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  • John LockeThe most important thinker of modern politics is the most directly responsible for Thomas Jefferson’srhetoric in the Declaration of Independence, and the rhetoric in the U. S. Constitution. Locke is referredto as the “Father of Liberalism,” because of his development of the principles of humanism andindividual freedom, founded primarily by #1. It is said that liberalism proper, the belief in equal rightsunder the law, begins with Locke. He penned the phrase “government with the consent of thegoverned.” His three “natural rights,” that is, rights innate to all human beings, were and remain “life,liberty, and estate.”He did not approve of the European idea of nobility enabling some to acquire land through lineage,while the poor remained poor. Locke is the man responsible, through Jefferson primarily, for theabsence of nobility in America. Although nobility and birthrights still exist in Europe, especially amongthe few kings and queens left, the practice has all but vanished. The true democratic ideal did not arrivein the modern world until Locke’s liberal theory was taken up.EpicurusEpicurus has gotten a bit of an unfair reputation over the centuries as a teacher of self-indulgence andexcess delight. He was soundly criticized by a lot of Christian polemicists (those who make war againstall thought but Christian thought), especially during the Middle Ages, because he was thought to be anatheist, whose principles for a happy life were passed down to this famous set of statements: “Don’tfear god; don’t worry about death; what is good is easy to get; what is terrible is easy to endure.”He advocated the principle of refusing belief in anything that is not tangible, including any god. Suchintangible things he considered preconceived notions, which can be manipulated. You may think ofEpicureanism as “no matter what happens, enjoy life, because you only get one and it doesn’t last long.”Epicurus’s idea of living happily centered on just treatment of others, avoidance of pain and living insuch a way as to please oneself, but not to overindulge in anything.He also advocated a version of the Golden Rule, “It is impossible to live a pleasant life without livingwisely and well and justly (agreeing ‘neither to harm nor be harmed’), and it is impossible to live wiselyand well and justly without living a pleasant life. “Wisely,” at least for Epicurus, would be avoidance ofpain, danger, disease, etc.; “well” would be proper diet and exercise; “justly,” in the Golden Rule’s senseof not harming others because you do not want to be harmed.Zeno of CitiumYou may not be as familiar with him as with most of the others on this list, but Zeno founded the schoolof Stoicism. Stoicism comes from the Greek “stoa,” which is a roofed colonnade, especially that of thePoikile, which was a cloistered piazza on the north side of the Athenian marketplace, in the 3rd CenturyBC. Stoicism is based on the idea that anything which causes us to suffer in life is actually an error in ourjudgment, and that we should always have absolute control over our emotions. Rage, elation,
  • depression are all simple flaws in a person’s reason, and thus, we are only emotionally weak when weallow ourselves to be. Put another way, the world is what we make of it.Epicureanism is the usual school of thought considered the opposite of Stoicism, but today many peoplemistake one for the other or combine them. Epicureanism argues that displeasures do exist in life andmust be avoided, in order to enter a state of perfect mental peace (ataraxia, in Greek). Stoicism arguesthat mental peace must be acquired out of your own will not to let anything upset you. Death is anecessity, so why feel depressed when someone dies? Depression doesn’t help. It only hurts. Why getenraged over something? The rage will not result in anything good. And so, in controlling one’semotions, a state of mental peace is brought about. Of importance is to shun desire: you may strive forwhat you need, but only that and nothing more. What you want will lead to excess, and excess doesn’thelp, but hurts.AvicennaHis full name is AbūʿAlī al -ḤusaynibnʿAbdAllāhibnSīnā, the last two words of which were Latinized intothe more common form in Western history. He lived in the Persian Empire from c. 980 AD to 1037. TheDark Ages were not so dark. Aside from his stature as a philosopher, he was also the world’s preeminentphysician during his life. His two most well known works today are The Book of Healing (which hasnothing to do with physical medicine) and The Canon of Medicine, which was his compilation of allknown medical knowledge at that time.Influenced primarily by #1, his Book of Healing deals