Five months ago, I made the claim that philosophy is like The Dress. My reasoning was that everyone has different viewpoints on philosophical topics, philosophy requires a lot of conversation, and that there is a definite truth whether or not it can be determined. I do not disagree with my original statement, but I have learned that philosophy is a lot more complex than that. I was too focused on how people go about philosophizing that I didn’t look into how philosophy impacts the philosopher. The best way for me to explore this is through a fun story!
Disclaimer: This story and its characters are based off of the podcast Welcome To Night Vale, all credit to the rightful creators.
“There is a traveler. The traveler comes across a desert town in the middle of nowhere. Upon initial viewing, the town appears to be normal. There is a radio station, a McDonald’s, and a dog park. The traveler checks into a hotel, and tunes in to the local radio station. The traveler does not understand what the speaker is saying. Well, they understand it, it just doesn’t make sense. The speaker claims that “mountains don’t exist”. The speaker says that there is a world of perfect “forms” on which our whole world copies. There is apparently a faceless old woman who secretly lives in your home and the mayor is a five-headed dragon. The speaker must be crazy, the traveler thinks. Perhaps it is a comedy show, the traveler reasons. The words of the speaker, however, haunt the traveler’s mind all day.
The traveler wanders around town, intrigued by this place they have found themselves in. They look to the north, where a mountain stands tall. The speaker’s words ring through the traveler’s mind, and as they stare at the mountain, they become less sure of its existence. “How do I know it’s real? How do I know… anything is real?” the traveler thinks. “Surely I am real.” The traveler keeps walking. With no escape from these questions, they sit down and think. They admire the beauty that is this strange town, and accept they are content with questions.
At the beginning, the traveler (who if you have not figure out by now, represents me) thinks they know what reality is. They think they have the answers. But they are exposed to new ideas that contradict everything they “knew”. The story is supposed to show how absurd some philosophical topics have seemed to me, but yet how necessary they are to talk about. Philosophy seemed a bit illogical at first, like this town, but there is a strange beauty in it. My answer to ‘What is Philosophy’ didn’t change so much in the ideas as it did in the experience. My comparison at the beginning of the semester still works, but it was lacking in personal experience. Philosophy is journey that you never really finish. I don’t (and can’t) fully understand all that we discussed in this class. That doesn’t really matter. The important part to me is that I now know how to go about finding some answers for myself. Since being a traveler in this town we call Philosophy 12, I have opened my mind and questioned the norm. It’s confusing, it’s weird, and it’s pretty great. Thank you.