A bit on how my understanding of philosophy and life has developed, especially since emerging from philosophical studies - by Justin Whitaker
It has amazed me a bit that now that I'm done (sort of) with my Philosophy degree, things seem to be making more sense on a global level. I also have a feeling that I will need to come back to Philosophy (I'm taking a 10 month hiatus for an MA in Buddhist Studies and maybe on to a Ph.D. to follow that) if this new sense is to be made into anything concrete in the world of Philosophy.
It reminds me of the scene in the movie Pi where Max visits his older friend, telling him that he's on the brink of something. His friend sees his manic gestures and tells him to relax - He told him the story of Archimedes, the great Greek mathematician. In the story Archimedes is asked by King Hiero II to determine whether a crown he has is real gold. Archimedes trys everything he can think of, for hours, days he examines the crown and assorted metals - he simply cannot find a definitive difference. Finally, his wife sees him and orders him to relax and draws him a bath. As Archimedes sank into the water he noticed that his body caused displacement, sending the water over the edges. This was the insight Archimedes needed to see that the crown should not only weigh its worth in gold but also displace the same volume as equal weight of gold would. He was so exited he ran through the streets naked the King's palace naked screaming "Eureka" which means "I've found it." He needed perspective!
So, too, we philosophers need perspective. After being face to face with this theory and that, this great philosopher and that one - stepping back we see the connections. Too often we choose one theory, one philosopher and say, "ahh.. this is correct, the others are all wrong." Then we can stare, cheek to cheek with other admirers, and revel in the greatness of some thought. But to those with perspective we are nit-wits, as idiotic as the next group of narrow-visioned zealots.
Of course it doesn't help to simply say, "I have perspective" as a way to avoid looking closely, either! A murky understanding of it all is no better than a great understanding of but a little. Like the Gestalt image of two faces/a vase (or goblet). .
We must see each image (within/close up), and see the Truth of the whole image. Perhaps a piece on the Zen Koan is in order... another day. - Justin