4 Core Values of Philosophy to the Individual


4 Core Values of Philosophy to the Individual

Welcome to this discussion on the value of philosophy to the individual who studies it. We shall be discussing the value of philosophy to the individual by examining the importance of the four cardinal branches of philosophy to the individual who studies them.

Philosophy amongst other descriptions is the criticisms of the various ideas that inform our knowledge, mode of reasoning, values and beliefs. Its value or importance to the individual person cannot be overstated.

As individuals, we need knowledge to be able to understand and deal with the world - epistemology equips us for that. We need to have the ability to think properly and respond to our existential issues from a standpoint that is devoid of errors - logic furnishes us with that.

We need also to come to terms with the fact that we do not live in isolation and for this reason, the way we live our lives as individuals has ripple effects on others, therefore, we ought to imbibe the acceptable ways of conduct - ethics brings us to this understanding.

Finally, we need to appreciate the fact that as individuals, we are ambassadors of different realities, such as the mental and the physical even though we may differ on which is prior - metaphysics aids our awareness of this fact.

In this article, we shall examine the relevance of these various sub branches of philosophy to the individual who studies them.

By the end of this article, you would be able to State the value of epistemology to the individual, explain the relevance of logic to the individual, Identify the value of ethics to the individual and explicate the value of metaphysics to the individual.


4 Core Values of Philosophy to the Individual

Below listed are 4 core values of philosophy to the individual:

1. Value of Epistemology to the Individual

2. Value of Logic to the Individual

3. Value of Ethics to the Individual

4. Value of Metaphysics to the Individual

Let explain in details 

1. Value of Epistemology to the Individual

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that seeks to answer questions concerning the possibility of knowledge and how knowledge claims can be justified. 

One of the basic tasks of epistemology is to proffer justifications for knowledge claims such that when a person says he knows something, he or she can be certain about knowing it and would not be guessing or trapped in the natural attitude of equating belief with knowledge or opinion with truth.

Traditionally, knowledge has been defined as ‘Justified True Belief’ in which case, when a person claims to know something, he or she must be justified in knowing it, the claim must be true and that person must believe the claim.

We can say categorically then that the basic task of epistemology is the quest for certainty of knowledge. Without certainty of knowledge, it becomes difficult to make a distinction between a true state of affairs and one that is misconceived.

On many occasions, we would have found ourselves strongly affirming and holding on to positions which eventually turn out not to be the case i.e. holding onto appearances as though they were realities. 

Let us assume that you were to take part in an examination by 8am of the following day. You went to bed, woke up at an unknown time, looked through the window and the weather was totally dark.

So, you assumed it was not dawn yet and went back to bed only to wake up few moments later with the weather so clear and the clock reads 9am. You wondered what could have gone wrong, not knowing that a brief moment of eclipse of the sun had occurred at the time you first woke up.

This is an example of what we call the Gettier problem. You had a justified time belief which turned out to be untrue. Epistemology has taught us to move beyond this level of Justified True Belief in search for a fourth condition that would lead to certainty. Epistemology equips the individual with a more critical spirit in dealing with a situation like the one mentioned above.

We shall now itemize and discourse a few of the values of epistemology to the individual.

a. It Takes Away Fear and Gives Us Better Understanding of Our World: Epistemology helps us to better understand our world by clarifying our thoughts and shining the light of knowledge on our uncertainties.

We can imagine a world where a person is not certain about anything. Every moment of the life of such a person will be marked with fear, wonder and shock. Such a life will not be worth living. There were periods in history when life was replete with speculations and doubts.

During these periods, people did not have as much knowledge and information that is available to us in our world today. A simple thunder from the sky was said to mean that the gods were having a fight, but we now know that thunder is caused by the rapid expansion of the air surrounding the path of a lightning bolt.

An eclipse of the sun was interpreted as a sign that the gods were angry at the evils of humankind but we now know that when the moon orbits or moves around earth, it sometimes appears between the sun and the earth. When this happens, the moon blocks the light of the sun from reaching the earth, thereby casting its own shadow on the earth and causing partial and sometimes total darkness to fall upon the earth.

The appearance of rainbow in the sky after a rainfall was said to mean that God would have destroyed the world with water but on a second thought, He did not. But we now know that when light (i.e. from the sun) enters a water droplet, slowing down and bending as it goes from air to denser water, the light reflects off the inside of the droplet, separating into its component colours. When light exits the droplet, it makes a rainbow.

