When we are born, we are born into a world with several competing philosophies. There is no assurance that they will all be consistent with one another. Our mother may have one set of views, and our father another. Within each person, too, there will be inconsistencies. One parent may say different things at different times, none of which are consistent with one another. When we grow up, it is no better. All people, throughout the world, are a scrapbook of philosophies, picked up like sand in a shoe.
HORSES FOR COURSES
Some of the main philosophies emerged for particular purposes. Religions may have emerged in order to make particular societies coherent, or to differentiate them from nearby, competing societies. In this way, we can understand many philosophies as answers to particular problems of experience, at particular times. When we assimilate them, therefore, we are gathering into ourselves schemas which are historical, and not necessarily current.
These characteristic differences find their ways into customs such as clothing, speech and behaviour. Look at different religious sects, and you will notice how different their clothes, ways of talking, and behaviours can be.
This gives us a problem if we have grown up in a mixed society. Our mother may be from one philosophy, our father from another, our teachers from another. Our task is to try to integrate all these different philosophies into a coherent whole, a liveable life.
We have a choice as to what philosophies we retain for ourselves, and which we discard as not useful to us. When we discard certain philosophies, it can feel like a betrayal, because we can be seen as not cooperative. If we are people pleasers, then going ‘against the grain’ can be distressing.
Integration of philosophies can come from surprising places. We may discover new ways of life by accident, or through meeting friends with different views. We may think our way, logically, to our own philosophy. Or we may feel our way, emotionally, to a philosophy that works for us.
It is likely to take some effort to find one’s own philosophical approach. We can feel like artists, using others’ philosophies as materials for something we know we are creating, but do not know where it will lead.
The reward for such work is a life that feels consistent. When philosophy is done well, a human can feel more a part of the universe they inhabit than before. Life, as it is experienced, will confirm, or prove, the perspective we take. If life does not seem to confirm a perspective, we are free to review our attitude or thinking, until we find an approach that seems to fit better.
In turn, we will feed to the next generation of humans something of ourselves, our philosophies. If we have attended well, they will have mental tools to help them. If we have not, then they may find life more difficult. Perhaps we have a responsibility to find felicitous ways to live and think, and to share them.