Getting Philosophical

What is truth? That used to be an actual question, long before our current culture of “If I get enough people to believe my lies, then that is the truth.” Formerly, some people would think about and try to understand “the truth.” Those people were called philosophers, or sometimes time-wasters by the anti-philosophical. Those were the ‘good old days.’

“I would not think that philosophy and reason themselves will be man’s guide in the foreseeable future; however, they will remain the most beautiful sanctuary they have always been for the select few.” Albert Einstein

What Al says is true. You’ll notice he didn’t speculate on whether philosophy and reason would be woman’s guide. The wise man never speculates on what women are thinking. So I’ll follow Al’s lead and temporarily re-open up the beautiful sanctuary of philosophy for you select few men with so much time to waste that you are reading this in order to avoid facing our messed up state and world.

As I recall from my college philosophy class, it was Socrates who invented philosophy by asking questions. This is called the Socratic Method, named after himself. He thus became the inventor of name-brand marketing as well.

Socrates’ most famous dictum is “Know thyself.” Apparently ancient Greeks only spoke in King James English. The way to know yourself is to keep asking questions until you push beyond the limits of your present knowledge and belief. For some of us that only takes one or two questions. With that in mind, I imagine Socrates is probably sorry he didn’t think up these questions:

“If a man who cannot count finds a four-leaf clover, is he lucky?”

“Why is a person who invests your money called a ‘broker’?”

Socrates’ most famous philosophical question is the one that has both inspired and stumped philosophers of all ages and cultures – “If a man speaks in the forest and a woman doesn’t hear him, is he still wrong?” I think it was Socrates, or maybe it was Plato. Or Brad Pitt. One of those guys.

When you are philosophical, you can repeat deep thoughts like these:

“Before enlightenment – chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment – chop wood, carry water.” Zen Buddhist Proverb

“You never know what is enough, until you know what is more than enough.” William Blake, Proverbs of Hell

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” Henry David Thoreau

Now we are getting down to the deep stuff. As I recall, Thoreau went on to talk about women and beer.

Other philosophers point out the difficulty of achieving absolute truth by thinking about it, which is perhaps why people don’t go into philosophy much anymore.

“The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.” Niels Bohr

“The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist in the fact that, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely different.” Aldous Huxley

It is not only intellectuals who can ‘talk philosophy.’ Two of America’s greatest philosophers are
(1) Yogi Berra: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” And
(2) Mae West: “Too much of a good thing is wonderful.”
In another culture, they would be considered Zen masters.

That reminds me of an incident in philosophy class which didn’t really happen, but it should have. At the end of the course, the professor gave us our final exam and said, “Using any of the philosophical methods we have examined in this class, prove that this chair does not exist.” The highest grade went to the young woman who spent about fifteen seconds composing her answer before she walked out. It said, “What chair?”

It is already too late for me to take the wise counsel of mathematician and philosopher Lewis Carroll, who said, in Alice in Wonderland, “Begin at the beginning and go on ‘til you come to the end; then stop.”

It’s hard to know when to stop, when you can’t really remember what you were talking about, and why; (if in fact you had any actual subject you wanted to explore when you began typing.)

So I should have stopped several paragraphs ago, but no, I had to go on. Rats. I’ll never be a philosopher. Or a writer. Too bad I’m not getting paid by the word. Or by the number of blogs into which I inject “rats.”

About admin

Rusty Harper is outrageously happy because he is retired and living with the love of his life, Pat Callbeck Harper in Helena, Montana. So why does he inflict these ramblings on the rest of us, you ask? Because you deserve it. If you aren't smart enough not to read this stuff, then you have to suffer through it. Maybe that builds character, though I doubt it. Think of all the positive things you could do with the time you are wasting on things that occur to me in the night and then sound strange even to me when I write them down in the morning. Bake a cake. Complain to your Senator. Run for Congress. Do something.
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