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What is Philosophy? It is evident the answer to that question depends on the ideologies you invest yourself in and how you interact with the world around you, and may even differ completely from person to person. But to me, philosophy can be boiled down to three major activities: 1) actively engaging with the world around us by finding things in life that excite curiosity 2) thinking about and attempting to answer the difficult questions that come with being a conscious entity 3) questioning people’s reasoning for their own answers to life’s questions and through the tools of logic and argument come to some kind of conclusion. This definition of philosophy can be determined from many different philosophers but to focus on one, take the ideas of Thomas Nagel in his reasoning about the absurdity of life. In his work “The Absurd” Nagel states, “Most people feel on occasion that life is absurd, and some feel it vividly and continually… the reasons usually offered in defense of this conviction are patently inadequate… [so] why then do they [most people] provide a natural expression for the sense that it is?” (Wolf 1). In this quote, we see Nagel’s underlying motives for his work. He is actively engaging with the world around him by focusing on a topic that excites his intellectual interest, in this case: the absurdity of human life. He then states that he has often heard the conclusion from people that life is absurd but realizes the reasons most people give for its absurdity don’t actually prove that it is, and in his piece, he sets out to examine and ask questions of people’s unquestioned arguments of why life is absurd. In the text Nagel goes on to weigh the current arguments of why life is absurd against their own logical conclusions and finds them to be untrue, and then through this examination gets to the heart of what he believes to be the root cause of the unshakeable sentiment that life is innately absurd. This thoughtful response to the seemingly simple idea that life is absurd seems to conform to the definition of philosophy I laid out above.
Under this definition, a whole host of activities people engage in every day could be considered philosophy. As one specific example of philosophical activity I have chosen a clip from the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. This podcast is hosted by Joe Rogan who is an internet personality, a standup comedian, and commentator for the UFC. He engages in long form conversations of up to around three hours with a plethora of different guests from many different backgrounds. The form of the podcast is very relaxed; the conversations that occur between Joe Rogan and his guests have the time to develop into in-depth examinations of beliefs, hobbies, passions and although it does not specifically set out to offer philosophical thought or ideas many episodes evoke a sense of philosophical curiosity and examination in the listeners heads. Many times both Joe Rogan and his guest start talking about a topic simply because it captures their interest which leads them to investigate and discuss this topic further until new and interesting ideas are broached and then those new ideas themselves are examined. This examination of new topics provides evidence of active engagement of both Joe Rogan and his guests in the world around them. Many times, the topic that comes up is rooted in ideology and may be surrounded with contention or stigma but Joe Rogan does a good job of considering other people’s arguments and formulating a response to those arguments after an in-depth investigation and conversation about the topic. This shows his ability to take others’ arguments seriously while also showing that he is not afraid to question and challenge their ideas. In the clip of podcast I am referencing, Joe Rogan is talking to Kevin Smith, a film maker and fellow podcaster about the importance of accomplishing things in life that bring you joy. The clip is of a succinct and poignant story Smith tells of his father’s death that he believes proves the idea that there is no point not to set out to accomplish any kind of goal you may have. I picked this clip because I value this message of accomplishing things that bring you joy in the face of an eventual yet inevitable demise. But it is just one example from the Joe Rogan Experience that shows that a unique take on an old premise can come from discussing ideas and questioning why we take certain things as fact.
I think everyone incorporates some aspects of philosophy in to their daily lives, for me I actively seek out information that may provide me with a viewpoint contrary to my own and I will question and examine this viewpoint to see if it is valid and whether I can internalize it and incorporate into my own life. I believe there is an extraordinary amount of value in challenging the norms and beliefs that you have accrued throughout your life because you may find that many of them have been influenced by false or incomplete arguments and premises. And this self-examination is incredibly valuable as it is almost like an audit of all of the ideas you have been exposed to throughout your life to determine what works to facilitate and improve your conscious existence of life as a human being. If after examination and deliberation of an idea I find it to be untrue or rooted in flawed ideology I will abandon it, and on the other hand if I find a new idea offers a new and interesting insight to something in my life I will incorporate it into my understanding of the world.