Philosophy is useless, or so people will tell you. The general consensus is that it never progresses or solves anything. Or does it?

The whenever-have-Epistemology-put-men-in-the-Moon feeling is not recent (nor exclusive to Philosophy, curiously enough, Plato held Poetry in the same way) and will likely continue as far as knowledge can be divided into -ers or -ists. Despite Philosophy long history, its baseline questions are still open, which causes the illusion of no progress, specially if compared to the Natural Sciences, which has a definitive way-the scientific method-to solve a problem. However, the field of ideas is vastly larger than the empiric one, so a philosophical question can never be truly “solved”. There are always different ways to think about it, further subquestions, or a lack of general agreement about what is the best solution. Therefore, progress in Philosophy can only be measured by the refinement of questions, be it by ditching answers in favor of better alternatives or even raising more questions. That’s why the problems start broadly worded, “How should I live?”, and get narrower as time passes, “What moral reasons can compel my actions?”, or poor ideas such as Pascal’s wager and logical positivism are not popular for long.

In the same vein, few people have a clear understanding of what Philosophy is or does. One very telling example is the so-called scientism, the idea that Science is the only way to produce knowledge. This is regrettably believed by most of the famous contemporary “edutainers” such as Bill Nye or deGrasse Tyson, who have claimed Philosophy to be common sense or distracting, and several working Scientists of the likes of Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss. Of course, Philosophy can’t build engines or cure cancer- that’s precisely what we have Engineering and Science for. Rather, it creates new basis and forms of reasoning (motive why many philosophical fields have turned into scientific areas) and it is certainly not haphazardly pulling answers out of thin air, willy nilly, as many will have you believe. In a sense, philosophical inquiries are like pure math: made for their own sake, and used afterwards in different settings.

All in all, were Philosophy useless (it isn’t), such complaining would still be somewhat curious. Do they also expect Literature, chess game commentary, any kind of hobby or anything other than science to be (objectively) useful? And what means to be useful, anyway? That’s a good philosophical question.