What is Philosophy?

New blog, I need to start somewhere. This seems fitting.

Now, philosophy can be defined a million different ways. Ask someone. You may get a blank stare, a dictionary entry, or an hour long tumble down a rabbit hole. I’m inclined towards the latter, but I’ll make this one short for both our sakes.

To understand what philosophy is, we need to know what philosophy has done.

Philosophy began, so they say, around 500 B.C. when some nerds with enough money to sit around all day got bored and began asking questions which were utterly impractical.

Impractical in the short term, that is.

Philosophers contemplate things which are superficially impractical… but in the long term, their contemplation is as real as the computer you’re looking at.

Literally. Like literally literally. The computer you’re looking at was invented with *Science!™*, which is…. a philosophy of existence. One that didn’t exist prior to the scientific revolution. Here’s the most of it in 3 points.

  1. Existence follows fundamental laws (I.e. gravity)
  2. These laws are universal across time and space (I.e gravity isn’t gonna go on vacation and leave us to fall out the sky.)
  3. Man can observe individual phenomena to understand these universal laws. (I.e. I see an apple fall, a tree fall, planets rotating around the sun. Mix it together and you get… gravity. How the hell did Newton do it?)

People didn’t believe these axioms prior to the rise of science. They saw the world as controlled by forces with conscious wills of their own- gods and demons, each with their own desires, each with their own goals. Science could not co-exist with this primitive, polytheistic philosophy; it directly contradicts it. Science does not believe reality is controlled by many wills- it believes it is controlled by one. Kinda like Christianity… But that’s another conversation.

But this begs the question: Why weren’t humans trying to understand reality’s laws in 500bc? They could have designed AK-47s and coffee makers.

The answer is simple. Prior to the scientific revolution, people… just… didn’t know the world could be observed and understood. Well, sort of- they knew if they saw a cliff they shouldn’t walk off of it, and they knew that apples fell off trees. But they hadn’t realized what could happen if they studied why apples fell off trees. They hadn’t realized that knowledge could give them the ability to instantly destroy cities from the sky, prevent famine and disease, the ability to speak instantly with anyone on the earth…

Honestly, can you blame them? Its sounds ridiculous to me, and I know its true. Imagine the first time someone pitched this.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea. Science was not created by armchair philosophers sipping on cognac. Science was created by every moment-every experience- that expanded man’s mind. Philosophy may live in ivory towers, but its born in the dust.

Take the first time someone saw gunpowder. They may have thought, ‘Wow! I can’t believe mixing a few substances created such an effect… I thought that was just dirt and stone. Could other substances be combined for amazing effects? …Do other substances have latent abilities beneath their appearances?’

BAM! That’s philosophy: reading into the implications the phenomena around us so that we can gain insights into the nature of reality. This man didn’t have to write a book to be a philosopher. That’s capital-P Philosophy- but what philosophy really is transcends all institutions, all definition. Philosophy is something you live.

To be a philosopher is given to every man. It occurs whenever one experiences deeper insight into the true nature of things. Some men are gifted with more of these moments than others, and they write their insights into books and are remembered as ‘Philosophers.’ But make no mistake, every experience of insight, whether in a peasant girl or Plato himself, is what philosophy really is.

Philosophy isn’t a definition; its an experience.


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