To Be or Not to Be...Is Not a Real Question


When I look up at the stars above, I ask the same question many others do around the world. "Why?" Why am I here, why am I the way that I am, why are things the way that they are? I took that feeling one step further, and pursued an education in the Liberal Arts. That's where you go to university to hear about what a bunch of old men and women thought could be the answers to our "whys," and I found the pursuit of these answers oddly soothing. And so I found myself turning to Aristotle, Hegel, or Boethius, when the going got tough. But I could not give the same sense of comfort to my friends, who had not spent four years studying life's answers from these men. I found myself giving advice and comfort through the sages of the ages, rather than any life experiences of my own - after all, 24 years doesn't give me that much wisdom over my peers. I felt that those who had shaped our culture through the ages with their mythologies, theologies, and philosophies held the keys to living a successful, fulfilling life more than I, or any pseudo life coach could ever promise. Therefore here we are. Come with me, on my five-part journey into the world of philosophy as it applies to the real world today. 

I'm going to start with the most basic, and yet most complicated part of philosophy: Being. The fact that we are something, and are not a nothing, has fascinated philosophers throughout the ages, as well as starstruck little girls trying to find their place in life. According to Heidegger, we are the only being who "is there" : open towards his experiences, and asking questions about what surrounds him.            

Thanks to Sartre, we also have the classification of being Néant, or no-thing, which also means that we are everything. We can place ourselves above the physical objects of the world, and name them for our own use. For example, I can look around the room and say, "That is a chair, it is not me," while the chair doesn't have such an opportunity. Even my cat has questionable faculties to address such a question. Neitzsche, in his ever optimistic fashion, considers this self-consciousness a sickness. Man is the only animal that can distance himself from his world enough to examine it.

Since we can distance ourselves from the world, we can relate with the world in new, and fascinating ways. If it weren't for our self-consciousness, how would we be able to "own" a cat like it was a daughter or son? How could we look at the sunset and imagine how infinite the wonders of our universe are, and how we fit into the big picture that is life? Because humans are beings of possibility, we can relate - which leads to us imagining, interacting, and really anything in which we can perceive ourselves as a separate, conscious being. Isn’t that awesome?!


Emily Towsley

Emily Towsley, can be found either teasing her cat, or philosophizing with a customer over coffee in her second-life as a barista. Messages of support regarding her addiction to Netflix, and news of vintage teacup sales can be left on her twitter. Her spare time is spent reading copious amounts of books, or working on her latest pinterest project. 

Tune in next week on the next philosophical breakdown from your average pedestrian. And feel free to leave her questions on her twitter - she's also up for suggestions on her next topic.