Depressed by Studying Philosophy

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Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 06:07 am
I have recently embarked upon a degree in philosophy after years of reading philosophy for the sheer pleasure of it. Unfortunately, what once brought me pleasure is now bringing the opposite to me. I feel restricted in my studies. That I have to sacrifice integrity in order to achieve better results. What I originally believed encouraged vibrant, creative, critical thinking has turned into something that fosters reflecting on philosophers claims in order to simply repeat those claims in an acceptable manner. I miss engaging with philosophy.

Will my studies always be like this? Will my entire degree focus almost exclusively on deductive reasoning or will a balance be struck later on? If you're currently studying for or have completed a philosophy degree, please tell me what I can expect.

And if you're an administrator and this is posted in the wrong place. I will be grateful if you decide to move it.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 07:03 am
@Mister Carcer,
Mister Carcer;148770 wrote:
I have recently embarked upon a degree in philosophy after years of reading philosophy for the sheer pleasure of it. Unfortunately, what once brought me pleasure is now bringing the opposite to me. I feel restricted in my studies. That I have to sacrifice integrity in order to achieve better results. What I originally believed encouraged vibrant, creative, critical thinking has turned into something that fosters reflecting on philosophers claims in order to simply repeat those claims in an acceptable manner. I miss engaging with philosophy.

Will my studies always be like this? Will my entire degree focus almost exclusively on deductive reasoning or will a balance be struck later on? If you're currently studying for or have completed a philosophy degree, please tell me what I can expect.

And if you're an administrator and this is posted in the wrong place. I will be grateful if you decide to move it.


Studying formally inevitably means discipline (that is why the subject for study is called a "discipline"). I don't know at which stage you are, but if you are in the early stages you have to be made aware of what the discipline is all about, even if you become acquainted with parts that do not thrill you. It is the same in all disciplines. (Studying literature, for instance, is different from reading for pleasure). When you are in the later stages, you will have a wider range of choices. I don't know what you mean by "focusing on deductive reasoning". You are not taking courses only in logic, are you?
 
TuringEquivalent
 
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 08:19 am
@Mister Carcer,
Mister Carcer;148770 wrote:
I have recently embarked upon a degree in philosophy after years of reading philosophy for the sheer pleasure of it. Unfortunately, what once brought me pleasure is now bringing the opposite to me. I feel restricted in my studies. That I have to sacrifice integrity in order to achieve better results. What I originally believed encouraged vibrant, creative, critical thinking has turned into something that fosters reflecting on philosophers claims in order to simply repeat those claims in an acceptable manner. I miss engaging with philosophy.

Will my studies always be like this? Will my entire degree focus almost exclusively on deductive reasoning or will a balance be struck later on? If you're currently studying for or have completed a philosophy degree, please tell me what I can expect.

And if you're an administrator and this is posted in the wrong place. I will be grateful if you decide to move it.


It is wise to be realistic about the world. The people that are teaching those courses probably teach it year after year. If not, then they are probably teaching you something that they are themselves learning at the spot.

Do remember that at a university, you pay good intuition money to learn something. Learning something is not always fun. Learning something takes focus, commitment, which might not necessary be creative, and fun.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 08:51 am
@Mister Carcer,
At a certain stage in any formal academic study, and not just philosophy, the subject seems to become stifling, and one wants something more adventurous than course work. Philosophic education often centers upon learning the tradition in a rigourous manner and becoming accustomed to manipulate theoretical positions. This can be seen to be often tedious and hard work. But looking back, I for one highly value these exercises; a philosopher's tool box is invaluable if one wants to think on one's own and "do" philosophy.

At the same time as one acquires this foundation, one can also attempt to practice the creative vibrancy that is at the heart of philosophy, but on one's own (and is it not usually the case that thinking is often solitary?). One can also through dialogue, engage Others who share the same passion and interest, and in so doing begin to articulate one's own tentative positions and expose it to criticism from other philosophical perspectives.
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 07:01 pm
@jgweed,
 
trismegisto
 
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 07:09 pm
@Mister Carcer,
Mister Carcer;148770 wrote:
I have recently embarked upon a degree in philosophy after years of reading philosophy for the sheer pleasure of it. Unfortunately, what once brought me pleasure is now bringing the opposite to me. I feel restricted in my studies. That I have to sacrifice integrity in order to achieve better results. What I originally believed encouraged vibrant, creative, critical thinking has turned into something that fosters reflecting on philosophers claims in order to simply repeat those claims in an acceptable manner. I miss engaging with philosophy.

