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