with everything from logic, to math, to music, toscience. He proposed in it that Venus is closer than the Sun to Earth. Imagine not knowing that for a fact.The Sun looks a lot closer than Venus, but he got it right. He rejected astrology as a true science, sinceeverything in it is based on conjecture, not evidence. He theorized that some fluid deep undergroundwas responsible for the fossilization of bone and wood, arguing that “a powerful mineralizing andpetrifying virtue which arises in certain stony spots, or emanates suddenly from the earth duringearthquake and subsidences…petrifies whatever comes into contact with it. As a matter of fact, thepetrifaction of the bodies of plants and animals is not more extraordinary than the transformation ofwaters.”This is not correct, but it’s closer than you might believe. Petrifaction can occur in any organic material,and involves the material, most notably wood, being impregnated by silica deposits, gradually changingfrom its original materials into stone. Avicenna is the first to describe the five classical senses: taste,touch, vision, hearing and smell. He may have been the world’s first systematic psychologist, in a timewhen people suffering from a mental disorder were said to be possessed by demons. Avicenna arguedthat there were somatic possibilities for recovery inherent in all aspects of a person’s body, including thebrain.John Stuart Mill’s five methods for inductive logic stem mostly from Avicenna, who first expounded onthree of them: agreement, difference and concomitant variation. It would take too long to explain themin this list, but they are all forms of syllogisms, and every philosopher and student of philosophy isfamiliar with them from the beginning of education in the subject. They are critical to the scientific
  • method, and whenever someone forms a statement as a syllogism, s/he is using at least one of themethods.Thomas AquinasThomas will forever be remembered as the guy who supposedly proved the existence of God by arguingthat the Universe had to have been created by something, since everything in existence has a beginningand an end. This is now referred to as the “First Cause” argument, and all philosophers after Thomashave wrestled with proving or disproving the theory. He actually based it on the notion of“ούκινούμενονκινεῖ ,” of #1. The Greek means “one who moves while not moving” – or “the unmovedmover”.Thomas founded everything he postulated firmly in Christianity, and for this reason, he is not universallypopular, today. Even Christians consider that, since he derived all his ethical teachings from the Bible,Thomas is not independently authoritative of any of those teachings. But his job, in teaching thecommon people around him, was to get them to understand ethics without all the abstract philosophy.He expounded on #2′ s principles of what we now call “cardinal virtues:” justice, courage, prudence andtemperance. He was able to reach the masses with this simple, four-part instruction.He made five famous arguments for the existence of God, which are still discussed hotly on both sides:theist and atheist. Of those five, which he intended to define the nature of God, one is called “the unityof God,” which is to say that God is not divisible. He has essence and existence, and these two qualitiescannot be separated. Thus, if we are able to express something as possessing two or more qualities, andcannot separate the qualities, then the statement itself proves that there is a God, and Thomas’sexample is the statement, “God exists,” in which statement subject and predicate are identical.ConfuciusMaster Kong Qiu, as his name translates from Chinese, lived from 551 to 479 BC, and remains the mostimportant single philosopher in Eastern history. He espoused significant principles of ethics and politics,in a time when the Greeks were espousing the same things. We think of democracy as a Greekinvention, a Western idea, but Confucius wrote in his Analects that “the best government is one thatrules through ‘rites’ and the people’s natural morality, rather than by using bribery and coercion. Thismay sound obvious to us today, but he wrote it in the early 500s to late 400s BC. It is the same principleof democracy that the Greeks argued for and developed: the people’s morality is in charge; therefore,rule by the people.Confucius defended the idea of an Emperor, but also advocated limitations to the emperor’s power. Theemperor must be honest and his subjects must respect him, but he must also deserve that respect. If hemakes a mistake, his subjects must offer suggestions to correct him, and he must consider them. Anyruler who acted contrary to these principles was a tyrant, and thus a thief more than a ruler.
