Why Philosophy?

Lanh Ho

In the essay, “The World as Will and Idea”, Arthur Schopenhauer states “Animals learn death first at the moment of death; man approaches death with the knowledge it is closer every hour, and this creates a feeling of uncertainty over his life, even for him who forgets in the business of life that annihilation is awaiting him. It is for this reason chiefly that we have philosophy and religion,” and I agree with this statement; for what is life? This question was the beginning of fundamental philosophical questions that existed for over 25 centuries ago. Through time, experience, and observation, humans began to regard life as an experience of existence for a set period of time until their death. Once they realize that individual existence can not physically be prolonged, they created more and more dynamic solutions toward prolonging their life mentally in the minds of the human race. This was a solution because they knew death awaits them, and they created Western philosophy in order to understand why this happens because as Aristotle states it, “[a]ll men desire to know.” By human nature, people desire knowledge and for this reason, the love of wisdom is derived, and philosophy is born. Socrates also believes that “an unexamined life is not worth living,” because if one does not know much about one’s life, then their life is similar to the life of an animal who knows not why they exist, but just lives life till the moment of their death.

That is just one of the many reasons why we have philosophy, another reason philosophy exists is to answer questions and question answers with arguments in which to find the universal truth that time cannot change. I believe the understanding of this universal truth is the key to human evolution in nature and when people find this universal truth, they will understand the universe and their place in it. For example, humans found that the earth was round and not flat, this universal truth was the beginning of human evolution toward a new and industrialize society. Another universal truth that humans found lies in gravity. Only through philosophical ideas that we were able to have fundamental questions such as; if I drop two balls at the same time, one which contains more mass than the other, which one will hit the ground first? Aristotle’s logic was that the one with more mass will hit the ground first, but then Galileo who actually did the experiment and proven to everyone through mathematics that the two balls hit the ground at the same time found that Aristotle was wrong. This knowledge brought advancements in mathematics and science, leading humans again towards a better industrialized society.

An even greater universal truth is every being that exists in nature will perish. Although within all existing beings exists the will-to-live; the difference between humans and animals is observed as the one who has the capacity to reason and the one that does not. I agree life does not occur to animals as a threat because they learn of death at the moment they die, thus they have no reason to fear death. A human on the other hand, knows death well and also knows that death cannot be avoided because time will bring about their annihilation. For this reason, humans fear death, so we try to find the truth in it through theories and understandings of universal truths.

These universal truths include; life, death, experience, action, and the will-to-live. The will-to-live is a natural phenomenon that exists in nature because all species that exist in nature reproduces and continues to exist through time. It is because of this will-to-live that humans can learn to understand nature and natural phenomenon. The sole purpose for why we reason is unknown, but what we do know is that we are capable of reasoning, finding universal truths, and completing reality or creating our own reality in our mind, and then in the physical world.

The universal truth, death, is dreadful and eternal in the mind, organisms, and sometimes religious human soul, for death cannot be avoided. In our contemporary community, man’s life seems to continue nature’s process of DNA replication for the purpose of continuing animal existence. But because modern society advances through technology and science, scientist are now able to manipulate the replication of DNA and therefore have begun its grasp at controlling nature and natural phenomenon such as death. Although death can be avoided physically, the mental knowledge that the brain acquires through time and experience vanishes along with the body that held that brain unless left behind in writings or so. Because of this, humans are just controlling the birth of a clone, therefore giving life, not avoiding death just yet.

With these philosophical ideas in mind; philosophy, in my opinion, is seeing nature and the universe for what it is and trying to understand nature and the universe by coming up with fundamental questions and finding solutions to these fundamental questions in order to gain a better understanding of nature and the universe. For example, if I know nothing of my existence, I would therefore ask myself, who am I? Then through existence my answer would be; ask my friends, family, society, and those who know me for who I am, for these people are the people who define me. Through them, I am whole, and through me they are whole, and for this reason we have society. For example, the symbol Lanh, it was given to me at birth by society and society accepts me as Lanh, and this symbol holds no meaning, but it represents who I am in a way. Thus, the people around me define myself and I define them.

