Falling Out with Philosophy

Updated: Mar 1

Few have asked but those that have, have received quite a lengthy and unexpected answer. As I look back, questions of this sort hearken back to when I was developing my senior thesis and began to clash with my chairpersons as they began to gasp at my renunciations. “I’m against Philosophy." One of my chairpersons, in particular, a historian by training couldn’t believe it nonetheless understand where I was coming from. How could a student of a subject be against it? Now nearly a decade past I hold firm to that statement and this particularity has only been reinforced time and time again by an array of phenomena. At present, I have found increasingly unavoidable evidence for why one might want to steer clear of philosophy.

Now when I say philosophy, I do not mean the act of thinking deeply introspectively or participating in the act of philosophizing. All of these things are well, good, and encouraged. They are also the kinds of things that led me to this conclusion in fact. When one goes to university to study philosophy they are not just exposed to or indulging in the work of Descartes and Spinoza, but they are given the opportunity to engage with the current day institution of philosophy. Now one may ask, what is the institution of philosophy? To speak of the institution of philosophy is to speak of the current cohort of professors, authors, ideas, publications, and the general direction(s) of the field. As with any field, there are popular ideas and writers in a given time period. The field of philosophy is no exception. In fact, these are the only things that the field of philosophy is made of. And that was my contention.

Those with a traditional literary bent might exclaim "what is the problem with publications and ideas? There is an enormous amount of richness that philosophical discourse and authorship has added to history and to the world at large. Surely you are not speaking of getting rid of it? No, I am not. Not at all. I in fact share and agree with most of these sentiments as they are also just sure and relevant facts of history. But they should not be the only things driving the discipline. Philosophy then and now has attracted those that are highly conscientious, but the institution of philosophy seldom gives forth an opportunity to express this conscientiousness in the physical world. There are lots of ideas but little action. From here I set out to find a discipline that carried the same conscientious attitude about ethics, morality, examination, and living a meaningful life as did philosophy but with much more of an actualized expression of those sentiments. This is where I found the institution of theology had the upper hand.

With all their variance, the major institutions of religion as a whole tend to have a much greater amount of physical expression correlative to their values. Charities, homeless shelters, missions, food drives, etc. Such ventures were absent in the field of philosophy. Now, to be frank, the institutions of religion also had their flaws but that is a discussion for another day. The broader realization in coming to the institution of religion after falling out with philosophy, was that to do good, meaningful, and consistent work, I might not have to be involved in an institution at all. It might in fact be institutionality itself that holds one back from doing their most. That was a large part of my grand awakening and part and parcel why I had to put down William Alston’s Dimensions of Epistemic Evolution and Oppy’s Ontological Arguments for a while and start farming.

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