Do You Like Learning Philosophy?

Do you like learning philosophy? Or do you just want to be a good philosopher? Do you just want the results you imagine getting from philosophy, such as winning more arguments, having innovative ideas, having more of your solutions to problems actually work, impressing people with your cleverness, being rational, or being less biased?

If you don't like learning philosophy, you're probably not going to like being a philosopher either. The activities philosophers do, in order to be effective, are similar to the activities required to learn philosophy. You don't finish learning philosophy and then just start doing totally different stuff than before.

Learners and expert philosophers both read books, research topics, look things up, analyze text, make diagrams, make outlines, learn about new topics, read things they don't already understand and figure out what they're saying, try to get logic right. If you dislike those activities now, you'll have to change your preferences or you will avoid doing them and therefore not be a very effective philosopher.

People may imagine they'll like the activities once they're good at them, even though they dislike those activities now. But that usually doesn't work. Why do people dislike those activities? Because it takes mental work. Because they have to deal with uncertainty, confusion, solving problems, fixing errors, judging what's correct, etc. You can get better at those things, but you'll still have to do them, and it's likely to feel similar to before. It may feel better when doing things that are really easy for you, so little error correction is needed. But when you're a good philosopher, you'll want to be able to do some medium difficulty or even ambitious things, not stick to really easy stuff. If you imagine you just have to get through the unpleasant part (initial learning including dealing with confusion) and then everything is going to go smoothly after that ... you're wrong (and you don't understand some philosophy concepts well enough like fallibilism, errors, unbounded progress, never reaching perfection, always having more to learn, etc.).

The stuff you need to practice as a learner is a lot of the same stuff you'll do as a philosopher. It just won't be called "practice" anymore because you're trying to do it in order to achieve some other goal (so it's higher pressure and there's more expectation that you'll succeed without getting stuck). But it's still largely the same activity. And you'll still make mistakes sometimes. You'll still have to deal with being confused and get past it. You'll still have to judge when you're succeeding or failing, and keep trying when you fail. You'll still have to brainstorm ways to approach a problem, judge which ones are good, and try at least one of them (often several). When you're a philosopher, it doesn't mean you'll magically jump straight to great answers; you still have to do the work to figure things out. Yes once you know a lot you'll be able to work faster, but you'll also have higher standards and be more thorough, so some stuff will be faster and easier, but other stuff will actually be slower and take more effort. When you practice, you focus on one skill at a time. When you try to use philosophy in life, you generally have to use many skills – look at an issue many ways, apply multiple concepts or principles, use multiple different problem solving methods to see what results they get, use dozens of different ways of checking for errors, etc. And while you'll have some of that automatized, you should basically envision, on average, using a similar amount of conscious, non-automatized effort at all skill levels.