Why study philosophy?

Discussion of the nature of Ultimate Reality and the path to Enlightenment.
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Matt Gregory
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Why study philosophy?

Post by Matt Gregory » Tue Oct 10, 2017 2:40 pm

Is anyone here good at explaining why we should care about philosophy to someone who knows nothing at all about it? No idea about enlightenment, metaphysics, ultimate reality, or anything like that?

I'm terrible at this kind of thing. I end up in a lot of conversations where I'm trying to explain all this abstract stuff to people, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't make sense to anyone but me, and no one knows what the takeaway is. I'll often try to talk about boundaries, cause and effect, freewill. What do you even begin with? How do you set a reasonable goal, such as just teaching someone one thing, or at least to the point where they can attack it and raise objections and just get engaged?

Maybe the ancient Greeks are the best place to get ideas from? The dawn of Western thought. I don't think there's any equivalent to the Greeks in Eastern thought. It seems like all of it was already very old when they starting writing it down.

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Eric Schiedler
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Re: Why study philosophy?

Post by Eric Schiedler » Wed Oct 11, 2017 3:59 am

Matt,

It's not possible to tell someone something until they are ready to hear it.

And, going further, it's of little merit to get better at holding people's attention (maybe by cold-reading their interests, for example) in order to get them to agree with a philosophical point.

Occasionally, I do meet a man interested in philosophical subject matters. Just last evening, while reading in a coffee shop, a man walked right up to me and said out loud the name of the translator of the book in my hand. While it was a bit awkward to introduce himself that way, he had recognized the book and it didn't bother me that he wanted to chat me up about it. He proceeded to talk about all of the translator's publishing history and he went on and on about it. He was quite cheery about the whole thing.

That's the way it is with a lot of men who are interested in "philosophy." They get excited to catalog all of the authors, systems, books, and ways of thought. Then they're on to the next book. More than likely, their knowledge of philosophy as a subject will have no impact on their love of beauty, fine wine, travel, women, and pursuit of happiness.



Eric Schiedler

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Matt Gregory
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Re: Why study philosophy?

Post by Matt Gregory » Wed Oct 11, 2017 6:38 am

Hey Eric,
It's not possible to tell someone something until they are ready to hear it.
Well everyone's ready to hear something, surely, even if it's not all that profound. And I'm not even talking about random strangers, I'm talking about friends that I know pretty well. I suppose it's not much different from trying to invent a topic to discuss on this forum.
That's the way it is with a lot of men who are interested in "philosophy." They get excited to catalog all of the authors, systems, books, and ways of thought. Then they're on to the next book. More than likely, their knowledge of philosophy as a subject will have no impact on their love of beauty, fine wine, travel, women, and pursuit of happiness.
Yeah, I've actually done that very thing. I went into a take out restaurant one morning and saw a probably 25-30 year old man standing in line with a green, paperback copy of "Human, All Too Human", which was the strangest coincidence because I was reading the same exact book the night before, and I've been reading it for years, just picking it up once in awhile. He mentioned he also liked Kierkegaard and Spinoza and I told him I liked Buddhism a lot and I asked him if he ever heard of Kevin Solway, which he hadn't.

I think the conversation went in that direction because I don't have good conversation skills, or possibly you have to plan what you would discuss with someone about a book while you read it. It's not like there's a lack of ideas in HATH to discuss, but maybe there are too many ideas in there, or they're too subtle and it's hard to extract a solid, concise point out of it.

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jupiviv
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Re: Why study philosophy?

