As I write this I am very guiltily trying to ignore the mounds of philosophical texts staring back at me. Kierkegaard’s “Sickness Unto Death” beckons, while Augustine’s “City of God” is plucking strings in my heart. I’m often not very good at ignoring their requests to be held, read, and consumed.
“Read me”, they say in earnest as I turn my gaze and continue the work of putting my thoughts down “on paper”.
When people think of philosophy they usually think of obscure or “boring” sages of old such as Plato, Locke, or Nietzche. Ask a person on the street about their favorite philosophers or philosophical movements, and they would be hard-pressed to come up with something substantial.
It’s not that I’m elitist, proclaiming that only those blessed with intellegince could fathom philosophy. In fact, I believe that philosophy is what we need in such a polarizing and divisive time. We need to bring philosophy to the people: to the working mother, the elderly gentleman on foodstamps, and the invalid living in a trailer park. All of society would benefit from the practical nature of philosophy.
I fully believe that our society is at a stark disadvantage when it comes to philosophy.
And the worst part is that we are largely ignorant of just how much in need we are.
But I’m here to tell you something you may have never heard before.
Philosophy is a practical choice.
Philosophy has long held it’s fate as a solitary and utterly impractical field- the field where hermits and anti-socials go to live out their lives under tomes of archaic books, scattered stacks of paper, and an unhealthy abundance of black coffee and cigarettes.
When questioned about college majors, college freshmen,unfortuantely, often hear the cliche of, “at least it’s not philosophy” when met with a seemingly less lucrative non-STEM degree by their very well-meaning relatives.
As if pursuit of knowledge for it’s own sake, the pursuit of the self, was at odds with living. It would be a comical twist if it were not so disappointing.
I know, I know. But what do philosophy majors do?
Philosophy lies at the heart of what it means to be human
and what it means to live a life worth living.
Our society cannot survive without it and
somehow we believe that we must.
Why then did philosophy become a pariah of society?
Why is it that even the intellectually curious turn away from the realms of metaphysics or epistemology?
Why do doctors, plumbers, or teachers, people from all backgrounds and states in society, think they are somehow above the deepest musings that humankind has been able to muster?
Our society has fetishized the practical to the detriment of the human soul. Our ability to work and make money is far more important than our ability to think and love. Our ability to do something of immediate use is far more valuable then discovering a value beyond our structural confines.
But the truth of the matter is that we are not just utilitarian beings, if we are that at all. As much as we would like to believe that our worth is tied to what we accumulate or our accomplishments, that can never be the fullness of the truth.
Philosophy is practical because it deals with the everyday, our thoughts and how we are as people. Moral philosophy and ethics can help us figure out how to behave in certain circumstances. Metaphysics helps us see ourselves beyond just our physicality. The everyday uses of philosophy are endless.
Additionally, philosophy majors get the top scores in graduate entrance examinations , such as the GRE and LSAT, and make up the top performers in a myriad of skills and careers, including titans of industry and politicians.
If not for the increase in test scores, study philosophy because you are human and you are alive. Figure out what it means to be human and what it means to love. Ponder how we know and why we fight and, more precisely, why we exist.
Study philosophy, either formally or informally, it doesn’t matter, but take time to consider your own place in this world. Be introspective about your beliefs. The enjoyment of your life, the worthiness of what you pursue, is contingent upon you knowing yourself and how to think.
It is not a discipline only for the priviledged few who are given the space to contend with their being but a necessary discipline for all who wish to live a life of authenticity.
Don’t relegate philosophy to the impractical but accept it for what it is, the discipline of the utmost practicality, because living is nothing but practical.