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On Philosophy

Lots of people’s eyes start to glaze over when they hear the word philosophy. They either completely avoided the subject in college (preferring to take underwater basket weaving, or marketing) or they did take the subject and were subsequently bored out of their skull when the archetypal corduroy-suit-jacket, jeans, and ponytail laden elder hippy droned on and on in front of class.  Wise parents advise against philosophy as a major because declaring philosophy as a college major tantamount to saying “I want to be homeless when I grow up!”  Anyway, as a result, somehow… the only thing that most people learned in college about philosophy is Monte Python’s Philosopher’s Song, if that!

I was reminded of the fundamental place of philosophy today when I came across a quote by Ludwig Wittgenstein (who, incidentally, shows up as the “beery swine” in Monte Python’s philosopher’s song)
“Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.”

Philosophy doesn’t have to be scary; it is just a mental exercise in noticing our interpretations of the world in language. Philosophy is concerned with 2 things:  What is a Good Life? and What is Real? People who seek to gain fame (or possibly employment – LOL!) as Philosophers are required to fight about interpretations within the discipline of philosophy itself.  Us normal people are not. We can accept Wittgenstein’s statement without comparing/contrasting against Kant and keep rolling on with life.    (By the way, that’s what I’m going to do in this post. If you want to state that Kant was smarter, I really don’t feel the need to debate you.)

Anyway, since we interpret everything in our lives through language, we end up having a philosophy about tons of things without even noticing. So I encourage you to notice yourself being philosophical for just a moment.  Start with something that is not particularly profound: just as a mental quiz… a little calisthenics for your brain.

I’ll bet there are some people, who are like me and have a philosophy about how to tie shoes. My philosophy about how to tie shoes has me tying my sneakers with double knots, but all other shoes with single knots. Double knotting sneakers means that I don’t trip on them, which means that I’m living a good life.  But double knots look less stylish to me and I want to blend into the existing cultural landscape, so dress shoes aren’t double-knotted in my version of a good life.  I have a pair of fancy Puma dress sneakers that puts me in a mental bind every time I contemplate wearing them. It’s absurd, but these shoes really do cause a little moment of crisis for me every time I bend down to tie them.

Think about that for a second.  Really.  Now extrapolate that to every other time there is something just a little “off” about a situation and how that imperils our already-accepted (personally historical or culturally-driven) philosophical interpretation about how you want to live (a good life) or what affects your concerns (because that’s what is real to you).

What else do you have a philosophy about?  Do you have a linguistic interpretation/story about how, why, and to what level one ought to wash your hair? Pack the dishwasher? Be a good husband/wife/parent? Participate and express your spirituality? Create and fulfill a career and do good work?  Play? Make love? Make war? Every interpretation is linguistic. Every action is a result of our philosophical orientation.

Are your already-existing philosophies serving you now that you’ve noticed?  Do they need fine tuning?  Are you largely leading an unexamined life?  Are you willing to thoughtfully summarize and stand behind your most solemnly-held philosophies?

Are your philosophies  too casual or too strident and wind-baggy? Is your fundamental philosophical interpretation of life causing you to be milquetoast-ish, or are you self-confident? Are your philosophies causing you to be boring or interesting? Are your philosophies causing you to experience joy or pain?

Just a little philosophical work out.  I hope you enjoyed it.  :)


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