February 13, 2002
Philosophy Book: Chapter 1
Old guys, old rules, old news, right? Wrong. Philosophy is an important subject, because it helps us understand three big questions; "why are we here", "what do we do", and "how do we treat each other". These are important questions to answer because without them we may end up in a situation much like the Taliban is in right now. Complete chaos created from confusion about those three big questions. These questions are left in a general sense because there are many different ways to look at them. After all we have many different people with many different ideas and so to come to a more concise understanding of such important topics we need everyone's viewpoint. This is the purpose of something philosophers call "The great conversation". For example: Think back to the attack on the US of September 11th. These attacks were caused for a variety of reasons, one of which being that the Taliban believed they had the answer as to the correct way to run a society. Therefore "The Great Conversation" was stopped. After all if I am the Taliban and I believe I have the answer as to how to run a society because I feel I have answered the three big questions, then why keep discussing? Why include anyone else's opinions and beliefs? Because if you don't then things could become violent, just as they did in Afghanistan. So you say you don't want to be like Afghanistan? Well good! So then how do you determine the answer to those three big questions, and what if there is more than one answer? That's the purpose of philosophy and more specifically "The Great Conversation", to come up with the best possible answer to all questions that may arise without eliminating the possibility that a better answer may exist.
Take "Plato's Cave" for example: People sit in a cave looking at shadows cast on a wall, from the light of a fire behind them. They have been chained to the floor for centuries. They are fed, clothed, and generally stimulated by the shadows, which are those of puppets on a bridge behind them. The people believe the shadows are real. But ponder just for a second; what if you were one of those people? What if you were released from your shackles and allowed to move about the cave freely. How would you explain to the others that the shadows they are seeing are not real people, but actual shadows made by the puppets on the bridge behind them? Would they believe you? Now switch roles. What if one of the people chained next to you was released and came back to you with this phenomenon that everything you have ever seen and thought was real was actually a lie. How would you react? Would you believe them? This was Plato's way of getting people to explore what they didn't know existed. To question things in life instead of merely accepting what they were told was the truth. To get people to explore the outside world, so they don't become a "prisoner of ignorance" forced to live a life based on what they are told and not what they experience for themselves. Questioning, and exploring what's around you and how it affects you is part of getting a more complete answer to those three big questions, which is the task of philosophy. But how does one know what to explore? I mean the world is a huge place and one person can't possibly explore everything, how do you know where to start?
This is where the "Three Divisions of Knowledge" come into play. Philosophers divided knowledge into three groups: Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and Humanities. Each focuses on "disciplines" and questions. A discipline is a branch of knowledge or teaching. Basically each "division of knowledge" helps explain certain disciplines for example: The Humanities group focuses on questions like "why are we here", "what is worth doing", "how should we treat each other", and "what should we do". And helps explain: literature, art theology, history, music and more. Some raging Humanity...
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