I once loved philosophy. Loved reading about philosophers and their works. Loved thinking it all over and feeling so happy with progress and the sense of coming closer to truth. All that seems to be mostly gone now.
Why study philosophy? Why search for truth? Sure, truth can have positive effects. Such as a newly found piece of evidence that helps prove that a defendant in a trial is innocent, but I'm talking about the "higher truths" that philosophy searches for.
12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men! 14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 15 What is twisted cannot be straightened;
what is lacking cannot be counted.
16 I thought to myself, "Look, I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge." 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.
18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief.
That last verse seems far too true for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, it seems that those who plunge into academics of our kind (and probably of almost any kind) seem to be unable to relate to most of the world. This creates isolation. Which has varying degrees of negative effects for most people, but not something I'm going to get into since it should obvious to everyone how bad isolation is for a person.
(I'm going to contradict myself here by saying what is stated in the previous paragraph isn't always truth. I myself know a professor who is very into his field of academics, but seems to be very happy. I see no isolation with him. I also know that academicians can have community with other academics, but what if this person knows few or any. Or maybe it simply just isn't enough? This post is pretty personal of me. I do know a number of people who enjoy "higher thinking" but few if any are very concerned with what I am concerned.)
Secondly, certain truths are very daunting and changing to a person. (Belief in meaninglessness which creates existential crisis, angst, etc) They haunt the person who is unable to get away. Albert Camus said that, "At any street corner the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face." Trying to forget never really works. Even if trying to live in a life such of hedonism or ethic and virtue, the feeling/knowledge of absurdity seems to be right under the surface and always in the back of the person's/my mind.
What I think I'm trying to get at is, should we discourage "higher thinking" in order to stop people from having to suffer from the conditions I've described? Or is having truth valuable in and of itself? Should we ourselves disavow our current work and shun it? Do nonphilosophers live happier lives than philosophers? Now, I know that nonphilosophical average persons do not all live happier lives and have to struggle through everday things such as we do. However, if more knowledge does indeed bear more grief, why endorse it if it may be just another struggle for a person?
The Grand Inquisitor in the story "The Grand Inquisitor", written by Dostoevsky and part of the novel "The Brothers Karamazov", worked in the Spanish Inquisition and embraced whole-heartily and extremely the idea of saving people from their freedom of conscience. I'll include a quote from him to further illustrate what I'm saying.
".... [taking away freedom of conscience] will save them from the great anxiety and terrible agony they endure at present in making a free decision for themselves. And all will be happy, all the millions of creatures except the hundred thousand who rule over them. For only we, we who guard the mystery, shall be unhappy. There will be thousands of millions of happy babes, and a hundred thousand sufferers who have taken upon themselves the curse of the knowledge of good and evil."
(The Grand Inquisitor by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
(I included this to be partly a devil's argument. I don't endorse theocracy or fascist rule. Also, I want to add that I hope I am not coming off as pretentious. I'm not saying that I have the whole truth and all others are ignorant sheep. I am simply wanting to put down my thoughts...)
So if all this "truth hunting" we do (and tell others to do) brings so much pain, then why should we be doing it and endorsing it? Or maybe the grass just seems greener on the other side and all of us suffer equally, just in different ways?