Studying Philosophy: Why Not?

I figure that a lot of people will not enjoy the prospect of sitting for hours and pondering over fundamental questions that philosophy is concerned with. How will philosophy help them face the realities of life, which are filled with economic strife and humans’ materialistic concerns? How can the time spent on philosophizing result in something of which benefits are visible and clear?

Philosophy is about asking fundamental questions, which, if answered, will create huge changes in our lives. Photo Credit: http://wvtf.org/programs/philosophy-talk-radio-iq

Sure, philosophy, the love of wisdom, is alluring to every human’s mind. The ability to wonder, ask questions and philosophize is a software naturally installed in each person. Kids learn how to talk by forming concepts, creating propositions and making arguments on a constant basis. They would give a break to our dull lives with multiple questions, “What is this? Why does this thing work the way it does? Is it true whether this happens?” They ask so many questions not only because they are curious about wonders of life, but also because they naturally want the truth. They love wisdom. Teenagers more than often post or share philosophical statuses on social media because philosophy sounds captivating to the ear and satisfying to the mind that can’t fathom out how to live. As grown-ups, adults must contemplate moral choices daily. They ought to make decisions about how to direct their lives, what to teach their kids and if they require something beyond, why they do the things they do.

Photo Credit: http://www.clipartpanda.com/categories/sad-girl-thinking-clipart

However, if philosophy plays such a huge role in our lives, why do we even start the argument of whether or not we should study philosophy? After all, not all of us become mathematicians, but we take mathematics for many years as a requirement (the argument can be that mathematics is the basis for other science subjects such as physics and chemistry, yet philosophy can also put the academic platform for literature, history, art). If we are all philosophers, why do we have to bother with studying philosophy? It is because only by studying, will people become more serious thinkers. Without the right kind of education or self-education, people will not be able to think right and think more. We won’t learn how to question well and understand the subject with a broad view.

Photo Credit: http://www.artsci.uc.edu/departments/philosophy.html

One of the reasons why some argue against studying philosophy is that the subject is abstract, obscure, stagnant and impractical. I almost agreed.

Decartes, a famous French philosopher in modern era Photo Credit: http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/philosophers/descartes.html

First, people recoil from studying philosophy because the abstract subject asks such difficult questions. For example, not many of us, during a normal conversation, will ask each other, “What is it for something to be a thing? What is it to think? What is it to be aware? What is it to be a human being? Who am I? What am I for?” Or looking at the philosophical text from Descartes’s meditations, we find it absurd because he assumes that awareness can be viewed as a product of consciousness without there being anything that exists beyond consciousness. He refers to the senses as deceiving, thinks that some ideas are innate and has doubts about the reality we take for granted. It is true that philosophy brings to the table many abstract questions and often confuses our mind because those questions remain unanswered, accompanied by different arguments from philosophers. However, these questions are important because they deal with the basic of life. If philosophical questions are answered, they will have a huge consequence on the way humans think, perceive the world and function. For example, one of the questions that philosophy of religion raises is about the existence of God. The argument for or against the existence of God doesn’t seek to refute any religious beliefs but rather, wants to rationally interpret claims people often accept without questioning. Suppose God were proven to be non-existent with reasons, the lives of thousands people would be affected tremendously, for the better or for the worse. Maybe wars in the history wouldn’t have happened. Probably religious conflicts wouldn’t be ubiquitous. Yet, some wouldn’t find the reason to do good deeds and live well. Furthermore, studying the so-called abstract philosophy improves a person’s critical thinking skill. Learners are forced to be self-critical of their own opinions and make themselves serious audiences of other waves of thoughts. A person who does not study philosophy is more prone to having biased opinions because people who don’t philosophize don’t contemplate other positions of thoughts. As a result, by philosophizing, humans can become more humane. Philosophy also makes humans more skeptical of the world that they see and learn to question. For example, the way that Descartes evokes the primacy of consciousness opens our mind and makes us think about the problem of knowledge and about whether we know anything at all. The ability to put questions towards the world views others tell us or worse, force upon us is very crucial in living in a world where politicians, media people, education makers have so much influence on our lives. Suppose they lie to use and make use of us for their benefits, can we filter information and think logically to defend our rights without philosophizing? Studying philosophy, even though difficult, helps human beings wiser, more open, more self-critical and less prejudiced. Of course, people can also say that they have no desire to become so, which makes them fall into the category of people who favor the saying, “Ignorance is bliss.” Maybe not knowing anything will make people happy, but they are also more vulnerable and more likely to create troubles for themselves and other people.

