Why Study Philosophy at All?

What is philosophy and why should we study it? Provisionally, let’s say that, at its best, philosophy is the devoted study about the truth of things in life—for example, whether life is purposeful, whether we ought to act one way or another, and what options we have.

What is philosophy and why should we study it? Provisionally, let’s say that, at its best, philosophy is the devoted study about the truth of things in life—for example, whether life is purposeful, whether we ought to act one way or another, and what options we have. We should study philosophy for four reasons: (1) we are already implicitly engaged in philosophy; (2) our philosophical convictions guide our decisions; (3) Scripture commands us to become wise and to avoid foolishness. Lastly, (4) the main reasons to avoid philosophy turn out to be weak arguments. Let’s consider each point in turn.

First, we should study philosophy because we are already implicitly engaged in philosophy and we simply can’t get away from it. Just by living, making decisions, and pursuing goals in life, this necessarily aligns a person with certain philosophical beliefs. This may seem surprising, but a few moments of thought show this to be true. Everyone has philosophical convictions—that is, everyone has provisional answers, whether these answers are expressly stated or implicit, to philosophical questions. These questions may be broad, such as:

·        Does life have meaning?

·        Are there right and wrong actions?

·        Is philosophy important?

·        Is all of reality random?

· Is there an order beneath the fabric of our experiences and our lives?

·        Is there a God?

These questions are perfectly philosophical, and, in many cases, people have expressly answered these questions one way or another. For example, a recent poll asked, “Do you believe in God?” Only 1% had “no opinion.” The other 99% answered either “yes” or “no,” expressly endorsing one philosophical conviction or another. The popularity of any specific belief itself, however, proves nothing about what should be believed, but it does indicate something of what people do, in fact, believe.

All people have philosophical convictions of some sort. No single person could avoid having any philosophical convictions. Consider some traditional questions of philosophy: 1. What is reality? 2. How do know things about reality? 3. What is good for human beings? 4. What is worth pursuing in life? 5. What is the purpose of government? 6. What is life all about?

Whether a person provides any answers to any of these questions at all or even replies that any of these questions are irrelevant, demonstrates that they have philosophical convictions. Both answering and not answering this these questions shows that a person has philosophical convictions.

Most people stumble into philosophical convictions, inherit them, or simply inhale them along with the air they breathe. Because philosophical convictions are so easy to acquire, you would have to make a conscious effort to avoid affirming any philosophical propositions. But, to make this conscious effort, you would have to believe that it is good to refrain from endorsing any philosophical convictions (or to suspend belief when it comes to philosophical assertions). This belief, however, falls neatly into an enduring philosophical tradition: skepticism. This belief is a philosophical conviction, and, therefore, philosophical convictions are unavoidable and we should take care to adopt the right convictions. We are ships in an ocean, going somewhere, even if anchored. The anchored ship goes where it is anchored. Even this is a place. Stagnation is a state, just as growth and decay is a state.

Second, we should study philosophy because philosophical convictions guide our decisions. Our philosophical convictions include beliefs about why life is meaningful, how we ought to act, and about what our options are. These convictions are the reasons for our choices and decisions. In turn, our decisions connect to consequences that we care about. We should, therefore, take an interest in the philosophical convictions that shape these consequences.

Third, we should study philosophy because Scripture tells us that folly is a sin (Mark 7:22), and Scripture also commands us to seek wisdom. “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” (Prov. 4:7). Consider the import of ‘though it cost all you have’. Similarly, James states: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5–6) “But,” James cautions us: “let him ask in faith.” (James 1:5–6) These commands (and similar commands) are often skipped over and minimized by those advocating a ‘simple faith.’ As will be shown, sound faith and a sound philosophy are interconnected, and therefore, a sound philosophy should be sought, just as much as the grounds for our beliefs, which in part, is the meaning of faith.

Fourth, indirectly, one might observe that reasons that are commonly harbored to justify or to ignore, the importance of philosophy are quite false. This will grow more evident as these articles progress, but for now, it can be directly stated that the popular notion of philosophy is misconceived. From these misconceptions, people tend to adopt attitudes against philosophy. That is, some convince themselves that philosophy itself must necessarily be unchristian, but this is just false.

These anti-philosophical arguments are certainly due to misunderstandings of what philosophy is about, both historically, and in practice. They might think, for instance, that philosophy is nothing but useless mental gymnastics, or ancient science that is now obsolete. Relying on these misconceptions, busy modern people might think philosophy is, at best, interesting in a vague and remote sense, and so they will not study philosophy. Against these misconceptions, I urge that, at its best, philosophy studies the best basis of our decisions, so that they lead us to both truth and goodness.

