter science, he discovered differential calculus, a method used profusely since then to solve the most varied problems. Now, what does philosophy study concerning Leibniz? Does anyone know what the method was with which Leibniz constructed/discovered monads? Has anyone consciously applied this method to solve other problems?
The philosophical results of Leibniz are known better, as is the principle of sufficient reason, but otherwise little is known about his thinking technique.
My invitation is this: let’s not waste so much time with the products of thought: ideas, values, feelings, etc. It would be preferable if we were to steer ourselves better, and as much as possible toward the same factory where these are gestated and where we actively participate in their creation.