is one of the most challenging undertakings a human can enter into.
It is one of the most powerful mental disciplines humans have
developed in their time on this planet.
It has changed the course of human events around the world in
manners that are both subtle and in some that are quite obvious.
Philosophy has evolved or arisen in every major human civilization.
It is a natural development for minds that are inquiring and
People come to the reading and studying of Philosophy
through different paths. Many, perhaps most, do so because they have
entered some formal educational program that has the study of Philosophy
as part of a curriculum of studies. Some, a few, come to Philosophy
because they have a mind that is questioning and they want to learn more
about the issue or problem that is on their minds and are so they led
through this common but less traveled path to the door of philosophy as
they discover that there are books on the topic that perplexes or
befuddles them or stirs them to wonder and they learn that these books are
written by philosophers.
people who take a college course in Philosophy do so without having had
another. Most will take only
one and many of them do so primarily to satisfy some degree requirement.
Indeed, many students in a college Philosophy course are only
interested in finishing the course in order to get their credits and those
credits are to satisfy a degree requirement.
The degree is desired as a means to some other end: transfer to a
four-year college, a job, different job or promotion.
Be that as it may, this text is designed to stimulate your mind.
Whether you read it because it is required or whether you are
really interested in the subject matter, there will be plenty in this study of Philosophy to interest you, entertain your mind, challenge you and
frustrate you as well.
Most people think that it is all well
and good and no big deal to read and accept such phrases as "there
will be plenty in this study of Philosophy to interest you, entertain your
mind, challenge you and frustrate you as well.
" Well, in the case of Philosophy and of this work in particular, the
reader should be aware and forewarned that the issues raised in this work
might just be disturbing to them in a personal manner, if they seriously
consider the issues raised in this work, that are characteristic issues
for Philosophy and how Philosophers approach them. What is
meant by this? Is it just a "promo" for the book? Is it some
"hype" or "come-on"? Well, I simply report to you that there are many
who have read this work in connection with taking a class in Philosophy
who have been disturbed in their thinking and have needed to make changes
in the very manner in which they think, the manner in which they settle on
their beliefs and on what they think is true after being encouraged to
think most carefully and seriously and critically about a number of very
basic questions and issues. Why would this be the case? Well,
in Philosophy people reflect on their thinking and on the contents of
their minds in terms of the views, assumptions, presuppositions and
beliefs and sets of beliefs that they hold and with which they do their
thinking. Today when people do that after having been alive for say
18 years or more they find that in that time they have acquired a good
number of ideas and beliefs and that when you get around to examining them
with the slightest bit of careful thought it turns out that not all of the
beliefs can be true. Yes, people learn through Philosophy that they
have been holding beliefs that are inconsistent or even outright
contradictory to one another. This can be quite disturbing for
some of those beliefs have provided some degree of comfort or even a
feeling of certainty that makes life easier. The beliefs that are
serving as the most basic upon which others are founded or with with
others are supported can provide the overall view of life that serves
those believers with a sense of identity and orientation and of life's
value, even the basis for hope in the face of death that all is not for
nothing. It can be quite disturbing to reach a point where one is
facing the simple truth that some of the held beliefs are contradictory
and realizing that they can not all be true requires that a decision be
made as to which beliefs are better founded and more likely to be true and
which are less so or even proven not to be true and needing to be rejected
and abandoned. It is like being directed or forced to give up
that which has been serving so well for so long to provide a sense of
comfort. It is akin to being forced to open up the mind and venture
out into new areas of thought and having to bear the possibility that this
motion from the old and comfortable into the new and perhaps disturbing.
What is most disturbing and a sign of intellectual growth is that one is
"forced" into the new mode of thinking by the decisions made by the
thinker based on the thinker's own realization and acceptance that the
prior thoughts are now seen as being defective in some way. This is
not a mental act that anyone performs being forced to do so from without
but is only done from within once the mind has been opened up and educated
into the consideration of more information and the examination of the
relationship to one another of the ideas and beliefs that were being held
in an uncritical fashion. It is not a pleasant act to realize the
need to surrender that which was once so certain and comforting for entry
into a process with a resultant set of beliefs and positions that one does
not yet know. Some will attempt to refuse to make the departure from
past beliefs out of fear of the new and some will attempt to refuse in an
effort to remain in close relationship to those who share the old ideas
and beliefs, thinking erroneously that the relationships are absolutely
dependent on the belief systems that are shared by those in the
relationships. One reader expressed this view in this manner
after having reached a point of realizing that some previous beliefs were
simply no longer tenable "I feel like I am being disloyal if I were now to
change my mind."
If this work is successful the reader
will see that there are a number of positions that have been taken on many
of the most basic problems or issues or questions faced by philosophers
over the millennia and that some of them are better defended than are
others. It is the intent of this work to encourage the reader to
become a critical thinker and to make the best informed decision as to
which position is at this time the best position to hold and then to move
to adopt that position.
Here are some of those issues:
What is real?
What is truth?
What is knowledge?
What is the good?
What is justice?
Is the mind something separate from
Are we free or our our actions
determined by that over which we no longer have any control or influence?
It has happened in the past that readers
of this work have come
to understand that there are three or four or possibly more positions to
take on any or each of these issues. They also have come to realize that
the positions that they held upon entering into the reading and the reflecting
and the critical thinking process could no longer be accepted as the best
position which they could defend using reasoning and evidence. Then they face the
decision as to whether or not they will abandon their prior positions and
move to the best defended position in their own view or attempt in some
manner to deny what they have come to see as the faults in their positions
and going on maintaining them for the sake of avoiding change, discomfort
or some other perceived ill felling. This difficulty can be
expressed in this manner paraphrasing what more than one reader has
disclosed: " I now know that there are five possible positions and
that the one that I can best defend is position 'c' , but I would like to
go on believing in 'b' because that is what I was brought up with and what
all my family and friends think." So be forewarned that if the
reader takes seriously reflecting on and thinking about matters in this
text there may be some difficult decision ahead as to how the reader will
be fixing the beliefs with which the reader will be thinking about matters
of great importance and of personal concern.
BACK TO PHILOSOPHY
this time what I would like to do is to get you to gather some idea of what you
think Philosophy is. So I
have an assignment for you. Think about philosophy and about what questions
you have about life. It is
very easy really. I don’t
want you to do any research or to read anything before you answer the
questions I just want you to think about these things. So, do so , and
write your answers or responses down in some way and keep them somewhere
and then review it when you have completed your reading of this work.
See if your thoughts and views have changed any by that time.
List the five or so most important questions or problems you
If you had virtually unlimited financial resources at your disposal what would you begin doing with your life?
What is Philosophy?
How do you use the term "philosophy"?
How do others use the term "philosophy"? Give examples.
What good is philosophy?
What importance might philosophy have in your
Now read the next section and we’ll be off on our
excursion into Philosophy and some of the issues that have disturbed,
challenged, perplexed and even excited humans around the world for over
two thousand years!