Why search? What makes the truth so valuable?

  1. Philosophy Forum
  2. » MetaPhilosophy
  3. » Why search? What makes the truth so valuable?

Get Email Updates Email this Topic Print this Page

Reply Sat 8 May, 2010 10:53 pm
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.

Ecclesiastes 1:12-18
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?
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sat 8 May, 2010 11:32 pm
@Thunder phil,
It would take a book to address all the issues in this post. Suffice to say that for me personally I know there are higher states of being not just abstract truths. And without that sense it is hard to know which way is up.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sat 8 May, 2010 11:50 pm
@Thunder phil,
Thunder;161992 wrote:
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.

Ecclesiastes 1:12-18
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 academicians 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 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 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?


I have wrestled with exactly these issues. Dostoevsky has a character who describes himself as a "Repentant Freethinker."

I can only answer that at some point, certain torments resolved themselves, and that the pleasure far exceeded the pain. Yes, isolation is one result, but the opposite of isolation is another result. When I read the great books, I feel a strong connection to certain authors, a sublime sort of "universal brotherhood." I've moved into studying math lately, and this is especially universal. e is e and pi is pi. For me and others. To contemplate mathematics is to contemplate something fairly objective. I will agree that much philosophy does seem almost like self-torment. But existentialist like Camus are not perhaps the happiest of men. After all, he arguable committed suicide.

I feel that the experience of Sartre's Nausea or Camus' Absurdity is something one can endure, outlast, pass thru. I have loved Ecclesiastes for a long time. But Blake makes a good point about its opening. "All is vanity" is a bit absurd, despite its kernel of half-truth. One might also say that nothing is vanity.
It seems to me that life is largely desire/value/etc. And it's only when the libido/desire/spirit/etc. is confused dissonant disharmonized that questions of ultimate vanity/absurdity creep up. I agree with Nietzsche on this point. In Twilight, he argues that the Socrates is an example of decadence. I'm not saying he's right historically, but he makes a great point. Certain questions only come up when the system is "ill." A person full of projects and the energy and confidence to fulfill them does not ask the meaning of life. Because these projects are the meaning of life.

Let me sum up by saying that I think your post is spot on, quite a great post. And it's a valid question. Any real philosopher is going to question the value of purpose of philosophy, or so it seems to me. A philosopher must explain himself, and his own philosophy, if he hopes to explain the All. I love Kojeve's book on Hegel for stressing this. I feel that self-consciousness is of the essence of philosophy. What is the self? What is philosophy? To answer tough questions like these is to make some real progress, I think. For me, philosophy is like great art. I love Kojeve's chapter on Eternity, Time, and the Concept. Unfortunately, this chapter is not online, as far as I know. But it strikes at the aesthetic core of philosophy, in my opinion. Perhaps Camus, for instance, would agree with one of Nietzsche's many masks, that life is justified aesthetically.
Introduction to the reading of Hegel ... - Google Books
History and Desire in Kojeve
(I'm not a Marxist, but this site isn't bad....)
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Sun 9 May, 2010 12:01 am
@Thunder phil,
Thunder wrote:
Firstly, it seems that those who plunge into academicians of our kind (and probably of almost any kind) seem to be unable to relate to most of the world.


Yes, bmcreider posted a thread today dealing with just this issue. But I think this is a case of confusing correlation with causation.

I was once talking with a computer science major from New Zealand on another forum, and was surprised to hear him say that over there, all the "nerds" are on sports teams of some kind. Maybe that isn't even true. But lets say it is for our purposes.

You mention that those who plunge into academics are socially out of it. But what if that is simply a cultural thing? It seems like there's a lot of self selection going on, with the people who identify as being "smart, good students" going into academics. I think this directly relates to the rest of the post:

Thunder wrote:
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?


Edging into the testimonial side of things, I can say that I'm happier since I began thinking about philosophical matters. Some questions are much more related to that than others. "What is the good life?", "What leads to happiness?", "What is worthwhile?" are all going to have answers that affect your life more than "can not-nothing come from nothing" type of questions. Although those help you think about the more important questions and are often interesting in their own right.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Mon 10 May, 2010 12:44 am
@Thunder phil,
Thunder;161992 wrote:
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.


Also - remember that Albert Camus, in particular, was a 'philosopher of the absurd'. He and other writers of his ilk were convinced of the meaninglessness of the universe, the idea that life is the result of chance and necessity, and that there is, by definition, nothing better to aspire to.

The antidote to this view - which I am sure is a very bleak outlook - doesn't have to be some kind of return to old-style religion. Have a look at Viktor Frankl Mankind's Search for Meaning and Erich Fromm Man For Himself. These are both existentialist humanist writers but they are a helluva lot more inspiring than Camus or Sartre.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 10 May, 2010 06:11 am
@Thunder phil,
Thunder;161992 wrote:
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.


But even if you enjoyed reading about philosophers and their works, that needn't mean that you loved philosophy. What that shows is that you loved the results of philosophizing (and, since we really don't know just what you enjoyed reading about) only that you loved the results of some philosophy. But the enjoying the results of philosophizing is no more enjoying philosophy, than is eating (enjoying the results of cooking) the same thing as doing the cooking. Even thinking about doing the cooking is not the same as actually dong the cooking. And, remember too, making a scrambled egg for yourself, or even a cheese omelet, is different from making a souffle' or any other delicious and complex dish. Philosophy isn't amateur hour. Which is not to say that amateur hour may not be enjoyable. Kids love their chemistry sets, but playing with chemistry sets is quite different from working in the chemistry lab.
 
Night Ripper
 
Reply Mon 10 May, 2010 08:36 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;162350 wrote:
And, remember too, making a scrambled egg for yourself, or even a cheese omelet, is different from making a souffle' or any other delicious and complex dish. Philosophy isn't amateur hour.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 10 May, 2010 09:25 am
@Night Ripper,
Night Ripper;162390 wrote:


That is certainly one difference. But, of course, not the only difference. The slippage (sloppage) between "the difference" and "the only difference" maybe imperceptible to some, and even constitute pedantry, but it is really very important,

I cannot resist telling a well-known story but worth retelling, that illustrates this point in a typically Gallic way. During the debate over women's suffrage in the French Chamber of Deputies in the 1920's, one enthusiast for the rights of women arose and pointed out that there was, after all, only an anatomical difference between men and women, upon which another member of the Chamber arose and shouted out, "Vive la differance!".
 
 

 
  1. Philosophy Forum
  2. » MetaPhilosophy
  3. » Why search? What makes the truth so valuable?
Copyright © 2019 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.03 seconds on 06/19/2019 at 12:03:37