Philosophy Friday

phi·los·o·phy: noun; the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.

Le Penseur by Auguste Rodin

Le Penseur by Auguste Rodin


In University Philosophy 101, one learns the history of knowledge based on different schools of thought that exist in our more modern global outlook, strongly influenced by western practice, with a small discussion of eastern wisdom. Two weeks in and I was bored to death with this course my freshman year; unimpressed by the dry historical labels, names of old men, places and things without meaning; the endless textbook reading and memorization of things without stories. It was not what I imagined pretentious old philosophers would ponder while smoking their pipes, or stroking their unusual beards, reading and drinking scotch in their wood stained studies; it was not my preconceived notion of what wizardry should or could or would very possibly involve. This was not what I hoped it was at all, I told myself, excusing my slacker ways while skipping class every other week. 

I chose Philosophy as an elective and I was stoked, but this class was becoming a let down quickly. I almost gave up hope that it was something kind of like what we touched on when we were kids, while speculating the supernatural or mysterious things in the dark. I almost gave up the idea that it could connect me somehow to the mystical side of math and numbers and magic maybe. I almost gave up that it was sort of like the deep stuff one may talk about with closest friends at 2am getting blazed and raised in the grass. I finally gave up on those ideas when I discovered it was something different, but kind of the same too. Better yet, it could help me deal with those crazy perspectives on life and make more sense of the whole.

When I started to realize that it is not about the names of the dead people and the names of their methods, and stopped buying the text books, I learned from another point of view, which was my own. Contrary to popular belief which comes with a high price in the form of a college degree, you can teach yourself and learn on your own. This requires more effort and research, from reputable and responsible sources, not just Googling things on the Internet...but hey...that's a great start and is also the spark of an inquisitive mind, and may or may not have led you here to me, and I thank you for that.

I came out of my boredom for Philosophy when I learned that to learn philosophy, it is not actually taught or learned; it is not taught to you, but rather, it is learned through you. If you can actually unlearn what you think you already know, to truly know IT at its root, you then must do the work and you can then extract the knowledge from it.  And to the dismay of many who are not natural born philosophers, the answer is never readily given, is quite often rhetorical and in the form of another question. [confused yet?] 

One method I learned in class and hope to put into practice is The Socratic Method. It was a revolutionary idea developed by Socrates which created a new method of teaching in contrast to the filling up the student with knowledge. Instead: Questions were asked from the students, to truly engage, and then also to pull it out of the general understanding within them already. Not to tell them what to think, but rather to allow them to derive their own thoughts. Not opinions, but facts using reason and logic.

The Greeks were innovative and introduced profound systems that have influenced politics, organized religion, intelligence, and education today. Knowledge possessed by the ancient Greeks has been passed down since roughly 300 BC, into the organizations of government still flourishing; pushed on through organized religion, the dominance of a new world, and now set forth in an education system, onto higher education achieved by dollars, and into the mind of a good guy University Professor who passed it down to me.  These philosophical thoughts, by the way, are not to be confused with beliefs, as that is crossing into another discussion of particular philosophy, as their are many branches of theology. Spirituality is classically separate and so is science.

The eastern world of Philosophy is actually composed of the ancient wisdom of the sages, a vast array of spirituality, and ancient customs, and therefore does not readily fit into the discussion of classical philosophy, as defined by the western world.  The majority of my discussions for Philosophy Friday will be composed of eastern thought, and which is why I am so in depth today with the explanation from the west. 

It's strange to me but not surprising how thoughts, ideas, and thinking has been so feared by the religious world and now also the political one. It's also strange to me that my college career puts more value on the math and sciences than the humanities. I know Numbers and Science and Business are many...but, humanities too, hello? I won't discuss my opinions or personal philosophy on the importance of art and music right now, but Philosophy is considered a humanity and less important to our current society for some reason.

Philosophy is one of the fundamental building blocks of our society and perhaps the origin of it is the essence of the thinking human being.  It has somehow only become wrapped up in politics, opinions, beliefs.  Politics are only composed of two main ideas, generally speaking, left and right, conservative and liberal.  The fact is, philosophy and the ability to reason and use logic is what gives us the ability to think far more into the situation at hand regarding politics.

I wonder how many people today actually take the time to ponder questions, or take a class that makes them think outside the box?

Some people think that those differences in perspectives are perhaps the things that create more and more differences and more and more instability in the world.  Perhaps, that is true.  But so long as we exist as a global society, that will indeed take place.  Wouldn't one want to be able to use reason and logic instead of being brainwashed by the mass media or political agendas?  Instead of fighting, we all know that agreeing to disagree or accepting our differences would certainly help. We are caught up on the labels of things and unable to see past them.  Philosophy can actually allow us to debate things and also use our reasoning to find compassion and understanding for other thoughts and ideas besides our own, and other beliefs and cultures. 

Personal Books and Photo by Rochelle Loren

Personal Books and Photo by Rochelle Loren

Nature.  Reality.  Existence.  Despite the formal definition of Philosophy being based on the academic version, it is able to be understood by the most common man.  Knowledge has been feared by the authority, for the simple fact it cannot be controlled.  It is not a gateway to evil; it is not the devil with horns and a pitch fork that makes them do it; it is not true that innocent children are born bad; it is not just the way it is and it is not how it must always be; it is able to be understood and therefore we are infinitely blessed or cursed, depending on which perspective you take.

I see it as a blessing, when mixed with love, compassion, and curiosity; it is the inner human ability to change the world. Philosophy is just the beginning.