Should We Just Weigh the Fish? -Kelsey Field
“A fish weighs more after it has died.” This is what Charles II cleverly told philosophers, although it is not true. I think it is clever because he received “ingenious answers” to a question that was not even valid. It makes me wonder about the relevance of philosophy at all. Obviously, it is something that interests me, and something I wish to pursue, but one has to question why philosophy matters at all.
As students of philosophy, our job is to ask the “big questions” and find truth in them. However, how do we know there are even truth in our questions? We could find a truth, only to realize that our question never had relevance anyways! I think about the philosophers, in a hut in Norway or otherwise, struggling to answer Charles’ impossible question. Maybe a philosopher spent months, or even years pondering their answer in isolation. Would it have been worth it to just weigh the fish before pondering? Or is the whole point of philosophy to find the answers to the “what if” questions?
Realistically, with other philosophical questions, one cannot really “weigh the fish” so to speak. “Who are we?”, or, “Why are we here?”, are immeasurable questions that may never have answers. One cannot go and find out if these questions already have an obvious answer.
After reading about Charles II and his fish, I felt that I understood more about why philosophers receive so much ridicule. It makes them seem so naïve and unintelligent that they would just delve into their answer without even checking if the question made sense. Maybe it doesn’t matter that the question did not have an answer. Maybe what really mattered were the philosopher’s own personal answers, their take on the impossible question.