To some people, the term “philosophy” appears pretentious. The subject, however, isn’t innately pretentious nor is it esoteric. I suppose that popular caution about the subject springs from the fact that its study often starts with quite difficult and “high-level” tracts from the past, written in a way that takes some time to grasp. Philosophy is about fundamentals, the big questions in life. I have always been drawn to these questions and while I cannot claim to be a scholar, I do believe that, given sufficient time and patience, I am capable of wrestling productively with the subject matter of philosophy.
There was a time when a passing knowledge of philosophy was considered a normal and important aspect of the education and interests of anyone aspiring to a degree of accomplishment and civility. Today, philosophy may seem to have been overtaken by science as the life guiding discipline, but I personally believe that the questions raised and the theories put forward by philosophers, as far back as the dawn of recorded thought, remain entirely relevant and of great interest in the 21st-century, especially when scientific materialism seems to be providing as many problems as solutions. Over the years I have made forays into the works of important philosophers and continue to find the subject fascinating and absorbing. Philosophy and particularly metaphysics interrelates with those other systems of of wisdom and learning, the religions and it is in these areas of fundamental belief, morality and life guidance that philosophy offers important insights. There are also branches of philosophy that deal with ethics, the limits of understanding and aesthetics that should form part of the background thought of any designer or other professional.
The disciplines of Zen Buddhism and Christianity are founded on philosophical considerations and insights, though often couched in different terms from classic philosophy, which tends to rely heavily on the process of reasoning. Buddhism, especially the Zen form, has been a preoccupation of mine for many years and its teachings, attitudes and disciplines seem to me to offer an extremely sound underpinning to a compassionate and responsible way of life. Christianity, on the other hand, is embedded in my personal, cultural and national heritage and so fits more easily my lifestyle and personal relationships. Most importantly, whatever theology or ritual I follow, I do believe deeply in the freedom of the mind. I’m sure that, like many others of my time and place, the material success of Western civilisation has supplanted an earlier, easier spirituality with a galaxy of material comforts and pleasures that are essentially un-resistible for all except the truly spiritually strong. I can only accept my personal weaknesses, but also continue to explore the wide range of philosophical thought and hang on to the possibility of an ethical and rewarding style of life.
The following pages touch on philosophical issues: