Philosophy is Universal
When you look at my Prezi presentation, you’ll see that the background is a very generic, cliche picture that many use to denote philosophy — a universe. “Now Jeff,” you might say “why are you choosing such a cliche picture?”
And my response would be, “Because I’m a very unimaginative person.”
But in reality, I would say that it’s because sometimes cliches are true.
The simplest reason why we associate the picture of the universe with philosophy is because people often mistakenly believe all philosophers to be hippy, left-leaning, life-pondering individuals. Now that may not necessarily be wrong, but at the same time it’s not correct either. Philosophy is so much more than just the question of “Why do we exist?” or “What role do we play in the universe?” but to many, that’s all they’ll care to think about regarding philosophy.
Let me introduce you to another reason why the philosophy can be represented by the universe — philosophy is universal. Before I get to the dudes chilling on the universe background, let me talk more about what I mean by that statement. First of all, let me define my version of universal as “transcending the boundaries of space, distance, and time up to the point of human existence.”
The reason why I choose the point of human existence is because philosophy, or what we know it as today, existed ever since the first human with the full or even lesser cognitive ability as us walked the Earth. If we look at ancient religions, cultures, and artworks, we can see that even the earliest of humans pondered philosophical questions. A common one is “where do we come from?” Almost every civilization in the world has come up with an answer to that question. The ancient Romans adopted the beliefs that the modern-day Christian God molded humans from his own image.
Next is, “where do we fit in in the universe?” Many civilizations believed us to serve the gods, such as the Mayans who sacrificed people to satisfy their bloodthirsty gods, or the Aztecs who also sacrificed people for their bloodthirsty gods, the Indus River Civilization who sacrificed people for… you get the point. But joking aside, besides human sacrifice, philosophers from across the world, across space and time, and even still today are just debating about what we truly are in the grand scheme of things.
Now, let’s get back to the actual presentation. Now that I’ve talked about ancient history, let’s get back to…. last century. First off is Marx — if you don’t know him, he’s the one who inspired the not-so-music loving Lenin (to clarify, that’s the one who founded the Soviet Union, not the one who co-wrote Yellow Submarine with Paul McCartney). His thoughts are what inspired the formation of the Soviet Union, and consequently the Cold War, and today’s (or moreso yesteryear’s) People’s Republic of China.
Next, we go back 2500 years, to the warring states period where Confucius, that handsome dude over there, founded the principles that most, even modern Chinese people, have been influenced by. Ideas of respect for elders and even some aspects of the divine right of rule for kings still exist in the mind of many Chinese.
Next is Lao Zi, another Chinese philosopher who founded the ideas of modern-day Taoism.
Finally, going back to the stereotype of old, dead, white men, we see Aristotle. His ideas and his studies still permeate society today. For those of you who remember yesterday’s philosophy class, he was one of the first people ever to study logic, and he probably went through much of the same process as us!
To conclude, I just want to express the idea that philosophy, at least to me, is subjective — which is why it fits so neatly into every human being and civilization that has ever existed. It’s fitted and molded with the times, whether it’s during prehistory or the modern age. It’s fitted and molded by local geography, traditions, cultures, and so many other factors that it’s nigh-impossible to define it markedly for everybody at once. Which is why to me, the only real answer that I can really express about philosophy, as of right now, is that it’s universal.