Hello. My name is not Inigo Montoya. You did not kill my father. You should, however, prepare to die, as it’s going to happen to you eventually. Just hopefully not before you finish reading this.
As you might guess from the writing style, I am not Sophia. Which means I am half as interesting, infinitely less accomplished, and just plain old not as cool. She is now never going to let me guestblog again. Hoho! Anyway, my name is Juensung, and I run the blog over at steelandink.wordpress.com. Being less scientifically inclined than my esteemed host, I focus more on philosophy and a bit of psychoanalysis. As Sophia vivisects anything she can anaesthetize and spends her time poking holes in black hole physics, I like to look at morality and epistemology. Sometimes I venture into metaphysics, but I’m pretty bad at that. Who are we? Why are we? Why do we do the things we do? Being somewhat of a head-case, I perform most of my analysis upon myself, but I do like looking at more interesting topics.
Introductions being finished, what I’m going to be writing about is the importance of philosophy in the modern age and the biology of the soul. As we bounce around in the Silicon Age, philosophy seems to have been given much the same treatment as religion. This I find to be a pity on both accounts. I quite like religion, and I don’t think that people should be quite hard on those who choose to believe that something other than Heraclitic Logos is holding the universe together. After all, in a world where subatomic particles can actually change their behaviours when someone’s not looking, I don’t think that there being some form of greater cosmic sentience is quite so farfetched.
Moving on, philosophy seems to have consigned to the realm of hipsters who like to believe they’re “deep” and old fuddy-duddies who don’t know what a motherboard is. To those who look down on the discipline that made it possible for you to pollute the internet with your uninformed drivel, I cheerfully salute you in the time-honoured manner of English longbowmen. I’d like to think that philosophy’s rather important. After all, without philosophy we wouldn’t have had Thales. No Thales, no Anaximander. From there it snowballs into a long history lecture that none of you want to read involving the history of Western thought and the invention of harmonics and physics and differential calculus and things like that. No, you’d probably much rather be told exactly what philosophy can do for you now, not what it’s done for you. Oh, very well, I shall bite back my sarcasm and just tell you. Tally-ho!
Here in Ontario, Canada, philosophy is offered as a high school level course. We are one of the few places in the world to do so. Why? Sophia will tell you anyone can do physics (this is false, it requires a good deal of focus and dedication and a good deal of curiousity to do it as well as she does). Philosophy, on the other hand, is something a bit more demanding. It requires an open mind, maturity, thoughtfulness, a sense of wonder, and a certain disregard for convention. These are sadly lacking in most of the human population, especially its younger progeny. The internet shall be the death of academia. But I’m supposed to be convincing you that philosophy is a good thing, although if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably a smart cookie who likes a challenge.
Math and philosophy are pretty similar. Both are truth-seeking disciplines that are grounded in logic and rationality. The difference is that while math has a set of rules for doing what it does, philosophy is a bit more abstract. At the core of philosophy is critical thinking. And no, this isn’t criticism as in what you feel your parents or mother-in-law are always throwing at you. Actually being critical is the process of determining what does or does not make sense. For example, I could claim that I am in fact a 400-foot tall purple platypus bear with pink horns and silver wings. Granted, via the internet you can’t exactly prove that I am not, but via your power of critical thinking, you can make a reasonable assumption that I am not. For one, platypus bears do not exist. Two, there is absolutely no reason for an animal to be 400 feet tall, or possessed of purple fur, pink horns, and silver wings. Three, I’m quoting a children’s television show. Thus you can reasonably infer that my statement is complete BS.
That’s critical thinking. Simply put, it’s a BS filter. And once you can recognize BS when you hear or read it, you can prevent it from coming out of your own mouth. Ever argued with your parents? Wouldn’t you like to win? Philosophy can help with that. Even if you can’t use a logical reason to convince your parents of something, philosophy will give you a creative and sufficiently flexible thought process to effectively utilize the Chewbacca defence. One you become more adept at philosophy, you can start stripping the BS away from things like why there’s a God or why murder is bad or why you shouldn’t masturbate in public (Thank you, Diogenes, for that last one, and may Hades rest your flea-bitten, dog-worshipping soul). This isn’t for everyone though, and admittedly it doesn’t pay very well. But what if I told you that a lot of lawyers hold degrees in philosophy? There’s another history lesson in there involving people called the Sophists, but I won’t go into that right now. Anyway, studying philosophy is a lot like doing gymnastics. It makes you flexible. A lawyer has to immediately recognize logical fallacies while not being subject to them himself. Alternatively, he abuses the ever-loving matzah out of them. Either way, philosophy is very concerned with fallacy and faulty thinking. “Because I’m your mother and I said so” is logically fallacious. It is not a good reason for why you should clean your room. Similarly, “Mom told us not to do that” is also not a good reason for why you shouldn’t be allowed to get a tattoo. Now, is it good to disobey your mother? No, because she’s the reason you’re alive and is quite capable of making you miserable. But if you’re determined to subvert authority anyway, you might as well have impeccably logical reasons for doing so.
Philosophy also has a way of opening you up to new ideas. I think it’s no bad thing for a Christian to have a working knowledge of Islam, or for an atheist to understand the arguments that have been made in favour of the existence of a deity. You may also be exposed to ways of thinking that might be of interest to you. Surfers might find Daoism very interesting. Vegans and the environmentally conscious may like Jainism. Or, if you love your friends, take a gander at Epicureanism. Stay away from Gnosticism though, that stuff’s bad for you.
Philosophy touches on beliefs and ideas from all over the world. It can help you understand the people around you. It will open your mind to the barest whispers of true and false. It will make you rational and wise and generally just a better, more well-rounded person.
Or you can just study it to make yourself seem smarter. I’m told girls go for that. Not that it’s ever helped me any, but hey, who am I to tell you what to do?