Why Philosophy 1 and how to politics

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My mouse hovered over the PHIL 1 “Drop” button on SimpleEnroll for a while.

My debate coach once told me that we must take at least one philosophy course in college. Philosophy, she said, will shape how you think and view the world. Stemming from this advice, when I realized I needed three more WAYS-AII units, I decided that it was time to try it out. 

I pulled up the first assigned reading, which was Sher’s “But I could be wrong.” The piece was composed of words that I knew, yet they somehow weaved indecipherable ideas. I tried listening to the audio lecture… and then listened to the lecture again. I felt like I was reading numbers and letters but was somehow completely missing the meaning of the familiar-looking characters. 

And then it clicked. After hours of rereading and spamming the Piazza page, I finally somewhat grasped Sher’s ideas. 

Sher noted that the core beliefs and values that we hold may seem like the only existing truth in our eyes, but if we were by chance born in another situation, then we may very well hold the opposing perspective with equal passion. In this case, is there a more correct belief in the case of a disagreement? With the November election coming up, I couldn’t help but examine my own belief system and the current U.S. political climate. The polarizing political state seems to make productive dialogue quite difficult, but could I really blame anyone for this situation? 

One may hypothetically support a politician because they care about abortion rights. However, Sher would point out that even though that individual may perceive their pro-choice view as the only correct stance, if they were instead born into a family where abortion goes against their religious views, then they may consequently hold contrasting perspectives. Our beliefs, therefore, are only our beliefs by chance because of what we know and what we are taught

With my brief exposure to philosophy in PHIL 1, I found myself taking a step back to view the current political situation from a broader perspective. Maybe the most productive method to approach politics is to stray away from demonizing the opponent, which seems quite prevalent nowadays, and instead to focus on transformative discourse and personal conversations. As I question my core values and open up to those who hold differing opinions, I challenge you to try to do the same. 

Disclaimer: Above are the views of an amateur PHIL 1 student attempting to reevaluate political discourse. 

Contact Crystal Chen at chen1130 ‘at’ stanford.edu. 

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Crystal Chen ’22 is an Economics major and Data Science minor from Taiwan. Contact her at chen1130 ‘at’ stanford.edu!