Sometimes, we hate big questions.
We’ve come to this point where our culture (at least western culture) would rather have an “existential crisis” then answer deep and meaningful questions. It’s saddening, because the art of philosophy is so interesting and has ramifications for all the other facets of art.
Why have we abandoned the pursuit of philosophy for the trivial racing after surface-level “existential crises”?
Why is philosophy (especially as a major) been turned into a walking joke?
Why don’t we find philosophy to be an art anymore?
After all; philosophy is fascinating.
The Twisting Strands of Theme in Big Questions
We’ve all thought philosophical things before. Don’t believe me? Here’s a philosophical question: “is love just a feeling?”
Haven’t thought that? Here’s another two: “Does God exist?” and “What is consciousness?”
Every single one of us has dealt with philosophy before in one way or another. Whether we actually recognize and treat it as such is irrelevant, because we’ve still wrestled with those questions of philosophy: “what are emotions?” and even “what is art?”
Philosophy likes to ask the big questions, but it also likes to ask the little questions, and I think that’s where the importance and significance shows itself strongest: “Does Sherlock Holmes exist?” “This sentence is false: is it true or false?”
These things are big deals: the first is a simple question of historical fact and the latter is a paradoxical sentence meant to befuddle or bemuse. It’s like asking “what’s 2 + 2?” and then asking “why is 2 + 2 equal to 4?”
There’s an interesting theme that is woven through all of philosophy that points toward the meaning behind this sadly forsaken art: philosophy is seeking truth. It’s looking for the right answer. Even when the question is something like “is truth relative?”, you’re looking for the true answer. Which is an interesting paradox in and of itself, because if you say “yes, truth is relative”, your sentence is open to the idea that truth is not relative in some relative case because truth is supposed to always be relative, which is an objective statement and opposing the very idea of relativism.
One could go on like that for quite some time.
Okay, so you’re bored, maybe.
I get it.
Some people don’t like questions that go in circles, while other people find them interesting and intriguing and worth exploring. There’s nothing wrong with either of those opinions (for full disclosure, I will note that I’m in the latter group). However, what about those non-circular questions, the ones that search for a truth in something?
Those questions matter.
The question “what is consciousness?” matters, the pondering of “what is art?” matters. “Does God exist?” is perhaps one of the most important decisions any given person could make, regardless of their choice any repercussions that may follow from external sources.
These searches for truth are vital to the core of human beings.
So… why did we abandon the themes buried in this deep questions?
Responsibility and Reason
People get scared a lot. They get scared of everything. There might be more phobias out there than there are things to be scared of (which doesn’t make a lot of sense, until you consider the overlap of some phobias).
There’s a lot of different fears out there, and studies say that our biggest fears are the fear of public speaking and the fear of death. However, I’d like to posit that there’s one thing that cultures as entities are becoming more and more scared of: responsibility for the truth. The idea that truth matters and that we have to bear the burden of it scares us. It scares us so much that we’d rather exert effort into deriding the search for truth and snuffing it out rather than exert that effort to raise it up to the light.
We’re running scared of something we can’t escape because our minds are still searching for it. Even when we’re not expecting it, searching for it, looking for it, our minds are watching those questions. Waiting for their chance to ask them: “What is love? Does God exist? Is truth relative? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a lollipop and does it really matter in the end?”
Philosophy, however, is more than just searching for truth. We’ve abandoned an art that reaches far beyond our fears just to avoid that simple responsibility for the truth.
You see, philosophy is an art.
The Art in Philosophy
In these “Life is an Art” posts, I’ve repeated asked about the definition of art. I’ve attempted to make arguments for why so many things are art: music, math, life, growing up, being a critic, and now… now I say this: philosophy is an art.
It’s the art of pulling all the things we’ve asked about other arts and answering the question: what is art?
I don’t have time to answer that question here. I could write volumes about that question without reaching a solid conclusion.
Instead, I’ll simply leave it here, here for our minds to ponder and philosophize about: what is art?