[Reading time: 6 minutes]
Written by Ludovica Cavalieri
We live in a world of questions, so here’s another one for you: Where can we get the answers from?
I’d say philosophy. You may think it is just a boring and obsolete subject or just another exam to fail. I can actually assure you it is really helping me to figure out my personal way of thinking and to find those answers we all look for.
Personally I think philosophy is extremely modern and relevant. I firmly believe it can make an immense contribution to modern society, as shown by the fact that still today there are philosophers who still talk about topics that even Plato or Epicurus dealt with.
Every time I try to tell someone philosophy is actually aiding me to understand what goes on around me, they always look puzzled. I used to think I would have only got questions from it. The fun fact is that in some sort of way I was right. Philosophy does give you questions, but philosophers give you answers. Obviously you may not agree with them, but this just means you’re one step closer to finding the best response. For instance, just a few days ago, I was discussing with my teacher and my classmates about whether the egg, the chicken or the chick came first. I never knew I had an actual answer to this question until I found out Aristotle believed the chicken came first. That’s when I started wondering how he could claim that a chicken randomly popped out of nowhere and started living like nothing just happened.
This certainly does not tell you why there’s still a need for philosophy. Neither does it give you reasons why it should be considered relevant.
I’ve learnt to think of it as something out of time, that can be applied to Pericles’ Athens as well as to the world we live in. The topics we discuss are often the same that philosophers from the past have already dealt with. For instance, Plato thought about the best form of government, Epicurus wondered which was the best way of living, many philosophers have speculated on God’s existence and so on.
One example that shows how we are still struggling to find a form of government that is unequivocally the best one is the referendum that was held on the fourth of December here in Italy.
As I was saying, we also still speculate on what is the best way of making the most out of our lives. We often tend to think that by eliminating suffering we can be happier. Well, that’s exactly what Epicurus said.
Furthermore, the world we live in is based on ephemeral things and feelings. I think that in such a situation aphorisms like “carpe diem” are undeniably modern. We naturally tend to try to make every moment we live count.
Moreover, our society is primarily based on social media and appearances. In such an environment I think philosophy could help us in communicating and interacting with people while appearing exactly as we want to.
Finally, philosophy provides a way of developing any form of critical thinking. While pushing everyone to think and imagine a way of improving the quality of our life it benefits not only the individual, but also the collective.
When we hear someone talking about philosophers, we automatically think of people like Socrates, Descartes or Nietzsche. We tend to think of philosophy as a dead subject, whereas there still are people calling themselves philosophers and trying to answer the unanswerable “whys” of our lives. Theodore Zeldin, Saul Kripke and David Chalmers are just some of these. A few of the topics they talk about are the ways in which we communicate and interact with one another, biotics and even metaphysics.
There is even a channel on YouTube called “The school of life” whose videos cover philosophical approach to a wide spectrum of topics. There you can find clips about how to overcome shyness as well as the uses of envy. Generally you’ll find videos about existence and living in the best way possible.
As we can see modern philosophers talk about purely modern topics, such as advanced communication and society, and also about themes that were already analysed in detail by ancient thinkers, such as metaphysics or naturalistic dualism.
What I think is that philosophy will always be relevant because we will never stop asking questions, even though sometimes the answers don’t even exist. As Plato once said “Philosophy begins in wonder” and humans just can’t help wondering.
Us students tend to think of philosophy as nothing more than a boring subject, while it actually is what makes us different from other animals: the capacity to be astonished, to rationally question the world and try to find an answer. This really is a wonderful world.