A Philosophical Dilemma

A Philosophical Dilemma
"Philosophy" is a word that often scares. The majority of people tend to avoid it by any means. They perceive it to be an extremely complicated domain that deals with very important "stuff" and therefore it is reserved for a select group of people but has no use for the common individual. Is that really so? See more!The decline in the desire for a proper education, correlated with the growing lack of efficiency that characterizes modern educational systems, tends to maintain and even spread this vague understanding of philosophy. Therefore, we are inevitably forced to ask ourselves a question: should we accept or reject philosophy?

On one hand, we have the ones who reject it. First and foremost, they adopt this position because they cannot identify a practical reason for reading the works of Plato, Augustine, Hegel and so on. Basically, you can study and analyze Kant as long as you want but the knowledge you gain won’t be of any use when it comes down to fixing your washing machine or achieving the most important civic task in modern times: making money.

Another less comfortable fact about philosophy is the challenging terminology that it uses. This is a two part critic. On one side we have the objection regarding the use of loosely defined concepts sometimes referred to as "dragon concepts". A "dragon concept" is a word or phrase that has no clear meaning, yet it is at the center of some philosophical system.

On the other side, people are often put off by an excessively rational book. Indeed, philosophers are obsessed with logic, however being logical does not necessarily mean being easy to understand. Furthermore, nowadays a new wave of thinking is materializing. More and more people believe that the act of reading books does not stimulate your creativity. In fact, it actually does the opposite by killing your originality. Another reason why we should reject philosophy is that life is meant to be lived. Philosophers, however, stand aside and try to analyze and dissect it. Why should you want to do that? After all, you can love without knowing what love is; you can enjoy the warmth of the sun and at the same time be clueless of its composition and so on.

On the other hand we have the philosophers. For them philosophy is a way of living. Philosophers analyze and compare ideas and try to separate the ones that are true from the ones that are false. Such an occupation can never be an idle one. These thinkers agree with their critics that philosophy does not give you a material advantage because it is not supposed to. Let’s put it this way: if you want to understand the idea of liberty or justice only to gain some sort of reward from it then you will most likely reach a theory that might be efficient for you, but that does not make it objectively true and that is the point. In order to obtain true knowledge you must see it as the ultimate goal and not as a stepping point.

Philosophers also reject the terminology criticism. First of all, the "dragon concepts" are under fire and condemned by great minds in general. In fact, in the study of the evolution of philosophy we can see that every new philosophical system tends to be a refreshed and "dragon concept" free version of the one preceding it. That does not mean that the new version is perfect, only that it is a better one. The difficult language present in books written by great thinkers like Aristotle, Spinoza and others is sometimes just a result of the reader’s lack of grasp on key terms and concepts (imagine trying to solve a math problem without knowing the formulas needed). This type of misunderstanding is similar to the one regarding the relationship between books and originality. A person who has not read a page in his life is not an original human. He is influenced in his decisions by his family, friends, neighbors and many other factors. Reading a philosophy book gives you the chance to come in contact with the ideas of a person from another country and another time. Moreover, philosophers tend to contradict one another and therefore you are not coming into contact with the same kind of mentalities. People forget that our ideas are at the base of our acts. Yes, you can do certain things without meditating to much upon them but not all the time. How can you know if you are free or not if you do not have an idea of freedom? How can you decide if an act is just or not without referring to the idea of justice?

In the end, the proposed selection between accepting and rejecting philosophy is a false dilemma because there can be only one verdict. It is the same as choosing between being completely ignorant and being aware of your ignorance.

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