On Philosophology and Rules

I often find myself wondering if anyone even knows what philosophy is these days. Do you? I have never been a formal student of the subject, I have never sat in a classroom and had it fed to me or discussed it with peers. Yet I feel in my gut a knowledge of what a philosophy is supposed to be, and that we all need one.

  1. the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.
  2. a theory or attitude that acts as a guiding principle for behaviour. “don’t expect anything and you won’t be disappointed, that’s my philosophy” synonyms: beliefs, credofaith, convictions, ideology, ideas, thinking, notions, theories, doctrine, tenets, values, principles, ethicsattitudelineviewviewpointoutlookworldview, school of thought; Weltanschauung. “I’d like to see your philosophy in action”
In the last 24 hours, I’ve digested a book by Carl Jung, “The Undiscovered Self“. I would argue that pretty much anyone could read this book in less than a day, as it is a paltry 78 pages. Yet like most good books written by wise men, the content outclasses the thickness ten- or even a hundred-fold. It discusses one of Jung’s foundational ideas, discussed in greater depth in his coffee-table-worthy “The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious“, the idea of the individual psychology compared to the State psychology and the fundamental issues with the level of self-knowledge and self-awareness displayed by the so-called “mass man”.


Robert Pirsig, the author of my favourite book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance“, is credited with coining the term Philosophology. He discusses it in his more recent work, “Lila“, of which a section can be found below.

Philosophology is to philosophy as musicology is to music, or as art history and art appreciation are to art, or as literary criticism is to creative writing. It’s a derivative, secondary field, a sometimes parasitic growth that likes to think it controls its host by analyzing and intellectualizing its host behavior.
Literature people are sometimes puzzled by the hatred many creative writers have for them. Art historians can’t understand the venom either. He [Phædrus] supposed the same was true of musicologists but he didn’t know enough about them. But philophologists don’t have this problem at all because the philosophers who would normally condemn them are a null-class. They don’t exist. Philosophologists, calling themselves philosophers, are just about all there are.
You can imagine the ridiculousness of an art historian taking his students to museums, having them write a thesis on some historical or technical aspect of what they see there, and after a few years of this giving them degrees that they are accomplished artists.  They’ve never held a brush or a mallet or a chisel in their hands. All they know is art history.

The problem with modern-day philosophy is that those we consider philosophers are all long-dead. As Pirsig writes, they “are a null-class. They don’t exist”. Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Nietzsche, the Buddha, Confucius. Not one of these is a particularly modern name, and there is a reason why.
And students of philosophy that study the subject today are not taught about rational and emotional thought, logos –  they are taught about the discoveries and meditations of these historic individuals. Although the findings of the above great men are as relevant today as they were on the day of their discovery, pondering on them too long will not lead to any new thought much as Pirsig discusses. “It’s a derivative, secondary field, a sometimes parasitic growth that likes to think it controls its host by analyzing and intellectualizing its host behaviour.

Philosophy according to Wikipedia “is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind and language.” Philosophy to me means the establishment of a set of rules and guidelines with which to approach the world. It falls away from being philosophy when it is the study not of the problems themselves, but of other people’s answers to those problems. The independent thought has become detached from the subject at hand.
So at this point, the question morphs. The new subject is when is the time to put down our armchair general’s galea, and go from learning about a subject to engaging in that subject? When is the time to take action?
In the context of philosophy, the answer is every second of every dayThe guidance of the greats is timeless for a reason – because it has been inescapably verified in numerous lifetimes. But as I’ve quoted in the past from Mark Twain,

When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect”

You approach the world with a unique brain, a unique pair of eyes and a unique set of sensory inputs. You can draw your own conclusions. Jung’s “State psychology vs individual psychology” discusses how daunting it can be to question the status quo, but one sentence that stood out to me in that book read,

A million zeros joined together do not, unfortunately, add up to one. Ultimately everything depends on the quality of the individual, but our fatally shortsighted age thinks only in terms of large numbers and mass organizations, though one would think that the world had seen more than enough of what a well-disciplined mob can do in the hands of a single madman. Unfortunately, this realization does not seem to have penetrated very far – and our blindness is extremely dangerous.”

I saw an interesting bit of information in a documentary I watched with my father about a month ago, called “The Joy of Data“. It was about 5 minutes into the documentary, and it was a graphic resembling (but rather prettier than) the below.
What this graphic illustrated was that if you go to any page on Wikipedia, and click the first link you come to in the text, you will always find your way back to Philosophy. It is at the root of everything that we do. The big questions of life reside right at the root of being. Please, try it for yourself.
The relevance of this is very profound. We are not destined to be philosophologists, to study the thoughts of other men. Cogito, ergo sum – I think, therefore I am. If we do not think independently, then we are nothing more than a cog in the creation of Jung’s State. The individual is the most powerful force in the world, and this is as a result of consciousness. One individual can change the world. Who’s it going to be?

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