Post by jupiviv » Wed Oct 11, 2017 11:33 pm

Matt Gregory wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 2:40 pm
Is anyone here good at explaining why we should care about philosophy to someone who knows nothing at all about it? No idea about enlightenment, metaphysics, ultimate reality, or anything like that?
Unless someone already is interested in something, you can't explain to them why they should care about it. Maybe you can try to get them to interested in it as a means to an end. I think children who do well in school view the studying as the way to get the good grades, which in turn brings praise from teachers and parents. But that probably doesn't apply to wisdom, which after all is a solitary activity.
I end up in a lot of conversations where I'm trying to explain all this abstract stuff to people, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't make sense to anyone but me, and no one knows what the takeaway is.
My initiation into Genius philosophy was on Kevin's website, and then from Kevin himself (via youtube pms). In the first pm, I asked him how I should go about seeking wisdom. He replied by saying that if I want to seek genuine wisdom, I can never make a woman happy. I was expecting some noble-sounding abstract stuff but I got that instead. At the time I interpreted it as rejecting WOMAN and embracing truth (had read David's website too at that point) etc., but I didn't understand why he gave that specific piece of advice until years later. The philosophical depth of that statement, or the "takeaway" as you put it, lies in *my* thoughts and experiences, not Kevin's. That's the way to both teach and attain wisdom. One must plant seeds without expecting a crop.

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Matt Gregory
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Re: Why study philosophy?

Post by Matt Gregory » Fri Oct 13, 2017 1:36 pm

jupiviv wrote:
Wed Oct 11, 2017 11:33 pm
Matt Gregory wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 2:40 pm
Is anyone here good at explaining why we should care about philosophy to someone who knows nothing at all about it? No idea about enlightenment, metaphysics, ultimate reality, or anything like that?
Unless someone already is interested in something, you can't explain to them why they should care about it. Maybe you can try to get them to interested in it as a means to an end. I think children who do well in school view the studying as the way to get the good grades, which in turn brings praise from teachers and parents. But that probably doesn't apply to wisdom, which after all is a solitary activity.
I wouldn't expect someone to drop everything and dive into an intense study of philosophy based on one conversation, but surely great interests begin with small ones. And I don't think wisdom is solitary. If that were true, why would any wise teachers exist at all?

I end up in a lot of conversations where I'm trying to explain all this abstract stuff to people, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't make sense to anyone but me, and no one knows what the takeaway is.
My initiation into Genius philosophy was on Kevin's website, and then from Kevin himself (via youtube pms). In the first pm, I asked him how I should go about seeking wisdom. He replied by saying that if I want to seek genuine wisdom, I can never make a woman happy. I was expecting some noble-sounding abstract stuff but I got that instead. At the time I interpreted it as rejecting WOMAN and embracing truth (had read David's website too at that point) etc., but I didn't understand why he gave that specific piece of advice until years later. The philosophical depth of that statement, or the "takeaway" as you put it, lies in *my* thoughts and experiences, not Kevin's. That's the way to both teach and attain wisdom. One must plant seeds without expecting a crop.
I'm not sure I'm following you. It sounds to me like he really was telling you to reject women and embrace truth. Not just lovers, but ANY woman: lover, mother, sister, cousin, friend, neighbor, store clerk, etc. It's practically the crux of the whole thing.

Yeah, I'm familiar with the parable of the sower, but maybe throwing seeds all over the place where most of them are wasted isn't such a great idea. Maybe burying the seeds with care is the best way to go.

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jupiviv
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Re: Why study philosophy?