Photo Credit: http://www.smosh.com/smosh-pit/articles/7-totally-useless-college-degrees

Philosophy is also deemed impractical and useless. Yet, I beg to differ because frankly, I see philosophy everywhere. It is involved with so many fields, no matter whether you are a doctor, a lawyer, a businessperson or an artist, you have to contemplate at some point about whether or not what you do is ethical. You also need philosophy to assess your own beliefs and aspirations. We see philosophy in politics, religions, art, science and so on. How can philosophy be useless? On the contrary, political philosophy directly and powerfully influences our lives. Thinkers such as Thomas Jefferson and John Locke are among the first people who introduced the idea of democracy, while Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels influenced the world’s history with communism. By studying philosophy, humans learn to reason and thereby, have voices and change the world instead of merely accepting facts. Facts, which are knowledge, need to signify meanings to become wisdom. Finally, some think of philosophy as stagnant. After years of philosophizing, we still see the new generation of students pondering over the same wonders that Plato and Socrates had centuries ago. New learners encounter intellectual dilemmas. Experienced philosophers encounter intellectual dilemmas. Philosophy confuses us. Yet, if we look at the whole picture, there is a positive progress thanks to philosophy. Ideas are becoming more liberating. We witness less of racism and sexism. There are more protests, more outrages, more questionings, more critical ideas and more voices. All in all, I believe that everyone should study philosophy because the subject will give us the ability to think critically, to doubt a statement and to be self-critical. Existing everywhere, it also enriches our lives, helping us decipher our souls and answers the gnawing questions of why we exist. Philosophy helps us become more human, encourages us to live with humanity, and makes us appreciate knowledge and wisdom.

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10 thoughts on “Studying Philosophy: Why Not?

  1. I had philosophy in high school for two years and I loved it, but my friends didn’t. I think that the primary reason people dislike it, and you’ve mentioned it, is that it poses what we often think are unanswerable questions, especially the existential kind. Not a lot of people like to sit in the dark by themselves pondering over the “Why do I exist?” question because truthfully it’s kind of depressing to think that our own existence is a bit insignificant.
    And even though we all use philosophy in our lives, it’s gained a negative connotation, where people who talk to much are called philosophers because they relate it to something that doesn’t make sense.
    I think that the reason people say that it’s useless is because society measures the use of degrees in monetary returns and I can’t really think of a job that directly uses philosophy to gain money. This is a great post because of course philosophy is not useless and consciously or unconsciously we all use its concepts at some point in our lives.

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    1. Hi! This is entirely horrible. I missed your thoughtful comment. Since I have been using another account to post blog post, I missed your comment! Can’t believe it!

      First of all, thank you so much for reading my long post. I wrote it after taking my introductory course in college, which explains why my understanding of it is still not very deep and thorough. This thought from you stuck out to me:
      “Not a lot of people like to sit in the dark by themselves pondering over the ‘Why do I exist?’ question because truthfully it’s kind of depressing to think that our own existence is a bit insignificant.”
      For me, I think that it is very important for each person to feel insignificant, so that we can step out of our own world and become less self-centered.
      In my class, my professor talks a lot about how he uses philosophy as a way to earn “hell a lot of money” as a college professor. So maybe that is one job. I still see some young people choose philosophy because they like it (first) and this subject teaches them how to think, so that they can earn law degrees.
      And thank you for telling me “this is a great post”! I apologize again for getting back to this so late.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think people need to be reminded of their insignificance everyday, not just to step out of their own self-centered worlds, but to be reminded that just because we have a problem or just because we are hurt, in pain, or unhappy, the world will not end, and whatever it is that’s bothering us will pass.
        I think your professor really needs to evaluate why he chose that profession because while I appreciate and admit the fact that what we choose to do will impact us financially, I also think that we need to choose what we like and what we’re passionate about, even if it doesn’t bring that much money. Of course this is me talking about an idealistic world, but nevertheless, that’s how it should be.
        Don’t worry about missing the comment, and I loved reading the post.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. To do my professor justice, I think I need to mention that he really chooses his profession because he has passion for the subject. He just sometimes talked about earning money thanks to philosophy to mock people who say things such as, “Philosophy major? What can you do with that?” and impact us students who may recoil from following our passion. And I definitely cannot agree more that we need to be reminded of our insignificance everyday.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Very interesting post. Well worth the time to read it. While one may not need a formal degree in philosophy, I agree that everyone can benefit not only from studying it but, in addition, engaging it. As you have done here. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Robin,

      I am very sorry for reading this comment after such a long time. I really did miss it because I posted this essay using another account. Thank you for reading my thoughts and saying “well worth the time to read it”.

      Nhi

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post!! I’ve ALWAYS thought that what was the point in studying philosophy and what do people do after that…think all day long whether to be or not to be haha. Recently I have learned that our prime minister (Finland) whom I really like holds phd in Philosophy so maybe it wasn’t so useless after all. Your post was very hmm eye-opening. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Anastasia, I think that you commented so long ago that you have already forgot about this comment. I haven’t checked my personal blog since then, so I missed this 😦 Thank you so much for sharing with me your thought and for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

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