Where have all the philosophers gone? :O One day I asked my counsellor about the “career” of philosophy… apparently, it is taught in high school courses, and even university courses, and there are available degrees for it, but it appears to be a path that leads into the abyss. What profession comes of it? A philosophy teacher? Who then teaches philosophy to other people who go on to become philosophy teachers? It’s like an endless loop that spins around and around, floating around in the universe without any further connections attached.
My counsellor laughed when I brought this up. “You’d have to be a couple centuries back to be a philosopher,” she mused. How true – indeed, most of the great people we quote to this day and call by the name “philosopher” lived around the 5th century BC. Socrates, Aristotle, Plato… what did they even do all day? Sit around sipping lemonade, scratching their chin and asking questions about everything they could conceive one for? “What is a flower?” “What makes this oatmeal, oatmeal?” “Why are my pants called pants?” “What makes the world go around?” “What are dreams?” “Are eyebrows considered facial hair?”
When I get asked who I would like to meet if I could choose anyone in the course of history and time, my favourite answer is Aristotle. Firstly because he lived in the very core of Greece, which must have been purely ravishing back then if it’s still such a lovely city today, after decades of commercializing and business growth. But the main reason is because I would love to see what kind of a person would have been someone who is considered a professional thinker. I imagine him as a short fellow with curly hair from twisting it around his finger, deep-set eyes with mysterious twinkles in them, stubble on his face, a crooked moustache, a crooked smile, and to top it off, a crooked “thinker’s” pose.
Maybe similar to this but without the gorilla-like nature.
Why are philosophers always portrayed leaning over, with their hand resting under their jaw? There’s a piece of philosophy for you to brood over, Aristotle. Or sometimes they have their arms crossed and their fingers gently stroking their beards. It always makes me think of a therapist that’s scrunching up his forehead in worry and asking “How does that make you feel???”
No thanks to the personal-quirks dissection. I have way too many anyways.
But what makes philosophy?? Ahh, the very acme of all philosophical questions. I have given this question quite some elaborate thought, and because that’s what philosophers are supposed to do, I am presenting my ideas in the hereso following paragraphs.
Philosophy is a universal art. All of us actually philosophize all the time. Maybe that is why career makers decided to set it aside. It’s just too popular. We cannot for a conscious moment stop ourselves from thinking and asking (sometimes useless) questions, and that is the birthplace of this mysterious and unrecognized activity. All we need to be a philosopher is an agile mind, an insatiable desire to wonder at the world, a deep-in-thought expression, and a toga (although the last one is optional).
There are school courses and degrees made for philosophy perhaps because we humans, dangerously curious creatures, just cannot seem to get rid of it. In heart, there’s really not reason to either. Philosophy helps us in all of life – whether if it’s to ask meaningless questions about the constitutionof our breakfasts, or to unravel the mysteries of the universe and all that it contains.
It almost angers me that it seems to be seriously underestimated by a great multitude of people. “What do you do?” “Nothing.” “Oh, so you’re a philosopher”. Such brush-offs are even sometimes said with disengagement, an implied dismissive wave of the arm, or culminating on near disdain. I actually take thinking seriously, and I certainly don’t think it is the equivalent of doing nothing. It takes focused attention, a skilled brain, asking the right questions, an adeptness to rearranging your thoughts or facts, mental power, and it is definitely above just sitting around immersed in apathy.
I would even go so far to say that to philosophize is an important life skill. Where would we be, if we could not make connections between things, leading to theories and hypotheses, ponder upon them, and then ask even more questions than we have answered? We would not learn a thing. Even if you are practicing something, it won’t have any value if you are not fully engrossed into it and fascinated by what you are doing. You can plunk away at a piano’s keyboard for years, but if you have no interest in knowing what makes the notes sound harmonious, and no drive to work on expressing the song in the most majestic, sweet, melodious way as possible, all you would gain is perhaps dexterity at typing and a bland ability to hammer surfaces with your fingers in creative ways. That also makes the real difference between a pianist, and a good pianist. Practice: yes, but with ignorance or attention? It is more than just reading notes off a page; what about the ability to bend the sound and create more?
So what about the ability to bend thoughts and think more? It is one of the best ways to gain knowledge and cognitive intelligence, yet it appears blatantly relinquished by most of the human race. Yet, thinking is perhaps the most important thing we can gain experience in. You can use it anywhere!
To tie up how philosophy integrates into all this babbling on thinking: using it is the core of putting attention to thought and using it to the most of its power. You are eating oatmeal, but what is oatmeal? Your sister is very kind, but what makes a person kind? An implication of what I am saying is just dawning on me; philosophy makes people better at things. I hadn’t had this in mind when I started writing this article, but philosophy itself has led me here. It makes sense – being the most fully present in the moment, in what you are doing, and engrossed with curiosity in your activities… those things form the bedrock of productive learning. How many times have coaches told athletes to focus on their movements and to be fully alert and active? How many teachers have stressed the importance of good rest before a test so that you can focus more clearly?
Philosophy, in my mind, does not receive enough credit. I know quiet thinkers that can be more productive on the couch than what “must-do-something” maniacs can accomplish in an office or library. We live our entire lives inside the confinements of our minds… but when do we take the time to actually spend some time there?? Perhaps if philosophy were an accepted daily part of our lives, we would be more comfortable in our own skin and correlatively, running about out in the world as well.
And perhaps, if it is true that our consciousness brings material to existence and our own existence into reality, then there’s not so much to scoff at in the statement that philosophy brings the world to life.