  • Confucius also devised his own, independent version of the Golden Rule, which had existed for at least acentury in Greece before him. His phrasing was almost identical, but then furthered the idea: “What onedoes not wish for oneself, one ought not to do to anyone else; what one recognizes as desirable foroneself, one ought to be willing to grant to others.” The first statement is in the negative, andconstitutes a passive desire not to harm others. The second statement is much more important,constituting an active desire to help others. The only other philosopher of antiquity to advocate theGolden Rule in the positive form is Jesus of Nazareth.Rene DescartesDescartes lived from 1596 to 1650, and today he is referred to as “the Father of Modern Philosophy.” Hecreated analytical geometry, based on his now immortal Cartesian coordinate system, immortal in thesense that we are all taught it in school, and that it is still perfectly up-to-date in almost all branches ofmathematics. Analytical geometry is the study of geometry using algebra and the Cartesian coordinatesystem. He discovered the laws of refraction and reflection. He also invented the superscript notationstill used today to indicate the powers of exponents.He advocated dualism, which is very basically defined as the power of the mind over the body: strengthis derived by ignoring the weaknesses of the human physique and relying on the infinite power of thehuman mind. Descartes’s most famous statement, now practically the motto of existentialism: “Jepensedonc je suis;” “Cogito, ergo sum;” “I think, therefore I am.” This is not meant to prove theexistence of one’s body. Quite the opposite, it is meant to prove the existence of one’s mind. Herejected perception as unreliable, and considered deduction the only reliable method for examining,proving and disproving anything.He also adhered to the Ontological Argument for the Existence of a Christian God, stating that, becauseGod is benevolent, Descartes can have some faith in the account of reality his senses provide him, forGod has provided him with a working mind and sensory system and does not desire to deceive him.From this supposition, however, Descartes finally establishes the possibility of acquiring knowledgeabout the world based on deduction and perception. In terms of the study of knowledge therefore, hecan be said to have contributed such ideas as a rigorous conception of foundationalism (basic beliefs)and the possibility that reason is the only reliable method of attaining knowledge.Paul of TarsusThe wild card of this list, but give him fair consideration. Paul accomplished more with the few letterswe have of his, to various churches in Asia Minor, Israel and Rome, than any other mortal person in theBible, except Jesus himself. Jesus founded Christianity. But without Paul, the religion would have died ina few hundred years at best, or remained too insular to invite the entire world into its faith, as Jesuswanted.Paul had more than one falling out with Peter, primarily among the other Disciples. Peter insisted that atleast one or two of the Jewish traditions remain as requirements, along with faith in Jesus, for one to becounted as Christian. Paul insisted that faith in Jesus is all that is required, and neither circumcision,
  • refusal of certain foods or any other Jewish custom was necessary, because the world was now, andforevermore, under a state of Grace in Jesus, not a state of Law according to Moses. This principle of astate of grace, which is now central to all sects of Christianity, was Paul’s idea (if not Jesus’s), as was theconcept of God’s moral law (in Ten Commandments) being innately understood by all men once theyreach the age of reason, by which law God will hold all men accountable on his Day of Judgment.He is especially impressive to have systematized these principles flawlessly, having never met Jesus inperson, and in direct opposition to Peter and several other Disciples. Many theologists and experts onChristianity and its history even call Paul, and not Jesus, the founder of Christianity. That may be going abit too far, but keep in mind that the Disciples intended to keep Christianity for themselves, as theproper form of Judaism, to which only Jews could convert. Anyone could symbolically become a Jew bycircumcision and obedience of the Mosaic Laws (every one of them, not just the Big Ten). Paul arguedagainst this, stating that as Christ was the absolute greatest good that the world would ever see, andAlmighty because he and the Father are one, then the grace of Christ is sufficiently powerful to saveanyone from his or her sin, whether Jewish, Gentile or anything else. If the religion were to have lastedto present day without Paul’s letters championing the grace of Christ over the Law of Moses, Christianitywould just a minor sect of Judaism.PlatoPlato lived from c. 428 to c. 348 BC, and founded the Western world’s first school of higher education,the