When people hear that I am majoring in Philosophy they give me this incredulous look and always ask “And what do you plan on doing with that?” In that tone of voice that just screams wariness. Officially I am just majoring in philosophy so that I can get into a graduate program... Un-officially, I am going to use philosophy to, how say, guide my life.
I make that last statement with a healthy dose of trepidation for the simple fact that what I mean when I say that I will use philosophy to guide my life is almost definitely not what you understand when I say such a thing. Language is a funny thing like that, it doesn’t always fulfill it’s purpose of conveying meaning like you want it to. Luckily for me, I understand that language is finicky like that and so I can try to elaborate and put into context my misleading statements so that you can understand what the heck I actually mean.
First off let me talk about what Philosophy means to me. In my opinion, everyone is a philosopher, wither they like it or not. Everyone is trying to find some form of Knowledge, or at the very least, some set of beliefs by which to run their lives. This set of beliefs in a whole can be called by different names, a paradigm, a lifestyle, or in my terms, a personal philosophy. Everyone has a personal philosophy even though many do not actively recognize it is there and/or have not found a way to articulate what their personal philosophy consists of.
Everyone develops their personal philosophy through their lives in different ways and at different times. A lot of people are taught a philosophy via their religion or culture and they stick with it. A personal philosophy consists of lots of various aspects, for example, one develops an Epistemological view, which is to say, one develops a means for determining how they individually “Know” something, and what can be “known.” Everyone has different and varying views when it comes to this subject. Some people decide that knowledge is acquired through life experience, others believe knowledge to come from scientific testing, still others believe that knowledge comes from some sort of Authority. Another example is that most people have some idea of how a “perfect society” would work, or they don’t believe in a perfect society all together, This constitutes their Political Philosophy. Some people believe that communism is the way to go, others believe in “good old American capitalism” and so forth and so on. Once again, sometimes people don’t know how to articulate or describe their ideas of the perfect society. None the less, most everyone has a few opinions on the subject of how to run society.
So now back to my original statement. I am going to use Philosophy to guide my life. Do I need to major in the subject in order to do so? Not really. As I just explained above, everyone has their own philosophy, in a sense, everyone already does use philosophy to guide their lives. So then why do I study philosophy. A large part of life is interacting with other people. The more I understand about other philosophies, the more I will be able to intuitively grasp the individual philosophies of the individuals around me, and thus I will understand others more. This isn’t to say that I will agree with everyone’s individual philosophies, because as a matter of fact, I have my own reasons for sticking to my own personal philosophy, just like everyone else. But I hope to be able to set aside my own comprehension in order to better function with those around me.
Thus my life will be guided by philosophy. Not just my own, but by the influence of the philosophies of everyone around me. This is the reason I consider philosophy to be important.