How to stop thinking philosophically about everything? I feel that instead of enjoying life and the things around me I put so much energy and time analyzing them and looking for explanations like thinking in terms of Aristotle’s causes or in terms of parts-whole relations and so many ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions. So how to lose interest in that or at least how to learn not to put so much energy and time on it?
Answer by Geoffrey Klempner
Philosophy is good and you can never have too much of a good thing. It is fine, totally OK, to spend all your time on studying philosophy. Obviously, I’m talking about the time you have available. You need to allocate time for sleeping, eating, brushing your teeth etc. But there’s no need to waste time on those things. Do the necessary and then get back to your studies!
What about a balanced life? you say. Rubbish. No-one has yet formulated the rule for a ‘balanced life’, for any human being. We are all different. And that is the point. Do what you’ve got to do, never mind the others. You don’t have to justify yourself to anyone. To be motivated — to do anything at all — is great. Not everyone has that gift, I’m talking about the gift of motivation. There are those who drift through life, who never get to answer the question, ‘Why I am here,’ not even a provisional answer. They don’t know why they are here, the world doesn’t need them and nor do other people. To be in that state is far, far worse than material poverty.
To be motivated to study philosophy and the great philosophers — now, that’s something special. It’s a gift. You don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Give yourself up to it, study as much and as hard as you can. You will not be here for ever, and even a long life is not enough to fully get to grips with this amazing subject.
Which is not to say that you shouldn’t allow yourself to be interested in other things. I once wrote, ‘Philosophers should know lots of things besides philosophy.’ I knew a philosopher once, talented, sharp logical mind, who didn’t know what stars are. I’d made some remark about ‘other suns’, and this person didn’t grasp what I was talking about. ‘What other suns?’ What do you think stars are? ‘I’ve never asked myself that question.’ — It was Immanuel Kant who wrote that the two things that most filled him with wonder were the starry heavens above and the moral law within. (As it happens, Kant made original contributions to cosmology.) My friend knew all about the moral law but the starry heavens were a mystery. Or not even that because ‘the question didn’t occur’.
Just for the record, I am fascinated by science, the arts, geography, history, and every other subject you could name. Without going deeply into all of them, or indeed any of them. I know enough. I would do well on a general knowledge quiz. Or, at least, passably well. And I have my enthusiastic interests, that admittedly come and go — like photography, chess, guitar. I am happy to throw myself into any one of these for a while. But there is one interest, just one, that has me for life, no matter what I do or where life takes me. You already know what that is.
— You’re doing well, Saleh. Keep it up!