What do you exactly call philosophy?

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Reply Wed 8 Oct, 2008 02:06 am
I started a thread more or less like this one some time ago.

What is the argument you obtain normally when you ask someone why isn't he or she (*) interested in philosophy? In my case, I've been answered most times that it is useless.

Would any kind of philosophy be of any use to someone who is completely satisfied about his way of living?

I guess philosophy (not history of philosophy) is sort of patrimony of the unsatisfied.

So I'll asume most people here thinks there must be something else/better... No matter wether he is religious or atheist or agnostic or...

What are you looking for?

And, why are you looking for it? Do you think there is some universal reason to take interest in philosophy (**)? Do you think mankind will evolve towards a philosophical way of understanding?

(*) I'll stick to the he from now on, I find this political correction tiresome and I assure you I don't intend to offend anybody. Being myself a "she", I guess it's ok.

(**) I mean: Is there any kind of pattern in the events that lead someone to take interest in philosophy?
 
Khethil
 
Reply Wed 8 Oct, 2008 05:14 am
@BeatsMeWhy,
Hi BMW,

What a great question. I think we hit upon this a month or two back, but not quite in this direction. I'd love to offer my thoughts on the issue as it's come up with me more than once.

BMW wrote:
What is the argument you obtain normally when you ask someone why isn't he or she (*) interested in philosophy? In my case, I've been answered most times that it is useless.
[INDENT]Yea, I've heard a lot of this too. Dad used to say, "Well... it don't pay the bills" and I think that pretty much typifies how most people view it[1]. Its my view that when most people think about philosophy, what comes to mind are lofty metaphysical issues; whimsical dreamers with their heads in the clouds. Of course, this contention ignores the every-day utility of Ethics as well as how knowledge can be increased with a good understanding if Epistemology.
[/INDENT]
BMW wrote:
Would any kind of philosophy be of any use to someone who is completely satisfied about his way of living? ... What are you looking for?
[INDENT]Interesting notion. I think you have a point, in that there are a good number of philosophy buffs who ARE looking for something. But from where I sit, this would only account for just a few. Philosophy doesn't quickly dispense many black-and-white. The answers are out there, but they usually don't come wrapped very neatly. As far as your second question; for those who ARE looking for something, what that might be is as numerous as there are people.

[/INDENT]But if I understand your line of questioning, it comes down to "why do people get into this stuff?". Below I've tried to capture some of the more popular mindsets that I think puts certain people on the philosophical path:[INDENT]The concepts of "insight" and "knowledge" turns them on: And when I say it's a 'turn-on', I mean mentally. I can only speak for myself - of course - but I see this a lot in philosophy-buffs. Their eyes light up when they've figured something out, seen a pattern in views or behaviors or come up with a theory that could explain "X". This is a simple idea - the prospect of getting the big-picture is a mind-tickler - that we understand our lives and existence, not just live it. Then of course, they want to share it.
[/INDENT][INDENT]Many philosophers believe they have something important to say, ".. folks need to hear this!": And when this hits, it feels like a moral imperative! Sure, figuring out "how you know what you think you know" won't feed the cat or win you the lottery, but in the philosopher's mind it feels important! You'll find people doing this kind of thing every day: In forums like this, talking with a friend over drinks or while fishing.
[/INDENT][INDENT]The philosopher who wants to understand the 'why' of our existence. It's not enough to just "be", there's a mindset that asks "why?!" or "how?". Humans are a funny species; much like ants, we generally scurry rather mindlessly. For some folks this isn't enough; they stop and say "woah! Who are we? Why are we doing this?". Questions like that stick in the back of our heads and we want to understand it. Where did we come from? Where are we going? What are we? It's not enough to just
[/INDENT][INDENT]The Gift of Gab: This motivation towards philosophy is a bit on the esoteric side, but I hope you'll bear with me. In most cases, whether because they like to preach ideas or get into others' heads, there are a lot who just LOVE interracting with other people towards the end of: How do others feel on this? Am I alone? Am I right or wrong? Inexorably, this person's focus is on communication and sharing; a sort of low-grade mental intimacy. Yes, there are a ton of philosophically-minded people who just read and write (to exercise this hobby), but I think most are social animals. Philosophical inquiry - for a good number of us - needs to involve more than just 1.
[/INDENT]
BMW wrote:
Do you think mankind will evolve towards a philosophical way of understanding?
[INDENT] No, not really. I think the vast mental, emotional and experiencial differences between people precludes this every happening. I also think that'd take all the fun out of it Smile
[/INDENT]In trying to answer your question for myself, I tried to think back to what specific inspirations/experiences did I have that put me into this area. For me, it started with an old book of Bertrand Russel's that dad gave me - it sat on a dusty bookshelf for a long time. Then, for no particular reason, I picked it up and read some. I realized, very quickly, that reading the ideas, thoughts and theories on life was fun! Its like a buffet-line you can walk down: You say "yea, that looks good, I'll buy off on that" to one item while others you say, "yuck, that's horrible!". Over time, what you always believed (or how you always felt) becomes clarified and a small slice of "existence's pie" comes into view. I tore through a number of books this way. Later, the whole god-question came into view and I went on a rampage of many theology-texts. Finally (and what finally condemned me to this path) was talking some of these issues face-to-face with other of this mindset.

