Fall 2008 Philosophy 201 Sample Student Work

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Participation Journals

I periodically encourage students to post journal entries that seem particularly successful. Below you will find a sample of these journals. If I asked you to post your work, please paste it in, using the template below. You can copy and paste the section below to create your own space. Then past your text in to the new section.

The Value of Philosophy

Philosophy aims at the kind of knowledge that gives unity to the sciences. Philosophy, as opposed to science, has not produced many definite answers to questions. If something becomes known for sure, it is classified and further studied as a science. Even if philosophy has played a key role in the realization of these facts, as it did in the early studies of the heavens or the mind, it will no longer be a part of their study once they can be classified as a science. Philosophic thinking has helped shape the sciences and continues to do so, acting as a sort of glue bringing them all together, but it is in the study of those questions which have no definite answer where philosophy’s true knowledge comes. This knowledge comes from questioning those aspects of the universe which we can never fully know to be true or not. These type of questions breed speculation that broadens the mind in ways that definitely ascertainable knowledge cannot. If we sit idly by in life and allow it to pass us by, accepting the “normal” as such and not examining things beyond their base level, we are missing out on the truly intimate relationship with the universe that is attainable through philosophical thought. This relationship is at the core of perhaps philosophy’s greatest value, the greatness of the objects it contemplates and the freedom from aims of self-interest that this method of contemplation brings. By putting great value and interest in all aspects of the outside world and their place in this world, we can move from viewing the world as it affects and relates to us to viewing the world purely as it is. In order to move beyond these self-motivated ways of thinking, we must free ourselves from our innate desires for what is comforting and usual. It is hard to step outside the confines of our ways of thinking that have been engrained into us by society, but if this can be accomplished, with time, we can begin to truly understand the outside world. I would say that many do not make an attempt to abandon their old ways of thinking out of the fear of the unknown. Philosophy, in essence, resides in the unknown and, for many people, this is extremely discomforting. People, in general, like to know for certain why things are the way they are and how these things affect them. The interesting thing about philosophy is that the Self will indeed be bettered through philosophical thought, but this self-betterment cannot be sought. We must seek knowledge in and of itself, and that knowledge must regard things outside of ourselves. If we view the universe with pure objectivity, we will learn things about it we could have never known while observing it through the blurry lens of self-interest. We will, however, form questions that seem to have no answer. But that questioning, whether it produces an answer for us or not, will gain us wisdom and a still deeper connection with our universe. We simply have to be willing to embrace this uncertainty and see it as a gift and not a curse, for wisdom gained always betters the mind and soul. I saw this wisdom gained just the other day in class when we were talking about what is “real” in our groups. No one appeared to have any stunning revelations, or if so they were not voiced, but I could certainly see people gaining wisdom from one another by listening to their thoughts on what is real. Most people in our group conceded that something is real if you can touch it and dismissed the idea brought up earlier in class that physical objects are not real because they will not be here forever. These were pretty much my thoughts, along with a belief that one’s ideas are real as well, but it was just interesting to observe the level of agreement that we all shared on the topic. It is a very loaded question, with innumerable possible answers, and yet we pretty much came up with a definition in the course of a five-minute discussion. I believe that people do not actually engage in much philosophical thought in their day-to-day lives, unless of course they are in a setting such as a philosophy class where philosophical thought and discussion are encouraged. I have conversations with friends often about the state of the world, but I don’t know if I would describe them as philosophical in nature. Discussing politics, for instance, relates to the world and its state but its aim is not to become more in touch with the universe, but rather to voice one’s own opinions on people, issues, and ideals. I would say ideals can be shaped from philosophical thought, but these thoughts that form them center more around the nature of the world, not its citizens’ opinions on how it should be run. My opinion on how much people actually engage in philosophical thought is simply based on my observations, and it is an opinion that I hope is incorrect because I believe there are many advantages to philosophical reflection. Besides the obvious wisdom that can be gained from true philosophical reflection, I would say the biggest advantage is that it frees us from the mundane and makes us realize that there is far more to the universe than what we observe on the surface. The universe is full of intangible elements that cannot be seen or discovered without letting go of our own self-interests and exploring that which is not known to be true.