Academy of Athens. Almost all of Western philosophy can be traced back to Plato, who was taughtby Socrates, and preserved through his own writings, some of Socrates’s ideas. If Socrates wroteanything down, it has not survived directly. Plato and Xenophon, another of his students, recounted alot of his teachings, as did the playwright Aristophanes.One of Plato’s most famous quotations concerns politics, “Until philosophers rule as kings or those whoare now called kings and leading men genuinely and adequately philosophize, that is, until politicalpower and philosophy entirely coincide, while the many natures who at present pursue either oneexclusively are forcibly prevented from doing so, cities will have no rest from evils…nor, I think, will thehuman race.” What he means is that any person(s) in control of a nation or city or city-state must bewise, and that if they are not, then they are ineffectual rulers. It is only through philosophy that theworld can be free of evils. Plato’s preferred government was one of benevolent aristrocrats, those bornof nobility, who are well educated and good, who help the common people to live better lives. Heargued against democracy proper, rule by the people themselves, since in his view, a democracy hadmurdered his teacher, SocratesPlato’s most enduring theory, if not his political theories, is that of “The Forms.” Plato wrote about theseforms throughout many of his works, and asserted, by means of them, that immaterial abstractionspossess the highest, most fundamental kind of reality. All things of the material world can change, andour perception of them also, which means that the reality of the material world is weaker, less definedthan that of the immaterial abstractions. Plato argued that something must have created the Universe.Whatever it is, the Universe is its offspring, and we, living on Earth, our bodies and everything that we
  • see and hear and touch around us, are less real than the creator of the Universe, and the Universe itself.This is a foundation on which #4 based his understanding of existentialism.AristotleAristotle topped another of this lister’s lists, heading the category of philosophy, so his rank on this oneis not entirely surprising. But consider that Aristotle is the first to have written systems by which tounderstand and criticize everything from pure logic to ethics, politics, literature, even science. Hetheorized that there are four “causes”, or qualities, of any thing in existence: the material cause, whichis what the subject is made of; the formal cause, or the arrangement of the subject’s material; theeffective cause, the creator of the thing; and the final cause, which is the purpose for which a subjectexists.That all may sound perfectly obvious and not worth arguing over, but since it would take far too long forthe purpose of a top ten list to expound on classical causality, suffice to say that all philosophers sinceAristotle have had something to say on the matter, and absolutely everything that has been said, andperhaps can be said, is, or must be, based on Aristotle’s system of it: it is impossible to discuss causalitywithout using or trying to debunk Aristotle’s ideas.Aristotle is also the first person in Western history to argue that there is a hierarchy to all life in theUniverse; that because Nature never did anything unnecessary as he observed, then in the same way,this animal is in charge of that animal and likewise with plants and animals together. His so-called“ladder of life” has eleven rungs, at the top of which are humans. The Medieval Christian theorists ranwith this idea, extrapolating it to the hierarchy of God with Man, including angels. Thus, the angelichierarchy of Catholicism, usually thought as a purely Catholic notion, stems from Aristotle, who livedand died before Jesus was born. Aristotle was, in fact, at the very heart of the classical education systemused through the medieval western world.Aristotle had something to say on just about every subject, whether abstract or concrete, and modernphilosophy almost always bases every single principle, idea, notion or “discovery” on a teaching ofAristotle. His principles of ethics were founded on the concept of doing good, rather than merely beinggood. A person may be kind, merciful, charitable, etc., but until he proves this by helping others, hisgoodness means precisely nothing to the world, in which case it means nothing to himself. We could goon about Aristotle, of course, but this list has gone on long enough. Honorable mentions are very many,so list them as you like.PhilosophyPhilosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with reality,existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.[1][2] Philosophy is distinguished from otherways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance onrational argument.*3+ The word "philosophy" comes from the Greek φιλοσοφία (philosophia), whichliterally means "love of wisdom".
