We all know the old saying “those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it”, but I believe the same is true of philosophy. Those who do not study philosophy are doomed to be ruled by another.
In the US, we pride ourselves on our free society. We hail democracy and wave a flag of liberty. Yet at the same time, even colleges are focusing on the utility of degrees and not the value of knowledge. More and more our society is adopting the view that a thing is valuable only in so much as they are useful to society. How many times did I get pestered by business majors saying: Why would anyone want to study philosophy? What on earth can you do with that degree? Or even theology for that matter, why waste your time since that will never give you a decent job?
So, the happy college student goes through life, working real hard to be good at one thing so he or she can in turn get a job and support him or herself and potentially a future family. And those college students believe they are free. They believe that all their actions are what they decided to do and no one is telling them what to do. They believe this as they buy brand name clothes, drive expensive cars and sit down to 3 hours of television a night (which includes 45 minutes of commercials). Never stopping to question or ponder but just going about their lives. Until some new phase or movement gets their emotions riled and they cheer them on, because it feels good to be passionate about something.
Am I being too stark? Forgive me, I realize not everyone is completely brain dead. Yet, the reality is that we are all under the influence of philosophy – every day, every minute. From the moment we wake up, to turning our tv on, to reading the paper, to talking with friends, to choosing what items we purchase, we are bombarded by ideas that stem from different philosophies. And if we do not know what our philosophy is and what other philosophies are about, then we will not have the logical intelligence to distinguish one from the other. And we will be emotionally lead down a path that leads to a very different end then the one we expected.
A very real example of philosophy unstudied is socialism. So many people seem to be opposed to it, but many are living it unwittingly because they have not stopped to look around and study the situation. Oh, it’s been studied very well by those who agree with it and want to create a socialistic state in society, but not by the average person. It was upon socialistic norms that the women of the 2nd wave of feminism (in the 1960s) made a drastic shift from early feminism. They adopted Marx’s idea that our bodies are not a part of our nature. If our bodies were not a part of our nature (meaning not part of who we really are), then they didn’t matter and could be used however. The feminists took it a step further to say that our gender in our bodies is a direct result of oppression for all these centuries. They believed we evolved into gender because of the oppression. And therefore, to make men and women equal, the goal of technology would be to rid us of gender.
Now if you asked the average woman, “Do you think your woman-ness is bad?” or “Should we get rid of our female organs in order to be equal to men?”, they would most likely answer “no!” Women rally together IN their femininity and because they are women. And yet, the birth control pill came about out of a need to “rid us of gender”. Encouraged sexual promiscuity came about from a view that our bodies weren’t important to who we were and can be used to gain pleasure just like any other past time. So many of us are living out a socialist philosophy and we are completely oblivious to it.
And yet, if you asked a woman, “Do you think you are made in the image and likeness of God?”, she would (if she is Christian, which the majority of Americans are) answer “yes”. But herein lies the rub! These two philosophies cannot co-exist. And only if you are educated about philosophy can you sort it out enough to evaluate and choose.
So, we are faced with two opposing philosophies and we must make a choice. Do we believe that our bodies do not matter (and can be used for whatever purpose and it not affect who we are) or do we believe that we are made in the image and likeness of God and our bodies are intrinsic to who we are? It is socialism vs Christian personalism.
And every person is free to choose…oh wait, you are not really free unless you understand your options and can formulate your opinion. When we don’t step back to analyze it, we are swept along a path unaware of what the consequences will bring or what personal beliefs we may be putting in jeopardy. So, Americans think philosophy is obsolete? I think philosophy just had the last laugh.