The Philosophy Book

I am a nerd. I went to the library and found The Philosophy Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained. I love this book and I haven’t even read it yet.

Look at those cool illustrations. And sidebars. And charts where they map out arguments (“It’s called a conceptual map,” says my husband).

The book tries to sum up a philosopher’s work in a simple phrase, which is an impossible task to do. I looked at the pages of a few philosophers I knew quite a bit about, and I thought their phrases were missing the point completely. Like Hume–“Custom is the great guide of life.” Really? Hume is a skeptic, so his influence is questioning our belief. And so I would much rather, “There is no rational grounds for our beliefs,” or something like that. And don’t get me started on John Stuart Mill. . . . But I think that’s to be expected, and it’s nice they tried.

Then came the real test: I went to the index. Looked up Fichte. He’s my favorite philosopher, but not a very major philosopher, so you haven’t heard of him unless you by chance have studied German idealism.

He was there! And the article about him made he realize why I liked him so much:

It says, “What sort of philosophy one chooses depends on what sort of person one is.” So Fichte was at one point believe that basically the world was all cause and effect, and so we didn’t have much choice in the matter. And then he totally switched his belief to idealism, an idea in which we do have choices and we’re able to influence the world. And he says that people choose either to believe that they have free will or that things are caused depending on what sort of person they are. And that was probably completely inaccurate, but close enough.

That idea probably influenced me the most in my whole philosophy degree: we choose what we believe. There are some intellectual people who choose to  believe whatever the best rational argument is at the time and what the evidence says. And there are some people who choose to believe more in faith and the individual. Either way, it’s not about being compelled to believe a certain way: it’s about a choice that those people make. And then I personally think the intellectual is wrong because he ignores this choice and pretends that his is compelled to believe what he does, which is nonsense, since rational argument and evidence is not a guarantee that something is true. And so truth is found in the choice, and so when you believe that you have a choice, you have to believe in free will, in the individual, and in faith.

And that right there is my philosophy, more or less, and mostly less, because it’s always hard to express things precisely and I should write pages and pages to express myself clearly, not a simple paragraph.

Thus, I am a nerd.


One thought on “The Philosophy Book

  1. Sounds like an awesome book! I studied philosophy in college. I was really moved by Spinoza, Wittgenstein and Simone Weil. Wonder what that says about me…


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