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07 April 2020

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Why studying philosophy is more relevant than ever

Why studying philosophy is more relevant than ever

Written by Luis Martins, Head of Government & Politics and Philosophy Teacher

Why do we need to ‘think’ in an era of quick, all-encompassing, accessible information? Why waste time pondering questions at all, when you can easily ‘Google’ whatever you want or need? What is the value – if any – of thinking in the present when our presence on social networks has ultimately become the criteria by which others judge us and, therefore, the ways in which we perceive ourselves? 

Of course, everyone ‘thinks’ about something every day. But what does it mean, to really think? To think is to consider the ‘aboutness’ of something: its purpose, essence, consequences, impact, and range; the ‘What is it?’ 

Take coronavirus, for example. We can easily retrieve the facts regarding the outbreak: the statistics, the policies, the numbers affected. But how do we make sense of its social, political, economic, and psychological repercussions? 

Philosophy is a tool-kit for thinking: an intellectual choice that gives us the necessary break, the ‘oxygen’, even the courage to analyse our circumstances from what may be termed a ‘god’s eye view’. 

The discipline of philosophy has several branches. Epistemology, for example, is the study of knowledge: it allows us to ponder how true statements or events are, to dispute misinformation online. Ethics pushes us to think about the right course of action given a specific circumstance: a formula for the best response in a specific situation. Should I self-isolate to protect others, for example, or get on with my business? Existentialism allows us to find meaning in life, even at difficult times when our loved ones’ lives seem to be at risk. 

Studying philosophy – ‘philosophising’ in a positive sense – enables us to dissect the present: to understand it and improve our awareness. In the current climate, philosophy helps us to interpret government policy, to be empathetic towards people’s behaviour in the face of fear and uncertainty, and to be mindful of the needs of the elderly, the disadvantaged, and everyone’s idiosyncrasies. 

As a subject, tool, and lifestyle, philosophy is a mode of being curious about your surroundings. To think is the most defining human feature, and philosophy allows us to achieve a sense of calm and clarity even in the most troubling times. At Chelsea Independent College, we encourage all our students to think about the world around them: to ask the tough questions and challenge the answers they receive. In the Humanities, this is especially crucial, and our small class sizes easily facilitate in-depth discussion and debate.  

If you are interested in studying Philosophy or exploring the broad range of A-Level subjects on offer at Chelsea Independent College, please do contact our admissions team to find out more! 

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