Can doing a little Philosophy make your life better? Make you happier or smarter?
“Philosophy, as I shall understand the word, is something intermediate between theology and science. Like theology, it consists of speculations on matters as to which definite knowledge has, so far, been unascertainable; but like science, it appeals to human reason rather than to authority, whether that of tradition or that of revelation. All definite knowledge–so I should contend–belongs to science; all dogma as to what surpasses definite knowledge belongs to theology.
But between theology and science there is a No Man’s Land, exposed to attack from both sides; this No Man’s Land is philosophy. Almost all the questions of most interest to speculative minds are such as science cannot answer, and the confident answers of theologians no longer seem so convincing as they did in former centuries.”
As Russell implied above, philosophy is for ‘speculative minds’, and as such must always remain unfinished and open. Which means, as Plato so well understood, that the questions are just as important as the answers. You can smell a bad philosopher a mile off, by the tang of arrogant certainty and the insistence that they have the answers– why? Because there can be no truth without the possibility of falsehood; no right without room for wrong. Questions, and a questioning spirit, are how we stay open to growth and prosperity; answers, are how we find the way to new questions. On this, I’ll leave you with Russell’s account of the sort of questions that affect all of us, and drive Philosophy:
“Is the world divided into mind and matter, and, if so, what is mind and what is matter? Is mind subject to matter, or is it possessed of independent powers? Has the universe any unity or purpose? Is it evolving towards some goal? Are there really laws of nature, or do we believe in them only because of our innate love of order? Is man what he seems to the astronomer, a tiny lump of impure carbon and water impotently crawling on a small and unimportant planet, or is he what he appears to Hamlet? Is he perhaps both at once? Is there a way of living that is noble and another that is base, or are all ways of living merely futile? If there is a way of living that is noble, in what does it consist, and how shall we achieve it? Must the good be eternal in order to deserve to be valued, or is it worth seeking even if the universe is inexorably moving towards death? Is there such a thing as wisdom, or is what seems such merely the ultimate refinement of folly?To such questions no answer can be found in the laboratory. Theologies have professed to give answers, all too definite; but their very definiteness causes modern minds to view them with suspicion. The studying of these questions, if not the answering of them, is the business of philosophy.”
Do you have any questions about life, be them kooky or severe? Any answers to the questions above? Have I committed sacrilege in dismissing academic philosophy? Or do you agree that wisdom is its heart, and belongs in the hands of everyone? Whatever the case, get involved! Participate in life! Share your opinions below, contribute to this month’s topic (the love of wisdom) by using the suggestion box, and if you want to help spread the love or even have your own philosophical expression on the blog, join the Patreon community!