Do You Feel That Zebra Is A Dog? The Importance Of Philosophy

I am going to show you how much of a racist, bigoted homophobe I am by starting this with a quote from one of my favorite modern philosophers:

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(Did you notice my favorite philosopher is black?  See, I can’t be a racist – that’s “liberal logic” for you ;-)  )

OK, now that I have handled the only thing the Left can throw at me in response to this post, let’s get down to business.  And Rand said that everyone needs a philosophy by which to live, but I’m not sure many people understand what this means.  It gets to the heart of what drove the ancient Greek philosophers.  If you have a well thought out understanding of what you believe and why, then knowing how to deal with a new issue is relatively easy.  Instead of trying to figure out how you feel about it in relation to how others feel, all you have to do it apply your predetermined philosophy to it.  Here, let me see if I can explain it this way.

What is “dog?”  Do you know what makes rover a dog and not a cat?  How do you know whether a wolf is a canine, or a hyena or a coyote from any other animal you might find?  Well, without going into the details, you know because some biologist worked out what it means to be canine long ago and you have accepted that definition.  Therefore, when you run into a zebra, you compare its characteristics to the definition of canine and quickly determine the zebra is not a dog.  This method has the added benefit of being universal.  As long as I accept the same definition of canine, when I see the same zebra on the other end of the game preserve, I will know it is not a dog as well and neither of us will ever argue over the issue.

Now, just imagine what sort of trouble might come up if we defined things according to how we felt about them?  Not only would we have trouble figuring things out for ourselves, it is very unlikely either of us would ever agree on much of anything.  The result of this is chaos.  And that is why we should all have a philosophy by which to live.  If we go one step further by working to make sure our philosophies are coherent and consistent, it will help us prevent conflicts within our own understandings of this world.  Then, if we discuss our philosophies with each other so we can learn from each other and modify our philosophies accordingly, we end up forming a society.  Finally, if we all agree to teach our general philosophy to our children, we end up building the customs and traditions which we call culture.

On a personal level, I have had many RNL readers comment on how many posts I can put out in a short time.  I’d like to think this was an indication of something more flattering, but it’s just a product of having taken time when I was younger to work out a sound philosophy.  Now, when a story hits the news, I read it, apply my philosophy to the particulars of the story and draw whatever conclusions are dictated by my philosophy.  I don’t have to worry about what others think, how I feel or what my conclusions say about me.  It is what it is and the hardest part for me then becomes finding the courage to accept what might be an uncomfortable conclusion.  But, in the end, if I hold to those conclusions unless and until someone can show me where, how and why I am wrong, I can be reasonably assured that I am standing fairly close to the truth.  On the other hand, if I chose to live according to how I feel, then what I believe will be in a constant state of flux.  After all, what human isn’t subject to the whims of their emotions?

Fortunately, reality isn’t subject to emotional whim.  So, all we have to do t anchor ourselves is develop a personal philosophy designed to find the truth by testing what we see against a fixed standard.  For me, that standard is logic and the principles of right reason (the proper application of logic).

[Note: now the scary part of this is knowing that our education system was designed by people who understood all of what I just said, yet they set out to build a system that does its best to teach our children to feel rather than to think and reason.  Thank you John Dewey -- and Bill Ayres.]

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One thought on “Do You Feel That Zebra Is A Dog? The Importance Of Philosophy

  1. The other problem for those of us that “thinking” came naturally and easily, we are called racists, or mean spirited, or cold hearted, for looking past the emotional nonsense, and pointing out FACTS.

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