Why Read Philosophy

First of all, without it we can make no sense of the world in which we live. Philosophy is the best training for living, better even than history and the human sciences. Why? Quite simply because virtually all of our thoughts, convictions and values exist and have meaning — whether or not we are conscious of it — within models of the world that have been developed over the course of intellectual history. We must understand these models in order to grasp their reach, their logic and their consequences. (Luc Ferry)

The way we live, the way we function and interact with others, the values and beliefs we have are all knowingly or unknowingly influenced by the society and culture we live in. When you begin to explore why you believe in the things you do or harbor the opinions you have or consider some values to be greater than other, you come to realize how much of it is just preconceived notions passed down to you which you have accepted without really examining them.

There is a realization that your personal views, your political views, your religious views, your societal views are not yours. They are the views of others. However, there is a logic behind these views which stems from generations of thoughts and of trial and errors of the different modes and systems which have come before you. But simply accepting them without adding your own reason and logic to it does a disservice to the intellectual history which you are a part of because you are simply following the herd instead of coming to your own understanding.

The issue is that to think for oneself is difficult. It’s much easier to accept what others say. The parroting culture is quite evident on social media. But in order to lead your own life, to find your own mode of living which will provide you with happiness and fulfillment, you can’t simply rely on other peoples words. You have to discover for yourself what is meaningful.

All you have to do is see all the miserable people who followed the words of other people and ended with degrees they don’t like, jobs they hate, a life which brings them minimal pleasure to understand why it’s important to find your own path.

Philosophy acts as a guide in this discovery. It can teach you how to think, how to apply reason and logic, how to formulate your own thoughts, how to pick apart your beliefs and in doing so create more solid ones with a better foundation. Philosophers like Socrates, Montaigne, and Nietzsche come to mind.

Another benefit of philosophy is that:

Many individuals spend a considerable part of their lives anticipating misfortune and preparing for catastrophe — loss of work, accident, illness, death of loved ones, and so on. Others, on the contrary, appear to live in a state of utter indifference, regarding such fears as morbid and having no place in everyday life. Do they realize, both of these character-types, that their attitudes have already been pondered with matchless profundity by the philosophers of ancient Greece? (Luc Ferry)

Simply put, for centuries people have been thinking and studying the problems that trouble you. From the Ancient Greeks to now, man hasn’t changed much. We all still have the same problems more or less. The concerns over our mortality, failure in love, the disappointment of passionate work, struggle to find a purpose or meaning, dealing with the ups and downs of life. You aren’t the first person to feel these things and you won’t be the last. By delving into philosophy, you can discover the best thinkers mankind has produced and see what they had to say on these topics.

This is personally why I read philosophy. I don’t care much about metaphysics or whether or not this life is real or if I exist and so on, such things have given philosophy a bad rep. Instead, I rather read about Marcus Aurelius and find some comfort in the idea that this individual, the Roman Emperor, the most influential person of his time, still had to remind himself to be good, that life is short, to concentrate on what he can control like his own attitude. Or read about Ralph Waldo Emerson and his ideas of how in order to be an individual we cannot give into conformity which plagues society. Everywhere you look you see people giving up their own thoughts and opinions and following the lead of someone else. That’s not how you become an individual.

Learning to live; learning to fear no longer the various faces of death; or, more simply, learning to conquer the banality of everyday life — boredom, the sense of time slipping by: these were already the primary motivations of the schools of ancient Greece. (Luc Ferry)

Philosophy is rich in such ideas and others like it. It can help you simplify your life. To get rid of the clutter that infests the mind of most people who are overly concerned about things which are out of their control. It can center your thought and show you the mistakes you made in your reasoning. Philosophy can bring to the forefront the simple principles of life which can result in your personal growth, improvement in relationships and overall fulfillment and happiness.

Book referenced: A Brief History of Thought