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Friends, we live in crazy times. It seems like every day we run into a new roadblock be it personal, political, environmental – the list goes on. The question we must ask ourselves is: how do we solve these problems. We could take each problem individually as it arises, but this would be a haphazard world. We would sail through life like a boat lost at sea, without a star to guide us home. Now what, you might ask, will be our north star? How can we make sure the ship we sail through this sea we call life arrives at our desired destination?
Navigating through these rough waters requires us to think hard about the struggles we might face and how best to deal with them as they arise. This thinking about our own thoughts and actions is what we call philosophy.
Today, philosophy is more important than ever, as situations demand more immediate action than ever before. Establishing a set of beliefs and morals to help evaluate a situation and come to the correct decision requires deep thought into the way we conceive of the world. In the long run, taking the time to make this moral map will save us hours of stressful deliberation and uncertainty.
Beginning down this road will be no easy task. It requires us to question our current beliefs and past decisions to discover the reasoning we use to justify them. This process can, at times, be uncomfortable. It can bring up deeply concealed insecurities and unearth sources of intense guilt and shame. These perils should not dissuade us. In fact, such inner struggles should encourage us; the more we face our mistakes and failings, the more we are able to avoid them in the future.
Merely acknowledging our faults will not amount to a philosophy. As we tear down the aspects of our thoughts and actions which we find troubling, we must set up guidelines that let us govern our future behavior. For example, if we determine that contributing to physical harm to any life is immoral, we may decide to avoid eating meat. The knowledge that large-scale meat production adds greatly to the environmental issues plaguing our planet could reinforce this decision. Here, we have begun to build a consistent view of the world that helps us decide how to act. We have begun, in other words, to craft our own philosophy.
Importantly, philosophy is an intensely personal thing. We can’t take what someone else has laid out as right for us without engaging in this process of introspection or else we will find ourselves still sailing into the unknown, sailing to where someone else wants us to go. And is this any better than sailing nowhere in particular? At the same time, many people who have come before us have asked questions we will inevitably ask ourselves and, oftentimes, engaging with others’ perspectives, analyses, and conclusions forces us to consider a wider array of world views which might be different from or downright contrary to our own. These considerations help us grow as philosophers and, therefore, as people. Whether we read Plato or Kant, the Buddha or Sartre, it is important that we read and/or listen as much as time allows!
Many people today feel that philosophy belongs in the past, that it’s just the stuff of stuffy old professors who don’t know anything about the world that surrounds us today. Yet, much like history in general, those old philosophers give us lots of insight into how we got to where we are and the ways in which we might proceed. Indeed, such an attitude amounts to a self-fulfilling prophesy, because without people like you and I picking up where those philosophers left off and developing their ideas in light of modern issues, the people that come after us will be forever lost, alone at sea without an accurate map or compass, doomed to follow the whims of the waters beneath them.
Written by Holden King.