By Anya Konstantinovsky
Philosophy in the modern day can seem like something obsolete outside of a college class or a book. However, the words and phrases developed by ancient and modern philosophers follow us in our everyday lives. They helped to build the very structure of our thinking and continue to inspire creative and existential thought. Though I am by no means a philosopher, I decided to try to understand a little bit more about this trippy topic, analyzing both cliché and rare pieces of wisdom in regard to our own lives.
“I think therefore I am”- Rene Descartes
This idea is a cornerstone of Western philosophy. It implies that our own questioning is adequate validation of our existence. But in the scurry of everyday life with essays and midterms and frat parties and internships, does questioning our existence have a place? I argue that it does. As strange as this sounds, sometimes turning to the metaphysical, as scary as it can appear, can act as a grounding force in our everyday lives. Sometimes, when I am completely overwhelmed with school or grades, I remind myself that I am a conscious being independent of societal norms; my own brain acts as a witness to my human experience. In the amped up vibe of Barnard and Columbia, we tend to classify people based on their successes or social positions. But sometimes, it is healthy to think of other people as thinking beings, going beyond the modern homo sapien-morningside classification. We are thinking beings and that gives us more power and autonomy than any rank or recognition.
Descartes’ idea also invites us to question. Even though I have been in college a mere month, I have already experienced major shifts in perspective as a result of my classes (@ Origin of Human Society, which I think everyone should take at some point). For some reason, to question feels so innately good, it makes us feel smarter even if we don’t come up with any answers. Thinking, just thinking, is a key part of our identities. It reaffirms our ability to interact with the world around us and experience it as the individuals we are.
So this week, I encourage you to think and to doubt. Have a moment of believing in something wild (just please don’t drink the Kool-Aid) or believing in nothing at all. Redefine what it means to you to be human. Take a step back and enjoy the question.
Anya Konstantinovsky is a first-year at Barnard and a contributor for Barnard Bite.