When the brain grasps something it didn't, or picks up a new idea never previously-considered, there's a charge of understanding that, for me, is truly inspiring. This, I believe, is what many refer to the slow - and never ending - process of becoming enlightened.

I hope this helps, or at least wasn't completely useless to the intent of your question. And I'll thank you for your indulgence in my effusive answer.

Cheers!


------
[1] Ironically enough, he ended up getting his PhD in Philosophy: Logic and taught for many years at various colleges (so yea, he DID actually pay the bills with it).
 
Deftil
 
Reply Thu 9 Oct, 2008 03:06 am
@BeatsMeWhy,
BMW;26989 wrote:
What is the argument you obtain normally when you ask someone why isn't he or she (*) interested in philosophy? In my case, I've been answered most times that it is useless.

I don't specifically ask people this, but I get the impression they think it's boring and/or useless and/or confusing and/or a bunch of nonsense. Today I brought a book on ethical theories with me to a doctor's appt. A nurse mentioned to me that my book looked like a textbook and asked what is was about. I told her it was kind of like a textbook about different ethical theories. Her reply was something like "Oh, ok.. whatever floats your boat, I guess".

BMW;26989 wrote:
Would any kind of philosophy be of any use to someone who is completely satisfied about his way of living?

There are people like this???

Seriously, I find philosophy enriching and enjoyable, but there are some people for whom philosophy would do nothing for. As a matter of fact, I think some people might find some aspects of philosophy downright depressing. But aside from that, I think there are aspects of philosophy that virtually everyone could benefit from. IMO everyone that is part of a society should feel an obligation to do a certain amount of thinking about political and moral philosophy, even if not in a particularly formal way. People that don't spend any time thinking about such things tend to be inconsiderate and irresponsible, while making life for others more difficult.

BMW;26989 wrote:
What are you looking for?

Nothing less than to understand everything about everything. I'm still coming to terms with the idea that this may not be possible, but fortunately for me, even if it isn't, I still find the process of learning and studying philosophy fascinating. Philosophy helps me think outside the box - the box of the place and time I live in, and the box of who I am and the experiences I've had.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Thu 9 Oct, 2008 06:36 am
@Deftil,
The argument that philosophy is not immediately and practically useful, that it is needlessly abstract, and not important is often heard. One would expect such views to be held by the ignorant and untutored, but these are sometimes shared by so-called educated people. Indeed, it seems a fashionable opinion even amongst college students.

Yet this view seems to be based on a striking ignorance of the history of civilisation, in which philosophy gave birth to psychology,sociology, economics, and many of the branches of science which have been the foundation of modern life. By its emphasis on rational explanations open to all men and its critical attitude toward received opinion, it has formed the mental habits of modern society. Without the philosophical writings of men such as Locke, the principles announced by Jefferson so eloquently and the goals upon which the US was founded might never have seen the light of day. Thus, philosophy is perhaps the most practical of disciplines.

The view also seems to demand that one must only pursue activities that lead to a career, that have some sort of "cash-value." Such frog perspectives would seem natural to a society that rewards entertainers, professional athletes, and musical non-entities with such huge salaries; it is a condemnation of the values of society, not those of philosophical pursuits. Yet we see many people knowingly give up the good life in suburbia to pursue an Olympic medal or to learn the cello, even if they know they will probably only finish sixth in a race or play in a second-rate community orchestra in Oklahoma. Some people cannot do otherwise than run, or play, or philosophise, even if the vast majority are indifferent to these pursuits.
 
Khethil
 
Reply Thu 9 Oct, 2008 08:14 am
@jgweed,
jgweed wrote:
The view also seems to demand that one must only pursue activities that lead to a career, that have some sort of "cash-value." Such frog perspectives would seem natural to a society that rewards entertainers, professional athletes, and musical non-entities with such huge salaries; it is a condemnation of the values of society, not those of philosophical pursuits.


