What is Philosophy and Who Really Cares?

This is a fantastic question given that the word “philosophy” seems to conjure up images of stoned college freshmen blithering vaguely about socialism and whether or not anything really exists. Who on earth wants to study something like that?

Philosophy, however, is not so easily cornered by such a narrow description. In fact, as I am about to show, everyone is a philosopher, whether you like it or not.

To borrow (and slightly adapt) from a friend and mentor of mine, philosophy is, “Asking and answering fundamental questions through the careful use of logic.” (Check out Dr. Travis Dickinson’s Blog here)

What this means is that philosophy speaks into significantly more of life than one might imagine.

As some examples: To what extent should business owners be able to limit clientele based on the business owner’s deeply held convictions? To what extent should Americans be free to purchase and use firearms?

Both of these questions, while political in nature, are based on specific philosophical foundations.

Some of these foundational questions might include things like,

  • What does it mean for a person to be “human?”
  • Do individual humans have intrinsic worth, or is worth given to them by other humans?
  • Are humans inherently morally good, such that society and other humans are what causes people to become evil -or- are humans inherently evil such that our natural state is to do evil. Are there possible middle options?
  • What is goodness and evil at all?
  • Is there a God? How can we know?
  • Are there basic rights to which all people are entitled? If so, what is the basis for these rights? Who or how am I entitled to them?
  • Do humans have purpose? Can we make our own purpose?
  • What is proper justification to answer the above questions?

How people answer these foundational questions is what allows them to answer the political questions above.

The tricky part is that we all assume certain philosophical answers to questions, even when it comes to normal or basic parts of life. Consider that the last time you used a gas-powered car that, by taking that action, you assumed that the value of your travel was more important and less harmful than the potential harm you driving that car would have on the environment or other people. (I’m pro-gas powered cars, this is just an example)

Virtually everything we do has philosophical assumptions sewn into it.

My point is not that one needs to examine every possible area of life. (Though we should if we could) Rather my point here is to show that philosophical thinking is something that is necessary for all of us because we all do it whether we intend to or not.

For the follower of Christ, then, it is incredibly important that we consider this topic carefully. If we really do believe in a God that created the universe, we should want to know more about that world. If we really believe God created our minds, we should want to think deeply about important questions in life.

There is no escaping that you are a philosopher.

Tyler Bauer, MA is a high school teacher and speaker. He holds an MA in Apologetics from Biola University and is a Philosophy PhD student at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.