Plato 428-348 B.C.
Image Courtesy of University of Athens">

Rev. Austin Miles, a chaplain in Northern California is a writer and historian. He is the author of Santa's Surprising Origins, a story that received worldwide circulation and resulted in him being cast in the 2004 Hallmark Christmas Movie titled, Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus. He played the mall Santa who magically received the gift of sign language.

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Society • Why Study Philosophy?

Philosophers are usually pictured as bearded older men. Perhaps the enthusiastic acceptance of this writer into the university course was to give the class some atmosphere.

image

Plato 428-348 B.C.
Image Courtesy of University of Athens

At first, the dialogues, for this student, was about as exciting as a hot tub party at a senior citizens’ center.

The exploration of the philosophers (at first reading), appeared to be all useless idle chit-chat by a bunch of derelict old men who had nothing better to do than to engage themselves in time-wasting applications of nonsensical ‘investigations’ of things that didn’t really matter, nor would change.

Such was the thinking of one who did not realize the very power of the science which has affected lives and governments; not necessarily for the betterment of society, but affecting religious thought constructively.

More than once, in the initial studies, I wanted to yell out to the ‘thinkers;’ For God’s sake, get a life!

It was difficult to make any sense out of it all, with the various Greek terms to memorize,  the history,  names of the thinkers, what they thought, which ‘thinkers’ thoughts contradicted their own, were their conclusions valid, and what methods did they use?

So much was being crammed into a single brain that speculation sparked the possibility that one more bit of information could have exploded into a mental hernia.

Then a thought seized me (philosophical talk) as I thought of the old comic strip Pogo, where the characters sat around all day in serious discussions of all the happenings in the swamp, including the disappearance of “Bear’s” underwear, with profound statements of investigative possibilities and probabilities. It was hilarious.

And with that, I re-read Plato. It suddenly became an enjoyable read as I saw the participants in the dialogues trying to out-think and out-do each other like the Pogo strip.

The humor of it all began to emerge while wondering who could out-flank who, seeing the depth of the discussions, beginning to see the wisdom surface, and then the foresight of their thoughts which were almost prophetic.

As Plato was discussing his Republic, the Utopian city that he wanted to create, this dialogue took place:

“And we’ll also need many more cattle, won’t we, if the people are going to eat meat?”

“Of course.”

“And if we live like that, we’ll have a far greater need for doctors than we did before?”

“Much greater.”

With renewed vigor, I re-evaluated the entire science, replacing the nagging question as to ‘why every single thing in life must be so thoroughly analyzed’, to, “why not?”

Then too, Plato (through Socrates and Glaucon) answered the question; “And who are the true philosophers?” [with], “Those who love the sight of truth.”

They pondered such questions as, how can a thing remain the thing that it is, yet change over time? Heraclitis said, “You can never step into the same river twice because it is ever changing.”

Berkeley (Barklay as they pronounce his name in England) said that only what we perceive exists. What we do not perceive does not exist.

The studies began to affect me.  One morning, a natural action almost propelled me to say to Professor Peter Krey before the class, ‘Good morning.’

I caught myself just in time, realizing that the idea of morning may be merely a perception based upon something or an event similarly observed by me to resemble a present sensory discovery; and the notion of ‘good’ observed by one may be the antithesis of cognitive formulation of the concept of ‘good’ to another.

Having finally learned to fully appreciate philosophy, I will never leave home without it. If you understand the rhetoric of philosophy, you will understand how lawyers work. Philosophy is the backbone of the legal profession, where a lawyer can effectively defend either side of an argument, dependent upon which side is paying him.  Learn the secrets of their trade and they won’t defeat you as often.

Philosophy is the first cousin of theology, the springboard of psychology, and indeed, the base of classic literature. It makes one aware of every possibility and teaches how to analyze every situation, which many times we neglect to do, resulting in failure.

This writer has found that philosophy is a common thread throughout academia. We should not sit on the sidelines, but take our place with the intellects with decisive thoughts that affect every part of our existence as well as society itself.

Now loving the subject, I grab every book on it that can be obtained, and have found that life itself is now far more interesting. As Socrates stated, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

To fail to thoroughly examine life along with every word and action could be the difference in becoming a slave or not becoming a slave. Which will it be? Age is NOT a factor. (This writer is 80)
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