Thank you. I thought of this when I first came upon this thread, but I fear folks grow tired of my harping on it. I'm glad it was brought up.

Thanks
 
zolasdisciple
 
Reply Thu 23 Oct, 2008 12:59 pm
@BeatsMeWhy,
a love a wisdom.the art of thinking.
 
Mr Fight the Power
 
Reply Thu 23 Oct, 2008 02:21 pm
@BeatsMeWhy,
BMW wrote:
I started a thread more or less like this one some time ago.

What is the argument you obtain normally when you ask someone why isn't he or she (*) interested in philosophy? In my case, I've been answered most times that it is useless.

Would any kind of philosophy be of any use to someone who is completely satisfied about his way of living?

I guess philosophy (not history of philosophy) is sort of patrimony of the unsatisfied.

So I'll asume most people here thinks there must be something else/better... No matter wether he is religious or atheist or agnostic or...

What are you looking for?

And, why are you looking for it? Do you think there is some universal reason to take interest in philosophy (**)? Do you think mankind will evolve towards a philosophical way of understanding?

(*) I'll stick to the he from now on, I find this political correction tiresome and I assure you I don't intend to offend anybody. Being myself a "she", I guess it's ok.

(**) I mean: Is there any kind of pattern in the events that lead someone to take interest in philosophy?


I like philosophy because I am obsessed with what is right.
 
Rose phil
 
Reply Fri 24 Oct, 2008 04:52 pm
@BeatsMeWhy,
BMW;26989 wrote:
I started a thread more or less like this one some time ago.

What is the argument you obtain normally when you ask someone why isn't he or she (*) interested in philosophy? In my case, I've been answered most times that it is useless.

Would any kind of philosophy be of any use to someone who is completely satisfied about his way of living?

I guess philosophy (not history of philosophy) is sort of patrimony of the unsatisfied.

So I'll asume most people here thinks there must be something else/better... No matter wether he is religious or atheist or agnostic or...

What are you looking for?

And, why are you looking for it? Do you think there is some universal reason to take interest in philosophy (**)? Do you think mankind will evolve towards a philosophical way of understanding?

(*) I'll stick to the he from now on, I find this political correction tiresome and I assure you I don't intend to offend anybody. Being myself a "she", I guess it's ok.

(**) I mean: Is there any kind of pattern in the events that lead someone to take interest in philosophy?



BMW,

I know it's fashionable today to say we don't know anything. But I really don't know anything. I left school at 13. My dad was in prison and my mum needed me at home to take care of my four younger siblings. When I finally got free of that mess, I began to read everything I could get my hands on. I was making up for lost time.

I became overwhelmed with all the information that my brain wasn't able to process fast enough. I almost had a nervous breakdown. Giving the 'heavy stuff' a rest, I took to reading philosophical and inspirational quotes and poems to help me stay grounded. So, yes, I think you could say I came to philosophy out of necessity. And I know quite a few people who could benefit from reading a little about philosophy. I moved on and developed an interest in Zen - another kind of philosophy.

"I guess philosophy (not history of philosophy) is sort of patrimony of the unsatisfied."

I'll go along with that. For me it was more about what they had to say. Because, back then, it was about improving the quality of my thoughts and therefore the quality of my life.

Thanks for such a thought provoking post.

By the way, try this - s/he
 
de Silentio
 
Reply Fri 24 Oct, 2008 07:29 pm
@BeatsMeWhy,
BMW wrote:

What is the argument you obtain normally when you ask someone why isn't he or she (*) interested in philosophy? In my case, I've been answered most times that it is useless.


I've asked myself this question, specifically about certain people I converse with that I know are extremely intelligent. And the answer I give myself, is that it just doesn't interest them.

My boss (one of the people I speak of) said he had a 'stint' where he studied philosophy and he really got into it, but then he went on to other things.

Perhaps we who study philosophy just can't put it down and go on to other things?

Quote:
Would any kind of philosophy be of any use to someone who is completely satisfied about his way of living?


Yes, anything other than ethics. Philosophy is an interesting subject because it attracts only those who are actually interested in philosophy for the sake of gaining knowledge. Frankly, philosophy has no point to those who are not interested, whether they are comfortable with themselves or not.

Quote:
I guess philosophy (not history of philosophy) is sort of patrimony of the unsatisfied.


Echoed above.

Quote:
So I'll assume most people here thinks there must be something else/better... No matter wether he is religious or atheist or agnostic or...


There is something that 'turns me on' about philosophy. When I was taking courses as a beginner, I left feeling a sort of high, literally. It was like a drug, I walked out of class felling euphoric. It was strange.

