I’m only human
Just what can I do?
‘Cause I feel the fusion
When I’m there with you
We’re all chemicals,
We are, are, are
We’re all chemicals…
– Tiesto & Don Diablo, Lyrics to Chemicals
It’s not hard to guess Tiesto & Don Diablo’s philosophy: we are the chemicals that make us up, that’s it. We don’t have choice, we’re just chemicals. Sometimes, like in these lyrics, it’s easy to see the philosophical underpinnings that lead to the assertions made by the author, but often times it’s far more subtle.
Regardless of whether we study philosophy, all of us have one that we use to interpret the world around us. Most of the time, we don’t think about our own philosophy or consider ourselves as philosophers, yet we all maintain a philosophy, a worldview, that we use to identify what is truth and what is right. Philosophy though, like the air we breath, is often invisible: we can’t see it, yet it’s always there. The clash of philosophies often happens silently – in the stories we hear, or the shows we watch on television, or the books we read (both fiction and non-fiction).
So long as it remains invisible, it can influence our own thinking in ways we don’t want or expect. So it’s useful to step back and tease out the philosophy that is driving a particular story because it allows us to wrestle with the root issues and not the branches. For example, some believe abortion is a choice, others believe that it’s murder. Bumper stickers often argue about the branches – namely saying things like “If you can trust me with a choice, how can you trust me with a child”. This starts with the assumption that it is a choice. This could be rewritten, “If you can’t trust me not to murder someone, how can you trust me to live in a free society”. It’s not trustworthiness that we are testing when we make murder a crime. Arguing at this level leads to an impasse because at the root, the issue is whether an unborn child is a human life or whether it’s a fetus. From that root, stem the rest of the arguments. Philosophy works similarly, from the root believes stem much of the rest of the arguments and unless we understand and notice the root, we’ll be lost in the branches.
As we wander the world, communicating with those around us, it’s important for us to understand that others see things differently and communicate from that difference. Arguing without digging deeper into the difference in worldview is pointless. Identifying the philosophical underpinnings of what we discuss and read provide a much richer way to process the world around us and interact with it.
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