Why Information Matters

When we use a computer, its performance seems to degrade progressively. This is not a mere impression. Over the years of owning a particular machine, it will get sluggish. Sometimes this slowdown is caused by hardware faults, but more often the culprit is software: programs get more complicated, as more features are added and as old bugs are patched (or not), and greater demands are placed on resources by new programs running in the background. After a while, even rebooting the computer does not restore performance, and the only solution is to upgrade to a new machine.

Philosophy can be a bit like a computer getting creakier. It starts well, dealing with significant and serious issues that matter to anyone. Yet, in time, it can get bloated and bogged down and slow. Philosophy begins to care less about philosophical questions than about philosophers’ questions, which then consume increasing amounts of intellectual attention. The problem with philosophers’ questions is not that they are impenetrable to outsiders — although they often are, like any internal game — but that whatever the answers turn out to be, assuming there are any, they do not matter, because nobody besides philosophers could care about the questions in the first place.

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