The Purpose of Philosophy is to Ask the Right Questions

Slavoj Žižek: I’m not saying -- I’m not a philosophical megalomaniac -- that philosophy can provide answers, but it can do something which maybe is even more important, you know?  As important as providing answers and a condition for it, maybe even the condition, is to ask the right question. 

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There are not only wrong answers.  There are also wrong questions.  There are questions which deal with a certain real problem but the way they are formulated they effectively obfuscate, mystify, confuse the problem.  For example, my eternal example, we have to fight of course today sexism, racism and so on.  But did you notice how almost automatically we tend to translate issues of sexism, racism or ethnic violence, whatever, into the terms of tolerance?  This, for me, doesn't go by itself.  This presupposes already a certain horizon where you naturalize the order.  We have different cultures.  What can we do?  We can only tolerate each other.  And to give you a proof how this is not self-evident: download speeches by Martin Luther King and put on search words precisely like tolerance and so on. . . . Never, he never uses them.  For him -- and he was right -- it would have been an obscenity to say white people should learn to tolerate us more, or whatever.  

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You see, this would be one example, not to mention ecology.  Now, ecology may be the ruin of us all -- it’s a terrible crisis, but the way we formulate it, either as a pure technological problem or in this New Age way – we, humanity, are too arrogant, we are raping the mother earth, whatever, it’s already the way we perceive the question that mystifies the problem.  Here philosophy enters correcting the question, enabling us to ask the right question.  

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Directed / Produced by
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Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd
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"I’m not a philosophical megalomaniac," says Slavoj Žižek. Philosophy is not here to provide all of the answers. What it can do however, which is more powerful, is ask the right questions.

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