Philosophy: The Path to the Meaning of Life
Philosophy probes the profound questions concerning human reality, God, and nature. It challenges what is accepted unquestionably in society, shaping our minds to perceive the distinction between a general worldview and our personal perception of the world.
Philosophy must be experienced, not mastered as one would memorize a physics formula. Aristotle had his own physics, dividing the universe into two parts: terrestrial and celestial. But pondering how Aristotle arrived at this division, with the terrestrial formed from a combination of water, earth, air, and fire, is the spirit of philosophy that must be embraced.
Philosophy should encourage its students to disagree with Kant, considering current situations that differ greatly from past philosophical speculations. Kant, for instance, argued that whoever emits CO2 into the atmosphere must pay compensation. Yet, we may reconsider Kant. This ethical responsibility could not be applied to 18th-century CO2 emissions since scientific data were not available to show that CO2 emissions were harmful.
From a general moral theory standpoint, an individual might be less accountable in a situation where they are epistemically incompetent. Or a robot helping an elderly woman in a hospital does not diminish her dignity. Philosophy must critique that the Lapindo mudflow was not caused by surrounding earthquakes (bogus science) but by drilling beyond the earth’s allowable layer (genuine science). Philosophy observes that human smuggling isn’t inherently wrong if an African immigrant is forced to pay a smuggler to reach Europe to earn money for their family.
Each generation indeed gives birth to its unique philosophical perspectives. I remember the logic lectures (Marian Talbot from Oxford and Otto Gusti Madung in 2014); deontic logic states that deception is wrong. Thus, do not deceive at all, while temporal logic reveals that formulations constructed in the early 2000s might be less suitable now.
Philosophy should make us realize that studying philosophy is not merely about naming philosophers and expressing their exact thoughts. Philosophy should provide a reason to study and even correct Kant, “samen met Kant tegen Kant,” reminding us that philosophy is an excellent science for continuous individual and collective historical reflection.
One may memorize the classical utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham and the developments by John Stuart Mill but may fail to apply Mill’s teachings in their study room. Bentham stated that if a pig’s satisfaction is 90% and Samuel’s is 50%, the pig’s must be far better.
However, Mill argued that it’s better to be a dissatisfied Socrates than a satisfied fool, distinguishing intellectual satisfaction from reading a novel and physical satisfaction from eating red rice. But, in the context of Flores, Mill could be offensive to small farmers with no time to read.
Or one may know Aristotle’s moral theory perfectly: knowing what to do, doing what’s right, and doing it for the right reason, but may still fail to do what’s accepted as right for the right reasons.
I conclude by drawing inspiration from Parmenides: “Only one story of this journey remains: that something exists. On this path of the journey, there are many signs about existence: that is complete, unique, perfect, and never cracked” (Parmenides: The Way of Truth). Philosophy is a lifelong pilgrimage that can only sustain itself through continuous, uncracked subject exploration, and it exists. Philosophy is the path to the meaning of life.