Another question would be why do I exist in the world? My answer would have to involve nature, for nature is what keeps me alive and nature is a part of us all. I exist in the world because of Nature’s will-to-live. Therefore, I exist because nature wants the human species to exist. One might contradict this theory because in the more advanced society, people take control of their own lives, so this belief does not apply to them, but those who still exist in a more natural form still relies mainly on nature for existence. For example, animals rely on nature to grow and evolve in order to adapt to nature, and nature creates natural environments that animals can survive in. One aids the other so that both can continue to exist through time. For example, the world is flooded with water after the ice melted in the ice age and animals starts to die one by one. Nature give birds a chance to live by letting them naturally grow feathers so they can fly. Also, because they depend on food for survival, nature also grows plants and animals which they can feed on for their survival. We call this type of system, the circle of life because after their death, other animals in the natural environment will feed on them for their means of survival. Now that humans began taking natural elements of the world to create their artificial environment for their survival, they excluded themselves from natural evolution. This may cause an imbalance between nature and humans because nature cannot adapt as fast as humans can built and consume. It is for this reason; we have begun to take control of nature.

This answer is followed by the question, what is my purpose in this universe at this period of time in my life? In order to answer this question, I must think specifically toward my own means of existence instead of society as a whole. I exist in this universe today because I predicted through determination and motivation that one day, I will prolong the life of individuals such as myself and be all existing through time and space, but right now in reality I am but a philosopher who soaks up knowledge like a sponge floating on the vast ocean. I am a person who is fortunate to be born in the 20th century where technology is at its peak in advancement. The reason as to why I exist today is more or less unknown to me and everyone I know on earth unless I was given an objective because through objectives I am able to determine my existence. For this reason, we find and create our own reasons to live and for why we live. So, today I live for my future, and the future of others.

These fundamental questions are only used to explain universal truths, but what about fundamental questions that arises through our intelligent system of artificial environment? One of my most favorite fundamental philosophical questions that arise from society more so than ever today is “what is human being?” This question puzzles me the most for the greatest amount of time, for biological facts about gender and sexes do not explain anything about man and woman except that we are different in a few locations on the body. How it was that history took the course of action and said that the human with the penis should be the one in control while the one with the breast and pussy should be the one that is submissive and under control. It is for this reason that men are more powerful than women for the longest period of time, but how did this happened? Also, now that this course has already been determined in the past, what is man now? This answer is still in question, for those who are gay and lesbian does not define themselves as traditional men or women governed by reproduction.

Another all time favorite fundamental philosophical question is “What is just?” Justice is blind, and only humans define justice by past experience through religion, emotions, struggles, and reasons. Justification is always changing and the people who justify what is right or wrong are imperfect homo sapiens who justice have never done wrong to them. In my opinion, those who know justice well are mostly in favor of freedom and equality for all, even if they have to sacrifice their life for it. For example, a group of rebels join together for a cause, and this cause is to kill the king that threatens their society with unequal rights and unusual punishments. This group disregards their consequences for killing the king, to liberate themselves. For this reason they were killed, but they have brought just into society and forever they will be remembered as those who die for a great cause. This still does not define justice enough to make its meaning universal through the world.

In conclusion, philosophy is nothing more than thoughts and ideas that evolved through space and time with more and more human advancements. Philosophy is the fundamental questions that which cannot be answered from reality, but within the human mind. This idea presents philosophy as a solution to the universe’s problems, for through philosophy we have advance thus far and we will continue to advance till we can advance no further. Once we reach our goals, then maybe there will be an end to human existence within the universe, and if there is no end and humans are trapped in an endless suffering in nature’s circle of life, then philosophy has no reason for its existence.