Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pointless Thinking

Recently, I've been reflecting again on whether systematic and critical thinking (of the sort we find especially in philosophy) is, in the end, utterly pointless, for I cannot help feeling that it leads us nowhere. This feeling depends, of course, on both one's field(s) of research and the way one approaches philosophy or systematic thinking in general. I mean, if someone studies e.g. skepticism, finds some skeptical arguments plausible or persuasive, and does not insulate his own life from his philosophical research, then it seems clear that this research will have some degree of impact on his Weltanschauung. But if you think skepticism is absurd or if your skeptical stance does not affect the way you look at things in your daily life, then no problem arises - of course, one can talk of a "problem" provided the impact is deemed to be negative.

Be that as it may, lately I've been wondering more often than usual whether this whole thing of philosophy isn't completely worthless. My (entirely unoriginal) point is that, in the final analysis, that kind of thinking leads to aporia (or at least that's where it leads me all the bloody time) because reason appears to undermine itself or to be unable to find acceptable answers to the questions it poses. This is why I'm impressed when I encounter people (both laymen and scholars) who have deep convictions and to whom the world makes sense.

Of course, there's also the question of whether one could do something else, since it may be in the "nature" of some people to think (most of the time) in a critical and systematic way, and so they would be slaves to their own psychological makeup, as it were. I've often read that Wittgenstein recommended his "disciples" that they should abandon philosophy, and part of the reason seems to have been (I may be wrong) that the whole thing is pointless. But is there any going back? For once you've learned to think in a given manner or to deal with everyday situations and problems by analyzing them systematically and thoroughly, it doesn't seem possible to rid yourself of this (exhausting) intellectual habit.

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