Why Philosophy Should Be Avidly Pursued In Pakistan
I feel it is imperative to teach Philosophy in schools and colleges in Pakistan. After all, we all struggle with some very fundamental questions about the meaning and purpose of life and our existence, such as “Who am I?” and “Why am I here on Earth?” Through philosophy, you can delve into the mysteries of your being, and indulge in further inquiry: Am I prone to a more deist approach, or is my approach a theist one when it comes to the existence of God? The former is a school of thought which claims that God created the world and then stepped out of it, and the world works like a beautiful functionality onward. The latter is, that the world in fact, has God in every moment, alongside your every decision. This further raises fun questions such as: “Is there free will?” I believe your 20s are your formative years in a sense, and it is crucial for young adults to ask these questions and discover their own answers.
It is in the discipline of Philosophy that one learns the beautiful art of debate. The idea is, no matter how heated or aggressive the debate gets, one acknowledges the opponent at the end of a battle of wits with a handshake and a smile. If, your opponent gave a better argument, you give them a nod. It is like the art of delicacy in the act of fencing – you allow yourself to test your own verbal skills and always maintain a degree of respect for the other. You recognize the ‘human’ in the other, and s/he does the same.
I think friendships forged in such metal are long lasting – they are not mere social acts of pleasing the other; friends are not afraid to show what’s exactly on their mind to one another. In a people-pleasing world, such depth in friendship is hard to be found. Aristotle defines three kinds of friendship – the first is based solely on ‘utility’ – it is the kind of friendship you have with someone who can ‘do’ something for you and vice versa. It is a give and take dynamics that doesn’t really open up to the possibility of more than that.
The second kind of friendship, according to Aristotle, is the kind that is constructed on ‘pleasure.’ This is the kind in which you happen to share a common habit with someone, say, you both love playing cricket or you both attend a yoga class together, so you build on that common interest and have something to talk about. This kind of affinity dies down when the habit dies down or there is an absence of its shared occurrence. These first two friendships are ‘accidental’ friendships, existing by chance and can end on a whim.
It is the third kind of friendship, which is based on “virtue” that I want to bring to your attention. This is the kind of liking for an individual based on her/his character. These friendships do not just fizzle away, but remain steady like a candle in the darkest of days. You love your friend, not just for the duration of a game, or because he can do something for you or because you share the same vocation, but because you care for your friend as an individual you have regard for. You don’t betray such friends or give up on them.
Let’s tie this brief diversion into friendships as per Aristotle onto the thread on debates. You would not be afraid to lose a friend in a fiery debate just because of someone’s verbal prowess. Healthy debates can lead to long nights of discussion and camaraderie. Long lasting friendships can form. You can become a better person because of each other. This is the ‘virtuous’ friendship Aristotle discusses I believe.
The field of philosophy in its structure of premise and discourse, which often leads to debate, could encourage an end of extremist fervor that does not listen to the other person’s point of view – period. It could enhance one’s way of accessing great and profound texts, sacred and secular alike, and not want to kill someone for having an opinion other than yours.
Then there are subfields in Philosophy such as Ethics, Philosophy of Religion, Existentialism – that all are imperative for a young mind. I think everyone deserves a safe and healthy environment where questions – such as “what is a moral act?” or “What is ethically irresponsible behavior?” – can be sorted out in friendly discussions and well-meaning debates. Studying various views of philosophers on religion, an arena can open up in which you diagnose who said what, and why, and where. You can take these conversations to your parties and get-togethers.
Then, of course, there is “existentialism” – that burning feeling of meaninglessness that hits you sometimes…could there be that there is a philosophical background for it? Could it be that thinkers have fought through these battles like you are doing now – could these thinkers become your friends?
In the existentialist text, “The Stranger”, Albert Camus discusses the question of death. The protagonist’s own mother’s death. In my latest re-reading of it, I have come to an understanding that Meursault was in fact trying to rationalize death – after all how does one deal with it? In a society that does not prepare us for funerals of loved ones. We are just left with a knife of time brutally thrust in our hearts. I believe Meursault was an intensely logical character, and he simply could not rationalize it. What on Earth was death? Perhaps it was just as regular as life. Yet – death cannot be surmised in a logician’s hat – the weight is more than it can carry! The infamous first line: “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know”, seems now to mean: I can’t put it in a box, like there’s a compartment for every thought, for day and night, this doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere – “Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know.”
Years before when I read it, I had thought this only blatantly meant his stark indifference to his mother’s death. However, time is a teacher. Who knows what my new analysis will be, 10 years down the line? Re-reading a text opens it up to strange and mysterious possibilities. When students who have pursued Philosophy in their formative years re-read texts later in life, and recall discussions with friends, perhaps they too will discover something new and nuanced.