The Cornerstone Questions and Why We Should Seek Their Answers
What would you say is your “thing?” Most people have things they would say that they’re talented at, and others that they struggle with. Take me as an example. I’m certainly not a math person, and I’m not really a fan of golf either. I find I’m better at strategy games than sports.
It’s true that people are more talented at particular things, and it makes sense that most people focus their time and effort on the things they’re good at. After all, why hike uphill when it’s harder. Right? But is there any reason that you should try to do things you’re not naturally good at? Maybe there’s something at the top of the hill that makes the hike worth it.
I think there is! In fact, there’s one thing that I think everyone should try, even if it doesn’t come very naturally, or even if you dislike it. That thing, ladies and gentlemen, is philosophy; and believe it or not, you’ve already dipped your toes in it. Not convinced? Let me lay it out for you.
Whether you realize it or not, you have a set of core beliefs that determine the way you see the world. This set of truths influences everything you think, say, and do. One of my favorite thinkers, Francis Schaeffer, describes it like this: “People are unique in the inner life of the mind—what they are in their thought world determines how they act.”
To demonstrate this, consider this classic question: “Does God exist?” (I know many thoughts may pop into your head at the posing of this question, but set them aside for a moment.) How you answer that question will change how you view the world.
Let’s say that a person goes to a religious service and becomes very emotional. A person who believes in God might say that the experience is God moving someone. But an atheist would likely say that such emotions arise naturally from things like music, and that there’s nothing supernatural happening at all.
Like the observers in this example, you have answers to these big questions, whether you realize it or not. The set of all of someone’s answers to those big, perception-altering questions is called their worldview. It determines your view of everything, including yourself and why you are here. Your worldview determines your life goals.
Take a minute to think about your life goals. What do they seem to imply you’re living for? Is it yourself? Is it someone you love? Is it something you love? If you’re alive, you’re living for something.
Say for example, that your life goal is to live happily. Perhaps you have a bucket list of things you want to do, so you can live your best life before you die. Maybe you want to find love, visit some exotic locations, and do other enjoyable things.
These goals speak to your answer to another deep question: “Why am I here?” If your main life goal is to enjoy yourself, then you likely think your purpose is to be happy. Now you can see how you’ve already dipped your toes in philosophy: you’ve already asked and answered deep questions.
Well okay, so you might be wondering: “So what if I already dipped my toes into philosophy?” Perhaps you don’t like thinking about “deep” questions, or you feel out of your depth when people use big philosophy words like “existentialism.”
I started my journey in the exact same place. Asking yourself deep questions isn’t easy, and I didn’t want to go through all that tough thinking. All I wanted to know is what I needed to get a good job and have a good life.
Want to know what changed my mind? The fact that no matter how uncomfortable, the “deep” questions are the most important questions in the world to get right. Why? Because they change everything about life! What if the whole reason you have for living is wrong? Shouldn’t you try and find the right way?
That, friend, is what philosophy really is. It is about always marching closer to that ever-elusive understanding. We may never know beyond doubt what is the best way to think about the world, but we have a duty to ourselves to try. This is why philosophy is worth your effort, even if it’s hard.
Philosophy isn’t like math or golf. You can’t just decide not to focus on it. Like it or not, philosophy’s big questions are things we all have to reckon with. Putting off that reckoning is like going downhill. It’s easier than going uphill, but you’ll never find the view from the top at the bottom. If your worldview doesn’t have the right answers to those big questions, it will inevitably lead you to make wrong choices.
So, alright, you’re ready to turn and march up the hill. But the question remains, “Where do I begin?” Well, there was a rather unattractive-looking man who lived a long time ago who had a pretty great method.
His name was Socrates, and people tend to think he was a pretty smart guy. His idea was rather strange: “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” In other words, sometimes the most important words to say are “I don’t know.”
To take what you believe, and recognize that you might be wrong; this is the starting point for walking up the hill. From there, start asking questions. Clearly define your worldview: what you think about what is real; whether God is real; who you are; what you should live for.
But don’t stop at figuring out what you believe. Ask yourself why you believe those things, and consider, and I mean really consider, whether you might be wrong. Don’t be afraid to listen to what other people think. They might know something you’ve never thought of before.
No part of this process will be easy, and in fact, much of it will be very difficult. Sometimes facing the truth hurts. But remember, through it all, that it is so, so worth it, because it helps you to understand why life is worth living, and how it should be lived. Philosophy can give direction to life like just about nothing else can.
So why do philosophy if it’s “not your thing?” Why hike up the hill if it’s so difficult? Well, Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Every step up the hill is a step towards something greater. Every bit of work you put into hiking improves your view. The world, in all its wonderful, incredible glory, spreads out in front of you. There is just as much, if not more, wonder in philosophy as there is difficulty.
There are few things greater in life than crawling out of the valley we’ve fallen into, hiking up the hill we were built to climb, and seeing the most beautiful, most meaningful, most eternally fulfilling view—the view we were all meant to see—behind us all along. That is what philosophy is, and that is why it is always worth doing.
 This is from the first paragraph of Francis Schaeffer’s book How Should We Then Live?
Jonathan Perkins is an undergraduate scholar interested in "diving into the deepest riches of knowledge and discovering how to use them, both for our own good and the glorification of God." He is passionate about proclaiming what is Good, True, and Beautiful, and bringing the wonder of the world to those who have yet to hear