3 years ago I enrolled into the University of Portsmouth in the Southern UK to study Forensic Psychology, but fortunately I quickly realized that that was not the path for me. After a semester, I decided to drop out and take some time off and see what I actually wanted to do with my life.
Years later, I am just about to walk into my first Philosophy class: Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking. I thought I should write on why I made this decision and why philosophy is so important for me.
“Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions, since no definite answers can, as a rule, be known to be true, but rather for the sake of the questions themselves; because these questions enlarge our conception of what is possible, enrich our intellectual imagination and diminish the dogmatic assurance which closes the mind against speculation of the universe which philosophy contemplates, the mind also is rendered great, and becomes capable of that union with the universe which constitutes its highest good” (Problems of Philosophy, 161).
The point is not to know the truth. The point is to discern what the truth can be for a particular people in a particular circumstance. This is what philosophy gives and what theology could not give to me. As Bertrand Russell said in his short book Problems of Philosophy, “The value of philosophy is, in fact, to be sought largely in its very uncertainty” (156). In fact he says that even the ordinary things turn out to be matters of interest. We are capable of questioning that which is to others regular. For example: the use of Instagram and other social media, what to think about controlling body language, how to communicate effectively in order to be empathetic, etc. In his words: “As soon as we begin to philosophize, on the contrary, we find . . . that even the most everyday things lead to problems to which only very incomplete answers can be given” (157).
Imagine a perfect human being, a humble person that lives moment to moment and understands how little is in his power to control. I believe that this is what philosophy can give to us if studied properly. I aim for that intellect, an intellect that understands fragility and, as with the stoics, chooses to embrace it rather than run from it.
There is so much to learn from those that have written throughout the generations about our condition as a species. There is much to embrace and follow. I imagine seeing the world through an eye that is saturated by empathy and an understanding of why things happen. Similarly to Russell, I imagine this intellect “without hopes and fears, without the trammels of customary beliefs and traditional prejudices, calmly, dispassionately, in the sole and exclusive desire of knowledge — knowledge as impersonal, as purely contemplative, as it is possible for man to attain” (160).
That is my aim: to be free from the chains of our societies. To be able to comprehend beyond the material and beyond the spiritual - to understand the world we live in and to change it.
“If all men were well off, if poverty and disease had been reduced to their lowest possible point, there would still remain much to be done to produce a valuable society; and even in the existing world the goods of the mind are at least as important as the goods of the body. It is exclusively among the goods of the mind that the value of philosophy is to be found; and only those who are not indifferent to these goods can be persuaded that the study of philosophy is not a waste of time” (154).
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Until next time, keep reflecting.