Saturday, June 2, 2007

Is philosophy shopping?

Recently someone told me that I find philosophy boring and thus, must like shopping. Just to set things straight, I didn’t even say that I found philosophy boring, but rather, that he liked boring philosophy. I was intrigued by this statement though, because I have never before heard someone deal with shopping and philosophy as though they are two diverging points at a crossroads.

Must one really give up shopping to pursue philosophy or vice versa? Well, to start down the aisle to the rollbacks of enlightenment, let’s pull out our handy dandy dictionary.

The dictionary defines shopping as “of, for, or pertaining to examining and buying merchandise” or “to go from store to store in search of merchandise or bargains” and many other similar phrases. The dictionary definition that really encompasses all that shopping is would have to be, “To look for something”.

Now let’s do the same for philosophy. Definitions range from “rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct”, and “the critical analysis of fundamental assumptions and beliefs”, to “the critical study of the basic principles and concepts of a particular branch of knowledge, esp. with a view to improving or reconstituting them”. To better compare the two points, let’s make them both verbs. We’re talking about shopping, and philosophizing.

Shopping remains the same, but philosophizing changes somewhat. The definition is “to think or reason as a philosopher” or “to speculate or theorize, usually in a superficial or imprecise manner”.

These definitions show that shopping and philosophy are not opposites, nor are they identical, however, they are very similar. Using the information we have already gained, we see that someone could philosophize while shopping, or even go shopping for philosophy. Certainly, if they were not creating their own (self-styled - totally morally, scientifically and spiritually autonomous) belief system, they would be shopping the entire time they pondered on philosophy. In fact, since philosophy is an “investigation”, “analysis”, or “study” of existing beliefs or assumptions, philosophy MUST include some degree of shopping. Unless, of course, the “philosopher” were not open to new ideas, in which case they would just be philosophizing in the sense that they would be speculating or theorizing, in a superficial manner.

So, any real philosopher must be a savvy shopper, constantly searching for bargain basement truths and saving up “get out of a pickle in the hereafter” coupons. When you find the right system of beliefs, why not chop the top, bore the cylinders, find some vintage mags with spinners, give it a flame job, pimp the whole deal, make it your own. Who cares if it is the metaphysical equivalent of a Mexican built VW Beetle, it’s got a Rolls Royce Grille! Happy shopping, pimping and philosophizing everybody!

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