Philosophy in the Ordinary Life
Behind the unadorned cinderblock walls and picture windows, where only light passes through, sit UC Irvine’s philosophy students in classrooms asking epistemological questions such as, ‘Am I justified to believe that my professor is teaching in front of me?’ and uttering metaphysical statements such as, ‘There could be an unperceivable pink duck in the classroom.’ However, are these philosophical statements relevant to ordinary life? How is philosophy viewed in 2007?
When a drink of coffee, followed by a freeway commute, eight-hour work shift, fast food or restaurant lunch break, 30-minute gym workout and a metabolically slower TV session make up ordinary life, is there room for philosophical thinking?
Although philosophers are often remembered as wise people who encourage dialogue and critical thinking, sitting and thinking would get a waitress fired from her job, a teacher disrespected by students, an actor booed off stage or a student labeled ‘the kid who spaces out in class.’ In other words, if a blind date asked you what your favorite pastime was and you said, ‘I like to sit and think,’ chances are they’d probably scoff.
‘Philosophers are conceived as not saying anything relevant [to] everyday life, but that they just talk among themselves. Of course I don’t believe that. I love philosophy,’ said philosophy graduate student Kris Rhodes. ‘Right now philosophers are kind of just playing with each other. Every now and then there comes a time where society can’t handle a new problem. The kind of thinking done at these junctures is up to philosophers.’
Politicians often refer back to the philosophers of Plato and Aristotle when making decisions because these philosophers were historically the founders of organized society.
So the old dead guys’ philosophies matter in our society. However, fourth-year biomedical engineering major Richard Yi said, ‘How many times does someone use Plato’s Republic in actual life?’
Yi said that studying philosophy sounds like a waste of time.
‘It seems more like a hobby then a career direction,’ Yi said.
The word ‘philosophy,’ according to various students and faculty at UC Irvine, has negative associations, and an anonymous alumni said, ‘Weren’t all philosophers depressed?’ However, it may be hard to imagine sitting and thinking for long periods of time. One might start to feel crazy. Perhaps this is what people fear about philosophical thinking.
Rhodes’ parents were upset when they heard that their son was going to study philosophy in graduate school.
‘Due to their religious beliefs, they thought that I was likely to be corrupted in some way,’ Rhodes said.
His mother is an evangelical Christian from Dallas, Texas. She fundamentally believes Colossians 2:8, ‘Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and train deceit.’ From Rhodes’ experience many people seem to prefer religion to philosophy. Nevertheless, there are some people in the philosophy department who are religious.
Science may pose an even bigger threat to philosophy. Ever since the Cold War, Sputnik, the arms races and the massive push for scientific exploration in our own country, more students began to study math and science. The pragmatic, valuable way of thinking was not to think abstractly, but scientifically. To observe the world and how it works mattered more than concepts and questioning the purpose of life. Thus, universities changed to emphasize applicable knowledge rather than theoretical thinking.
Yi referred to his choice to study science when he said, ‘The end product of philosophical thinking has less significance in our daily lives then the end product of biological science.’
Even within the last 10 years, UCI has shown more emphasis toward science. The philosophy department split in half