As we examine a proper understanding of what philosophy’s proper purpose and scope, and what philosophers look like when they are doing their work well, we can then deepen and refine our ideas about philosophy. We will see how our convictions and decisions tightly connect to our philosophical ideas, and how a proper conception of philosophy ties together theological wisdom with common-sense, and provides all people with a common basis for having productive conversations about our shared human experiences.

 

Saint Patrick (Maewyn Succat)

Here’s to the legacy of Maewyn Succat (now called Saint Patrick). He was an English-Roman teenager when he was captured by Irish slavers, and became a slave for about six years (geographically English, national citizenship by Rome). He had a vision that directed him to get to a ship to leave, and there was a ship. He then returned home. After he returned to England, became active in the church, and then received a dream to return to Ireland, and he did. Saint Patrick sought to save the Irish people, and share the gospel with those that enslaved him.

Image result for saint patrick

Maewyn Succat, or Saint Patrick

Here’s to the legacy of Maewyn Succat (now called Saint Patrick). He was a Welsh-Roman teenager when he was captured by Irish slavers, and became a slave for about six years (geographically English, national citizenship by Rome). Then he had a vision that directed him to get to a ship to leave, and there was a ship. After years enslaved, he then returned home. Patrick then returned to England, and then became active in the church, and then received a dream to return to Ireland, and he did. Saint Patrick sought to save the Irish people, and share the gospel with those that enslaved him.

There are many reasons why this is an awesome story. First, it is an example of change and transcendence. Maewyn was of Anglo-Roman noble-stock and was enslaved. Was he marked in history by complaining about the injustices against him, or was he defined by loving those that persecuted him?  (the latter). Second, Maewyn was not even ‘Irish’ in the superficial sense, but was ‘Irish,’ in the sense that he loved the people of Ireland, which made him truly Irish. Love explains what and who you are. That is something substantial. What is not substantial, are things like color and language. Acts define you, not some group identity. Languages can be learned. Love transcends what separates you from another. That is to say, a superficial, and nigh irrelevant group-identity of mere color or class, pales in contrast to a substantial identity of one’s Faith, practice, purpose, and deeds, over the course of a lifetime of struggle and service. So, perhaps group identity matters, but one’s silly group-identity that is comprised of color or class, is so silly that it required a brief comment, about why St. Patrick was Irish, and this did not refer to his origin, bloodline, or class. Rather, Patrick is a heroic saint because his service to the Gospel and to the Irish people.

His prayers are pretty awesome too.

Here is what he is most famous for, called by various names: ‘St. Patrick’s Breastplate‘, or ‘The Deer’s Cry’, ‘The Lorica of Saint Patrick’ or ‘Saint Patrick’s Hymn’:

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.
I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.
I bind to myself today
The virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.
I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.
I bind to myself today
God’s Power to guide me,
God’s Might to uphold me,
God’s Wisdom to teach me,
God’s Eye to watch over me,
God’s Ear to hear me,
God’s Word to give me speech,
God’s Hand to guide me,
God’s Way to lie before me,
God’s Shield to shelter me,
God’s Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.
I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, smiths, and wizards,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.
Christ, protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ in the poop [deck],
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.


I recommend his Confessions of St. Patrick and Letter to Coroticus by St.Patrick, Saint Patrick. It is a short work, but definitely worth having in your library, as a historical reflection and devotion. It definitely makes you grateful and inspired. May we all aspire to be ‘sterner stuff,’ like St. Patrick, who was a servant of Christ, and the original Hibernophile (lover of the Irish).

If you are interested in the overall history of Saint Patrick, then I’d recommend this biography by Philip Freeman, St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography .  For an overall account of Celtic Christianity, and its impact on Western Civilization, I’d recommend this book by Thomas Cahill How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe.

Hope everyone has a great day. May Christ be before, behind you, and in you. Amen.

About:

I’m just a guy who has read a few books and have taken a few classes. I love the idea of the University, but am skeptical of most Universities. I live with my family in the Midwest of the USA, and I seek to organize my thoughts, build a legacy for myself and my family, … Continue reading “About:”

I’m just a guy who has read a few books and have taken a few classes. I love the idea of the University, but am skeptical of most Universities.

I live with my family in the Midwest of the USA, and I seek to organize my thoughts, build a legacy for myself and my family, and share my life with others.