Philosophy is much simpler than you think.
The first thing, of course, that comes to your mind is that philosophy is a subject. You know, something that you study in school, or college.
However, it is more than a subject — philosophy is an activity: the activity of finding out the best way to think about things. Also, the process of acknowledging that our particular way of thinking might not be, after all, the right way to think and look at certain things.
When most people think of philosophy, they likely imagine complicated books that stretch on for a thousand pages, saying and solving… nothing.
I’ve studied philosophy in school and took some philosophy courses when I was in college. I gotta tell you, you have it all wrong. Here’s what philosophy is all about and why you, too, could be considered a philosopher.
Why Is Philosophy Important?
Or, in other words, why should you care about philosophy? I mean, why even continue reading this article?
I’m not gonna list a bunch of arguments to justify why philosophy is important. That would be quite boring, don’t you think?
Let’s keep it plain and simple.
Philosophy is important because:
- It gives answers to fundamental questions
- It is relevant and can be applied to every subject
- It makes you think
- It makes you question everything around you
- It can help you live a more meaningful life
Above all, philosophy is freaking awesome because it helps you decide how you’re gonna live your life.
Truth be told, once you begin analyzing and questioning everything that happens in your life, you’ll quickly realize that much of what you think, believe and value was not determined by you — it was determined by the people around you, your culture, and your environment.
We’re all raised in different countries, different environments, by different people with different values. But, do those values really fit your personality, your character?
At some point in our lives, we must all step back and question the values we were raised with and ask ourselves if they truly serve us. Once we do that, once we decide what we truly believe in, we can live our lives however we want — not how others want us to.
“If you shape your life according to nature, you will never be poor. If you shape your life according to people’s opinions, you will never be rich.” — Epicurus
Ok, Count Me In! How Is Philosophy Done?
So, how does one practice philosophy? Is it difficult?
Well, if you paid attention to this article’s title, it’s safe to assume that you now know that you already have an idea of the process.
Each and every one of us has thought about the best way of thinking about something, or the best way of acting at one point or another — and that’s what philosophy is all about.
But, I’m gonna give you a (very) simple example of how this works, anyway.
Suppose you’re sitting at home and wondering whether it would be good for you to go to the cinema later. You’re left with the question “Should I go to the theatre tonight?” or “Would it be good for me to go to the theatre tonight?”
As with any philosophical question, you need to look around for evidence and see what this evidence tells you to do. Then, you can come to a conclusion.
Oh, I hear you — evidence? What evidence?
In our example, some “evidence” could be that the cinema plays one of your favorite movies or that your friends are planning to go and you want to spend time with them. So, the “conclusion” could be that yes, you should and will go to the cinema tonight.
Congratulations, you’ve just practiced philosophy!
Are There Right or Wrong Answers?
We live in a world where everyone thinks they know everything; they have all the answers and of course, that there’s no other right opinion but theirs.
Well, for me, the beauty of philosophical activity lies in the fact that there are no right or wrong answers — the given conclusion is, at the end of the day, a matter of opinion.
However, reasons should always be given in order to justify each point of view. You cannot support an opinion when there is valid evidence against it.
As the famous philosopher David Hume once said,
“Philosophy needs to stay true to our experience with the world”.
How Is Philosophy Different From Science?
Since I get this question a lot whenever I’m discussing philosophy, I’m going to answer it right here.
Scientists acquire information by making calculations, measuring reality, and analyzing data. They use tools such as microscopes, measuring caps, thermometers, scales, etc.
On the other hand, philosophers acquire information and wisdom by working out answers in their minds, comparing them, and making sure they stay true to reality.
What’s really interesting is the fact that a philosophical study of the world can give rise to scientific achievements. For example, we know that although some diseases in the past had no cure and resulted in suffering and death, today are curable.
That means that at one point a scientist — or a team of them — sat down and said: “Hey, maybe this isn’t the right way to approach this disease; maybe we need to look at it differently”.
That, as mentioned above, is the essence of philosophy: the activity to work out if your way of thinking about or approaching something is right or wrong.
So, philosophy isn’t as hard and complicated as you thought it was, right?
Each one of you engages in philosophical activity daily — even if you’re unaware of it.
Now, does that mean that all philosophical questions are important? No, they’re not. We can search for the proper way of thinking/acting about a lot of unimportant topics too.
The importance of every philosophical issue is determined by whether the topic-in-question itself carries importance.
Overall, you don’t need to be Socrates or have read all of Plato’s books to understand and apply philosophy to your life. You are doing it every day. Use this power wisely, and you can significantly improve your life.