"We Behold all things through the human head and cannot cut off this head; while the question nonetheless remains what of the world would still be there if one had cut it off?" - Friedrich Nietzsche.

Illustration by Iva Celebic

Phil’ Your Head

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By Iva Celebic

Most courses will make you rich in paper, but few will make you rich in mind.

For twelve years it is compulsory that we study our sciences, multiply our numbers and even explore our spirituality — but few courses encourage us to think rather than memorize, to churn our stale, internet-dependent noggins and think about our being.

“Philosophy, for many students, represents the first time in their lives that they are given an opportunity to think about important issues on their own, without being told what they have to think,” says John Caruana, a Ryerson philosophy professor.

The word itself means “lover of wisdom.” It is the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence. Philosophy requires you to question an already interpreted reality, and to re-evaluate, criticize and re-conceive it on your own terms. It discourages mechanic absorption and regurgitating facts, teaching you to dissect the nature of virtues, fairness, and justice through a lens that is neither religious nor scientific. It compels you to think about yourself existentially, and most importantly, it educates you on the origin of thought – our greatest, realest, most private element.

We are living in a digital age that is surpassing mankind’s capabilities, pushing us forward to the most advanced we have ever been. We are investing earnestly in a science we presume gives us the possession of truth, or memorizing a religion we are reluctant to question, lubricating our existing ego of self-importance. We are so reliant on technology to feed our intellectual digestion that we are losing our ability to think critically and independently. It is no wonder why being an autonomous thinker is such a sore, when man has never been so saturated with content.

For a copy and pasted scenery and society, the rise of a slave morality is imminent. We are programming ourselves for survival, instead of embracing the intricacies of living – to be more infatuated with what’s in our pockets than what is around us. We are being dehumanized through western capitalism – a system which triumphs only in group thought, relentlessly ignoring how fortunate we are to be the only specie who can question and reason. The 21st century urges you to live within the mental confines of a mule. Philosophy has died, and apparently, America has killed it.

“North American culture doesn’t encourage intellectual life,” explains Caruana. “Look at who we idolize: sports figures and celebrities, but in other parts of the world, intellectuals, philosophers included, are seen as important models.”

Countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East introduce philosophy as a mandatory course in secondary school. Some institutions even encourage the study of Latin for an inclined understanding on the origin of words, for a seamless education that is all-encompassing.

“North American culture places a much greater emphasis on acquiring a very specialized career. Europeans, however, still appreciate the importance of having a well-rounded education,” says Caruana.

Our educational system robs us of what it means to be an academic, when we must shrink our intellect to suit a career path. We are succumbing our existence to a job description and a financial standing, while virtues and self-creation burn in the competitive hot pot we’re boiling in.

It is time we started thinking more critically about who, rather than what we would like to be. Do yourself a favor, and enroll in a philosophy course next year.

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