Post by jupiviv » Sat Oct 14, 2017 2:50 am

Matt Gregory wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 1:36 pm
I wouldn't expect someone to drop everything and dive into an intense study of philosophy based on one conversation, but surely great interests begin with small ones. And I don't think wisdom is solitary. If that were true, why would any wise teachers exist at all?
Yes, great interests begin with small ones, but unless the small interests compound into exponentially (infinitely) greater ones fairly early on there is little hope of further progress. Wise teachers can show you what wisdom *is* through their own examples, not *how* or *why* it is. The latter is the essence of wisdom, and it can only be realised in solitude. Of course, solitude doesn't mean meditation or hermitry; it just means being alone, even when living an active life surrounded by people.
I end up in a lot of conversations where I'm trying to explain all this abstract stuff to people, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't make sense to anyone but me, and no one knows what the takeaway is.
My initiation into Genius philosophy was on Kevin's website, and then from Kevin himself (via youtube pms). In the first pm, I asked him how I should go about seeking wisdom. He replied by saying that if I want to seek genuine wisdom, I can never make a woman happy. I was expecting some noble-sounding abstract stuff but I got that instead. At the time I interpreted it as rejecting WOMAN and embracing truth (had read David's website too at that point) etc., but I didn't understand why he gave that specific piece of advice until years later. The philosophical depth of that statement, or the "takeaway" as you put it, lies in *my* thoughts and experiences, not Kevin's. That's the way to both teach and attain wisdom. One must plant seeds without expecting a crop.
I'm not sure I'm following you. It sounds to me like he really was telling you to reject women and embrace truth. Not just lovers, but ANY woman: lover, mother, sister, cousin, friend, neighbor, store clerk, etc. It's practically the crux of the whole thing.
He didn't say "no woman can make you happy", but "you cannot make a woman happy". The two statements are like heaven and hell, literally! Now let me rephrase those two statements in the context of embracing truth: "no woman can make you happy, in comparison to embracing truth", but "you cannot make a woman happy, despite embracing truth". However high the glacier, the stream which issues from it ends up in the sea. In becoming wise, one doesn't so much embrace truth as do one's best to be unhappy for the rest of one's life. The alternative, as Dave Sim put it, is to spend every waking moment of your life being happy so that women don't reject you. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em!
Yeah, I'm familiar with the parable of the sower, but maybe throwing seeds all over the place where most of them are wasted isn't such a great idea. Maybe burying the seeds with care is the best way to go.
The implication was that you are still looking for reward (crop) for all of your efforts, even if that reward is nothing more than the knowledge that you helped guide someone to wisdom. That's a delusion - you can't control how someone interprets what you say. All you can do is to become an example of wisdom and hope for the best.

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Pam Seeback
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Re: Why study philosophy?

Post by Pam Seeback » Sat Oct 14, 2017 1:51 pm

jupiviv: He didn't say "no woman can make you happy", but "you cannot make a woman happy". The two statements are like heaven and hell, literally! Now let me rephrase those two statements in the context of embracing truth: "no woman can make you happy, in comparison to embracing truth", but "you cannot make a woman happy, despite embracing truth". However high the glacier, the stream which issues from it ends up in the sea. In becoming wise, one doesn't so much embrace truth as do one's best to be unhappy for the rest of one's life. The alternative, as Dave Sim put it, is to spend every waking moment of your life being happy so that women don't reject you. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em!
I don't understand all this wasted time obsessing about immature women (or men) who want someone to make them happy. Why would a truth seeker waste one single second thinking about such an ignorant person? All it does is cause an obsession with happiness/unhappiness. If one desires intimacy with another while seeking truth then for truth's sake, tell them the truth and if they leave, they leave. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

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Matt Gregory
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Re: Why study philosophy?

Post by Matt Gregory » Mon Oct 16, 2017 2:44 am

jupiviv wrote:
Sat Oct 14, 2017 2:50 am
Matt Gregory wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 1:36 pm
I wouldn't expect someone to drop everything and dive into an intense study of philosophy based on one conversation, but surely great interests begin with small ones. And I don't think wisdom is solitary. If that were true, why would any wise teachers exist at all?
Yes, great interests begin with small ones, but unless the small interests compound into exponentially (infinitely) greater ones fairly early on there is little hope of further progress. Wise teachers can show you what wisdom *is* through their own examples, not *how* or *why* it is. The latter is the essence of wisdom, and it can only be realised in solitude. Of course, solitude doesn't mean meditation or hermitry; it just means being alone, even when living an active life surrounded by people.
You can ignore them to some extent, but they're still going to have an impact on your life and your mind, so you need to deal with that in some way unless you're planning on relying entirely on luck.

He didn't say "no woman can make you happy", but "you cannot make a woman happy". The two statements are like heaven and hell, literally!
Not really. It's like saying "don't take drugs" and "don't pay drug dealers" are two different things.

Yeah, I'm familiar with the parable of the sower, but maybe throwing seeds all over the place where most of them are wasted isn't such a great idea. Maybe burying the seeds with care is the best way to go.
The implication was that you are still looking for reward (crop) for all of your efforts, even if that reward is nothing more than the knowledge that you helped guide someone to wisdom. That's a delusion - you can't control how someone interprets what you say. All you can do is to become an example of wisdom and hope for the best.
What would be the point of hoping if you're not looking for anything? We're all here trying to advance our values. It's unavoidable.

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Diebert van Rhijn
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Re: Why study philosophy?

