Turtle Philosophy

There are two things I remember from my philosophy 101 course:

  1. It was structured into three parts around the main aspects of a question: If god is all good and all powerful, how can there be evil in the world? The different philosophies considered each had to abandon or manipulate some part of the question to make the world work. For example, god is all good but not all powerful, therefore there can be evil. Or that evil is just an illusion you need to work past. Or that god does not exist so goodness and power depend on the individual person. By the end of the semester, strengths and flaws of diverse theories were discussed as teenagers tried to understand questions philosophers have struggled with for generations.
  2. Some philosophies have no real foundation supporting them. For these ones, the professor offered the image of a turtle standing on the back of another turtle standing on the back of another turtle and so on. These philosophies were “turtles all the way down.” I still think of that phrase when someone’s argument has no support other than “because.”

When we learned about the philosophical turtles, it was explained as a problem. Philosophy should have reason and evidence to support it. To base a set of beliefs on only feelings would be unwise and dangerous.

But sometimes, you need to make that leap of faith based just on feelings. Sometimes making a decision with just turtles supporting you can be okay. Take the summer of 2020 for example. We have all had to make hundreds of choices in how to stay safe and sane in during a pandemic, economic disaster, political eruption, and so many other things (do forget the murder hornets!!!). Some choices were based on science and reason: wearing a mask, limiting time at enclosed places, and social distancing from others. Some choices depended on what felt right: hugging a family member (or not), attending a wedding (or not), and walking in the park (or not).

In a world with so much gray, some choices had to depend more on hope and faith than science and reason. And then were supported through a lot of sanitizing afterward.

Science is real. And every once in a while, go with the turtles.

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