  • -Philosophy is an academic discipline that exercises reason and logic in an attempt to understand realityand answer fundamental questions about knowledge, life, morality and human nature. The ancientGreeks, who were among the first to practice philosophy, coined the term, which means “love ofwisdom.” Those who study philosophy are called philosophers. Through the ages, philosophers havesought to answer such questions as, what is the meaning and purpose of life? How do we know what weknow? Does God exist? What does it mean to possess consciousness? And, what is the value of morals?The Importance of Philosophy or“Why Should I Take Philosophy?”Dave Yount, Ph.D. Once someone who does not know me well comes to find out that I am a philosopher, the nextquestion that he or she inevitably asks is, “What can you do with philosophy besides teach?” My answeris and has been, “You can think, and hopefully better.” Part of philosophy is critical thinking, which isthe ability to question your (or anyone else’s) assumptions, discover and hopefully articulate goodreasons for your position, no matter what your position is. Everyone has a position on every issue, evenif it is, “I don’t know.” One can then ask this person, “Why do you not know? Should you have a viewon this issue?” Even if your view is that some issue does not matter, you must defend that view againstthe person who does think that that issue matters. And defending your view requires the ability to useyour reason (which of course is thinking) in order to discover what good or bad reasons are and the bestsupport for your position. Philosophy can be used to help convince people that you are right, and (sometimes, when it’sdone correctly, and depending on your opponent’s view) that they are wrong. For example, if you wanta raise from your boss, if you know what good reasons are, such as increasing the sales of the company,the quality of the product, the efficiency of the company, etc., and how to show the way in which theseelements are vital to the company’s well-being, you would stand a better chance of getting a raise thanif you were to argue with your boss using bad reasons, such as: “My poor family cannot live on mysalary alone, and I really need to have more money” or “If you don’t give me a raise, I’m going to quitand take my friends with me.” The reason the first appeal (about your poor family) is a bad one, is thatit is an appeal to pity or emotion, and if you haven’t benefited the company lately, then it doesn’t reallymatter if your family is going hungry – it is not the company’s responsibility to feed your family (it’syours). The second appeal (“I’m quitting”) is an appeal to force. The company should not give you araise out of fear because you’re threatening it; the company should give you a raise because your workmerits it. In short, if you have a job (are looking for one, or even if you do not), philosophy can help youargue well for your position. And in order to be able to argue well for your position, you need to think.
  • As just one of its many specializations, philosophy contains the study of ethics, which is the studyof happiness and how best to attain it (or indeed if and how that is possible). The main questions ofethics are “What is happiness?” and “How should I live?” There are, as you might guess, many andvaried answers to these questions. I would guess that every single person is, and should be, interestedin whether we can be happy, what happiness is, and how we can act so as to obtain happiness(assuming it exists). Everyone should be interested to know what the philosophers of the West and Easthave said about happiness and how best to attain it. The answers range from “true happiness is notattainable in this lifetime” to “happiness is a state of mind” or “happiness is an activity” and so on. Youmay not think that any or all of these views of happiness are correct, but you might be able to putanother theory together using your favorite parts of some of the extant ones. It is worth finding out ifsomeone has already articulated the right theory, or whether you can improve on an existing theory,since nothing less than your current and future happiness may be riding on your view of happiness. Someone might say that philosophy is only concerned with questions that no one can answer,and that the sciences and other disciplines have more answers that are provable and concrete. Whybeat your head against a wall that will never come down, as it were? My response is threefold:First, in ancient times, as Bertrand Russell has pointed out in “The Value of Philosophy,” philosophyincluded the study of mathematics, geometry, physics, biology, cosmology, astronomy, political science,sociology, and psychology, in addition to the traditional sub-philosophic disciplines of logic, axiology(such as ethics), aesthetics, philosophy of language, metaphysics and epistemology. With regard to thispoint, Russell argues, as the disciplines of mathematics and biology discovered provable facts, thesedisciplines were cleaved off from the purview of philosophy and made to stand on their own as separatedisciplines, while philosophy was left with the seemingly unanswerable questions (p. 26 of LouisPojmans Introduction to Philosophy, 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2004). So