Philosophy 101

Well, this week was the last lecture of what has been an amazing scholar year. So I came up with this little recount of what is like to be thrown in the pool of philosophy after lying on a dry rock under the sun for 25 years.

overthinking

Amazing illustration by Ruslan Khasanov

How do I begin to express in words how much I love philosophy? When I first signed up for this Master I was expecting to understand the stubbornness with which people around me held onto their worldview, I came here expecting to find proofs of why other people I disagreed with were wrong, I wanted to learn how to better defend my arguments of how things should be.

What I found left me speechless. I realized I was far off from being a part of any solution to the problems of society, I was infected with the disease I so badly wanted to eradicate.

Engaging with my classmates and professors, the smartest people I had ever met in my life, was like the punch in the face I needed to wake up from my delusion. Sure, my point of view was valuable, but it was useless if I couldn’t listen, if I couldn’t draw connections between our different outtakes on reality, if I couldn’t synthesize our alternative experiences in the world. I learned to be humble with my opinions, even if I’ve been reading and cultivating myself in any topic for weeks, or months, or years. That humbleness and disconcert might at first give you a sense of despair, the feeling of being completely ignorant, but the benefits end up surpassing that unfounded fear. Because there is so much more to learn once you give up on your “right” opinion.

I learned there is no such thing as universal truths, despite my previous blind loyalty to modern science as the overarching source of knowledge. I learned to consider that any story and account of facts, scientific, philosophical or historical, is impregnated with undesired influences from what is happening in its surroundings. I learned that the end results of any intellectual inquiry carry with it the watermarks of where and when it was conducted. And despite our frustrations, our attachment to this ideal of absolute facts, the best we can do is justify our beliefs as inferences to the best explanation we have at hand. There is no limit to how much one can open his or her mind, once you’ve gotten rid of all your assumptions, of all the things that you’re so sure that you know, that is when the real conversation starts.

This is all hard for me to express in a blog post, but after a year of countless lectures on great thinkers (not all of which I agreed with), after more than the compulsory amount of colloquia about the amazing research people are conducting right now in what is now my field, and after philosophising with my classmates along, let’s admit it, more than a couple of beers at the Bolwerk, my brain has completely exploded. I’m still trying to put together the pieces, and I know that when I’m finished, that shit’s gonna look and function entirely different.

If we hold a conversation in the future, just know that I am completely done taking anything for granted, and I will push you and everyone around me to do the same.

In this incessant search for the meaning of existence and its purpose, in this tenacious goal we hold on to understand what the fuck is that we are doing in this world, philosophy really brings you to your knees, it hits you with a thousand Newtons of force and makes you feel like a tiny, tiny little ant walking clueless in the immensity of the Universe.

I am completely in love, and though I have to accept sometimes it raises in me a bit of anxiety, to know that I will never ever be capable of finding the ultimate answer to explain this mess we call life makes it much more exciting to get out of bed every morning and explore it with the curiosity of a 6-year-old.

To philosophy, cheers. 🍺

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