When people find out that I am a graduate student in philosophy, I get asked two major questions: 1) what can you do with that when you graduate? And 2) what’s your philosophy on life?
For the first one, I can do a lot. Philosophy majors are taught to think critically, communicate ideas effectively, and do extensive research. I could write and publish papers for the rest of my life, or I could become a philosophy teacher. I could work in the ethics department of a company or as a researcher. So I’m not any worse off than someone who majors in art or journalism, honestly. But that is a few years from now.
The second one is a lot harder. I am just a grad student. I don’t know the meaning of life. I’m not all that old, I don’t have a lot of personal experiences. The more I learn about different schools of thought, the more I realize most people didn’t know either. What I think is the better question is this: What gives your life meaning? And that, I can answer. It’s going to be different for everyone, obviously, but that’s what makes it work so well as a concept. I can’t tell you whether you are right or wrong, and you can’t decide for me, either.
If there is something that gets me out of bed in the morning, that I think about all day, that fuels my passion and makes me a better person on a regular basis, then I have found it: what gives my life meaning. And I think that as people grow and change, the things that give their life meaning can change as well. Maybe you get married and have children. And maybe your children feel like the sole purpose in your life. But then they get older, needing less and less from you, and you take uppainting. Then your art gives your life meaning and makes you feel like you are contributing to the world. Or maybe you work on an assembly line as a safety inspector. Saving peoples’ lives might give your life meaning. It may be the reason you stay late at work every day, or why you study safety laws late into the night. You could be an aspiring chef who has dreams at night of all the things you want to cook. Just thinking about putting on that chef’s hat may light you up. It may seem silly to you that being a chef might be the meaning of life, but I would think that the chef agrees with me. So would just about anybody else who does something, whether it is a job or a hobby or something in between, that really feeds their soul and lightens their heart.
The deeper I delve into philosophy as a field, the more confident I am that it is what brings meaning to my life. Writing about it is something that I truly love to do, whether it is a formal paper for school, something I hope to expand on and publish one day, or something as simple as this little blog.