Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A little philosophy

A little while ago, I was reading through my Moral Studies notes (they're really powerpoint slides that my lecturer uploaded to his blog and linked us to on Facebook -- ah, the wonders of the Internet!) and trying to wrap my head around everything. Googling phrases I didn't quite get told me that there was some philosophy involved, something I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole.

Questions regarding philosophy are always so open-ended; in answering, it feels like you're discussing rather than answering, though you do have to have a conclusion. That is precisely why I am in the Science stream. Here, there is usually only one answer, though there may be more than one way to arrive at said answer, which makes things interesting. You absorb facts, and then use them to help you solve problems; you have to know how to put things together in your head. There's no long, lengthy, hmm-haw discussion involved -- just a straight, to-the-point answer. Bam.

I don't get Arts. I probably have never gotten Arts. Maybe the mathematical subjects, yeah, but not stuff like Religious Studies and Philosophy and Literature. Forgive me for saying this, but I don't see their point; science is useful and applicable in daily life, but when are you ever going to use philosophy? I do understand that people take to different subjects -- I would flounder and die in Arts while an Arts student might flounder and die in Science -- and I do admire the Literature students' ability to dissect and intelligently discuss an author's work. But the niggling question no one I've asked seems to be able to satisfactorily answer is: What do you do once you get a degree in something like Philosophy?

According to my mother, you can be a Philosophy lecturer. It makes sense, but doesn't at the same time. If the only thing you can do with a degree in Philosophy is lecture, is Philosophy just a cycle, gaining knowledge then passing it down, gaining knowledge then passing it down? Can't that knowledge be applied elsewhere? What can you do with it?

Please note that I'm not looking down at Arts students. Further Math is an Arts subject, and it sounds like the scariest subject ever. I have friends in Arts, and while I hate them for being so disgustingly free (no lab!), I think they're awesome, intelligent people.

I'd kind of like an answer, though. What do you do with a degree in something like Philosophy?


  1. This is an interesting one, yes, what does one do with philosophy?

    Philosophy has always been entangled with arts. Yes, while science dissects the causes and certain physical reactions in the universe, those with an understanding in philosophy decorate life with meaning.

    Leonardo Da Vinci was an artist, and he left many legacies behind. Legacies like the blueprints of machines and other tech we use today. Those can be taken apart and studied by scientists, people who are adapt with science.

    But what about the Mona Lisa? Yes, just a painting of a woman on a canvas, but it was also the icon of a revolution in Italy. Can scientists take that apart and study it? Perhaps the make and material of the canvas, the paint and the age with carbon-dating, but I'm pretty sure Da Vinci didn't want his masterpiece studied like that. It is the meaning behind the painting, the soul of it, and that's where philosophy comes in.

    In essence, those who are armed with science go on a journey to solve the unanswerable. A cure for diseases. A new power source to replace oil. The source of the universe itself. They pick up pieces of the past, like old philosophers, but they push forward for the betterment of humanity.

    Philosophers, art-goers, do the same. Technical and scientific jargon aside, they study ideas which were thought of long ago, that sparked revolution within corrupt kingdoms and gave birth to empires. These ideas were in the form of anything you write or paint, either a poem, a memoir, or a painting. And like scientists, they want to generate new ideas, though none of the likes which could start a rebellion, but rather... for the betterment of humanity.

    In a nutshell, scientists and doctors and engineers, they study the external side of life. It's important, but it's as important as learning the internal side of life.

    I mean, what's the point of knowing the type of paint and canvas Van Gogh used if you didn't know what sort of message he tried to paint into his piece, the Sunflower?

    And to answer your question, a hard one it is, you'd have to be creative if you plan to work with a degree in philosophy. All the meanings of life and quotes are already made by long-dead blokes like Voltaire and Dante Alighieri. A philosophy degree holder would have to study the meaning of life all over again, and come up with a theme which hasn't been discovered, since so many philosophers have their own views on life itself.

    Either that, or he could just be the country's head historian. Plenty of old forgotten ideas to scour with that job.

    I hope this clears things up. I'm declaring anonymity, by the way. Guess who I am if you can. :)

  2. Wow 'anonymous'. Your comment is an eye-opener! Haha.

  3. I can't believe I wrote a long ass comment and it got deleted by the internet.

    I'll reiterate the first line though.

    'Whatever anonymous said.'


  4. Anonymous:
    My mom and I were just talking about this again today, and her opinion is that philosophers deal with the past whereas scientists deal with the future. I think both have to do with the present, though -- life right now is vastly different from how it was in the age of Socrates and Plato (my knowledge of philosophy/philosophers is extremely limited), and scientists are still discovering new bits of information about things that have been in existence for a long time.

    Yes, but you can't make a living out of forming your own view on life, surely. Unless you write books and sell them and earn big bucks, but your chances of 'making it' would be probably one in a million!

    I have a horrible feeling you might be the lecturer I was referring to in the first line of my post, but I'm not sure. :P

    Ikr! :D Wish they'd left a link; that's one blog I'd check out, assuming they have one.

    Hello! You're probably sick of being recognised from TARA, but I got all excited when I saw your comment! Pity it wasn't the long ass one, though. Thanks for taking the time to comment twice!

    Oh, I follow both your blogs -- Why They Failed and When Khairie Writes. Not because you're the guy from TARA, but because I genuinely enjoy reading your stuff. (:

  5. "I can't believe I wrote a long ass comment and it got deleted by the internet.

    I'll reiterate the first line though.

    'Whatever anonymous said.'

    Phooey. "


  6. That comment I just posted had been deleted as well, but t'was all good since I have the paranoid habit of typing long ass comments into Notepad. It's easier to refer to the post I'm commenting on as I type, anyway.

  7. I'm finding it hard to pen my thoughts on this. I already rewrote this post like, four times.

    I suppose that on the surface, philosophy may seem like a subject with no real practical applications in real life. IMHO, the opposite is true.

    Think about it. Science would never have really come about without the philosophers of old. Philosophy may bring to mind a bunch of boring old farts thinking and talking about human existence, the meaning of life, and various other open ended endlessly arguable topics. Hard science deals with laws and theories, facts and figures.

    But before science was discovered, someone had to think of it in the first place. Who did? The philosophers! They were the ones who sat down to wonder about the universe. They were the ones who were curious enough to start searching for an answer. If no one had stopped to wonder at the physical world we live in, if no one had stopped to ask "Why?", the world we live in now probably wouldn't be that much more advanced than the one the earliest humans inhabited. It takes a philosophical type of wonder to move someone to take steps to satisfy his curiosity.

    I actually don't think I got the idea across very well. =( But since this is the fifth revision, I guess I'll just post it. =)

  8. No, but philosophers think of things in the abstract sense, no? Scientists ask 'why' as well, but their questions pertain more to how things work and why they are how they are, rather than...the meaning of things, and stuff like that.

    But the most pressing question is what do the philosophers of today do? You can't earn a living by coming up with your own meaning of life. D:

    Thankyou for taking the time to rerererevise your comment. Hee hee! (: