During my first semester of college, I took a course in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy. I had rudimentary knowledge of philosophy from high school, mostly in modern philosophy, but the philosophy of the ancients was new to me. I didn’t know what to expect besides dense texts, philosophical jargon, and outdated conversations. But I was pleasantly surprised. Out of all the courses I have taken in college thus far, this philosophy class was one of my favorites. And that’s saying a lot considering it was an early morning class.
What I discovered in this class was that the questions the ancients have been pondering have never been answered. How do we know that what we know is true? What is the purpose of existence? What does it mean to be a good person?
If these questions cannot be given definite answers, one may conclude that there is no point in studying philosophy. Is it not just a waste of time to conduct fruitless conversations?
Calling these conversations “fruitless” would be far from correct, because in this class I learned some of the most valuable lessons of my life. I came to experience a deep connection with all of humanity. I realized that no matter how confident we seem on the outside, on the inside we are all aching for answers about our existence. These are the answers that we will most likely never find, and for this reason, we tend to keep ourselves incessantly distracted. But distraction doesn’t change the fact that we are all haunted by our existential crises. It is best to face the unknown, acknowledge the permanence of its mystery, and resolve to shape our lives based on what we can know: our values, our dreams, and our hopes.
Taking a philosophy class had a profound impact on the rest of my college experience. It solidified my values and helped me learn what approach I wanted to take in living my life. Once I developed a better understanding of myself, I was able to discover what it is that I am passionate about and how I want to connect my passions to academia. It is for this reason that I believe taking a philosophy class should be mandatory for college freshmen.
If you are still in college, consider taking a philosophy class. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll learn about yourself by studying what we do not know. If you are not currently in college, there are still plenty of opportunities to learn, whether from the internet or your local library. It is important to not be intimidated by it. Although philosophical conversations can be replete with bizarre terms or elaborate writing, these conversations are meant for everybody. There is a philosopher inside you who wants to be part of the conversation; let them out.