After arriving at new and informed information through a number of regular and scientifically calculated occurrences of the above events, people no longer have fear because they have knowledge. They could tell why and when to expect a thunder, they could predict the coming of the next eclipse and even make plans to watch it, they could tell why there is a rainbow in the sky and stand to appreciate its beauty. This is why it can be said that the extent, to which our epistemology is right, is the extent to which we could have proper understanding of the world around us. For this reason, errors in epistemology will give us a poor and distorted picture of reality.

b. Epistemology Inspires the Individual to Self-Examination: Self-examination is the quest for the knowledge of the self. History of philosophy has shown that there is the need for the knowledge of the self before the pursuit of the knowledge of the world.

It is more like saying that there is the need to learn how to rule or control ourselves before seeking to control the world or further still, being able to govern one’s family before seeking to govern the state. Hence, knowledge of the microcosm precedes knowledge of the macrocosm. Without the examination of one’s life, life would have no worth or value.

Worth is the quality that renders something desirable, useful or valuable. A person cannot decide whether something has worth without examining it and making that decision. Worth is not something that is necessarily good or bad, although society would generally hold on to worth as being something good. Worth is what people use to define why they still live. If their life has worth, they will continue to live and enjoy life.

In this way, the Socratic dictum ‘an unexamined life is not worth living’ is important because without examining one’s life, a person cannot determine its worth, and therefore has no reason to want to live.

Epistemology in this regard makes us cautious and less likely to embrace ideas and beliefs uncritically. This is why Socrates’ claim as stated above that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’ inspires in a person a deep and critical thought about life and shows that only in striving to come to know ourselves and to understand ourselves do our lives have any meaning or value.

c. Epistemology Helps Us to Form the Right Questions and Opinions about the World: What you already know serves as foundation for your predictions and expectations of things to come. We rely on our experiences in making judgments about the world. Experiences help us to formulate the right questions and inform our opinions about the how and the why of events taking place around us.

When our questions are not clear, our thinking will lack clarity and distinctness and it shows that, our belief is beclouded with unsubstantiated assumptions.

Any belief formed on the basis of unjustified opinions lacks clarity, distinctness and, ultimately, usefulness. Such an opinion will not contribute to our knowledge and will likely be ineffective and incapable of being justified by us.

Epistemology which raises questions about how we come to know the things we claim to know and the justifications for such claims is at the forefront of ensuring that our knowledge claims are able to withstand the criticisms of the skeptics.


2. Value of Logic to the Individual

The term logic is described in at least three different and correct senses which are as follows:

i. Logic is the totality of all the laws guiding human thoughts which is predicated on the fact that the ability to think or reason forms a basic and fundamental part of the nature of human beings.

We were told that the laws guiding human thoughts are mostly self-evident in such a way that for human reasoning to make sense it must conform to some basic laws and when any part of the laws is violated in the course of an argument or reasoning, a listener would most likely identify that something is wrong.

Therefore, the laws need not be written down anywhere as we can have direct and immediate knowledge of their violations in expressions.

ii. Logic is the principles guiding the operations of a mechanism. We were told that this description is informed by the fact that gadgets function according to the predesigned codes or programs which control them. By this, no gadget such as computer, phone or watch can function beyond what it has been designed or programed for, otherwise, it would be said to be malfunctioning.

iii. Logic is the branch of philosophy that deals with the study of the basic principles, techniques or methods for evaluating arguments. 

We were told that logic is concerned with the nature of statements, how statements are combined to form arguments, the inferences that follow from the arrangement of statements in arguments as well as the determination of the validity or invalidity and soundness or unsoundness of such arguments.

When talking about the value of logic to the individual, we should also remember that philosophy generally is basic to all areas of human inquiry, be it the basic sciences, the social sciences, the arts or humanities, but logic itself is the basis on which philosophy thrives. Just as philosophy deals with reasoning so does logic deal with the study of the proper way to reason.

We should also note that as human beings we cannot escape philosophy just as we also cannot escape logic. Any person or society that rejects logical or sound philosophical principles runs into chaos and disorder. Therefore, knowledge of logic helps the individual to escape chaos and disorder.

Logic is further relevant to the individual in the following ways:

a. It Enhances Problem Solving Ability and Saves Time: With the knowledge of logic, the individual is able to solve complex problems by breaking them down into a number of simpler problems. In this way, logic allows for precision in problem solving by doing away with irrelevant components of the problem thereby saving time. The individual can apply the knowledge of logic to a wide range of problems. The application of logic increases efficiency and makes the individual more effective in dealing with problems.

b. It Enhances Reasoning Ability: With the knowledge of logic, the individual is able to think in a systematic and organized manner. Logic equips the individual with the knowledge of distinguishing correct reasoning from incorrect or fallacious one.

Logic is an important skill when analyzing other people’s opinions and beliefs for the purpose of ridding them of errors. When an individual cannot detect logical fallacies in what he or she sees, reads or hears, then he or she will be unable to discern what is true from what is wrong in the real world.

