Philosophy is critical thinking. Deciding whether an idea is worth believing takes intellectual and emotional maturity. That’s why you probably didn’t study philosophy in high school, and it’s one reason many college students don’t study it.
Philosophers do two things that make them unusual: they take both good and bad ideas seriously, and they think reflectively.
- If a judge decides you’re guilty before weighing the evidence, you won’t get a good hearing. Some ideas that appear bad at first turn out to be good after they are critically examined. That’s why philosophers take all ideas seriously, even ideas that appear to be bad.
- How do we know what we know? Is a bad mother “unnatural”? How do we tell smut from art? We must reflect to answer these questions, or think about thinking. To do that, we must already have learned to think about nature, human history, literature, and art.
Although philosophy is different from science, history, literature, and art, it is related to all of them. And just as they have practical value, so does philosophy.