Philosophy is important for all mankind because if we treat philosophy like it isn’t important, we end up reading something like the quote in the image above and think it’s inspirational or, even worse, true. But we’ll get back to this.A fair warning, this post is definitely more of a subject post. While I will certainly discuss the imperativeness of theology at some point, I won’t really make “a case for God” here. Really everything below this paragraph is here for the purpose of making a case for the absolute imperativeness of asking questions that can’t be tested in a lab, and the dangers of not doing so.
Recently, I saw on the “trending news” section of Facebook1 the following video of Bill Nye (yeah, the Science Guy):
Oh Bill. Bill, Bill, Bill, Bill, BILL. I respected you, man. For like 5 minutes when I was eight years old, I wanted to be a scientist when I grew up after watching your show. Now it appears that [cleverly], you realized that since those 90s kids that you appealed to had grown up, it was time to figure out how to appeal to us millennials now that we’re older, and the thing that’s “trendy” now is anti-intellectualism.
“Chase, you’re way off on this one. Moving away from things like philosophy and theology towards science like we’ve started doing is the most intellectual thing that a generation has done since the Enlightenment.”
The history of intellectualism2 versus “emotionalism” in the world is like a pendulum (or like the rocking boat example in my PTQ page under “Start Here” that you totally read, right?); it constantly builds momentum to one side until people finally realize that it’s too imbalanced, the way of thinking starts swinging back the other way, and the process repeats itself. Today, we are nearing another apex of “intellectualism”, but I don’t think we even realize it. Have you ever heard someone say “I don’t believe in all that ‘religion’ stuff, I believe in science” when discussing the idea of God? That concept is a prime example. Science has begun overstepping its boundaries as it moves from outside of the lab into philosophical discussion even though these are entirely different subjects. Science strives to answer the question of “How?”, where philosophy strives to answer the question of “Why?” or “What?” in the field of metaphysics3. Let’s look at some of the things Bill said in the video:
“Keep in mind, humans invented philosophy, too. Humans invented the process of science, humans invented language, and humans invented philosophy.”
Essentially, Bill is saying that a berry, a carrot, and a flower in a garden are all basically equal in their properties because all three were created by a human. Bill gives our species way too much credit. Science and philosophy have ALWAYS existed. Humans simply put a name on them. Philosophy is simply making judgements based on the way man perceives life.
“Philosophy doesn’t always lead you to a place that’s inconsistent with common sense.”
Here Bill basically says, “Philosophy is fine as long as it’s leading you to a conclusion I agree with”. He creates no wiggle room for other opinions because he confines it to what he calls “common sense”, a phrase which has a completely relative meaning. Philosophy is not an equation. The scientific method cannot be readily applied to it.
“Philosophy so often gets back to these questions: what is the nature of consciousness? Can we know that we know? Are we aware that we are aware? Is reality real?”
Well, he’d be right if he wasn’t completely wrong. That is not what actual philosophy questions. Those questions are asked by people who make movies like The Matrix or Inception. Sure these questions seem super meta and complex on the surface, but they’re utterly irrelevant. Bill really just asks these questions so that he can answer them himself, giving the impression that philosophy is easily “solvable”.
In response to the philosophy college student’s original question as to why Richard Dawkins and Neil Degrasse-Tyson believe philosophy to be irrelevant:
“Philosophy made not led you to a career path. It might, but it most likely won’t, and I think that’s what Richard and Neil meant by that.”
Sigh. Because that’s what is ACTUALLY important, isn’t it? Taking advantage of elite level philosophy education, asking questions about existence, and learning how to develop sound, clear arguments are useless. The only things worth going to school for are the ones that lead to a “good job” that keeps you distracted from worrying about all that “why am I even here?” business. Nose to the grindstone. Don’t look up. Look, guys like Nye, Dawkins, and Degrasse-Tyson are BRILLIANT guys, but just because they know their way around a science lab doesn’t mean they know they know ANYTHING about philosophy or theology. This may sound like a strange analogy, but science is like art in that just as the way one approaches the viewing of art affects what they see in it, philosophical conclusions made based on science are a result of how the scientific research was approached. Even philosophy has its own approach people take to it based on their theology (like the cool tree picture I made myself on the PTQ page, which, as we established earlier, you’ve obviously already read), but theology is a subject that will get its own post soon enough (because even many Christians have bad theology).
This leads us back to the beginning. The picture at the top was taken in the luxurious 2nd floor men’s restroom in a Texas A&M library. Those who frequent the West Campus Library (I certainly don’t, but I probably should) know about the bulletin called the West Campus Inquirer that is posted on the walls of the scarcely cleaned bathrooms there, which is where I saw the quote in the featured picture above. Most people probably see a quote like that, one intended to provoke inspiration or reflection, and don’t think a thing of it. But I’m a crazy person so I dissect things like quotes from the 11th president of India (that’s who that Abdul Kalam guy was, and a scientist like Bill Nye previously) posted on the walls of library bathrooms. Let’s break this one down, too:
“Never stop fighting until you arrive at your destined place—that is, the unique you.
…Kalam, what in the world are you even saying? You’re literally just saying words that, when put together, mean nothing. What is it that makes one “unique”?
Have an aim in life,
So just any aim? What happens when you reach that thing which you aimed at? Is that it then?
continuously acquire knowledge,
To what end? Just to do it?
work hard, and have perseverance to realize the great life.”
Alright, these are truly empty words. “The great life”? You’re promising the 1 billion+ people you represent that the “great life” will be achieved by doing these things?
I suppose I shouldn’t be that surprised considering that is basically the definition of karma in Hinduism, but I wonder if anyone stops to ask themselves the question “To what end?” or “What is the purpose of ___?” These questions have piloted my own life, and although they force me to analyze all my actions and motives closely, I couldn’t imagine ignoring them. I would like to challenge you to think critically. Be able to discern empty statements. Ask questions. Ask yourself “To what end?” until you cannot answer it honestly anymore, and you arrive your own foundational motives.
To what end are you getting a good job?
To what end are you getting drunk at that party?
To what end are you wanting to purchase that new car or house?
Live life intentionally, not passively.
Thanks for tuning in.
1I don’t like making definitive opinionated statements, but that thing is a scam. Facebook uses it as an opportunity to push whatever their agenda may be by pretending those “top stories” are objectively the top stories. The real kicker for me was seeing a “study shows millennials distrust religion more than any previous generation” headline…right after I had returned from Passion Conference in Houston and Georgia, a conference where 50,000 millennials met simultaneously as a “religious gathering”.
2The academic term is “positivism”, which is slightly different, but this makes it easier.
3Metaphysics is the study of time, space, and personal identity. Answering the question “What makes a person, a person?” is a major aspect of the field. Think Inception. Not too hard though, your head my explode.