The Usefulness of Uselessness: Why We Need Philosophy
To question or not to question will always, in fact, remain to be the question.
Philosophy is one of the most fundamental ways for people to understand and break down complex ideas and thoughts and bring them to their simplest form. Which sounds fantastic and very helpful, but here’s the thing, philosophy has an image and delivery problem.
It’s often depicted as a bunch of old dudes or dweebs with nothing better to do but circle-jerk each other’s ego and play mental chess with each other’s ideas. And that’s where the main problem lies with society’s relationship with philosophy because, honestly, what value can that add?
It’s a fair assessment to have, and it would appear accurate on the outside looking in, specifically in today’s society where we have the internet. Humanity, more than ever, has instant access to a wealth of knowledge right in the palm of our hands. Why in the name of hell does society need more questions when we can instantly get the answers?
I’ll tell you why. The moment we stop asking questions and focus solely on acquiring the answer will decline our intellect. We will start losing the art of questioning, and once that happens. What good is the answer if you don’t know where to begin? It will eventually lead to a cycle of ignorance reinforced by ignorance. A process that philosophy aims to challenge constantly with useful or useless measures. Depending on who you ask.
What Does Philosophy Explore?
Philosophy can be embedded into anything it wishes. It can be a business structure, political ideology, religious, educational, psychological ideas, thoughts, and even opinion. There isn’t a limit to what philosophy explores, even the question itself, what does philosophy explore? Would spark a fierce debate that could last forever.
However, we need philosophy (more than ever, in my opinion) because it explores life. Philosophy transcends beyond our reality and intellect by challenging our boundaries and limits. It explores uncomfortable, unethical, immoral, controversial, and sometimes dangerous ideas. It then philosophically breaks them down to gain a better understanding of the true nature of an idea.
Furthermore, it also explores new, popular, and exciting ideas that society may benefit from. And whether it truly is good and if they can be implemented into our way of life ethically in the most logical sense. Usually in the form of a rule, law, or regulation.
Some of the most critical questions philosophy explores are:
- What is the meaning of life?
- Does God exist?
- Is there life after death?
- Is our universe real?
- Do we have free will?
- What is the best moral way of life?
- What is consciousness?
- Are there universal human rights?
- Are emotions rational or irrational?
- Does true love exist?
Every single paradoxical question on the list has been attempted in some way, shape, or form to be answered, debated, and disagreed with. But that’s the beauty of philosophy. It shamelessly imposes itself on some of the most challenging questions that humanity struggles with today. It doesn’t pretend to have the answers, but it will explore every conceivable aspect of an idea to find the accuracy or an error within itself.
The Practicality of Philosophy
Philosophy doesn’t just try to tackle the hard questions in life and then argue and debate theories that don’t affect everyday life. For instance, most people can survive and thrive without knowing the meaning of life. It may offer temporary enlightenment but will not help with people’s jobs and responsibilities. However, people need to realize that philosophy has practical use that can be applied to people’s everyday lives.
Promotes Critical Thinking
If anyone has read or taken a philosophy course, you may have questioned what the hell the author or professor is trying to convey and articulate in this book or course. And that’s perfectly fine because that’s your brain being introduced to new concepts, and thus the learning process begins.
Philosophy promotes critical thinking by delving into complex ideas. Where most people struggle when reading a philosophy book or taking a philosophy course is that when they are introduced to these complex ideas, they automatically try to find the correct answer. They don’t keep an open mind to the countless possibilities of answering complex questions or understand that there isn’t a correct answer.
Philosophy teaches us how to think critically by:
- logically approaching complex matters with reason
- Understanding its influences and different answers
- Understanding societies and your own bias
- Formulating your own unique opinion
- Defending that opinion
- Reanalyzing your opinion when new information comes to light
Critical thinking is not only a skill, but it’s a rare trait to have, especially when the masses let the internet and media control what they should think. However, that’s an entirely different topic.
Philosophy helps you more than just teaching the ability to think critically for yourself. It also helps you understand life or, at the very least, try to understand it. Just like zodiac signs and personality traits, there is a philosophy everyone can relate to or personally resonate with your own life. I’ll go over some of the most famous philosophical ways of life.