the first response is that philosophywould have had some more answers, if it were not for these divisions that were made throughouthistory (for example, psychology was relatively recently separated from philosophy around 1900).Second (and this is my point), has every other discipline solved all the questions and problems in theirrespective areas of expertise? If every answer was available in every discipline other than philosophy,we should expect to find no research going on at any universities or private companies. But there aremyriad research projects going on in medicine, physics, psychology, astronomy, etc. Here is asmattering of questions that remain to be answered or are still debated these days in disciplines otherthan philosophy: (1) Medicine: The cures for the common cold, cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’sdisease, AIDS, and thousands of other diseases; (2) Physics: What light exactly is (both a wave and aphoton) and the essence of gravity; (3) Biology: How the brain works, and how a cat purrs; (4)Psychology: How does the experience of consciousness arise from biochemical reactions? (5) Sociology:What makes a group of people want to follow someone like Osama bin Laden or Hitler? You get theidea. What’s my point? Every other discipline other than philosophy, though it has some answers, doesnot have all the answers relevant to its study. Philosophy may have fewer answers, but it asks tougherquestions, in general. Philosophy can help us eliminate some bad explanations, by examining thepossible answers for solid reasoning, and helping us to cut through and reject bad assumptions. Theselifelong skills are helpful no matter what one does for a living.
  • Third, there are many answers that have already been proposed to philosophical questions such as, “Isthere a God” “What is real?” “What can we know?” In fact, if you study the answers, you will get theimpression that almost every general answer has been proposed. For example, we either have a soul orwe do not have a soul and both positions have been supported. So it is theoretically possible, that somephilosopher(s) has obtained or expressed the correct answers, but that we are too argumentative, close-minded, or something else not to accept his or her answer. So it is possible that the “answer” to somephilosophical questions has already been given but we’re not able to see or understand that forourselves. An intriguing possibility, no? On the assumption that you cannot have all the answers in philosophy, what are you left with (oras academics would say, ‘with what are you left’)? You are left with your reason, your ability to think,and the challenge to come up with answers to ethical, metaphysical, and/or epistemological questionswhere such answers are consistent, convincing, and rational. For example, if someone holds that thedeath penalty is morally permissible because he based his view on a coin flip or because that is simplyhow he was raised, and another person holds that the death penalty is morally permissible after havingresearched both sides, and discussing her position with others and answering objections against herposition, the latter person has a much more supportable and plausible position (which is not to say thather view is necessarily correct) than the former. Where practitioners of other disciplines have the comfort (as I would put it) of being able to carryon their work while making plenty of assumptions without having to even acknowledge that theseassumptions exist, let alone to prove their correctness, philosophers must both recognize and justifytheir assumptions in order to be worthy of the name. This is arguably what makes philosophy morechallenging than other disciplines. The more you ask the question, “Why?” in any discipline, say inbusiness or astronomy, the more you are asking philosophical questions and the more you will bedirected to the study of philosophy. Dr. Barry Vaughan of Mesa Community College claims thattraditionally there have only been three higher degrees given: Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Law, andDoctor of Philosophy. Even physicists are awarded a Doctorate of Philosophy (specializing) in physics,for instance. So philosophy seems to be the basis of all academic pursuits (where medicine and law arenon-academic practices, aimed at a specific practical purpose of maintaining or preserving health, andadministering justice, respectively). It is well-documented (and true) that majoring in philosophy can prepare someone well for lawschool, business school, or graduate school in general, since philosophy majors as a group score in thehighest percentiles on the GRE, LSAT and GMAT. Besides providing excellent preparation for a career inlaw and business, a philosophy major is also helpful for careers in journalism, other areas of publishing,government, academic appointments in universities, colleges, and high schools, professional and clinicalethics consulting in hospitals and in businesses, and consulting positions in government with respect toethical and political issues and the development of public policy. I, for instance, found my philosophicalskills invaluable in solving quality problems while working as a quality manager, and in developing aquality system for my father’s company.
