skip to Main Content

You’re Always Doing Philosophy

A philosophy professor of mine once said “There’s a difference between talking trash about the air you breathe and actually trying to breathe without air.”

Mocking the value of philosophy is like talking trash about the air you breathe. Living without philosophy is like trying to breathe without air.

For any given action X you might take, there are several philosophical questions we could ask about X:

Is it morally permissible for you to do X? Do you have good reasons for doing X? If so, what standards are you using to determine that your reasons are actually good? How do you know if your standards are good? If you don’t have a good reason for doing X, is that because you think it’s unnecessary for people to have good reasons for their actions? If not, what makes your choices an exception? If so, does that mean you’re accepting of anything that anybody does no matter what their reasons are? What if they do something that’s harmful or offensive? 

Some people might read those questions and think to themselves “Oh, you silly philosophers! You always trouble yourselves over meaningless things. Those questions are unimportant to me. I can get through an average day just fine without stopping to ask any of those questions. And look at the scientists: they achieve so much progress without getting into endless debates over unanswerable inquiries like this. Sigh!”

I want you to notice something about that above response. The above response doesn’t change the fact that the person who says these things is still guilty of *having* a philosophical position. To reject the aforementioned philosophical questions as unimportant is to essentially adopt a philosophy that says we don’t need to analyze our beliefs. And while we certainly have the right to adopt such a philosophy, it doesn’t negate the following six facts: 1) We each have a philosophy whether we spend a lot of time thinking about it or not 2) Our philosophies have consequences for us and the people whose lives we influence 3) There are people who disagree with our philosophies 4) Some of the people who disagree with our philosophies have very sophisticated arguments for why they think we’re wrong 5) Our choice to ignore or pay attention to #3 and #4 is a choice that is our right and responsibility and 6) A significant portion of our quality of life will depend on how good of a job we do at both ignoring and paying attention to the critiques that can be made of our philosophies.

There is no such thing as life without philosophy. We may not practice philosophy consciously, but we practice it implicitly in all we do.

You’re always doing philosophy…even when you make fun of it.


Back To Top