Philosophy; is there ever an answer?
One of the most frustrating things about philosophy for me in first year was how inconclusive everything seemed. “Do we have free will?” To some extent. “Do we have knowledge about the external world?” To some extent. Having been accustomed to thinking about questions as almost always having definite answers, this was really unsettling. Lecturers often re-echoed that what matters most is the quality of the argument i.e. how you reason to a conclusion and not necessarily the conclusion itself. This is inviting sometimes as it means you have the freedom to steer your assignments in whichever direction you choose. Nonetheless, when you’re continually exposed to the relativity and subjectivity of things you previously perceived as black and white, it can be a bit trying.
Having never studied philosophy before my first year at Warwick, I didn’t realise this was a necessary part of the process. Part of the appeal of philosophy is actually learning to appreciate arguments on both sides of the coin. Typically, people in debates are dogmatic in their belief of a given conclusion. We can often be unwilling to see the strength in a contrasting perspective. Philosophy definitely helped me to realise that this is a flawed way of arguing. While one can be steadfast in their view, as many philosophers are, it’s important to charitably consider opposing arguments. Not only does this widen your perspective on things, it also helps you strengthen your own belief as you weigh it up against possible objections. Even though this means it can be a bit more difficult to fully commit to a conclusion, when you eventually do, it’s often a valid and justifiable conclusion. I’m no longer intimidated by the seemingly inconclusive nature of philosophy. I see it as an opportunity to appreciate different perspectives and their limitations.