  • I will close with two quotations, the first of which comes from the American PhilosophicalAssociation’s 1992 publication entitled, “The Philosophy Major:”The study of philosophy serves to develop intellectual abilities important for life as a whole, beyond theknowledge and skills required for any particular profession. Properly pursued, it enhances analytical,critical, and interpretive capacities that are applicable to any subject-matter, and in any human context.It cultivates the capacities and appetite for self-expression and reflection, for exchange and debate ofideas, for life-long learning, and for dealing with problems for which there are no easy answers. It alsohelps to prepare one for the tasks of citizenship. Participation in political and community affairs today isall too often insufficiently informed, manipulable and vulnerable to demagoguery. A good philosophicaleducation enhances the capacity to participate responsibly and intelligently in public life.(http://www.philosophy.umn.edu/undergrad/ugfaq.html)Second, Dr. George James, from the University of North Texas, warns that philosophy is not foreveryone:It’s not for persons who have no interest in asking deeper questions. At the end of a lifetime ofphilosophizing one great philosopher made the claim that the unexamined life is not worth living*Socrates+. Many people don’t believe that. Some people don’t even care to raise the question.Philosophy very simply is not for them. Philosophy is not for followers. If all you want is to get a job anda paycheck, if all you want is to spend as little time and effort at that job as you can and still get paid forit, then philosophy is not for you. Philosophy is not training. It’s education! It’s for persons who wantto understand, who want not just to live, but to live well [Socrates]. It is for persons who simply couldnever be happy without asking why. (Adapted from Dr. George James’ text, originally fromhttp://www.phil.unt.edu/philtalk.htm, now defunct.)So take some philosophy courses, ask “Why?” and attempt to figure out what life is all about, whileexamining “life, the universe, and everything” (From Douglas Adams’ Life, the Universe, and Everything,Ch. 32).Other importancePhilosophic thought is an inescapable part of human existence. Almost everyone has been puzzled fromtime to time by such essentially philosophic questions as "What does life mean?" "Did I have anyexistence before I was born?" and "Is there life after death?" Most people also have some kind of
  • philosophy in the sense of a personal outlook on life. Even a person who claims that consideringphilosophic questions is a waste of time is expressing what is important, worthwhile, or valuable. Arejection of all philosophy is in itself philosophy.By studying philosophy, people can clarify what they believe, and they can be stimulated to think aboutultimate questions. A person can study philosophers of the past to discover why they thought as theydid and what value their thoughts may have in ones own life. There are people who simply enjoyreading the great philosophers, especially those who were also great writers.Philosophy has had enormous influence on our everyday lives. The very language we speak usesclassifications derived from philosophy. For example, the classifications of noun and verb involve thephilosophic idea that there is a difference between things and actions. If we ask what the difference is,we are starting a philosophic inquiry.Every institution of society is based on philosophic ideas, whether that institution is the law,government, religion, the family, marriage, industry, business, or education. Philosophic differenceshave led to the overthrow of governments, drastic changes in laws, and the transformation of entireeconomic systems. Such changes have occurred because the people involved held certain beliefs aboutwhat is important, true, real, and significant and about how life should be ordered.Systems of education follow a societys philosophic ideas about what children should be taught and forwhat purposes. Democratic societies stress that people learn to think and make choices for themselves.Nondemocratic societies discourage such activities and want their citizens to surrender their owninterests to those of the state. The values and skills taught by the educational system of a society thusreflect the societys philosophic ideas of what is important.