Philosophy – what is it and how much?

Many of you know, but this blog is also for people who don’t.  The term philosophy means ‘the love of wisdom’.   It exists in most cultural traditions but the limits of it vary.  In our world, we have the benefit of all the work of great men and women, much of which has been preserved.  Such teachings are given continuous life by those who learn them and use them.

The Western wisdom tradition has more than one face.  One view of it is the mystique of the positive aspects of the old people – they have literally lived and learned.  Therefore they know and also remember many events and their causal relationships that go back to before our time.  When it really is ‘living history’ one can see why it is so impressive.  In some cases these are regular people but the ancient Druid, the Wizard, and the witch are all very much ‘Western cultural icons’ of wisdom traditions.

Scientists and doctors and religious people: in some views, these are all part and parcel of specialization within the wisdom traditions.   To those within the realms of ‘philosophy as such’ at least the doctors and scientists, especially the scientists including the mathematicians, are considered the descendants of philosophy.  Religion is a challenging issue because the philosophical tradition has not related to it the same way all the time.  Socrates always said ‘There are gods, and philosophy is not operating on that level.  Philosophy is just a mortal business.’   Other philosophers claimed, ‘There is no god and are no gods, but the church sure is a big bully.’  Other philosophers genuinely believed that the mind and philosophy are both blessings bestowed by God or gods.  There are theological greats such as Thomas Aquinas who dared to grapple with the ancient pre-Christian gentile thought of Aristotle on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church.  If you think that was easy, try it yourself.  It is not.  If you are not a mental power lifter and adept mental wrestler, it will likely overwhelm you.

How expensive is it?  Philosophy can be done for free or on the cheap, but here’s the caveat.  Like with so much in life, a bit of training helps a great deal – investing into philosophical training is like receiving other forms of training or like buying tools.  You can spend as much or as little on it as you like.

In the worst case scenario, the way philosophy functions as a discipline can be as a sharpening stone for the mind, or as a special training camp for champion ‘mind game players’.   Terry Pratchett once wrote in one of his many successful Discworld novels that a philosopher/ess can be worse than a demon, especially if working as a professor.  If you have ever wanted to know exactly what you think or how terrifying it is when someone else wants to know precisely what you think to the details extreme of # of angels that can dance on a pin –  a determined philosopher/ess is most likely to ‘be like that’.  It can be invigorating or terrifying beyond words depending upon your feeling and situation.  I don’t know whether or not it is worse than cross examination in law: I don’t have the experience to make that kind of judgment about it.   ‘What exactly do you think and why?’

In the best case scenario, philosopher/esses clarify how individual mind’s function, how the world works and how to help see and act according to the sense and reason of the real world.  They help people to live in an ordered reality and to have clarity about the truth and the wisdom to suss out falsehood and deception – either sooner or later and often sooner.  The main beneficial result of philosophical training is to know what one believes and thinks and to have the security associated with knowing why and knowing it has held up or been created with thorough examination and contemplation in relation to reality – or as reality perceived.


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