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?