Will my studies always be like this? Will my entire degree focus almost exclusively on deductive reasoning or will a balance be struck later on? If you're currently studying for or have completed a philosophy degree, please tell me what I can expect.

And if you're an administrator and this is posted in the wrong place. I will be grateful if you decide to move it.


Just hang in there, when you get further along you will be able to focus your discipline and concentrate on the fun stuff again. First you just have to go through the hassle of proving to the establishment that you have all your basis' covered and a firm foundation overall.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 09:55 pm
@VideCorSpoon,
VideCorSpoon;149005 wrote:

Thinking about it, I fear regression, especially with philosophy. One of the main reasons I joined the forum was to keep what I learned in school fresh, new, and developed and keep what I had from degrading with time. I think to be relatively successful in philosophy, it requires you not only to think abstractly, but to pick up where the last guy left off and then build on that. And if no one has developed a particular area you want to think abstractly about, all the more power to you because it is new ground to explore. But suffice to say that a large part of philosophical inquiry is a conversation already had.


Very true. And well said. And this seems to apply to most fields. In rare cases, one might profit from less exposure.

A balancing point could also be made. That we don't absorb/remember very well what is not connected to passion/interest.

Personally, once I get the gist of a philosopher, some of the details are boring. But these are generally the details that didn't age well in the first place. For instance, some of Kant's categories. Of course the gist of Kant is about as good as it gets, or at least in the way that I understand it.

I was immersed in Rorty for awhile, and still respect him, but at some point I saw the repeating decimals...

I felt I had the gist and wanted to move on.
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 11:48 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;149065 wrote:
Very true. And well said. And this seems to apply to most fields. In rare cases, one might profit from less exposure.

A balancing point could also be made. That we don't absorb/remember very well what is not connected to passion/interest.

Personally, once I get the gist of a philosopher, some of the details are boring. But these are generally the details that didn't age well in the first place. For instance, some of Kant's categories. Of course the gist of Kant is about as good as it gets, or at least in the way that I understand it.

I was immersed in Rorty for awhile, and still respect him, but at some point I saw the repeating decimals...

I felt I had the gist and wanted to move on.


And I think that (in many respects) to profit from minimal exposure, you have to have an over exposure of sorts to really understand the level of non-exposure you really want to have. For example, I have been reading bits and sections of David Hofstadter's Godel Esher Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
 
Holiday20310401
 
Reply Tue 6 Apr, 2010 11:57 pm
@VideCorSpoon,
VideCorSpoon;149005 wrote:

Thinking about it, I fear regression, especially with philosophy. One of the main reasons I joined the forum was to keep what I learned in school fresh, new, and developed and keep what I had from degrading with time.


I completely agree with you. I also think that familiarity can cause regression to, or at least the feeling of it which some may find hostile to what they want out of life innately.

For example, I know when I go off to university, though philosophy courses are more about analyzing and understanding the views of others without spreading the student's own opinions, I intend on having some way of expressing my own views somewhere outside of university (example could be writing) where I can consciously connect my abilities to do so towards that which I've gained from the course work.

You have to have the feeling that you're creating something out of what you've learned otherwise, well, most people can't or won't wait four years to make the time to do so, and by then one might forget how to be motivated to do such things.

One thing I know I've gained from analytical philosophy is a confidence in my thoughts. Whenever someone is new to em.. 'thinking' they (myself included) tend to not have the confidence to widen the potential meaning of something. It is always a matter of what is the case in their heads as opposed to what can be the case or what could be the case.

For example, a young thinker will not see distinctions or have the confidence (though perhaps the better word is faculties) to discern why they are wrong, and rely on value judgments and value systems to accord their thinking with all of the tangents and implications and meanings thoughts can take. In a sense they rely on the values and judgments of whoever they are reading without the ability and confidence to rely on their own intuitions first and foremost.

In ethics, this is a very common example: A young thinker will look to an ethical question where an opinion of what ought to be the case is to be decided upon. They do not realize that the brain doesn't think (with words at least) or communicate intuitively in terms of what ought to be the case. To infer what ought to be the case, the thinking part of what you're doing must draw upon insights of what is the case and what can, and could be the case. The young thinker does not start out with the ability to connect his rather ineffable intuitions of what ought to be the case with wordings that can communicate what he intends on saying. He/she lacks the confidence to draw upon insights of what is the case and what can be the case due to cultural bias, or the like, and he lacks the refinedness in faculty to infer his insights towards a communication of what therefore ought to be the case, not to mention a confidence to do it creatively, or within creative parameters of thought (whatever you want to call it lol). The inferences always appear to the older thinker as "too inferred".

