Philosophy is one of the most debated topics in academia. For centuries, philosophers have argued about life’s most grandiose questions: What is the meaning of life? What is our purpose? Why should we or should not care? Even now, these questions have no definite answer. Although I have been on this Earth for only twenty years, I cannot help but believe that philosophy does not have to be so complicated; in fact, it is quite simple. Philosophy exists simply so that humans have something to believe in to make their time on this planet more meaningful and understandable. Of course, this differs from person to person. For me personally, philosophy is all about helping people. It is the pursuit of knowledge with the goal of providing others with the opportunity to make their own choices in life. In order to better explain what I mean, I must draw on the ideas of Socrates and Peter Singer.
As previously stated, philosophy is the pursuit of knowledge with the goal of providing people with the opportunity to make their own life choices. This definition implies, first and foremost, that one should have a goal or purpose in life. Socrates had a similar opinion to this. He believed that philosophy was all about the “examined life”, and that an unexamined life was not even worth living (Plato, The Apology, p.76). Living an “examined life” simply means that one needs to critically reflect on their actions and try to do things that will make them the wisest, most moral person they can be. A life spent frivolously traipsing about without any thought of one’s ambitions or intentions is not worth living at all. I, too, believe that one’s life should have some sort of purpose to it; one should have a goal they wish to achieve. This bring us to the next question: what goal should this be? What should be the purpose of one’s life? This is where Peter Singer comes in. I think that one should live their life with the goal of providing people with the opportunity to make their own choices in life. In many parts of the world, there are people who cannot make the choices they wish to make. This is usually because they lack the education, finances, physical ability, or the political freedom to do so. Therefore, it is the responsibility of those who have the opportunities and means to make their own choices to help those who cannot. Peter Singer has a similar argument. He states that if one can prevent something bad from happening without sacrificing anything of comparable moral significance, then one ought to do it (Singer, Famine, Affluence, and Morality). Specifically, those who reside in affluent countries have a moral obligation to help those in poverty-stricken countries since it is usually the wealthier nations that can prevent bad things from happening without much sacrifice. Instead of buying the new iPhone or the bigger house, one should direct those resources to charity instead. In his article, Singer uses the poverty in Bengal as an example, but I think this principle should be applied to people in any type of poverty, including the homeless in one’s own neighbourhood. I also agree with Singer when he states that money is not the best solution to fix these issues. Spending time and making relationships with people one wishes to help can sometimes be even more effective than simply giving away money. In my opinion, this is what philosophy is all about; it is to live one’s life with the ambition to help those who cannot help themselves.
With this definition in mind, working at a non-profit organization is an incredibly philosophical activity. No matter the organization, it fills one life with the purpose of helping other people. Helping Syrian refugees, for example, gives that refugee the political freedom and the education needed to make their own choices in life. Working at Covenant House gives a teenager the opportunities to make choices they could not have made before. Although these choices are something the middle and upper-class view as simple human rights, they are privileges to others less fortunate. The ability to choose what you want to study, who you want to marry, or where you want to live are only a few of the decisions that all people should have equal opportunity in making. Working at a non-profit embodies what philosophy is to me: the pursuit of knowledge with the goal of giving others equal opportunities.
In my personal life, I am an avid supporter of charity work. One non-profit that I have been involved with for many years is a Vancouver-based organization called KidSafe. KidSafe provides a safe haven for underprivileged children on the Downtown Eastside during times where elementary schools are traditionally closed. During summer, spring, and winter break, KidSafe provides a safe alternative to children who would otherwise stay home unsupervised. Drug addictions, poverty, and jail time are common occurrences in the child’s family. Through no fault of their own, these children are robbed of the opportunity to make the life choices they deserve to make. As part of the KidSafe team, I provide the children with the resources to ensure that their disadvantageous environment does not hinder their opportunities later on in life. This includes nutritious food and warm clothing for physical health, and a safe, welcoming environment for creativity and learning without fear of judgment. I previously stated that philosophy is a belief humans have to make their life more meaningful. Helping people, especially, children, is what gives meaning in my life. Giving all people equal opportunities in life is a philosophy I will continue to preach and practice for many years to come.