I was asked today why I liked philosophy so much, how I thought that the ideas I am reading in these books applied to the world today. And I had no answer. I have written before about some of the reasons it attracts me, but the explanation, tossed in at the end of a brief essay, was generic, very adjectival. And now today, after fumbling through an answer that rehashed what I had already written there, I am thinking about it again. Just thinking out loud.
My honest answer? I don't know why I love philosophy so much. I am not a "math" person, I have never had much of a head for difficult, esoteric concepts. I love ideas, but grasping them has never come easily for me. I have to work at it, and I have to work hard. I do know that at least part of my sudden interest in the discipline (and I mean "discipline" in the fullest sense of the word) has to do with the way this particular philosophy class is being taught. Would I like it as much with a different professor, a different format? Probably not. But I know also that philosophy fits my interests: writing and literature.
Ideas--how the human mind works, what we believe, why we believe what we do, how those beliefs play out in real life--are the very backbone of what we write, and why we read. We don't always share these ideas through philosophy texts either. We share them through story and song and poetry. We share them through art. Literature is where philosophy meets "life," where theoretical ideas can be lived through. Like a lab, it's where we can see "what would happen if," and it's where we can experiment with cause and effect.
My love of ideas sometimes makes me a little impatient with aspects of English. The analyzing, for instance. Not that I mind analyzing literature, per se. Understanding the nuts and bolts of a work, and understanding the things that make it beautiful, help us to understand how it manages to say so effectively (or ineffectively) what it is trying to express. But I do mind it very much when we focus so intensely on the methods of literature that we forget that behind the face, and beyond the clockwork, the clock is actually trying to measure time. I mind it when we ditch the idea for the presentation. (I suppose I should note here that I'm talking about "over-analyzing" good books--not, for example, Harlequins. Obviously presentation [form, style, etc.] is an incredibly important element of any work of art.)
When I read or write something, I wrestle with ideas. I wrestle with the philosophy of the work, of my work. I wrestle, more specifically, with the ethics of the thing. Is it right? Or is it wrong? How should we live our lives, and why? Who says? Who should say? Is it even worth it? I don't always get my answers. But maybe someday I'll get a little closer, and I think philosophy might help me get there.