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Introduction to Philosophical Inquiry

Nicholas: The Three not-yet-wise Men

Imagine it’s late December 2004, just after Christmas and 3 men come home after a tiring day of boxing day shopping to sit down on the couch, relax, and watch the news. As they settle down, they watch in horror as the terrible news of the tsunami in Southeast Asia is relayed to them.

The next day these men, all stumble into the office in which they work and immediately start discussing last night’s news. The first man is a simple one. He tells his colleagues how he feels sorry for all the victims, but quickly moves on to the Christmas present he received from his wife. The second man is a humanitarian. He describes how he feels anguish for the fate of his fellow humans and how he has already donated money to the Red Cross for relief efforts, and encourages his work mates to do likewise.

However the third man is an aspiring philosopher. After having watched the uncontrollable forces of nature wreak havoc upon peoples who were powerless to help themselves, he turned off the TV, lay down in bed and began to think about his own mortality. He contemplated his place in the cosmos, what he could possibly hope to achieve with his life and above all, what he, as a glorified collection of conscious carbon could do to fulfil the rest of his day with something meaningful. He comes to the realization that, his life could be whatever he wanted it to be. He was the master of his own fate and it was his philosophy that enabled him to take charge of each day of his, so that, on his deathbed he could look back on a life full of accomplishments and devoid of regrets. He excitedly tells his coworkers his discovery hoping to share his revelation, and they all kind of look at him funny and get back to work, muttering about how odd Mike had become since taking a philosophy course.

Though only one of these three men is a philosopher, it was each man’s individual philosophy that differentiates them. The first had a rather poorly developed philosophy which expanded little outside of his own world, while the second had a philosophy that put his fellow human beings and their priorities before other concerns. The third man was a self proclaimed philosopher and had his own philosophy, but all three men indeed had a philosophy. Philosophy, at its heart, is the lens through which we view the events of the world. It is how we interpret life and it dictates our reactions to tragedies and the mundane alike. Philosophy defines what’s important to us and tells exactly what we think we’re doing in life. But perhaps Claire Carlisle defined philosophy best when she said:

Most simply put it’s about making sense of all this… We find ourselves in a world that we haven’t chosen. There are all sorts of possible ways of interpreting it and finding meaning in the world and in the lives that we live. So philosophy is about making sense of that situation that we find ourselves in.

So as told by Claire and as exemplified by the three men, philosophy is unique unto each man, and is indeed what makes him a man; for what truly separates a man in civilization from the beasts in the wilderness besides the man’s philosophy?

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