How to Explore and Overcome the Limitations of Philosophy

Philosophy and religion generally play a central role in life not just for us as individuals, but also affects us on a far more complex level. Governments as well as non government organisations run on their own or inspired philosophies and everyone, everywhere lives to their own set of values.

But philosophy has a hidden catch - its not enough to make personal change happen on its own to change how we live as individuals and as a society. Wisdom spoken or on a page has the potential to create change, but they are not magic words or words that have power on their own. This tutorial looks at how to explore the limitations of philosophy so that wisdom can be genuinely effective at improving personal well-being.


  1. Image titled Explore and Overcome the Limitations of Philosophy Step 1
    Firstly gain a foundation to explore this topic by considering what philosophy & wisdom is for. This may sound trivially obvious in itself, but its one of those curious questions that can be very reflective and enlightening yet is seldom ever asked. Generally, when the question is not asked, the mind does not operate on a level where philosophy has a meaning or value. When it takes you some time to find an answer, wisdom is more likely to have greater benefit than those who can make an instant answer as the mind is considering more deeply and thoroughly.
    • It's a lot like general or second hand knowledge versus experienced knowledge. We may all know basics facts we have learned in school, or information we have picked up from the Internet, TV or from other people, but until we have actually experienced it directly, it does not have the same impact to us. For example, we may learn about the events in another country from the TV or the paper, but when we are there seeing it, it's a very different experience. The knowledge that is directly gained through experiment and direct observation is far more penetrating.
  2. Image titled Explore and Overcome the Limitations of Philosophy Step 2
    Find and evaluate any existing philosophies you like, as well as those that you don't. Ask yourself how did you gather them and why you hold onto them. Generally, people hold onto philosophies and ideas that are important, either practically or emotionally to us. Likewise the philosophies we don't like are those that contradict existing ideals, or are associated with other things we don't like.
    • It can take much time to accrue them, but when we experience events and as we develop as people, our philosophies change as we do. We may look at things in one way when we are young, but when older have different priorities. When we are intellectually young or inexperienced, compared to when life has sent many experiences and challenges our way, our choice of philosophy and values change.
    • The importance of this is that what we may see as wisdom at one stage may seem shallow or not wisdom at all at a later stage in life. A person who lives on flat ground at sea level all their life will logically think a small hill is a great height, yet a person who has seen mountains knows that the hill isn't that big at all. Relativity is a major obstacle to absorbing wisdom.
  3. Image titled Explore and Overcome the Limitations of Philosophy Step 3
    Consider how we as individuals can compromise the benefit of wisdom when learning or discussing it. Often you see people debating, sending rebuttals each time something was said, but they are treating the conversation like a game of tennis, batting the ball back and forth. In this case, when a person is simply debating and arguing a point from any fixed position, there is no genuine communication or understanding going on. When a person reads words on a page or hears a lecture, it doesn't sink in when the person wasn't sincerely wishing to observe and explore the subject in the first place as their insecurities are preventing them from opening up their mind to deeper insights.
    • As individuals, we often put up walls in the mind when we are abstracting or measuring against another subject, or protecting personal philosophy and values. When we do that, we have actually stopped listening as we are now engaged with a different mental activity and agenda. This is another major obstacle to philosophy having any positive benefits.
  4. Image titled Explore and Overcome the Limitations of Philosophy Step 4
    Evaluate further limitations. Wisdom, as such, does not make us invulnerable to change and the challenges of life, yet often people search and study many different philosophies and religions, either looking for assurance or some preventative bullet-proofing of this life or the afterlife in whatever form it is imagined. But what the wisdom on the pages or the message the instructor is giving goes unnoticed when it doesn't give what the person was really looking for.
    • It's much like a treatment to an illness or injury. Medical professionals may come up with new medicines and surgical techniques but when the patient never uses them, they do nothing on their own. But more crucially, Doctors cannot cure or prevent our ability to become ill, old or injured, they can simply treat the condition that arises, and recommend a healthy lifestyle to make it be as good as conditions allow. Likewise wisdom cannot cure or prevent files problems, but wisdom can provide us with a treatment for our pains, sorrows and frustrations and can likewise recommend a healthy lifestyle as good as the conditions will allow for our well-being. This ultimately is the greatest limitation as wisdom, as they are tools to be used wisely, they are a means to an end, but not the end itself.
  5. Image titled Explore and Overcome the Limitations of Philosophy Step 5
    Consider how wisdom can be appropriately collected and used for our benefit. The solution, as often is the case, lies within the problem that philosophy was never going to fix the problem when a person was looking to cure the incurable. Wisdom only takes us so far, then we must continue our lives and apply what we have learned in order to make it as skillful and beneficial as possible. When the philosophy is not wisely handled or gathered in the first place, the best outcome one can hope for is that the penny may drop later in life. Wisdom ultimately has the best effect when the person is perceptive, but also has gained enough insight and experiences of day to day life to understand that wisdom is a wonderful thing when used wisely. Then a person can be willing to investigate not only more seriously, but become more wise, sincere and compassionate.

Article Info

Categories: Philosophy and Religion