In real life situations, we cannot underestimate the usefulness of logic as it puts us in a position to better evaluate arguments and debates from domestic matters to political, religious and economic matters involving the wider society.

c. It Helps the Individual to Avoid Unnecessary Conflicts: Conflicts often result from misconceptions, misunderstandings, and differences in orientation as well as from an outright abuse of persons. Individuals often move away from the content of an argument to directly attacking the opponent.

In logic, this is known as argumentum ad hominem (abusive) otherwise referred to as ‘argument against the man’. This could lead to serious conflict but knowledge of logic makes it clear to us that such an approach is fallacious and should be avoided.

For example, ‘Malik called Ade a dirty person. Mind you, Malik is a Hausa man and they are known to be very dirty’. This could lead to a serious conflict, as it is very unlikely that Malik would take such an abuse with a pinch of salt. Ad hominem (abusive) is a type of fallacy that plays out often on a daily basis. This is so because people tend to quickly discredit the claim of an inconsistent individual and even calling such an individual a hypocrite.

The warning here is that the claim of an inconsistent person needs not be jettison on account of the person’s known inconsistencies, rather, every claim should be evaluated on its own merit even if the author of the argument wears the toga of inconsistency.

It may be convenient to say that the kettle is inconsistent by calling the pot black but this does not remove the fact that the pot is actually black.

Therefore, an inconsistent person can, of course come up with a valid claim. By so doing, every arguer deserves a fair hearing anytime any day in argumentation otherwise, this could lead to conflict.


3. Value of Ethics to the Individual

We said that ethics has a very close link with morality and that the idea of morality can be traced to when humans started living in societies and began to distinguish between good or acceptable and bad or unacceptable ways to relate with each other.

We also said that it is these acceptable and unacceptable ways that developed into customs, ways of life and codes of conduct of a people which now constitute the interest and subject matter of ethics. Ethics was described as “a code or set of principles by which men live.”

It is a branch of philosophy also known as moral philosophy that prescribes how men ought to behave and live the ‘good life’. One value of ethics is that it guides the way we make moral judgments about anything. The way individuals or societies judge human actions to be either right or wrong shows the value they place on such actions. This is why we hear of taboos and we hear of praise or blameworthy actions.

For an action to be judged wrong for example, it must have violated at least a part of the moral codes or laid down rules which usually attract blame or punishment. Other ways ethics is valuable to the individual include:

a. Ethics Prescribe the Standard for Peaceful Co-existence: A life of morality is a necessity for human beings given the condition that humans coexist. Ethics prescribes the standards for moral life and human activities would be meaningless and purposeless without it. Ethics provides the basis upon which we make social progress. This is so because without ethics, we would be living a predatory life where the only rule would be the survival of the fittest.

Ethics is a system of principles that helps us tell right from wrong and good from bad. Ethics can give real and practical guidance to our lives.

Ethical values like honesty, trustworthiness, responsibility and the likes help guide us along a pathway to deal more effectively with moral issues by eliminating those behaviors that do not conform to our sense of right and wrong. It is all about the choices we make. 

We constantly face choices that affect the quality of our lives. We are aware that the choices that we make have consequences, both for ourselves and for others and we are also aware of our responsibility for our actions.

b. The Study of Ethics helps us to be Humane in Our Actions: The ability to reason at a greater capacity is what makes us different from other animals. Rationality helps us to put a limit to our actions with the consideration of how they affect other beings, in a manner in which other animals would not. Being humane means focusing on one’s own humanity and the humanity of others.

It means being interested in treating other people with respect and care just as one wants to be treated. It is generally expected that humans act in a humane manner. This is because unlike other animals, we have a rational choice either to be predatory and cruel or to be kindly and helpful to others.

When a person shows indifference to the plights of others or treats people wickedly, we sometimes ask if the person is a human being. That is because being morally considerate is part of being human. Gopalkrishna Gandhi says that Hitler’s torturing of his prisoners would shame Satan, if such a creature exists because he was as real as his poison gases and tooth-extractors. 

He added that Apartheid South Africa had its torturers trained in Algeria to inflict pain without leaving any signs on the body.

Concluding that, the actions of Hitler and Apartheid South Africa were inhumane because they were heinous, brutish and lack morality.

c. Application of Ethical Principles is Therapeutic to the Individual: In our everyday life, we are confronted with different and often difficult situations which require us to make moral evaluations that would lead to our choices. Experience has shown that in most cases, whenever we make immoral choices, we become unhappy and uncomfortable.

However, when we do otherwise, the reverse is the case. No matter how unpopular or unfavorable our choices may be, provided they were the right choices, we tend to be happy, free and at peace with ourselves. Therefore, making the right moral decisions reduces stress.

