The Greeks defined philosophy as the love of wisdom. They were wrong.
If you are a lover of wisdom, do not study philosophy. If you hope to learn the ways things truly are, come no closer. You will gain no wisdom here.
Philosophy is the study of one’s own mind — a perfect editorial. My philosophy need cite no sources.
Mysteries are human creations. Enigmas are defined by incompatibilities among different human intellects, by disjuncture in perceptions. If there were only one consciousness, it would know everything there is to know, correct? But just as the human mind creates its own philosophical problems, it also makes philosophical solutions. To discover how an impossibility makes sense is as simple as sensing different possibilities. Each individual’s perspective is completely unique, and there is no single mode of reason.
Nietzsche called this perspectivism. I call this philosophy. Philosophical argumentation is the reconciling of perspective.
Philosophy gets to play with science’s leftovers, because disagreement is the one thing science cannot manage to atomize. A scientific experiment ends in consistency because inconsistency means we haven’t quite got it yet. Scientists go home for dinner when truths align and inputs effect reliable outputs. Philosophers are victims of the same fallacy which makes them search for ultimate truth as well — but for them, it’s sport. Counter arguments are unrelenting, yet we keep striving to overcome dissent in search of the answer. Somehow only the nihilists and the skeptics ever become discouraged by consistent failure to achieve agreement.
Is all this completely useless? Is a fundamental divide in perspective reason enough to give up searching? No. As long as you don’t expect your enlightenment to apply to everyone, I say keep truckin’. Yet, I must continually ask: If truth is subjective and personal, what is it that we strive to know?
Truth may be subjective, but you can still get it technically wrong — this is why you keep searching.
Outside influences can be distracting to the detriment of personal perspective. This is not to say we should avoid influence, because the thoughts of others are just as important as your own. But when you read the ideas of others — and please read; read voraciously — do not unquestionably believe them. Anything that you read is simply the thoughts of another, whose thoughts have derived from a clever mishmash of his own influences and intuitions based on human consciousness which is itself mostly derivative. And if everything is mostly derivative, then there is a good chance that everything is mostly wrong, too.
Think of philosophy as exercise for the intuition, a practice by which one lives by his own rules. We then reach the problem of how to separate true, instinctual Cartesian intuition from corrupt influence. The answer is: We can’t. Socialization is inevitable, and identities must develop under conditions of mutual influence.
It is a beautiful thing to watch two people interact. The sensitivity of an individual to her companion’s interests — the show of true concern for interpretation of intention, as judged by each possible facial expression or turn of phrase — defines human communication. Each individual leads a unique existence; there is a difference in the way we each understand the world. Thus, each human experiences is a collaboration with the world around them. When we come together to discover a truth, we attempt to align our systems of perceptions.
But, such alignment is a false ideal.
The struggle to overcome disagreement is frustrating because everything we think seems to make reasoned sense deep down within us and we assume that we essentially have compatible perspectives with everyone else. We assume that humans are naturally inclined to Rationality with a capital R.
I argue for a lowercase rationality. A subjectivist realism. There are real truths — each assertion is cognizable — but each individual may perceive these truths to a different effect. Now, it is not that there is no ultimate truth, but that the ultimate truth is a mass amalgam of individual perceptions. Ultimate truth is not alignment; it is summation. It may be impossible to grasp this totality, but we should still strive to understand others. We asymptotically pursue the goal of comprehending our infinite perceptions, because it is this infinitude that forms our reality.
Philosophy is the search for the ultimate perspective — the view that regards every view. To question the necessity of this search is to continue the search itself. Philosophy is not academic; it is not about learning from books — it is a personal quest for truth.
Valerie Steinberg is a junior in Berkeley College. She is a philosophy major and a member of the Yale Philosophical Society.