Why do we have
to know this?
Philosophy and Nonsense
(Thoughts about writing, education, and experience.) Presented by Forrest D. Poston
The first goal of teaching is to strengthen, deepen and refine our intrinsic love of learning. All other goals and all methods must stem from that idea. Any that do not support that goal must at least be questioned and adjusted, if not eliminated. Otherwise, we are not teaching but training.
Think, I dare you.
Philosophy by Forrest D. Poston
(This essay originally appeared online in "The Monocle" December 7, 2012, and I'd like to thank Daniel Dunn for asking me to submit a piece, resulting in this essay. http://tampamonocle.com/grounded-philosophy/)
Most of us are, of necessity, philosophers. We don’t recognize ourselves as such mostly because we’re such lazy, unaware philosophers whose philosophy too closely resembles the household junk drawer filled with everything from assorted screws to electrical cords that may or may not still match anything in the house. Neither the junk drawer nor our philosophy have been sorted, much less organized and studied.
Instead, we see philosophy mostly as a class to be avoided or some names and quotes to be memorized if plan A fails. Philosophy is some dude staring at a cave wall, someone too lost in thought to get a haircut, or someone who doesn’t have enough sense to drink beer instead of hemlock. We don’t see philosophy as something as basic as breathing or something so much around us that if we couldn’t breathe it, we’d drown. We forget that, “Life’s a bitch, and then you die” is as much philosophy as Hobbes claim that life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
There are at least two types of philosophy, the daily or grounded philosophy and the classroom or scholarly philosophy, and there are at least two reasons why we should pay more attention to grounded philosophy. Developing a grounded philosophy will lead more people to appreciate and consider scholarly philosophy while helping keep the scholars from floating too far away. Perhaps most importantly, developing a coherent personal philosophy will help limit the frequency and range of stupid actions.
Grounded philosophy is found in common sayings, such as “Look before you leap” and it’s counter, “He who hesitates is lost.” It’s also found in music, poetry, movies, and stories, both fiction and non-fiction. No, I’m not saying that we need to analyze these sources on a constant basis, certainly not with the deadly methods typically taught in school where the pieces of a story are chopped apart, labeled, and left.
Enjoy the material. Approach it the way we do good food, letting the aroma entice you, savoring the flavor. After that, the body goes to work with digestion, getting the value out of the food and letting the crap pass. In the same way, we can put basic pleasure first with ideas, but we do need to remember to digest them, consider them, figure out how to make them part of our philosophy, or not.
And a coherent personal philosophy is much like Penelope’s tapestry in “The Odyssey”, forever being partly taken apart and rewoven, albeit for more reasons that just delay. A personal philosophy becomes a living thing because it’s part of a living thing, us. If it can’t grow, then we can’t grow. However, if the philosophy isn’t pruned, it becomes an impassable mess of weeds and thorns, fairy tale style.
Or to go back to the less organic junk drawer metaphor, if we haven’t sorted and organized the drawer ahead of time, then when we need a philosophy in place for key decisions, we’re in trouble. We either have to rummage desperately in the jumbled drawer, just hoping to find the right item, or, and more likely, we simply act without thought or even educated instinct. The results tend to be less than happy, potentially fatal. Too many people die each year not because of the thinking they didn’t do at the time but the thinking they didn’t do a year or two (or ten) before.
And for those who want to follow grounded philosophy into the potentially esoteric world of scholarly philosophy, you will enter that world with a useful perspective, the ability to see relationships between applied philosophy and theoretical philosophy. As such, when you encounter the lengthy books on Deconstruction explaining why communication is impossible, you’ll be much more likely to be one of those who gets the joke.
You’ll be able to look at Descartes and say, “Get a grip, Rene. If we don’t exist, then everything else is pointless, so how about we admit that existence has to be accepted as a given so we can move on, particularly since your whole, ‘I think, therefore, I am’ bit doesn’t prove squat anyway.” Of course, you will sometimes find it best to keep such observations to yourself since they may distress the purists and may well result in a serious grade issue in many classes, but that isn’t really a problem. You’ll be better at knowing when to apply that “better part of valor” idea once you’ve organized, woven, pruned your grounded, personal philosophy.
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Writing and Education
Four Meanings of Life
Godot and the Great Pumpkin
A Major is More Minor Than
The Poetry Process (A look at 4 versions of a poem.)
Thoughts About Picking a Major
Quick Points About Education
Quick Points About Writing
Reading Poetry and Cloud Watching
Using an Audience
What Makes a Story True?
What's the Subject of This Class? (Being revised.)
Writing and Einstein (The Difference Between Information and Meaning)
Writing and the Goldilocks Dilemma
Links to Other Sites
Other Essays and Poetry
Something Somewhat Vaguely Like a Resume
Alec Kirby, Memories of an Earnest Imp
Being Like Children
Beyond the Genes (Dad)
The Blessing and the Blues
Bookin' Down Brown Street
The Cat With a Bucket List
David and the Revelation
The Dawn, the Dark, and the Horse I Didn't Ride In On (an odd, meandering, semi-romantic story)
Getting a Clue
Ghost Dancer in the Twilight Zone
The Hair Connection and the Nature of Choices
I Believe in Capra
The Mug, the Magic, and the Mistake
Roto, Rooter and the Drainy Day
Sadie on the Bridge
Trumpet Player, USDA Approved
The Poetry Process
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