I am often told that I think too much. I spout quotes from philosophers too often. And sometimes, while contemplating my navel, I have seen the abyss gazing back.
So, you are probably fine with tossing all philosophy books in your possession into the nearest trash bin. You don’t need to worry about why evil exists in the world. Or what the purpose of life is. Or how you can benefit your fellow man. Stupid people live perfectly happy lives more often than gifted intellectuals do. Of course they also punish themselves by electing Donald Trump and thinking Bernie Sanders is a Communist, because they don’t know how much that hurts their own interests, and they are happy as long as the people they hate are being punished more than they themselves are.
It is possible to be perfectly happy by letting someone else do all the thinking, choosing, and planning for you. Let someone else define who and what you are, what you need to be happy, and how your life is to be lived. Then, when things go totally wrong and you are severely punished by life in general, they will probably tell you who to blame and hate for it too.
Nobody ever told you that Kierkegaard once thought that every man makes his own meaning in life, and you don’t have to accept every daft thing that some smarty know-it-all says is the best thing for you. You can learn to think for yourself. You can learn to test and verify the important points laid out before you. You are not too dumb to follow what Mickey is saying right now. After all, aren’t you smarter than him? Surely you are. That fool thinks he doesn’t really know anything at all. Well, maybe one thing. He thinks he knows he exists, like Descartes says.
And once you know the important thing is realizing you do exist, then maybe you are beginning to grasp what Existentialism means. Existence comes before everything else. You know you exist, so now you can begin thinking about what things are good for you to think about, choose to explore, choose to do, and… hopefully… choose to preserve your own existence in the best way possible.
Philosophy is merely thinking. There are many stupid philosophies. Some are even deadly. But there is good thinking out there too. Look at who Caesar Marcus Aurelius says you should rely on when thinking about what is good for you. He was apparently a smart guy. Not all the Caesars of Rome were, by the way. But you don’t have to rely on a Stoic thinker like him. You are the only one who can effectively think for you. You need to create your own philosophy. But everyone who wants to build a wagon does not have to reinvent the wheel for himself. You can find old, dead smart-guys who have invented philosophical wheels that you can put on your own philosophical wagon. And why settle for a Radio Flyer when your philosophical vehicle can be a Rolls Royce or a Porsche? Thinkers have come up with philosophical engines in the past too. And it is not that hard to understand some of the best ones. After all, Mickey can do it. And aren’t you smarter than him?
4 responses to “What Good Does Philosophy Do?”
I’m a big fan of Epicurus.
Epicurus provides a way to be happy and tranquil, but to get things done, the Stoics are more practical. Epictetus reminds us, we are each responsible for our own actions and welfare.
Mickey, good post. Opinion becomes philosophy over the centuries. There are some great “opinions” and there are some not so great ones. Keith
I like your summary, Keith. It goes right to the heart of the matter.