I studied Philosophy as part of my undergrad at The University of Sydney. I did not take me long to realise that I wasn’t particular great at ‘doing’ philosophy, but I could understand the concepts reasonably well and especially how they conflicted with a Christian Worldview. I undertook studies in Critical Thinking, Logic, Phenomenology, Critical Theory, Art and Aesthetics theory, Literary Theory…the list goes on. I came out with fluctuating marks but an overall grasp of the issues at hand; my degree did not necessarily make me more ‘useful’ in a utilitarian sense but a better thinker.
A few years since studying philosophy, I’ve come to realise that my degree had one major shortcoming: it did not give a lot of context to the ideas we studied. It was as if we studied these major ideas-like Descartes’ famous Cogito Ergo Sum-ahistorically. In fact, a reasonable comprehension of Church History and the Bible meant I loosely understood the nuances of the works that we studied. For example, a reading on Thomas Hobbes’s political theory in Leviathan reads like a secularised version of Calvinism; Rene Descartes’ argument that concluded with Cogito Ergo Sum (I think, therefore I am) require several steps to get there, including the Ontological Argument for God’s Existence; Martin Heidegger’s ideas in Being and Time contained secularised versions of Christian or Catholic ideas. This was not always the case, but we often did not have any background or context – we just approached the ideas themselves in a kind of vacuum.
Thankfully since my degree I have come across many resources to fill in the gaps. One such resource is the podcast, Philosophise This!
For those intimidated by the task of approaching any form of philosophy, this is a fantastic means of having a comprehensive overview of ideas throughout the centuries. Presenter, Stephen West, does a great job of making the ideas accessible to laymen. His most recent series on The Frankfurt School was fantastic.
Check out the podcast here.