By Anthony Zheng
I am ill-read in philosophy: famous philosophers are merely strangers midst the crowd and I am not learned in conventional philosophical discourse. But I, like so many around us, subscribe to a personal contemplation of the world in earnest.
Thus, philosophy seems to be a universal pursuit rather than its stereotype of niche academia. Bearing in mind that words tend to capture subjective thought, my attempt at defining philosophy would be: ‘reflection, with the purpose of seeking wisdom’. To me, philosophy is universal, because it is human nature to reflect – to think back, to think forward, to appraise, to explore.
Although philosophers have no doubt sought universal wisdoms, under this line of thought, philosophy is, more or less, subjective. My sentiment is that there are over six billion free minds, influenced by over six billion unique personalities and unique experiences and that each of us, given adequate time, will decide on our own versions of what we think life is (or should be) and on beliefs we deem most enlightened.
This is not to deny the actual existence of universal wisdom or truth (a topic which I’m sure invites much debate), but simply to say that I feel convinced that philosophical activity is essentially personal: for as human beings lack omniscience, but possess sufficient free thought, all wisdoms we attain, be it from our private deliberations or from discourse or literature, must inevitably be processed by our unique, personal perspectives.
Therefore, as I agree that you might disagree, this present piece of writing is, in intent and purpose, merely reflective writing, personal and unassuming. Of course, ‘personal’ does not mean private and ‘reflective’ is certainly not an excuse to displace vigorous logic with biased assertions, but merely that perhaps equations like 1+1=2 cannot be written for life, especially not in isolation of a thorough consideration of human differences, personalities and emotion.
A sudden thought I had in the shower last night was that, figuratively speaking, the equations we’ve ever managed to write about life are most often along the lines of 0.999…=1. Person A would cite a valid mathematical proof to demonstrate that 0.999… is exactly equal to 1, but person B would disagree, citing that the result is evidently counter-intuitive (as in this scenario), or otherwise, for one reason or another, wrong. Perhaps a more intelligent being might be able to dismantle our 0.999…=1 argument, pointing out some logical flaw that our minds are too limited to discern. Or maybe the aforementioned human variables are necessary considerations.
I cannot find words adequate to capture the essence of my intermingling thoughts into a summary, but I feel breath-stealing awe at the sheer diversity of humanity and inspired by our seemingly united pursuit for wisdom…and I wonder if humility is the key, as we connect with one another in our quests to understand this life before it fades over the horizon.