Why Study Philosophy?

Kierkegaard

As a philosophy student there are two questions that you hear a lot from people, people that have no real idea what philosophy is but that still want to take an interest in what you have so much passion for. The precise definition of philosophy by the way is ‘lover of knowledge’ or as Spinoza calls it a system of thought based on study and investigation. That’s not science. It’s not rigid or even truly empirical and yet the philosophy of science is a brilliant subject of it’s own. Both questions had a real tendency to annoy me in a very deep way. The first was what do you plan on doing with philosophy and the second was who is your favorite philosopher.

The first question always felt like an attack, the answer has always been I don’t know. I eventually want to teach or maybe even edit, one of my favorite professors was constantly being asked to speak at philosophy conferences in foreign countries and that would be living the dream, but I study philosophy because it is the only subject that makes me want to do my homework. It makes me want to learn more.
For me at least philosophy has always been the only worth while thing to study. It’s not the same as any other subject major option in college, unlike studying education or business (which was my original major back in jc) philosophy does not prepare you for the work force. This seems like a true waist to most people, but I would say if you’re only learning at the university level as a means of finding a job that you’re missing the point. Perhaps a trade school or even the military is more up your alley. The study of philosophy did prepare me though to tackle life in a way that studying business or even writing never did, it taught me HOW to think not WHAT to think, and it taught me how to deal with things that I never even expected I’d need to deal with.
The second question is a really hard one though because it depends on the topic we’re philosophizing about, which is vast with possibilities. Also all the philosophers make certain points. I use to say either Plato or Hume depending on my mood but as much as I enjoy delving into either of them I always knew this wasn’t entirely true. I could literally spend hours discussing universals, and I have but just having interesting philosophies is not enough to make anyone my favorite.

In my last ever philosophy class at WOU (19th Century) however we read a lot of Kierkegaard, whom I had never really heard of before, and I was moved by his words. For those of you who don’t know, he is exceptionally different than Hume and so I was as surprised as anyone else but reading him truly brought everything together for me. He was a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critique, and also widely considered the first existentialist. For our 19th Century class we read Fear and Trembling, which is about God and Abraham. I think what initially intrigued me about this work of Kierkegaard was the topics he covered. See theology was what originally turned me on to philosophy, and as I learned that theology was only a small portion of philosophy I started to doubt things. I started to question if I really knew anything at all. I started to question theological truths that I had always held and Kierkegaard was the first philosopher I had yet studied whose words I not only understood but agreed with.
Kierkegaard is to this day the only person I have ever heard doubt Abraham’s righteousness. I mean really, a guy who was more than willing to kill his only son because he heard a voice…do you know what happens to people like that today? I should think they would either get life in prison or a mental ward. I’ve always also wondered why Sarah put up with such a maniac and why no one ever talked about it but I suppose that for a woman to speak against her husband in biblical times would not end well for her. Anyhow though Kierkegaard not only addressed all my questions but he also came out and called bullshit on the concept of faith, and I’ve loved him ever since.

So I guess what I love most about philosophy is it’s wide scope, that it’s flexible and that it defies the excepted truths. It isn’t as stubborn as math or science and yet philosophy isn’t just narrow and content either, it goes where we are uncomfortable to go. It searches for truth and knowledge in the cracks of human awareness. It is daring and bold, philosophy may not always have all the right answers but it always asks all the right questions. It is the study of all fields and that’s good enough for me.

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