Ultimately, ethics is important because it improves our way of life. By being moral, we enrich our lives and the lives of those around us.


4. Value of Metaphysics to the Individual

Metaphysics is defined as a branch of philosophy that deals with fundamental questions about the nature of reality. From its etymology, metaphysics is said to be derived from the Greek word meta-physika meaning after physics or transcending the physical.

Among philosophers, we were told that the term metaphysical has come to have the distinct sense of having to do with what lies beyond what is visibly available to the senses. But in its simplest form, metaphysics represents a science that seeks ultimate knowledge of reality which broadly comprises the physical and the non-physical.

Metaphysics as is generally understood therefore attempts to furnish us with knowledge of the physical reality and a reality transcending the world of science, common sense or the phenomenal world. One important value of metaphysics therefore is its ability to evaluate and furnish us with the knowledge of reality.

Without an explanation or an interpretation of the world around us, we would be helpless in relating or dealing deal with reality. We would be unable to give any meaning to life and consequently see no reason for preserving it. The degree to which our metaphysical worldview is correct is the degree to which we are able to comprehend the world, and act accordingly.

Other importance of metaphysics includes the following:

a. It Exposes Man to the Fact that His Very Nature is Metaphysical: As a discipline, metaphysics has an important value to man. Man practices metaphysics just as he breathes, without thinking about it. Man has often been defined as a metaphysical animal, which, apart from telling us that man is a reasoning animal, it strongly indicates the characteristic power of reason that involves looking beyond the empirical to the absolute.

Man, therefore, from this standpoint, is by his very nature metaphysical. This means that there is in him something incapable of expression in simple natural terms, something which always goes beyond nature and which is to be described as spiritual.

b. It Prepares an Individual for the Responsibilities and Uncertainties of Life: A belief in determinism or freewill gives an individual a certain orientation and outlook to life. Determinists believe that a human being’s future is pre-ordained and is therefore beyond the individual’s control or influence. People who hold this view are more likely to worry less and resign to fate.

A belief in freewill on the other hand gives individuals a kind of outlook to life that makes them responsible for their actions and consequently, being able to chart the course of their future. Deciding whether one believes in determinism or freewill is important as it relates to how we interact with the world and respond to events happening around us.

Therefore, metaphysics prepares an individual for the responsibilities and uncertainties of life.

c. It helps in the Clarification of Our Thoughts and Beliefs: This is so because, when properly pursued, metaphysics enhances analytical and interpretive capacities that are applicable to any subject matter and in any human context. It cultivates in a person the capacities and appetite for self-expression and reflection, for sharing of ideas, for life-long learning, and for dealing with problems for which there are no easy answers.

The human mind contains thoughts by which we influence our personal life experiences. We may never be able to step outside of our own mind and look back upon it to see what it is like.

However, we can infer from our experiences what is going on in our minds. The first thing most of us notice when we observe the workings of our mind are thoughts. The mind seems to be filled with them, constantly moving in and out and producing all manner of bodily effects.

The study of metaphysics gives us better understanding of the workings of the mind. Thoughts with metaphysical orientations are inescapable part of human existence. Almost everyone has been puzzled from time to time by metaphysical questions like ‘What is the meaning of life?’, ‘Did I have any existence before I was born?’ and ‘Is there life after death?’ Most people have some kind of personal outlook on life in relation to the above questions. With the knowledge of metaphysics, people are able to clarify what they believe, and they can be stimulated to think about ultimate questions.


Also read: The Value of Philosophy to Other Disciplines

Conclusion on 4 Core Values of Philosophy to the Individual

The value of philosophy to the individual as have been shown in the course of this article cannot be overemphasized. 

Epistemology puts the individual in a good position to better understand his or her world by clarifying his or her thoughts and shining the light of knowledge on uncertainties of life. With the knowledge of logic, the individual is able to solve complex problems by breaking them down into a number of simpler problems.

Ethics shows that a life of morality is a necessity for human existence and coexistence, and metaphysics, a very important branch of philosophy prepares an individual for the responsibilities and uncertainties of life.

In this article, we have been able to show the value of philosophy to the individual who studies it. This we did by examining the value of the various sub-branches of philosophy to the individual that studies them. Epistemology equips the individual with the knowledge to understand and deal with the world. 

Logic helps the individual to avoid fallacies and unnecessary conflicts that may result from misconceptions and misunderstandings.

Ethics helps the individual to imbibe principles for moral evaluations and acceptable ways of conduct, while metaphysics furnishes the individual with knowledge of the ultimate reality and with the capacity for dealing with problems for which there are no easy answers.

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