The Value of Philosophy
Consider a man that looks to material needs as the necessities of life. He moves through his world in a twenty-four hour cycle of the mundane, never reaching for a less ignorant existence. Bertrand Russell believes that these "practical men", as society deems them, are wrongly named. A meaningful life to this "practical man", certainly does not include the understanding of a need for knowledge. Russell states, "It is exclusively among the goods of the mind that the value of philosophy is to be found; and only those who are not indifferent to these goods can be persuaded that the study of philosophy is not a waste of time" (page 9). The value of philosophy can be found when anyone chooses to step over the line between things and ideas.
I am claiming, in this instance, that philosophy is valuable for being a source of knowledge and understanding, among other things. Those that attempt to gain these are in turn going to benefit from their efforts. A man does not necessarily need the ability to comprehend the entire universe, but just to be open to thought. In the past, men that worked towards this task of thinking, such as Newton, were able to take
philosophy and evolve it into a separate science. This reasons that philosophy's value is largely in the possibility of a greater enlightenment that has yet to be determined. There is value in the fact that a deeper reality exists. That life does not just run blindly through time, but streams around reason and thought. Knowledge should alone be enough of a value for philosophy to be an appreciated source of gaining exactly that end.
Thomas Nagel writes, "...humans have the special capacity to step back and survey themselves, and the lives to which they are committed..." (page 23). This realization is one of the reasons that philosophy contains value for the society at large. Everyone, through examining and doubting their choices, can gain knowledge. And knowledge is the primary aim of philosophy, according to Russell and my own opinion. Socrates summarizes it best in Plato's, Apology: Defense of Socrates, when he stated, "...an unexamined life is no life for a human being to live..." (page 40). Humans were given the capacity to have thought processes and go beyond the routine existence of lower level life forms. To let this possession go unused would be neglecting the possibilities of the mind.
However, the value of philosophy for society at large is limited by self-assertion. The masses will find themselves looking for knowledge but being blocked by the view that the world is of less worth than themselves, or the Self. This will be the downfall of the instinctive man;
he is contained in his private interests. It is almost like a trap, man fills his life with family and friends and believes that he has found his place in life. A true student of philosophy will have a want of knowledge that is free and pure. This want contains no concerns...