Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I Want to Be Proven Wrong, Seriously

I got bored the other night so, I entertained myself with my thoughts. My train of thought eventually led to our philosophy class and its discussions. And while on this topic, a question came to mind. Is philosophy a waste of time? Is learning about it or being a philosopher worth it? Do the ideas philosophers present make any relative or significant difference in our lives, in the world? At first I will admit that I felt ashamed for asking this question, but the more I thought about it the more it became logical to ask.

According to The American Heritage Dictionary philosophy is the “investigation of the nature, causes, or principles of reality, knowledge, or values, based on logical reasoning rather than empirical methods” (633). In other words, part of a philosopher’s job is to research the problems or conflicts in our world and then derive a theory from their investigations. But do their theories inspire anyone to change the problem? Or are the theories in the end just “bitching”? At the philosophy seminar this past weekend at the University of Memphis, one lady read a huge thesis paper she wrote dealing with a problem related to racism. But will her thesis actually do anything or will it just be talked about among intellectuals and then put away in a filing cabinet?

I question this field of study not because I dislike the subject. I enjoy discussing ideas and problems with other people and like to hear their opinions even if they do not agree with mine. I question the field of philosophy when I pick up the newspaper every morning or when I turn on the news or even just talk to another person. It seems that nothing is right in the world, that there is injustice everywhere, and ultimately, there is no hope for a better future. There always seems to be something going wrong. Racism. World War I. The Depression. World War II. Terrorism. AIDS Epidemic. Global Warming. Red Scare. Vietnam War. Hate Crimes. Cold War. 1970’s Oil Crisis. It’s never ending, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better.

The Holocaust was an atrocious crime against nature where millions of innocent people were killed. When the event came to light, people were horrified, but it eventually happened again in a different form (Rwanda and Darfur should be flashing through your mind right now). Everything that people wrote on genocide did not help prevent it from happening again. So what’s the point? What’s the point if philosophies are not able to help change things significantly in our country or in the world? Do they not work, because governments get in the way? Or have they become irrelevant in today’s world?


Courtney Martin said...

After reading your blog, it definitely made rethink why people search for answers to the questions of the world, when nothing SEEMS to be done about them. It is so often thought that nothing is being solved in our worldly problems and things just keep getting worse, but you must question the counter perspective.

Many times people are either the thinkers, that produce the solution and then there are the doers, that take action on the problem at hand. If there were only people taking action without the intelligence of the thinkers, wouldn't there be more chaos. I feel that the philosophers do not get the credit that they deserve.

Going up playing sports, I've often created a parallel between reality and the game, but often times there are a lot of similarities. The way I see it, philosophers are not in the position of making it all happen they just assist in the play, but without them there wouldn't be a team. I know its a little cheesy, but without philosophers I don't feel we would have made the advances that we have today.

Ryan Carroll said...

I understand exactly where you are coming from, and this ideology of things not having a point is one that which I am very prone. It becomes a mindset, constantly making you question every thing you do. I cannot stay dedicated to anything for more than a few days because by about 72 hours of caring about something, I have usually thought it into pointlessness. This ties into biology, physics (once considered physical philosophy), literature, and everything else as kind of pointless in their larger and less interconnected scheme of things. I would not bring everything down to this level though if I had a choice. Asking "What is the point?" with every concept that one comes up with will only lead to insanity, ending ones life in his or her mother's care at the age of 45 until death like Nietzsche. It is just a depressing and meaningless(literally) lifestyle in my own mind, proving that ignorance to some extent might just be the bliss we need to continue with a purpose.

Ashley Ladd said...

I think that thinking philosophically opens one's mind to many different ways of thinking. It may not directly benefit the world...since thinking about how lobbyists work and what is right or wrong about them certainly does not provide for a solution to the problem.

Philosophy is more abstract, and since it does not provide direct solutions, could seems completely usless. I think it is exactly opposite. How could we, as a nation, have decided upon any system of government, rule, regulatoin, or practice without thinking philosophically about what is going on in the world?

Anonymous said...

It is not so much the problem of the philosopher that these ponderings and questions don't get anywhere, its more the fault of the doers as Courtney said. Many times it is the philosophers who try to explain how certain things are and work and they are misinterpreted or misconstrued by the shallow thinking doers. Look at Socrates, he was eventually executed for his philosophical endeavors when he was merely trying to discover if he truly was the wisest man as the oracle had told him. Sure philosophizing doesn't always lead us to a direct answer to some of the questions it ponders, however, it definitely leads us to a better understanding of how the world works and why certain things are the way they are.