minor benefits of knowing some philosophy
April 8, 2014
one of the interesting things about the ppl i engage and talk with these days is how few of them would be willing to call themselves philosophers. as someone who used to do philosophy on a more regular basis (do remember that more than anything i use ‘philosopher” to describe what i do on this blog and stuff).
and i”m def. not going to say that anyone needs to study white philosophy… in fact, i heartily discourage iaopoc from doing so. it has nothing to teach us. however, there are many existing (and vibrant) non-white traditions of philosophy. and if you add in historically bounded periods, there are a lot more than you might realize (and in places that often surprise white ppl ‘cause they think that philosophy is only something white men do in long, boring tomes).1
but having some understanding of the sorts of questions that philosophy deals with and the sorts of approaches to the problems and maybe some of the history of how these ideas have entered our daily life does have some benefits.
while, yes, a lot of individual philosophers will focus on one type/strand of philosophy (hey, i focused on logic), if you take enough classes you begin to understand how each individual philosophic idea exists in relation to other ideas that it either implies or is a consequence of.
like, you can”t have an adequate notion of what knowledge is (epistemology) without a clear notion of what truth is (metaphysics) or how these two ideas my implicate each other (logic).
philosophy is only one way to get at this notion of how ideas cannot and do not exist in, and certainly not the ‘best” way. but it is a way that makes sense for some ppl.
2) no definitive answers for some questions
one thing philosophy is definitely good at teaching is that there is no real definitive answer to some questions. all human societies everywhere have been debating over what human nature is since we”ve been able to communicate.
obviously, many ppl get into this debate with a fervent desire to have a clear answer. this was never the good part of philosophy for me…
the good part was in the asking of the question and in the discussions and interchange between people in attempting to find an answer. for me, this was the joy of philosophy. so too was seeing how these ideas and discussions would travel through time and seeing the impact they had on society (i”ve always loved intellectual history).
i think these debates are one of the most beautiful things about humans in general. and that they are and always will be as critical to our societies as art, music, religion, and so on.
3) re: intellectual history
this segment of philosophy teaches on thing really, really well: that ideas do have tangible, real world impacts and consequences.
this is particularly relevant as concerns the way that pro-injustice warriors like to devaluate the ideas that marginalized people discuss/create/use for resistance. and for the ways that they like to shrug off criticisms of their own ideas as pointless since they are just ‘ideas”.
ideas literally shape the world. the fact that we are still dealing with the echoes of descartes (mind/body dualism) is only one example of this.
but our oppressors have a vested interest in keeping us from engaging, challenging, and resisting their ideas. because ideas can be changed. ideas are mutable. and they do not want change.