To me it is important to be able to communicate those ineffable, and more irrational truths we perceive either with aesthetic or moral appeals. They cannot just be locked inside you, they have to be told to others. Even the analytical realm of philosophy can extend and reach towards what it means to live and be.

Not to mention also, I notice that there is a pattern in the evolution of one's awareness to what a question means. This can be expressed in the former example, and links to what you said before Vide.

VideCorSpoon;149005 wrote:
I think we all yearn to explore untrodden and novel areas... but they are few and far between. In order to progress, we need to understand, assimilate, affirm or deny, and then and only then provide our own unique perspective.


We all start out with only an awareness of what is the case, and a vague one at that. Then we slowly grow towards understanding and appreciating what can be the case. We have our own unique perspective. In answering an ethical question, we are no longer limited to the young thinker's awareness of what is the case, but now have insights from many perspectives from many readings of what can be the case. After reading Nietzsche and talking to a utilitarian, who is right? You think you're right, perhaps even more refined in your view, but surely your opponent thinks the same.

The next bit of progress is the ability to intuitively answer the question, what would your heart say? What would you say if culture did not have an effect on your opinions and thought? Instead of trying to find the answer to an ought question through unraveling its contents of what can and is the case, one has the ability to draw an intuition of what ought to be the case directly, and communicate it without value judgments coming from either its conversion from one's subjective languages to words. There is the potential for bias to be found in one's past examinations of what is and what can be. By asking what would the heart say, one attempts to bypass the value judgments and draw upon only the insights which have not been tainted.

I think part of what causes one to be motivated in some parts of philosophy more than others is the ability to see what can be the case in those areas of interest as opposed to not. Sometimes I think that some parts of what can be the case are directly linked to temperament. It's about how the imagination wants to view matters, and being depressed might simply mean the imagination is just not being 'creative' enough. The faculty of imagination is not easily harnessed where there is familiarity. It's probably how familiarity got to be there in the first place.

Anyways, so yeah, that's what I've found useful about analytical philosophy.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 7 Apr, 2010 01:58 am
@Holiday20310401,
Holiday20310401;149127 wrote:

Anyways, so yeah, that's what I've found useful about analytical philosophy.


But if you find analytical philosophy so useful, I wonder why you would have this sentence at the end of your posts as if you thought it was a good thing, when it is obviously false and dangerous:

I don't care what you believe, just believe it!
 
Holiday20310401
 
Reply Wed 7 Apr, 2010 08:29 am
@kennethamy,
I see what you mean, but I fail to see the contradiction really.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 7 Apr, 2010 08:59 am
@Holiday20310401,
Holiday20310401;149203 wrote:
I see what you mean, but I fail to see the contradiction really.


Well, I was wondering why someone who likes analytic philosophy would like such a silly thing.
 
Mister Carcer
 
Reply Wed 7 Apr, 2010 09:16 am
@Mister Carcer,
After reading all these insightful replies, I'm feeling much better towards my course. I can see that I may not be enjoying this stage, but it will help me do what I love even better, and I even become a well rounded and balanced thinker. I also feel fortunate to have found a forum which will allow me to engage with philosophy in the way that I have long enjoyed, while simultaneously feeling grateful that others here can engage with philosophy in the ways that they prefer.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 7 Apr, 2010 09:23 am
@Mister Carcer,
Mister Carcer;149222 wrote:
After reading all these insightful replies, I'm feeling much better towards my course. I can see that I may not be enjoying this stage, but it will help me do what I love even better, and I even become a well rounded and balanced thinker. I also feel fortunate to have found a forum which will allow me to engage with philosophy in the way that I have long enjoyed, while simultaneously feeling grateful that others here can engage with philosophy in the ways that they prefer.


But, I don't believe that all ways of "doing philosophy" are equal, and that the only thing to care about it whether you enjoy doing it that way. Doing philosophy, it seems to me, should be done with close attention to logic, and to the meanings of what you say and write. Not "anything goes" in philosophy anymore than anything goes in other kinds of studies.
 
Mister Carcer
 
Reply Wed 7 Apr, 2010 11:49 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;149225 wrote:
But, I don't believe that all ways of "doing philosophy" are equal, and that the only thing to care about it whether you enjoy doing it that way. Doing philosophy, it seems to me, should be done with close attention to logic, and to the meanings of what you say and write. Not "anything goes" in philosophy anymore than anything goes in other kinds of studies.

