If you are thinking about learning philosophy on your own or taking a philosophy class, it can be a good idea to think about why philosophy is so important. Philosophy is exactly what you’ve been waiting for. Medication, self-help books, get quick rich schemes, and religion are all rather meaningless unless they have been vindicated through philosophy. There are at least two reasons that we should learn philosophy. One, it is enjoyable. Two, it helps us live a better life.
1. It is Enjoyable
Either philosophy is enjoyable only because of how our brains work or also because we can realize how important philosophy is. Philosophy covers every interesting subject you can imagine: ethics, the nature of reality, free will, the meaning of life, what makes good art, and so on. The knowledge given to us by philosophy could be good for its own sake. We might not need some other reason to learn philosophy other than the goodness of learning it in and of itself.
After you learn philosophy, you will find out that many of the greatest books ever written are philosophy books and a life that hasn’t read some of these books will seem to be lacking. How can we be offered such a short life in this world and not enjoy the greatest philosophical achievements?
2. It Helps Us Live a Better Life
Philosophy can help us live a better life in at least two ways. One, a “good life” can be, in part, a philosophical life. Two, it can help us decide how our lives can be improved.
A philosophical life might be a better life
People used to want to seek enlightenment because enlightenment itself was one of the best things we could do. Philosophy offers the greatest kind of enlightenment that I know of. Not only could the knowledge of philosophy be good in itself, but a philosophical life (to try to live in accordance with philosophical knowledge) could also be good in itself. To become philosophical was once seen as to become a better sort of being. To become more “godly.” Someone who studied philosophy might even hope to become a god. (This was even agreed upon by some Christian philosophers, such as Boethius.)
I doubt that we can become gods, but I suspect that philosophy can help us become better people. Nietzsche thought that becoming godlike was asking for too much, so he just hoped to become an overman, a better kind of person. That might be the right kind of attitude to have.
A philosophical life can help us achieve our goals.
Philosophy offers us a path to improve our critical thinking skills far beyond anything else I know of. These skills are holistic and can be applied in every domain of our life. To learn to “make sense” means we can “make sense” in our personal life and figure out what mistakes we have been making day to day. We can use philosophy to help us figure out how to improve the world, improve ourselves, and have better relationships.
Philosophy offers one of the best sorts of “self improvement” that self-help gurus tend to be too impatient to really learn about. This sort of “self-help” requires “too much thinking” and “too much work” when people want a “quick fix.” The best way to improve our lives isn’t to take a pill or to try to “get rich quick.” It’s to work on improving ourselves a little at a time. To learn about philosophy is to learn about the world, improve our critical thinking, and to use our philosophical knowledge and skills in everyday life.
Richard Dawkins suggested that people aren’t interested enough in science because it hasn’t been presented the right way. Students need to learn about science because it’s “good for its own sake.” He makes it sound like this means nothing more than “science is exciting” but science might be enjoyed because it is so important. Of course, science is merely one part of philosophy, and I believe philosophy is of equal importance.
People often look for meaning in all the wrong places, such as medication and the supernatural. Philosophy offers a much more satisfying sort of meaning. A meaning that must “make sense.” If religion is to be meaningful, it must be supported by philosophy.
People are living their lives exhausted. They are working, shopping, and being entertained. This is not the best life for human beings. The best life for human beings requires us to use our minds and develop them beyond the capacity that other animals seem to be capable of. I believe that philosophy is one of the best ways to do so.
I couldn’t imagine living a fulfilling life without philosophy. Thinking philosophically is part of being human and it’s very exciting to learn about what philosophers have to say about life, morality, and the universe.