Post by Diebert van Rhijn » Mon Oct 16, 2017 6:22 am

Matt Gregory wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 2:40 pm
Is anyone here good at explaining why we should care about philosophy to someone who knows nothing at all about it? No idea about enlightenment, metaphysics, ultimate reality, or anything like that?
So you are asking to be explained why you should explain your self to people who cannot explain themselves?
I end up in a lot of conversations where I'm trying to explain all this abstract stuff to people
The exact same problem exists for everyone trying to explain abstract stuff to people. That's a lot of fellow strugglers!
How do you set a reasonable goal, such as just teaching someone one thing, or at least to the point where they can attack it and raise objections and just get engaged?
Jesus is claimed to have said "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden".

Think about it, whatever you'd say or do, even covering it up, the truth would still shine through. Don't worry about reception or being a teacher. Worry about if you're carrying any light at all or perhaps just like to think about it a lot while it's dimming.

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Elizabeth Isabelle
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Re: Why study philosophy?

Post by Elizabeth Isabelle » Mon Oct 16, 2017 8:35 am

Matt Gregory wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 2:40 pm
Is anyone here good at explaining why we should care about philosophy to someone who knows nothing at all about it? No idea about enlightenment, metaphysics, ultimate reality, or anything like that?
Start by discussing something that they are interested in. Don't get too heavy too quickly.

I find that politics makes a good, though not perfect, bridge. Many people have reactions to politics, and these are the people who have the most willing minds. One can discuss the causes and effects of various things involving whatever specific topic they are interested in, and eventually bring up determinism, which will almost inevitably lead to a debate about determinism vs free will. You can monitor their thinking behind their statements, and name specific logical fallacies as they come up. You can redirect them to The Fallacy Files or some similar site when they seem ready.

Politics is not a perfect bridge because there are people with such strong opinions on things like politics and religion that presenting them with facts will only make them dig in their heels all the harder. Really any topic will do - whether they bring up an incident with their children, pets, job, or any other aspect of their lives, there is an opportunity to gently introduce philosophy. Just go slowly.

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jupiviv
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Re: Why study philosophy?

Post by jupiviv » Mon Oct 16, 2017 6:16 pm

Matt Gregory wrote:
Mon Oct 16, 2017 2:44 am
jupiviv wrote:
Sat Oct 14, 2017 2:50 am
Yes, great interests begin with small ones, but unless the small interests compound into exponentially (infinitely) greater ones fairly early on there is little hope of further progress. Wise teachers can show you what wisdom *is* through their own examples, not *how* or *why* it is. The latter is the essence of wisdom, and it can only be realised in solitude. Of course, solitude doesn't mean meditation or hermitry; it just means being alone, even when living an active life surrounded by people.
You can ignore them to some extent, but they're still going to have an impact on your life and your mind, so you need to deal with that in some way unless you're planning on relying entirely on luck.
What I meant by "alone" is that you are the *only* credible judge of your own thoughts. Others will help, but that help has to be *reproduced* within yourself in order to be truly helpful, just like I did with Kevin's advice. Socrates singled himself out as a midwife, but *all* things are midwives for everything else. The true teacher is neither son nor father.

Plato's Theaetetus.
He didn't say "no woman can make you happy", but "you cannot make a woman happy". The two statements are like heaven and hell, literally!
Not really. It's like saying "don't take drugs" and "don't pay drug dealers" are two different things.
Actually it is like saying "drugs are cool, but Jesus is cooler" and "drugs are cool, but Jesus is a suffering servant" are two different things. And they are!
Yeah, I'm familiar with the parable of the sower, but maybe throwing seeds all over the place where most of them are wasted isn't such a great idea. Maybe burying the seeds with care is the best way to go.
The implication was that you are still looking for reward (crop) for all of your efforts, even if that reward is nothing more than the knowledge that you helped guide someone to wisdom. That's a delusion - you can't control how someone interprets what you say. All you can do is to become an example of wisdom and hope for the best.
What would be the point of hoping if you're not looking for anything? We're all here trying to advance our values. It's unavoidable.
But we *are* looking for something, i.e., being wise. That is a constant endeavour. Wisdom is not a matter of reaching a destination and then helping others reach it. It's about burning every bridge you come across and then walking on water, as well as demanding of others they do the same.

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