Existentialism gets a bad rap. It’s not some middle-aged dude who lost everything and is going through a crisis. It’s the opposite. The textbook definition of Existentialists believes that they are responsible and in charge of their own happiness and meaning of life through acts of free will. Unlike the cliche, existentialists don’t rely on external factors to give happiness and meaning. They bring it upon themselves to find that happiness focuses solely on that. Everything else is secondary.
Nihilism is the school of thought that rejects religious, moral, or ethical principles and believes life is ultimately meaningless. Nihilists find joy and liberation because of that meaninglessness. Since life is pointless and there is no one to report to like a God, they feel they can go through life how they see fit. For instance, if someone wants to live lustfully, greedily, or gluttonously, they can do so without guilt from society or a deity.
Absurdism is my favorite school of thought. Coined by Albert Camus, Absurdism believes that the universe is ultimately meaningless and that the totality of our existence is purposeless and chaotic. However, absurdists don’t fight that notion. They happily accept it. They accept that our society is filled with bullshit and that there is no changing that fact. So what do absurdists do? Well, we keep our heads down and move forward in life the best we can, which is more than anyone can ask.
Philosophy is more than just a bunch of ancient dudes arguing within their ancient texts. Or worse, a bunch of college professors who love to hear themselves say fancy words and fail anyone who disagrees with their point of view. But, understandably, philosophy does give off that impression.
Philosophy is how we safely talk about life in way’s no one else will. We examine the difficult questions that many might find too hard to answer. This is why until the end of time, philosophy will continue to evolve and progress in our lives. We can’t lose sight of logical thinking infused with reason, keeping an open mind, and exploring all the possibilities that this universe has to offer, regardless of its meaningless nature.
The Republic by Plato
The Republic, written by Plato in the late fourth century BC, is a seminal text that has captivated generations of readers with its unique discussion about social and political ideals. The text dives deep into what it means to build a just society, which all citizens must agree upon regardless of their culture or creed.
The book proposes concepts such as true justice, individual morality, justice within the state’s structures, and more—all of which are fleshed out in detail through the various characters presented throughout the story. It provides theoretical approaches and suggests interesting short stories and dialogue as examples of how these principles might work.
The Republic is still considered groundbreaking today. It continues to inspire discussion on topics related to justice and democracy across various cultures and societies worldwide — proving its timelessness thousands of years later.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Does Philosophy Impact Society?
Philosophy is a unique field of knowledge that stands on its distinct pillars, heading in various directions yet all beginning from the same base. The four pillars of philosophy are metaphysics, epistemology, axiology, and logic. Metaphysics examines the nature of reality and looks into questions of existence. Epistemology is about how we acquire knowledge and what makes it valid or accurate.
Axiology investigates the realm of ethics and values, namely what is good, bad, and ultimately our purpose in life. Lastly, logic examines conceptions such as deduction and induction to maintain logical consistency and sound judgment within philosophical arguments. Philosophy has a long history that goes back centuries; these four pillars have stood firm throughout time, allowing an unending flow of wisdom to transform societies over the ages.
Who Are The Most Prominent Philosophers?
Philosophy has been around since the dawn of civilization, with prominent figures like Plato and Aristotle inspiring generations of thinkers to consider the world in a different light. From there, we had breakthroughs like Kant’s Categorical Imperative, Kierkegaard’s existential approaches, Nietzsche’s revaluating of conventional morality, and countless more influential figures.
Philosophy has also been deeply rooted in other cultures too, with Confucianism and Daoism still playing critical roles in Asia even today. Philosophy may be an area of study that has been around for centuries, but the questions posed by its most prominent figures continue to remain relevant even today.
What are Some Books To Learn About Philosophy?
Philosophy books can allow readers to explore topics such as life, morality, knowledge, and love. While there is no shortage of great Philosophy books to select from, some legendary publications stand out above the rest. If you are seeking knowledge on Philosophy, consider “Philosophy: A Complete Guide” by John-Stewart Gordon, “Philosophical Investigations” by Ludwig Wittgenstein, or “Basic Writings of Nietzsche.”
All three books offer a deep dive into Philosophy and provide interesting perspectives on some of the most complex topics humans have dealt with for centuries. Moreover, these classical texts can help you gain a deeper understanding of Philosophy’s impact on society from a historical perspective.