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I never imagined myself as a philosopher as a child growing up in the middle-class suburban neighborhood of Tall Pine, Phoenix, Arizona. Philosophy had always seemed like a far-fetched concept to me, something I could only relate to Plato, Aristotle, or Kant. As Shusterman (13) points out, philosophy has always seemed to me like a subject for the noble of mind and thought when it comes to assessing the fundamental nature of knowledge, the existence of phenomena, and the reigning reality (especially within the academic realm). As a result, my life had never seemed philosophical to me, at least until I enrolled in university to study philosophy. It is because of this that my life never really seemed philosophical to me, at least until I joined the university to study the discipline. In this essay therefore, I delve into three aspects of my life in relation to the study of philosophy at the university; starting with an analysis of myself as a philosopher before taking this class, then looking into the changes that attended my thoughts in the course of taking this class, before finally detailing how I will use what I have learned in my future endeavors.
Before Joining this Class
Prior to joining the philosophy class, I never really thought I held any beliefs or thoughts that I may have been considered philosophical. As a teenager throughout high school and as a young individual in my very early twenties, I never really questioned the knowledge I was fed in the classroom and the facts I met along the way; to me, they were just correct (provided they made sense to me) and as such needed no disputing. To the effect that I accepted that which made sense to me and which, on the face of it, seemed logical, I may have been philosophical (at least going by Plato’s philosophy which is based on rationality). In my thoughts and actions, before this class, I was, by my own calculation and standards, rational in every aspect and deed. Though I did not know it yet, I was also philosophical in the Aristotelian sense as my reality was domiciled and revealed through the use of my five senses. Though I did not really question, in depth, the happenstance of phenomena, I believe that deep down I was philosophical - though I may not have been wholly aware of it at the time.
Back in my younger days, specifically during the last two years of my high school and when I joined the university, my reality, imaginations and perceptions were guided by a deep sense of skepticism. To me, many a phenomenon were just frivolities until I proved, independently, where I could or accepted them based on rational and logical explanations. In that regard therefore, I believe I may have been (to whichever small extent, and despite not being fully aware of it) philosophical of thought, particularly subscribing to the philosophies of Hume and Kant that were domiciled in skepticism. In essence therefore, I hold the view that I was a philosopher, in the strictest sense of the word, though I was not even in the slightest bit aware of it.
Changes to my Thoughts
In the course of this class, a lot of changes attended my thoughts. For one, ever since I started the philosophy lessons I have been consistently questioning common occurring knowledge. To this effect I have not only become more skeptical in my view of facts and figures but I have been able to dispel of some truths I previously held. To me, reality seems to be a lot more subjective than it was before I started my philosophy studies; at present, I do not just accept that which I see, feel or hear without questioning or studying it. My life is now characterized with a greater sense of rationalism. Many of the phenomena that I had freely accepted hitherto are now subjected to greater scrutiny on the altar of rationality and deeper though. Through the philosophy classes, I have been able to think a lot more and more critically, utilizing my higher mental faculties more than I used to in my past.
My study of philosophy has also tailored my thoughts towards the questioning and assessment of the human existence. My thoughts are now occupied with the unfairness of the human life, the glaring inequalities of the human race and how those can be solved in a manner that makes all individuals contented. Often times, I also engage in deeper thoughts over issues that would have seemed trivial to me there-before such as the meaning of life or the inevitability of death as the ultimate end for each individual. As a result of the philosophy class I have also realized that my behavior is guided by deeper thoughts and stronger convictions than was the case in the past; I tend to model my thoughts, behaviors, actions and reactions in line with thoughts greater than me. I have essentially become less self-centered and egotistic and have instead grown more rational and selfless of thought and action. To a less extent, as a result of my study of philosophy, I have become pragmatic in my view of the world, having realized than problems and issues have been with humankind for the longest time.
Going forward, I hope to put a lot of the concepts that I have learned and will learn in philosophy to use for the betterment of not just myself but also all of humanity. Based on what I have learnt in my philosophy classes, I hope to employ higher mental faculties in my approach to problems and issues that bedevil the society, while being pragmatic in such an endeavor. Having encountered a number of different thoughts and viewpoints in my philosophy classes, I will strive to not consume knowledge, assumptions and facts on their face value but rather to assess them in detail, and question their premise. Basically, my philosophy classes have not only made me more skeptical but have also improved my rationality and imparted a bigger sense of curiosity of mind in me. As I look to my future, I hope that the concepts I have learnt in my philosophy classes will perch me above others by allowing me to not often rely on my base instinct and hence seek pleasure, but to open my mind to more possibilities by thinking freely and more openly. Above all, my philosophy classes will be important in my life by helping me to be more ethical in my dealing with others and to observe greater morality in such interactions.
As the study of the nature of knowledge, existence of phenomena and the presence of reality, philosophy deals with deeper issues than those present on the surface. In my earlier days, before joining a philosophy class, many of the things I did had a philosophical explanation though I did not know so. Through philosophy classes I have been able to make use of my higher mental faculties much more often than I did hitherto, and I have expanded my view of the world by questioning more happenstances than ever before. Looking into the future, I hope to be less self-centered and more rational, moral and ethical in my dealings with others, thanks to the philosophy classes I am currently taking at the university.
Shusterman, Richard. Practicing Philosophy: Pragmatism and the Philosophical Life. Northridge, CA: Routledge, 2016: 10 - 44.
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