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Philosophy as antidote to anger and fear

By Thomas V. Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Feb 19, 2015

At the Huffington Post, Michael Shammas has written an excellent blog piece calling for a renewal of philosophy education in high schools. American politics is increasingly characterized by fear, anger and bitterness; according to Shammas this is caused at root by "the iron certainty we grant our opinions." 

Why philosophy? Because the study of philosophy, the "love of wisdom," creates and nurtures thoughtful minds, minds that can -- as Aristotle suggests -- entertain a thought without accepting it. With a philosophic worldview, a Republican who despises any tax increase or economic stimulus could at least consider the notion of tax hikes or Keynesian economics. A Democrat facing antithetical ideas could do likewise. Thought rather than anger could become the default response to opposing worldviews.
Indeed, philosophy can do a great deal to lessen the anger that is growing like a cancerous tumor in modern America.

In addition, Shammas argues, philosophy helps us to learn virtue and, as Socrates said, makes us realize how little we truly know—which would replace irrational anger and fear with humility and curiosity. Philosophy leads us to ask the ultimate questions about truth, justice, suffering, the afterlife, all of which most people in our society are afraid to consider.

While only faith in Jesus Christ can ultimately save our society, it seems reasonable to believe that the widespread study of philosophy would make our nation's politics, at least, more rational and discourse-friendly.

Thomas V. Mirus is an administrative assistant and writer at CatholicCulture.org. A jazz pianist with a music degree, he often takes the lead in our commentary on the arts. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: dapsr - Feb. 21, 2015 2:09 PM ET USA

    If I were "King" I would not stop at adding philosophy to High Schools, I would add a two year Liberal Arts curriculum as a prerequisite for admission to any University in my kingdom. But the "rub" comes from the challenge of finding teachers and texts that are not "soiled" by our secularist, relativistic and atheistic culture. Perhaps the Church could lead the way and over time the results from such graduates entering the workplace and politics would draw the culture/public into following.

  • Posted by: shrink - Feb. 19, 2015 6:57 PM ET USA

    Socrates with Plato thought that knowledge is virtue. Aristotle, on the other hand, set the stage for the Catholic definition of virtue, which is a habit according to right reason. Learning philosophy is not typically a path to virtue if there are absent good habits that dispose the student to learn some difficult truths.

  • Posted by: garedawg - Feb. 19, 2015 11:01 AM ET USA

    Sounds good, but I shudder to think of how the public schools would implement it. They would probably skip straight to Nietzsche and Marx.