I have a B.A. in Philosophy.
I’ve mentioned somewhere before, but it bears repeating, the exchange I’ve had – more than fucking once – with random people when I tell them about my degree. It usually goes something like this:
Rando – “What are you going to do with degree in philosophy?”
Me – “Whatever the fuck I want.”
But, strangely, that’s not the most common interaction I have on the subject.
The most frustratingly frequent response I hear is,
“I could never do philosophy.”
You know, it’s great that people start thinking I’m fekkin’ brilliant when they find out what I majored in, but it’s also depressing as hell to be told that people believe they can’t do it themselves.
Ok, maybe one won’t be graduating at or near the top of one’s class, but that does not mean one is unable to engage in philosophical exercise.
Truth be told, I think we engage in philosophy all the damn time.
Most of what we get into stays in the realm of Personal Philosophy, but it’s still philosophy.
Alright, let me give it a whirl. And because philosophy is usually more about the questions than the answers, let’s start with a question:
Do you have any ideas about life, in general?
Yes? I thought you might.
Congratulations, you have a personal philosophy.
You’ve experienced life, to whatever degree you’ve experienced it, and come to some kind of belief about its general nature.
You probably didn’t sit down and puzzle it out. Likely, you didn’t ask yourself a bunch of questions about the belief or what led to it. You never spent any time looking like that statue by Rodin. But you have processed experience and come to a conclusion. This is usually what we refer to as wisdom.
The word Philosophy, literally translates to: the love of wisdom.
So, maybe you don’t love the wisdom, but you’re doing it anyway.
I’ll just bet you also have some ideas about life.
You know you do.
I’ve not met anyone yet, above the age of thirteen or so, who doesn’t have some notion of what a good life would be. Maybe they haven’t thought about how to achieve it, but they usually have an inkling.
Now, that’s not a well-defined, or I would argue, well understood personal philosophy, but it is still a personal philosophy nonetheless.
Have you ever thought about what it would mean if you were happy? How about successful? What about moral – have you thought about how you’d need to act to consider yourself a good person?
Of course you have, even if you didn’t give it sustained thought for long periods.
Even if you haven’t thought about it for ages.
And these are questions we’ve been asking ourselves for as long as we’ve had the capacity to ask questions.
They’re the same questions those dusty old Greeks asked. The same ones Buddha, and Lao Tsu, and Confucius asked. The same ones Hamilton and Jefferson, and Franklin asked.
Somehow, the majority of us has been conned into thinking, because some revered figure from history asked these questions, that the very same questions are somehow beyond us “normal folk”.
And that shit just isn’t true.
Geniuses happen, to be sure. But they are rare things and don’t come along often.
More often it is the case that someone you and I would otherwise consider to be a “normal” person just gets obsessed with a subject and works their ass off on it.
You’d be amazed at what “normal” people, that just happen to give it the full measure – can achieve.
The Manhattan Skyline.
The entirety of the Modern World.
Not bad for “normal” folk.
Now, I’m not saying you need to sit down and design a pyramid, or skyscraper, or new civilization – but if you want to, I encourage it.
What I am saying is this:
What makes for a good life? What is success? What is happiness? What is right? How do we live together in something resembling peace?
These are some of the basic questions of human existence.
And you’re a human.
We all are, no matter how basic we seem or feel.
And these questions are yours to answer, for yourself.
Share the answers you find, or not, as you like. But recognize you’re asking them anyways.
You don’t have to leave it for some faraway “genius”.
They’re in you.
They always have been.
All it takes is for you to come to understand them, and in so doing, understand yourself.
And then, with almost no effort at all,
You’re a Philosopher.
Look at you, you beautiful thing!
Keep asking questions.
Keep looking for answers.
(like you could stop yourself now if you wanted to.)
Until next time…