• Alwia

The 5 misconceptions you probably have about philosophy

Months ago, I got into a debate with a well known Instagram influencer that ended sort of like this:

'Oh you studied philosophy, makes sense why you think like you do. You shouldn't listen to what 'infidels' say.'

I was subsequently blocked.

My first impulse was to respond with a smiley- one with a very long finger, but inappropriate emoticons don't seem to exist unfortunately. So I've decided to take a more productive but less satisfying route: dispel some philosophy related myths.

1- Philosophy is un-Islamic

This one makes me very angry inside. You don't even need a degree in philosophy to figure out how stupid this claim is, you just need bloody google. Seriously, try this: type Islam and philosophy and see what comes up.

Muslims were the first to translate the works of Plato and Aristotle and there have been countless Muslim philosophers. Islamic history has a deep connection with philosophy. This is a historical fact.

'But those aren't 'real' Muslims'.

All I can say to this is I'm not interested in debating with bigots who are so arrogant, they believe the Truth is theirs and theirs alone. Any haram police are free to exit this post by the back door.

Also, so what if the philosopher behind a certain theory is a non-Muslim? Your beliefs don't have a direct effect on your competence doing a certain job. Is a builder or doctor worse at their job because they are atheists? This 'infidel' argument is not only so rude, but very weak.

2- Philosophy makes you doubt things and that's dangerous

This isn't exactly a myth, philosophy does make you doubt the validity of your own beliefs. This is a natural consequence of engaging with different schools of thought and appreciating different arguments. But is this really a negative thing? Think of it this way: would people be quick to kill each other over beliefs (secular and religious) if they realized they weren't right all the time? In my opinion, some doubt is a sign of humility and intelligence. We're all fallible humans. Some people may be closer to the 'Truth' than others but no one has a full grasp of it.

When I first studied philosophy, it did push me to doubt certain aspects of my beliefs. But the faith that I reached through philosophical reasoning is far stronger than it was before. People who are too scared to engage with different opinions just highlight their own lack of conviction in their own beliefs.

3- Philosophy gets you nowhere. People just argue endlessly with no resolution.

Okay...I hear you. Philosophers rarely reach a consensus on anything. But that's not the point. The point of philosophy in my opinion is the process, the thinking and reasoning.


Philosophical thinking expands your mind and understanding of the world. It helps you approach issues in a non-linear way. Things can never be black and white when you study philosophy and this in turn helps you become a more open-minded and tolerant person.

4- A lot of things philosophers talk about sound like nonsense

That will always be the case with any field you don't know much about. Philosophy is a wide, deep and complex subject. Sometimes, certain concepts may seem silly from an outsider's perspective, but in reality the kind of reasoning, and techniques used by philosophers are based on logic. One of the first things I learned when I started studying philosophy, was how logical deduction in arguments works. This is such an important skill to have because it helps you notice gaps in logic in other people's theories. Philosophy also gives you the skills to understand how to use evidence effectively when making a claim- which is something many individuals struggle with.

For example, in the past I've had individuals preach to me and cite different sources. They couldn't understand that not only are certain religious texts not universal evidence to all Muslims, but also, bringing up one scholar or one book really means nothing. Books can always be interpreted differently or disregarded as outdated. In reality, very few types of evidence are indisputable and when you don't know this, you run the risk of making grand statements about the world that make you sounded bigoted, arrogant or stupid.

5- Living with uncertainty and philosophical ideas is not suitable for the masses

I've said this before in another post, but I don't believe in belittling people or undermining their intelligence. Philosophy has not only opened my mind to so many things, but it has also brought me peace- cheesy but true. It has helped me understand that the world is a big place, that humans are complex beings and will always differ. This is natural, it's beautiful even. Because of philosophy, I'm more confident in my beliefs even though I've become more critical of them. Most importantly, philosophy has made me more accepting of other beliefs and has purged this obsessive need to be right at the expense of others. These are the reasons why I'm a huge supporter of everyone studying a little bit of philosophy at some point in their lives. Do it. It will shake you at first, but will be well worth it.

Some food for thought this Tuesday. See you next week!

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