Philosophy’s burning ring of truth

John Huss is an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Akron. He is also a musician and writer who edited “Johnny Cash and Philosophy,” a collection of essays that explore philosophical issues by examining the life and art of the American music icon.
Philosophy to a large extent is defined by its method of following the argument. You start with some premises and you put them together into an argument and you just see where they lead. Wherever they lead, unless there was a problem with the logic, or unless there was a problem with the premises, that is the belief that you ought to accept even if it’s extremely uncomfortable,” said Huss in an interview.
He continued to say that is why philosophy is disconcerting to people, adding that philosophy “should make people uncomfortable because it is a way of getting beyond the way you normally look at things.”

Q: Johnny Cash…made people uncomfortable too.

A: Yeah, I think so. In this particular book, I think one of the most interesting questions that is explored in the book is the identity of Johnny Cash, because with any star, you wonder how much of this is hype. Even if his public persona is rooted in who he is, to some extent, any person in the public eye is devoting some of their attention to crafting how they are going to be perceived. So the question of who is the real Johnny Cash or what does it mean to be behaving authentically and really being the person who you are…those are important questions that I think everybody confronts at some point.

Q: Why does the philosophical way of thinking seem foreign to most people?

A: Most of the time, people’s notions about right and wrong and what exists or what doesn’t exist comes from one of the following: religion, tradition, how someone was raised and they might also be a social product of interactions with other people. These are sources of our beliefs.

There are reasons we hold those beliefs. Philosophy should, at its best, give you a reason to question all of that. Think about how ingrained a lot of those beliefs are.  It’s much easier to go along with what your religion says about a moral issue. It’s much easier to succumb to dogma than it is to decide that you are going to fly in the face of that dogma…The price of going against societal norms is, you could be labeled as some sort of freak…There is a huge social burden and it’s a lot easier to go with tradition. It doesn’t require as much soul searching. There is no social cost to pay. Plus, it’s not really taught.

Q: So, people are going the easier way or they are worried about consequences. But do you think that the thoughts that occur to philosophers occur to everybody?

A: That is a good question. There is an impulse in me to say yes. But I want to temper that a little bit. I think there are moments when everybody might ask a philosophical question – some fundamental question about existence or a fundamental question about a right or wrong. But the difference is that philosophers occupy themselves almost exclusively with these kinds of questions.  But there are also plenty of people outside of philosophy who are preoccupied with fundamental questions and have different methods for addressing them. I really enjoy listening to historians, anthropologists and psychologists speak about some of the same topics that philosophy is interested in.


About genemyers

Gene Myers is a New Jersey poet, music journalist and columnist who learned to walk twice. His weekly column is called The Joy of Life. He was awarded first place in Arts and Entertainment Writing by The New Jersey Press Association.
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