The importance of Philosophising
Most people when asked what Philosophy is fumble to find a clear and concise way of describing it. Even philosophers find it tricky to do in few words. Heidegger once did a famous lecture entitled “What is metaphysics?” in which instead of giving a definition – he demonstrated it through doing. He reasoned that the only way to really understand what metaphysics is… is to do it. I quite agree. In fact I’d take it that step further and say the same is true of philosophy in general. Philosophy is not a subject to learn facts in like History. Philosophy is an activity.
Often people associate Philosophy too much with those famous philosophers whose thought has shaken the foundations of the earth. Philosophy does not belong to them. It is not the case (as a very young me once thought) that to be a philosopher one has to have come up with a brilliantly original philosophical stance, write a book on the subject and then have it published. To be a philosopher you must philosophise. That is, engage with the world, the self and ones experience of both using analytical and critical thinking skills. It is about rearranging one’s understanding of the nature of Being by viewing it from many different perspectives. It is a practice of thinking clearly.
… Admittedly it is also specific to certain species of topic. Philosophical queries are ones that concern “the big questions”. These are subdivided into categories such as Epistemology (theory of knowledge) and Ethics (morality).
I am one of those lucky buggers who gets away with putting off real life in order to study Philosophy at degree level. This gloriously impractical decision stripped me of my original indoctrinations and assumptions. It was liberating. I was left with a mind like a fresh page in a sketch book and it was better equipped in its discernment to boot. I pick out fallacious or specious positions in an argument now where once I would have shrugged in Gallic fashion and cracked open a bottle.
On leaving university I had graduated a semi-free consciousness armed with heavy duty reasoning skills and absolutely no direction. I could start getting autobiographical here but that is not the point of this hub so I must move on apace.
What the point of this piece actually is, is to try and excite the philosophically untested of you toward an active assessment of your beliefs – a critically necessary doubt of your assumptions. This was the first gift that my studies gave me. I really questioned what I thought I knew of the world. I started to connect dots that I had not been able to see previously. I noticed with embarrassment the inconsistencies,fallacies and contradictions that peppered my multiple belief sets. Commonly held beliefs like contradictory superstitions. I believed in luck and fate at the same time for one.
To really interrogate our perceptions of the world can be a truly enlightening and trans-formative act. None of us think it of ourselves but we each have a myriad of prejudices and erroneous beliefs about the world when we are starting out in adult life. We assume they are correct because they were taught to us at a young age by figures of authority in whose word we interpreted the divine truth. As Freud says – to the small child, mother and father are God.
Once you learn to take the pain of confronting and letting go of a deeply held but fallacious belief, then the ecstasy of new realization is yours. That moment when the reluctant clinging to a habit of thought has been shaken off and a shiny new idea clicks into your mind… that is a truly beautiful thing. It is literally mind expanding. It is the evolution of consciousness! With each new generation of coherent memes, the collective understanding of humanity is brought that bit closer to truth. One of my favorite memes in the current set that’s floating around in my head is this:
I can make a difference.
The interconnectedness of things that I see in the nature of existence seems to imply that this is simple truth. My choices cause an observable effect on the world around me. According to Quantum physics my mere observation of things in the world affects those things. If I want the world to be a better place then I must make the world that way through my actions and choices. It is not enough to avoid conflict… one must seek peace. It is not enough to be without hate… one must radiate love.
I wrote a hub a while back now called Learn to love learning: Why knowledge is the best drug on the market. I bring this up now because philosophy has led me to discover so much. Not always in real-terms knowledge of things… but in terms of perspective. Instead of wildly defending opinions I have been told to believe, I try to make judgements based upon the best information to hand. If somebody shows a belief of mine to be conclusively wrong - then I suck it up and say thank you... and mean it. Every idea disproved makes way for a new revelation.
An author discusses how studying philosophy helped him
So... with all this said then (and I am aware that I am barely skimming the surface here) why is it important to Philosophise...?
- The thinking skills and tools of reasoning that one develops by answering philosophical questions enable people to make truly informed decisions when they reach crossroads in their lives.
- It enables us to make moral choices that we fully understand without having to refer to a holy text. Though I have a lot of respect for the bible... people shouldn't need to be told that killing is wrong. They should be able to reason this out for themselves.
- We are better able to pick out poor logic and erroneous arguments that are presented to us and thus can defend ourselves against being infected by false beliefs.
- Our cognitive abilities and acuity increase. We develop our thinking capabilities through explicit use of thinking skills.
- We are better able to get our point of view across and reason with others.
- We find it easier to see situations from multiple different perspectives and weigh them against each other without allowing natural prejudices color our opinions.
...I know there is more to add to this list. However, I think I have covered the most important aspects (subjectively speaking of course). I invite anyone who feels up to a bit of a challenge to Philosophise with me. Get your debating helmet on and exercise those cognitive "muscles". What are your basic beliefs about the world? Where did they come from? Do any of them clash?
Have I said something you disagree with?....Would you like me to? ;)
If anyone is interested in debating but doesn't have schooling in logical argument - check this out before you do.
Other relevant links
Links to other relevant hubs by me
- Learn to love learning! : Why knowledge is the best drug on the market
Curious about the benefits of learning for learning's sake? Want to know why you'd be completely crazy to miss out on this most excellent of past times? Then, read on...
- The meaning of Life, the Universe, and... well... everything, I guess.
A casual overview of some schools of thought with regards to that eternally recurring question "what is the meaning of existence?" Hopefully couched in a not overly wordy or self-important style (and please do mention it in the comments if I'm coming