Philosophy as I see it, should advance our concerns. It should aim towards answering the questions that will show us how to live well. Paying close attention to logic is vital part of answering such questions. But logic it isn't the be all and end all of the subject, any more than being able to throw a good punch is the be all and end all of boxing.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 7 Apr, 2010 02:16 pm
@Mister Carcer,
Mister Carcer;149270 wrote:
Philosophy as I see it, should advance our concerns. It should aim towards answering the questions that will show us how to live well. Paying close attention to logic is vital part of answering such questions. But logic it isn't the be all and end all of the subject, any more than being able to throw a good punch is the be all and end all of boxing.


But shouldn't a philosopher's concerns be dealing with philosophical problems? Of course, as a person, he has other concerns. But I am talking of his concerns as a philosopher. Just as a physicist's concern (as physicist) is physics. And logic and analysis is fundamental to those philosophical concerns. If you intend to be a professional philosopher, as I think you said, you will have to do as professional philosophers do. And, you ought to know that before you start.
 
Holiday20310401
 
Reply Wed 7 Apr, 2010 02:51 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;149300 wrote:
But shouldn't a philosopher's concerns be dealing with philosophical problems? Of course, as a person, he has other concerns. But I am talking of his concerns as a philosopher. Just as a physicist's concern (as physicist) is physics. And logic and analysis is fundamental to those philosophical concerns. If you intend to be a professional philosopher, as I think you said, you will have to do as professional philosophers do. And, you ought to know that before you start.


A scientist deals with facts and data. A philosopher deals with values, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

Where a scientist looks through an objective lens so as to keep empirical data away from introspective biases and the like, a philosopher concerns himself with values, and therefore all that relates to him being human, alive, and healthy. His life, and his abstracts are not mutually exclusive. As a person, wouldn't a philosopher's concerns be reflective of the problems he is dealing with in some way so that

If you were to ask a professor of philosophy who he is at heart, he'd tell you "I am a philosopher", unless of course he wanted to appear modest in which he will say, "I am a student of philosophy". His profession is engraved in what it means for him to live. As a person, well, how could he not be a philosopher?

There's a difference between being a philosopher and doing philosophy just as there is a difference between being a scientist and doing science. In the context of being a scientist or a philosopher you necessarily bring into play the person's needs and concerns, not just the profession's needs and concerns.

To put it another way, it is a mistake to think that education teaches you to be a philosopher, or a "professional philosopher". Education teaches you to do philosophy. I suppose though, there is always the argument as to whether there is any distinction at all between being a philosopher and doing philosophy, and here we could try to determine whether there should be a distinction.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 7 Apr, 2010 03:05 pm
@Holiday20310401,
Holiday20310401;149312 wrote:
A

There's a difference between being a philosopher and doing philosophy just as there is a difference between being a scientist and doing science. In the context of being a scientist or a philosopher you necessarily bring into play the person's needs and concerns, not just the profession's needs and concerns.



Isn't a scientist someone who does science? And, isn't a philosopher someone who does philosophy? So, I am not clear what distinction you are drawing. A philosopher "brings into play" is personal needs and concern while philosophizing is just doing what is extraneous. He ought to write an autobiography. Being a professional philosopher is a job for which you (hope) are paid. And that includes teaching and doing philosophy. And the same goes for a professional boxer. An amateur boxer or philosopher has, of course, more leeway.
 
Holiday20310401
 
Reply Wed 7 Apr, 2010 03:14 pm
@kennethamy,
Sure. A scientist is someone who does science, but someone who does science may not wish to call himself a scientist. Someone who does philosophy may not wish to call himself a philosopher.

Now perhaps attaching professional to the word scientist or philosopher limits the word's context to the extent where you'd be right, but then this still becomes a matter of whether one would want to be a professional philosopher or just a philosopher where the pay feels like a bonus.

The pay for a person who says "I am a philosopher" is not just money, or analyzing texts. It's also in the teaching and creating and creative endeavors he does that contributes to his being a philosopher.
 
Mister Carcer
 
Reply Wed 7 Apr, 2010 03:15 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;149300 wrote:
But shouldn't a philosopher's concerns be dealing with philosophical problems? Of course, as a person, he has other concerns. But I am talking of his concerns as a philosopher. Just as a physicist's concern (as physicist) is physics. And logic and analysis is fundamental to those philosophical concerns. If you intend to be a professional philosopher, as I think you said, you will have to do as professional philosophers do. And, you ought to know that before you start.

A philosopher's concern is with philosophy, but what makes philosophy relevant is that questions it raises are about things that matter to practically everybody. I have nothing critical to say about logic or analysis, but I do want to raise the point that the issues we apply the tools of logic and analysis to, don't arise from logic and analysis, but because they matter to us.
 
 

 
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