Part One of a 'Learn Philosophy' series dedicated to the growth of our readers.
Before man discovered fire he discovered thought. And soon after he discovered thought, he wondered.
While we have no proof that ancient homo sapiens suffered from clinical depression, we are positive that they looked up at the same night stars and wondered, "What the hell am I doing here?" and "What is this all about, anyway?"
And so, philosophy was born.
In today's world, little thought is given to philosophy. The common person perhaps thinks that the subject is for the educated only. Sources such as Wikipedia make it seem as complicated as humanly possible to learn philosophy.
This is probably by design.
The philosophically educated have a special interest in keeping philosophy obscure. But even in their circles we see they have reduced the influence of philosophy upon the world to a near zero.
Science is the rule of the day. And since one may only be expert to participate in those fields, the opinion of the common man is looked upon as something "cute" if it is ever considered at all.
Look at how sneeringly our governments and media regard any counter-opinion. They sic their "fact-checkers" and "experts" on any whiff of dissension in the ranks and use their power to mock and ridicule.
But our earliest great thinkers recognized that asking questions developed wisdom. We can then assume that today's push to stifle all questioning is an out-right assault on not just truth, but wisdom itself.
And so it becomes incumbent upon us as men to ask questions... But which ones? This is why we learn philosophy.
What is philosophy?
Philosophy comes from the Greek word "philosophia" which meant "love of wisdom."
Today in the dictionary you will see it defined as an academic discipline or a study. But these definitions put it out of our reach, so they can't be correct. Why should only academics get to love wisdom?
Will Durant defined philosophy usefully when he wrote:
"Let us put aside our fear of inevitable error, and survey all those problems of our state, trying to see each part and puzzle in the light of the whole. We shall define philosophy as 'total perspective,' as mind overspreading life and forging chaos into unity. Perhaps philosophy will give us, if we are faithful to it, a healing unity of soul."Essay "What is Philosophy" by Will Durant
Why should we learn philosophy? To forge an indestructible mindset.
This is what philosophy has to offer every man - the common man.
Much is said about mindset. Mindset is important. But if you look for "mindset" you often find rules, platitudes, tips and tricks.
These are as good as they are successful. But what happens when our mindset encounters a scenario it cannot solve?
So, we, rich in mindset but deficient in philosophy, wind up back where we started.
Because philosophy is not something adopted and adhered to like a system. It is an activity. It is a tool.
We need both: philosophy and mindset.
With philosophy, a man may adopt or create any mindset with ease. He can discard them and adopt or create new ones at will. His mindset becomes more fluid. It comes naturally. Finally, he doesn't have to think about it at all. His mindset has become indestructible.
If mindset is to become our foundation for life, then philosophy is the architecture, and you are the architect.
Your first lesson in philosophy
The building blocks of any subject are its words. And so, The best way to learn philosophy is to know the words.
So, before we get into any specific philosophers or their philosophies, we will simply learn the words of the subject.
We are going to start first with a few philosophical doctrines.
I think this is better than starting with the processes or studies that make up philosophy. Because this way you'll be able to read some simple, general, philosophical ideas and decide if you agree or disagree with them on a general basis.
Knowing these alone will get your mind into operation. By the end of this article you will be philosophizing. In other words, you won't be able to help it.
Then, in later articles, we'll introduce different branches of philosophy using these doctrines as access points.
Some philosophical doctrines
Determinism: The doctrine that everything that happens is an inevitable result of what came before. It suggests that humans act in accordance with heredity and past environments, and that choice is only apparent. There is no free will.
Fatalism: That every person is predestined to a specific outcome and can do nothing to affect that destiny.
Finalism: Suggests that events are caused by the purposes they serve. You can understand why something is the way it is by understanding what purpose it serves.
Free will: That life has partial freedom from its heredity and circumstances and can consciously make decisions independent of these determining factors.
Hedonism: A belief that pleasure is the only true and proper motive of every choice.
Idealism: Thoughts and ideas are the fundamental reality. Our reality is shaped by our thoughts and ideas.
Intuitionism: That intuition - not reason - reveals the reality of things. (Women love this one!)
Materialism: The belief that matter is the only reality. (Today's dominant philosophy)
Mechanism: That thoughts and happenings occur in alignment with the laws of mechanics. (Physics rules us all!)
Optimism: The belief we live in the best of all possible worlds and that good will triumph over evil.
Pantheism: Belief that God is inherent in all things. That the universe is a manifestation of God.
Pessimism: That this world is as bad as could be and that evil triumphs.
Positivism: The idea that philosophy should only deal with problems that yield to the scientific method.
Pragmatism: That we should judge the truth of something by how effective it is when put into practice.
Realism: The doctrine that the external world exists independent of perception and reality does not depend on our thoughts, ideas or awareness.
Utilitarianism: That the best judge of actions is how much happiness it brings the greatest number of people.
Vitalism: The doctrine that life is a force distinct from chemical or material forces. Also that this "life force" can affect physical form and development.
What do you think?
You are a person. You have lived. So, take your experiences and opinions and think. Do you agree with any of the above doctrines? Are some completely wrong?
I am no "properly educated" expert in this field. I'm sure many erudite academics would look upon this and scoff. They would hold their pinky just so and give dissertations about how much I got wrong in this article.
Well, to hell with them. We aren't here to "be right" about academic precision. We're here to make sense of the universe and our place within it.
As of right now there are no right or wrong answers because we dare to be inaccurate and welcome the inevitability of error!