Now, I periodically feel that way still, but there is just something about the pursuit of wisdom that attracts me... Much like the pursuit of wealth attracts other people (I suppose).

Quote:
What are you looking for?


I haven't figured that out yet. Hopefully I will someday.

Quote:
And, why are you looking for it?


Why do we feel the need to eat... because we are hungry. Why do I study philosophy... because I am hungry for knowledge.

Quote:
Do you think there is some universal reason to take interest in philosophy (**)?


Yes, human nature. For some, this nature is more prominent than others.

Quote:
Do you think mankind will evolve towards a philosophical way of understanding?


No. As Hume so elegantly put it: Reason is a slave of the passions. And we all know that philosophy is based on reason.
 
Rose phil
 
Reply Sat 25 Oct, 2008 12:42 pm
@BeatsMeWhy,
The author Isaac Asimov said, "To not write would be to die." Does anyone else feel 'driven' to have knowledge and wisdom and know the truth? Does some of what we speak of actually go beyond philosophy?
 
William
 
Reply Sat 25 Oct, 2008 02:43 pm
@Rose phil,
Rose wrote:
The author Isaac Asimov said, "To not write would be to die." Does anyone else feel 'driven' to have knowledge and wisdom and know the truth? Does some of what we speak of actually go beyond philosophy?


Hello Rose,

Knowledge is what will lead us to wisdom that will teach us what is good and evil and from that we embark on a path to truth as we learn how God fits in to our existence, IMO. Philosophy is trying to determine how we can understand that we cannot understand and that in and of itself is "God" as we effort to figure it "all" out. We just haven't been around long enough. That's what eternity is all about. We will know as we go. We are just a little impatient is all. Smile

William
 
zefloid13
 
Reply Sun 2 Nov, 2008 09:54 pm
@BeatsMeWhy,
I believe philosophy may be defined as the investigation and analysis of questions most fundamental to the human race that are bound never to receive concrete answers.

Philosophy thus serves not to provide solutions, but to continuously refine our methods of inquiry. Consequently, it seems pointless to people who want definite responses now. In terms of education, philosophy serves as an excellent stepping stone toward specialization, as it is arguably the most demanding and productive path for students (I plan to double in it with political science), fine-tuning their skills in argument and analysis.

Not to mention, it is absolutely fascinating...

Sorry, I tend to bounce off tangent...
 
BeatsMeWhy
 
Reply Mon 3 Nov, 2008 05:55 am
@Mr Fight the Power,
Mr. Fight the Power wrote:
I like philosophy because I am obsessed with what is right.


Nice answer. In which sense, right?
 
jgweed
 
Reply Mon 3 Nov, 2008 07:20 am
@BeatsMeWhy,
"Philosophy thus serves not to provide solutions, but to continuously refine our methods of inquiry. Consequently, it seems pointless to people who want definite responses now."

Well put. I would also suggest that philosophy also finds questions where other disciplines, or common opinion, see none. Both in its questioning and its subsequent inquiry, philosophy is able to view a problem from different perspectives and to ask further questions that clarify the problem and our viewing of it in a meditative way that allows it to emerge into consciousness.
 
MJA
 
Reply Mon 3 Nov, 2008 11:45 pm
@Rose phil,
Rose wrote:
The author Isaac Asimov said, "To not write would be to die." Does anyone else feel 'driven' to have knowledge and wisdom and know the truth? Does some of what we speak of actually go beyond philosophy?



I found myself driven out of necessity some years ago; I had to know the truth, the truth of myself. By looking in the book of nature not only did I discover nature's truth but equally the truth in me. I found the absolute certainty I was looking for. The certainty or truth that nature and I are equally One or the same.

There is no beyond truth Rose, truth simply is.

Now I am a philosopher, a lover of truth, a lover of nature as myself, and share that love or philosophy so that others might see it too.
It takes an open mind, one like Decartes Method. A process of letting go of the untruths you've been wrongfully taught. By this simplification or cleansing method, One can see the truth for simply what it is. Letting go of theories and faiths uncovers the light of truth in us all. But even the great mind of Decartes allowed his own thoughts or mind to get in the way. Oops!
The Way, The Truth, is much more simple than thought.
There is freedom beyond the untrue walls or thoughts that divide us, the freedom or unity of the whole infinite universe.
Imagine that, setting the universe free, setting yourself free!
Try this:
Observe nature without measure or judgement and you might get lucky and see it too.
I cannot take you there, but I can point The Way.

