I got a little crazy about philosophy because it was so helpful with all the things I was going through in my real life (has anyone ever said this before?). I was really religious when I started college and the second I was thinking critically about it I had all this damage to the metaphysical structure of my life.
At first what I was doing was putting out fires here and there. Pascal told me how human nature begged the question of god, Anselm gave his shitty ontological argument that nevertheless was logical (in the logical/philosophical sense of the word look it up dummies) and I resonated a lot with confessional Augustine. So you could be a thinking Christian, it is possible. It didn’t happen for me but it happened to a lot of people I read and respect.
The biggest things that happened was all the drama about the gays. I mean I had a gay friend in college who cried because he went to christian school hoping it would fix him and I was like “please reconcile this for me god, okay thanks bye.” And then I read The Sacred Canopy by sociologist Peter Berger which talked about how all metaphysics (religions, science, ~atheism~, whatever) are flawed because they are stories, not truth. Because of this we try to cover ourselves up with it (to protect from unknowing, anxiety, fear of the unknown) but parts of ourselves/reality peak out or there’s holes in the umbrella. Preach. I also read John Caputo’s Against Ethics where he argues that ethics don’t work as a branch of philosophy because any universal you give is too big to fit into particular situations and we’re using it as a big front to ease our guilt over not helping when in the situation in front of us, we know what the right thing to do is. Like, probably we know that we should live below our means and send all our extra money to Oxfam but we create all these fancy ethical arguments to get out of it.
Finally an unphilosophical but super interesting philosophy book called God and The Philosophers was super helpful. It cataloged a bunch of professional philosopher’s and their religious life. The book happened to be about religion but don’t mistake this for a religious book, it was using religion as an example of all our unscientific thought. How do you be a philosopher when almost everything in your life is lived outside of the adversary method? Hume for example argued that the cause and effect relationship does not exist, yet he played billards all the time and presumably left all that talk in his study every day of his life. To some extent being a philosopher is a profession and you set it down at the end of the day and go home. So what I knew how to evaluate a good argument, does that really mean that I’m now a robot and everything in my life must be evaluated through this lens? We don’t expect this of any other profession! A mathematician isn’t asked how her faith is questioned by her many advanced degrees.
All these things made it okay to reject my faith as it was. Faith in God, faith in higher education, faith in anything that came labeled as Truth with a capital T.
I graduated with a lot of skepticism, a stalking relationship with Peter Singer and no idea what I was going to do with my degree. I was nursing a religious hangover and a hair of the dog was not about to work. I couldn’t think, read or talk about religious or spiritual topics for a few years after college. I was so sick to death of all of it. I was a little scared I would die in that time which is a gross reason to pressure yourself to think about religion but I’m superstitious and if I had my own religion the tenants would be free puppies and infant baptism for everyone. I’m not done with religion. I didn’t disprove it to myself just to leave it lying there. I had to go back for the parts that might be valuable. I guess philosophy is also like beating someone to death and then robbing their grave.
I had to remake what my life was going to be about. So I started doing what most twenty somethings do: I worked on my career slowly and went out almost every night. I think I told one of my christian friends I was trying to achieve physical proximity to god by dancing on top of tables. I kissed a boy on a dancefloor (and I let him call me baby). I still had some purtan in me, but Rilke says you can trust your soul to guide you, so I did and I am better for it.
I’m not sure where philosophy fits in my life anymore. The questions I have to answer aren’t as big. Is there a god? Well maybe but I’m not interested in arguing about it knowing that arguing is only arguing, through sheer force we can create a spark which may illuminate the shadows in the cave. But even then, they are only shadows. Sure, its great mental exercise to toss an argument back and forth, but I’m a retired athlete, how much exercise do I really need as a civilian?
I still like philosophy, but I have no reason to dive into it looking for an answer to some structural damage in my life. I won’t find it now that I’m pleading agnosticism on all counts. I think it’s taken me as far as it can go and it’s time for me to get out and find something new.