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The importance of Philosophising

Updated on June 7, 2014
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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.

The Thinker
The Thinker | Source

An author discusses how studying philosophy helped him

To Conclude

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.

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    • Dan Barfield profile image
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      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Another trilby fan! Were I currently wearing one of mine I'd doff it in your general direction sir! Thank you for the kind comment :)

    • Radical Rog profile image

      Peter Rogers 4 years ago from Plymouth

      The ability to quote some famous philosopher in the process of gaining a degree on that subject, does not denote that that individual is a philosopher.

      The ability to philosophise in hubs such as this, university degree or no degree, does.

      Good hub, and I too favour the trilby hat.

    • Dan Barfield profile image
      Author

      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      That is very kind of you to say DREAM ON! I look forward to many future discussions with you about the wonders of the world and this life we are living. Peace :)

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 4 years ago

      You have great skill in the words that you choose.I love the art of understanding and learning.I can clearly see your years of study have paid off.I may not know the terms but I love everything you say.You are energy in a bottle.You bring information to a new light.I have always loved theories and how they come to be.I have no training in actual debating and have little experience or expertise in any field of knowledge.But I love interesting ideas,thoughts and anything that gets my blood pumping.I love the art of listening and if I could have one wish I would of wished to be a sponge.So I can absorb everything around me and enjoy life for what it really is.Wonderful in my eyes and filled with endless surprises I could of never of thought of in a milion years.It is like a roller coaster ride that doesn't stop.Thanx for your answer and I hope we can continue to have interesting discussions that lead to a better understanding and learn more than we ever thought humanily possible.

    • Dan Barfield profile image
      Author

      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thank you so much for your kind comment, DEAM ON! This is an area that I feel strongly about. So many times I come across people who 'know' they are right and don't enter into a true debate. It is important for people to recognise that learning is a lifelong process and that we are all on a joint journey to get to the truth that requires flexibility and the willingness to adjust our views when new information or revelation comes to light. It is always a pleasure to come across other people who are willing to take part in 'The Great Conversation' as I like to call it :)

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 4 years ago

      Such an informative and educational hub.I really enjoyed your views and your insight.We can all learn to set aside the knowledge that we think we know and accept the truth we are always learning.There are many answers to so many of the worlds problems.I don't see why there has to be one right solution.Why can't we all be a little right and this way we can work for a unified answer.I live by my own rules.I may never be right but I may be just a little closer to the truth.Life is a gamble and I'm all in all the time.When I walk away I may not win but I gave it a run for my money.There is so much to learn in life in such a short time.Bring it on and teach me a little more I didn't know.Thanx for opening my eyes and I hope more people find and share your wonderful hub.My deep appreciation to you for writing this.I will listen to any view as long as you back up your views with supporting arguements.That makes life a challange and so much more interesting.