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(82): The Dilemma of a Plucky Philosopher-Wannabe

Muhsin Ibrahim
Twitter: @muhsin234

The world has never been short of the irresolvable arguments of and on philosophy. While the beast is cherished by many, many more others hate it like they abhor their death. The recent raging row on Facebook among the northern youth about the relevance or otherwise of studying Philosophy is nothing that new, unexpected or shocking, at least to me. What is astonishing is the way the whole drama is perceived by some, and treated by others, while many are left totally baffled. This is, perhaps, one of the reasons why some ‘concerned’ individuals sought my opinion on the matter. This is what I set out to do here.

For a record, I am not a philosopher and I won’t pretend to be one. I don’t even find Philosophy a discipline worthy of my drunken desire to learning. I had once started an online course on it on Coursera, for which I downloaded and purchased some books, but I abandoned it halfway. However, I have read a few of those books. As a former student of the English language (Literature), I am not uninformed of the trend, and generally the topic, of Philosophy as a field of study. My major reason – for quitting my pursuit of Philosophy – is my failure (?) to reconcile it with my faith. The mutual antipathy between them is so unbridgeable.


Islam, however, is not the only faith that struggles with this beast. Other Abrahamic religions – Christianity and Judaism – too are in the bout. Believe it or not, Philosophy is, for hundreds of years, neither a favourite brother nor even a cousin to these faiths. However, for Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism, etc, the story is rather different, for they are founded on mysticism. It is, therefore, not a surprise that the few Muslim intelligentsias that practised it then and now are largely subscribers to the branch of Islam – Sufism – that shares a great affinity to those mystic-based, Indian-originated faiths. This is, perhaps, a topic for another day, for I lived in India for two good years. 

Historically, from Socrates to Gorz, philosophers at one or another point in their lives face(d) tragic moral dilemma and conflict with the establishment and the community they belong to. The vast gap in their bizarre view of the world (for instance: many of them deny the God’s existence, revelation and retribution; others are unconvinced of that, etc) and what the instituted authorities and the commoners believe in is always the crux of the argument, the flashpoint. Most of them were, and are, confused about their identities, of the world they live and invariably often end up insane. Others were, and are, oftentimes considered apostates, or heretics, pariahs, and whatnot. This unfavourable view is, apparently, one of the reasons that lead them to despair, depression and, eventually, tragic death. Many committed suicide, in a sanatorium, etc. Many – yes, many – died unceremoniously.

No wonder, some scholars, including western ones, wrote on the stories surrounding those dramatic deaths. Sadly, however, some people are today looking at those “lost sheep” as role models, or shapers of their lives. The writings – which I have, at least – include Book of Dead Philosophers (2009) by Simon Critchley, How Philosophers Die (2007) by David Palfrey, etc. Please note that there is no absolute universal generalization in my or those authors’ submission as to the ends of philosophers. Let me use logic to explain this:

Many philosophers have a tragic end
Friedrich Nietzsche was a philosopher
Friedrich Nietzsche died tragically

The premise of the inference “many” means not all, but MANY. Would you like to be among the many, for instance, anyway? I, for once, will not like to toe their path for several reasons, some of which you could have deduced from the foregoing.

God knows I did not like to partake in this argument for its futility. I believe some of you can remember my post on the frivolousness of argument on Facebook some time ago. None of us is here (there) to be told what to do and what not to do. We are all of age. Thus, one has a choice to do what one likes. After all, I am under no obligation whatsoever to guide you to the path I consider right, for my right can be your left and vice versa. The much I should, and can, do is to feel sad. I doubt if I will do even that. To each his/her own.

Finally, one does not have to ridicule his/her religion to be called “intellectual”. Intellectualism doesn’t hide. An aphorism aptly says that let people see your deeds and judge. Stop the pretence, or searching for pertinence. Again, popularity on the social media does not mean anything. Many people were once very, very popular and have now lost all that, or are gone completely. Therefore, what is it then?

Mend your relationship with the Creator – if you believe He exists. Or, at least, learn to live with the majority in peace and harmony. You wouldn’t like to rave mad, or, as it were, be tagged outcast. Thus, for either celestial or terrestrial sake, I think not bragging being a Philosopher – and yes, you can, and should study it but do that conscientiously – is better and rewarding. Socrates too would have lived longer had he renounced his weird stand!

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