Why Philosophy is not important?
It’s been quite a while since I’ve started studying philosophy. I have bought a book entitled “Outline-History of Philosophy” by William Shakanian and at first I was really eager to read it. I have already read at least two books in philosophy, namely, From Socrates to Sartre by T.Z. Levine and Sophie’s World by Josh Gaardner. Those books were a real treasure. And then I’ve stumbled into a great philosophy resource site by Mortimer Adler at http://radicalacademy.com . It is really a valuable resource to anybody who wants to know more about philosophy.
But why is it that I am saying that philosophy is not important? Of course, I am not trying to argue against anyone about the importance of philosophy. This is simply what I’ve thought about it and those realizations that came to me while I was studying philosophy. First of all, I would like to share my perception of philosophy. At first, philosophy in some way evokes a mystery to me. Whenever I hear somebody is indulged in philosophy, or mention a quote by a philosopher or try to explain something in terms of philosophy. It strikes within me a certain curiosity. Are they really that great? Their ideas seem to convey wisdom and authority that I was bound to research about it. So I setup a program for myself to self-study philosophy and I happen to purchase those books I mentioned above on a book sale.
I came to an idea that I have to study philosophy from a proper perspective, so I divided my study into two approaches, 1) philosophy as a subject 2) philosophy as a way of life. What I am really looking for is the relevance of studying philosophy in my life as a whole, as it relates to my work, as it relates to my relationships, as it relates to my interaction with other people, as it relates to my self development.
First, I would like to talk about philosophy as a subject. In the early stages of my reading, I was really excited. Lots of thoughts came to me like it would be great to know more about philosophy because I would amaze my friends with my knowledge and delight in their praise. What could be more satisfying if you use the allegory of the cave in a discussion to prove some point? Or simply identify somebody else’s idea as being like that of a sophist who maintained that morality is relative from person to person of the same or different culture. Or load your discussions with philosophical terms or to discuss a topic and refer to it within a certain philosophical foundation. Your idea will always carry some load of authority if it is, in some way, associated with a certain philosophical base. But then I ask myself, Is it the reason why I study philosophy? If I am a college student and is required to take this subject, probably it’s ok. But now that I have other concerns like my job, my direction in life, my career, my family, can I justify to myself studying philosophy when I can use the same time to study other skills that would advance my career or make me do my job better? Because I could not seem to define any measurable outcome of success by which I could say to myself, I’m doing well in my study of philosophy. It is really worth my time. It is like if I study philosophy, what would I be better at after I study it? Would I be a better communicator or a better thinker? I really doubt if studying logic would in some way make you a better chess player because that’s a game that really requires logical analysis. And even philosophers are saying that there is really no finality in philosophy. Nobody could be able to unify it and provide an absolute truth that would serve as a guide for all the people in the world to follow intelligently and morally. So I consider it that philosophy as a subject is not important because whatever knowledge you will gain from studying it has nothing to do with your life as you live and experience it now. Living your life, responding to your immediate needs, following your career plans and preparing for future problems like hospitalization, funeral services are more important. I think it’s better to spend your time studying web programming or enroll in a speech power course to improve your communication skills than to study any subject of philosophy. I’d rather say that philosophy is not the love of wisdom and never ending search for that wisdom as if it’s some kind of a description of an act of finding out some truth. Philosophy is a belief system just like what one would find in a certain religious organization. Karl Marx philosophy is a highlight example of that, by destroying religion as its base, he had helped established a belief system in place of Christian religion or whatever, by itself became a “religion” for people who followed them. And I believe that no philosopher is above Socrates not even Plato. Gnothi Seauton.
Philosophy as a way of life seems reasonable enough though nothing really special about it. Socrates said that the “unexamined life is not worth living”. But then the Bible also said that “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”. Confucius said that “Do not do unto others what you do not want others to do unto you”. Basho said that “Do not follow in the footsteps of the wise, seek what they sought”. You can join the Hare Krishna movement, be a vegetarian. Become a Rosicrucian. Become a fundamentalist Christian. Become a Marxist. Or extol the virtue of Stoicisms. Or simply live your life as you found it. The point I’m trying to make is that philosophy is no different from it. Rene Descartes is no different from Buddha who found his enlightenment under a Bodhi tree. If I say to myself I ought to make philosophy a way of life, whose philosophy would be it? Or I could have it as to make philosophy a way of life is to mean that I will be intellectually open and continuously search for that truth. A seeker of truth is no different from a philosopher. It’s just the term “philosophy” and “philosopher” and how it came to be perceived as something mysterious like the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.
How about you my friend? How do you perceive Philosophy? Is philosophy important to you? To some people I know, they speak of philosophy as some kind of a principle of living like “my philosophy in life is to help others as long as I can”. Schools have their own statements of philosophy. Probably philosophy has come to mean many different things to some people and some people do not even care. It is in our nature to find meaning in our life, in what we do, in what we perceive. And philosophy is just one vista by which you could find meaning of this world, of your existence. There’s really nothing special about it.
Till next time.