Does Philosophy Help a Troubled Soul?
This post is in response to a question asked by Uni.
'Does philosophy help a troubled heart? Troubled mind too?'
Umm, what do you mean by 'troubled'? Troubled in what way?
And that's the sort of thing that happens when you approach philosophy: you face more questions. Questions arise about the questions to which you are seeking answers. So if you are going to study philosophy with the expectation that you would find ready-made and distilled wisdom for you to apply to your life, then you would be disappointed. Philosophy doesn't work that way.
To be honest, philosophy doesn't heal a troubled mind, at least not in the initial phase. Because philosophy encourages you to doubt, to doubt even your cherished beliefs and ideas which you had taken for granted. Moralities and views which you had wrapped around yourself like a warm blanket, philosophy would constantly force you to ask questions about them, exposing you to the coldness of reason. Deleuze said, "The use of philosophy is to sadden. A philosophy which saddens no one, that annoys no one, is not a philosophy. It is useful for harming stupidity, for turning stupidity into something shameful. Its only use is the exposure of all forms of baseness of thought. . . . Philosophy is at its most positive as a critique, as an enterprise of demystification."
The phase of critique is often difficult for people to handle, and i have personally seen many examples of people leaving their pursuit of philosophy out of the continual anguish of uncertainty, and having to doubt things that one is taught by society and religion to be sacred and beyond question. It is easy to just believe in beliefs handed over to you; it is harder to come up with your own answers after a process of honest questioning.
However, if you survive this phase, then there is hope for your troubled mind and heart. You would realize that even though you have not found conclusive answers to your questions, you are nevertheless one step closer. And in the process you have uncovered many other fake and false beliefs about the world and life which you had been harbouring in your mind. You would also have become more comfortable with uncertainty, mentally accepting the fact that some truths may never be found. Bertrand Russell wrote 'To teach how to live without certainty, and yet without being paralysed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy, in our age, can still do for those who study it.'
And then there is another sort of consolation that philosophy can offer. The consolation we find when we can truly associate with an idea, and let it guide our actions. For instance, here is what Russell wrote about Spinoza's ethics: “There are even times when it is comforting to reflect that human life, with all that it contains of evil and suffering, is an infinitesimal part of the life of the universe. Such reflections may not suffice to constitute a religion, but in a painful world they are a help towards sanity and an antidote to the paralysis of utter despair.”
So, the answer to your question is both yes and no. I hope i have managed to explain why it is so.