Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Philosophical Matters

The world of the happy is quite different from that of the unhappy. – Ludwig Wittgenstein.

I used to get a lot of grief from my college buddies and others for majoring in Philosophy. They all said I would end up in a crappy job or on welfare. Actually, I am doing quite well. I am not rich, mind you, but I am comfortable and happy.
The happiness part is the key, in my opinion. While having some money may help you in your search for happiness, you still cannot buy it. I know plenty of people that have a lot more money than me but most are not as happy as I am. I think studying philosophy helped me immensely. It builds character, encourages rational thought, and helps one to see other perspectives. It teaches you to think differently than most people because it teaches you to think more objectively and thoroughly than they do.

Why study philosophy when other disciplines seem to have greater applicability in the “real” world. The underlying assumption is that the most important thing one can get from a university experience is training for a particular job. I question that assumption.
The most important thing to learn from one’s university experience is HOW to think, rather than WHAT to think. This is the essence of philosophy - thinking, pure and simple. Disciplined reasoning that questions everything and pursues thoughts through to their logical conclusions. It prepares one for professions that are not just paid for what they do, but also for what they think. Philosophy isn’t training, it’s education. It’s for people that want to ask deeper questions, who could never be happy without asking why, who want to not just live, but to live well. It teaches us to think critically and consistently, to understand varying points of view, to manage effectively, and to lead.
Philosophy helps one communicate their ideas articulately and precisely, both orally and in writing. It serves to develop intellectual abilities important to life as a whole, beyond the knowledge and skills required for any particular profession. It cultivates the capacities and appetite for self expression and reflection, for exchange and debate of ideas, for life learning, and for dealing with problems for which there are no easy solutions. It prepares us to be informed citizens in a world where too many are insufficiently informed and vulnerable to deception and demagoguery. It enhances our opportunity to participate responsibly and intelligently in public life. Just imagine a truly enlightened American electorate and what we could accomplish in this country if more people asked tough questions of themselves, as well as, our nominees for high office. I will not likely live long enough to see this vision of American potential become reality but hopefully, my children will.

So, to all you readers that may be considering an education that centers around or just includes Philosophy, I whole-heartedly encourage you to try it and see what a difference it can make in your life.

1 comment:

Scott said...

I also think studying philosophy helps out a lot in everyday life. And I wish more people took a more philosophical approach to their life. Besides, philosophy is fun.

I think that you are right about an education in philosophy being useful even if it doesn't directly open up more career paths because as you say it helps one learn how to think.