=
MJA
 
MJA
 
Reply Tue 4 Nov, 2008 09:14 am
@MJA,
And Buddha thought much the same:

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

And Einstein:

A man should look for what is, and not what he thinks should be.

And Martin Luther King Jr.:

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

And Lau Tzu:

He who loves the world as his body may be trusted with the empire.

And Gandhi:

Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.

And Jefferson:

Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.

And John Lennon:

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only One
I hope someday you'll join us
And together we will live as One.

And Whitman:

In short, that thinker or analyser or overlooker who by the insurutable combination of train'd wisdom and natural intuition most fully accepts in perfect faith the moral unity and sanity of the creatice scheme, in history, science, and all life and time, present and future, is both the truest cosmical devotee or religioso, and the profoundest philosopher.

And Rousseau:

Nature never decieves us, it is we who deceive ourselves.

And Antoine de Saint Exupery:

Perfection is not when there is more to add, but when there is no more to take away.

And Elton John:

Harmony

And Thoreau:

Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.

And me again:

Dancing with God takes practice but its truly heavenly.

=
MJA
 
JoseyDaisyChains
 
Reply Wed 5 Nov, 2008 04:06 am
@BeatsMeWhy,
Philosophy is interesting to us because you begin to see the world a lot more clear than everyone else, our conceptual schemes do not limit our imaginations like they often do to so many other folk. Socrates i thought summed up philosophy for me when he said 'the unexamined life is not worth living'. As philosophers we are constantly searching for more answers to understand the world around us instead of conforming to certain beliefs without any primary knowledge. most people would go mad if they didnt conform to an idea because our minds seem to need the simplist answer to be satisfied otherwise we would over load. some people would rather not take the risk of overloading and prefer to be as simple as possible... could that be the way to happiness? ignorance? sometimes i wonder if life would be much easier if i wasnt so inquizative however i dont have a choice because like many philosophers we are just born with this thirst to know and if i try to be simple minded i feel worse than ever!
 
sarek
 
Reply Wed 5 Nov, 2008 04:56 am
@Rose phil,
Rose wrote:
The author Isaac Asimov said, "To not write would be to die." Does anyone else feel 'driven' to have knowledge and wisdom and know the truth? Does some of what we speak of actually go beyond philosophy?


Yes, I personally feel that urge to think. It is also a sense of dissatisfaction with the many things I do not know yet, and with the views I have not yet discussed.
Many years ago one of the biggest and earliest surprises of my young life was that people around me did not share that urge. I really thought everyone was like me.

Philosophy is not a job description, it is an attitude. It is that sense of wonder. The everlasting questions of how and why.

It's nice of you could make a living out of it, but not necessary. I don't think there is such a beast as an 'amateur' philosopher. Neither does it have to do with how many books you have read.

You have the mind of the philosopher or you don't.
 
BeatsMeWhy
 
Reply Thu 13 Nov, 2008 09:49 am
@sarek,
sarek;31527 wrote:
Yes, I personally feel that urge to think. It is also a sense of dissatisfaction with the many things I do not know yet, and with the views I have not yet discussed.


Why do you think you feel that urge? Don't you have ever wondered if every urge a living being can feel comes from the same place -the trend to keep alive?

sarek;31527 wrote:
Many years ago one of the biggest and earliest surprises of my young life was that people around me did not share that urge. I really thought everyone was like me.

Philosophy is not a job description, it is an attitude. It is that sense of wonder. The everlasting questions of how and why.
(...)
sarek;31527 wrote:
You have the mind of the philosopher or you don't.


Do you mean that in your opinion some humans are philosophers and some are not, or that you think it depends on wether you have or not some mental configuration -that everyone could reach if his/her experience did lead to it?
 
sarek
 
Reply Fri 21 Nov, 2008 02:15 pm
@BeatsMeWhy,
BMW wrote:
Why do you think you feel that urge? Don't you have ever wondered if every urge a living being can feel comes from the same place -the trend to keep alive?


Yes I do. Evolutionary programming may well play a part in it. The ability to think very far ahead, even about matters not immediately applicable in the here and now may still be beneficial to the survival of the species. It may not be beneficial however to turn every individual into a philosopher because that kind of attitude may not be beneficial for the survival of said individual.

(...)


BMW wrote:

Do you mean that in your opinion some humans are philosophers and some are not, or that you think it depends on wether you have or not some mental configuration -that everyone could reach if his/her experience did lead to it?


All it takes is the willingness to keep asking question. I just notice that many people rarely ask those questions. Is that unwillingness or inability? I can't tell. Does nature or nurture make you a philosopher? Maybe a little of each.
 
 

 
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