Why We Are All Philosophers

Philosophy. What is the value of this demanding academic subject? Sure, it may be interesting at times. But why would anyone consider studying, or worse, majoring in philosophy? That would be a financial death sentence.

Proficiency in philosophy requires a wide range of academic skills from critical thinking and reasoning to literary analysis. Developing these skills through philosophy can contribute to growth in other academic fields, such as psychology, law, history, or even astrophysics. However, philosophy’s value is not merely determined by its ability to provide a strong background in other academic subjects. Philosophy is the fruit of humanity’s wisdom.

Whether we are aware of it or not, we use philosophy to determine everything from everyday decisions to the values that shape our lives. Ethics, for example, is a branch of philosophy that focuses on human behaviors and what behaviors are “right” or “wrong.” Have you ever considered going vegan? Have you participated in a campaign to end bullying? If so, you are already familiar with ethics. Ethics allows us to distinguish between morally acceptable and unacceptable behaviors on our own so that we do not blindly conform to the behaviors that are set by our cultures because they are considered “correct.” Individual humans must understand what they value and then converse with their communities to establish an “ideal world” that they all agree to strive for. The ideal world, of course, is subjective. Different people and communities are bound to have contrasting ideas, but that is when philosophy becomes most useful. Through an understanding of ethics, we can logically and reasonably create a common definition for “good” and reach for the goals we have created with our knowledge and wisdom.

But, of course, we cannot define our values until we understand why we exist in the first place. Every human on this planet has once questioned his or her existence. Why am I here? What am I supposed to accomplish before I leave this planet? How do I know that I even exist? What if this is all a dream? These questions lead discussions in metaphysics and epistemology, which are branches of philosophy about understanding existence and knowledge. Some people answer these questions with religion. Others answer them with the explanation provided by modern society: you are born, you go to school, you get an education, you try to get rich, you die, and that is all there is to life. Regardless of how they are answered, they are extremely important. They help us find reasons to wake up in the morning. They determine what type of career we choose to pursue. They tell us how to live. Like a thesis in an essay, everything we do revolves around how we answer the prompt of life. We all have the same questions, but we can answer them in any way we’d like.

So maybe you’ve already promised yourself that you’re going to be a doctor. Or maybe you’re considering a career in finance. It does not matter. You will always be a philosopher.

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