EMAIL #97 - 15TH, NOVEMBER, 2020 - WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT
Today I am going to dive into a completely new topic area and I hope I don't lose or upset anyone along the way!
Until recently I would have said that I wasn't very interested in philosophy, largely because I didn't really understand what it was or why it is so important in today's society. However, a recent article by Mark Manson called "Why we all need philosophy now more than ever." has opened my eyes and changed my opinion about philosophy.
Philosophy often gets a bad rap and outside academic circles it is largely misunderstood and dismissed as not very relevant. It can be argued that philosophy doesn't actually solve anything and that philosophers simply argue about arguing. However; I would ask you to stay with me here and be open to looking a little deeper.
To define it simply; "philosophy is the inquiry into our understanding of reality, knowledge and how we should live."
"In order to criticize philosophy, you must engage in philosophy." Unknown
Over many centuries’ philosophy has evolved alongside the evolution of humanity. It has been responsible for shaping our modern society, our various political structures, and our scientific endeavours. Philosophy is why we no longer have slavery, why we have abolished the death penalty, why we have universal human rights and laws about the humane treatment of animals.
"The beautiful thing about philosophy is that it is in a permanent state of questioning." Mark Manson
When something bad or unexpected happens in our lives we rely on philosophy to help us understand what has happened and why it happened, and it helps us to recover and overcome the setbacks. This recovery process often involves re-evaluating our beliefs and our values and making the necessary changes to our behaviour. This personal learning and adapting all stems from our understanding of human philosophy.
In his article, Manson summed it up perfectly by stating, "Philosophy teaches us the fundamental techniques for finding meaning and purpose in a world where there is no given meaning, no cosmic purpose. Philosophy gives us tools to determine what is likely to be important and true and what is likely frivolous and made-up. Philosophy shows us principles to help direct our actions, to determine our worth and values, to generate a magnetic field to direct our internal compass."
Why we need philosophy now more than ever?
- 21st century living and our digital addiction has disrupted our ability to use philosophy to make good decisions and guide us through difficult times. Living under these conditions our emotional intelligence and mental health can gradually become unbalanced. So, we still heavily rely on philosophy to help us know what is true, what we should believe and how we should live our lives.
- Our digitally connected lives allow us to be flooded with information on a vast range of topics each day. This never-ending tide of information and data makes it difficult to decipher what is true or untrue and can slowly erode our beliefs and our confidence.
- We can only consume a fraction of the available online information, so we tend to only tune in and take notice of things we already believe in and tune out to the rest. This ultimately creates "irrational biases" and ultimately you don't know what you don't know.
- These irrational biases can cause a general distrust of authorities in a lot of societies.
- A distrust of authority can be very destructive to a society and people become very unsure of their own beliefs and values. (For example, currently in America widespread irrational biases and distrust in the police and the government is causing a wave of racial tension and social unrest).
- Having doubt in what is true and real and a distrust in authority leaves you with big gaps in your fundamental beliefs and can cause stress and anxiety and long-term mental health problems.
Philosophy is really the only way to solve these widespread problems in modern societies. It helps us ask better questions, it gives us a filter to sort out what is true or untrue and it helps us make better decisions. Ultimately philosophy helps us all to live better lives.
Thanks for reading,
Stay safe and be philosophical.