When people learn about my background in philosophy, I often get one of two responses. Either they consider the topic impractical and removed from reality, or they are intimidated by it due to some unfortunate college experience—such as one individual I came across who left his Intro. to Philosophy course having learned only that he does not exist. If so, why bother going to college or even getting out of bed?
Both of these reactions assume a caricature of my discipline. Not only is philosophy not useless and impractical, but in my view it is absolutely critical to happiness. Because guess what? Whether or not you have consciously adopted it, you, and each of us, live by a philosophy.
Humans are conceptual creatures who relate to the world using abstract ideas—reality, objectivity, truth, peace, justice, love, right and wrong, number, etc. The system of ideas, beliefs and values that are your daily operating system are your philosophy. The study of philosophy as a discipline is the science of evaluating those beliefs and values for logic, consistency, meaning, implications, and ultimately application to real life. You don’t have to do philosophy to have a philosophy, but if you don’t do some philosophy, the philosophy you have will be random and haphazard. [Read more…]