Unlock the Joy of Thinking: Why It’s the Key to Philosophy

“A Treatise of Human Understanding” is Locke’s main philosophical work. It begins with a “Gift to the Reader” in which Locke talks about the joy of thinking and hopes that readers can also enjoy this joy. I think he is warning readers that anyone who cannot taste the joy of thinking should not open his works. Taking pleasure in thinking is indeed the prerequisite for reading any profound philosophical book. The reading process should be a process of thinking with the author and enjoying the happiness. However, not thinking is the norm, and Locke analyzes this phenomenon and its causes in some chapters of the text. Before talking about his philosophical theory, let me first talk about this aspect.

Locke used hunting as a metaphor for thinking. He said that thinking pursues the truth, just like hunting, and most of the happiness can be generated in the pursuit. As thinking is the noblest faculty of the soul, the pleasure derived from its exercise is greater and more lasting than that derived from the exercise of any other faculty. He went on to say that when writing this book, he was thinking and writing down his thoughts, and it was this kind of happiness that he got. He asks readers not to be jealous, because you can get the same pleasure if you use your thinking skills when reading.

However, the habit of thinking is developed in daily life. If you are always in a state of not thinking, then when you open a book, it will be difficult for you to enter a thinking state. This is exactly the problem. In real life, people more or less have their own creeds, which they use to judge things and guide actions. However, few people think about these tenets and ask whether they make sense. People believe these creeds to be true simply because they have not examined them, simply because they have never thought otherwise. It just so happens that such people are the most stubborn and domineering when insisting on their own opinions. Because you don’t think about it, your so-called opinions can only be received from others. It has become the norm to blindly accept opinions as your own and stick to them decisively.

There are many reasons why people don’t think. The most common reason is that they are restricted by education, customs, environment and other factors. Creeds received in childhood are often firmly ingrained in the mind by early education and long-term habits, and are difficult to pull out. Even if you reflect on them when you grow up, because they are as old as memories, you will not be able to see how they infected the soul and became unquestionable creeds. The great power of custom has brought people’s spirits into a fixed track, making people become pagans in Japan, Muslims in Turkey, Catholics in Spain, and Protestants in England.

Looking at the situation of mankind as a whole, most people are burdened with the burden of survival and have to spend their lives trying to make a living. They have no chance to establish conscious beliefs through reading and thinking. It is like a pack horse that is driven to the market every day, passing only through narrow alleys and dirty roads, and never knowing the surrounding geography. The rest of the people who do not have to work for a living have not used their luck in the pursuit of knowledge. Most of them are still busy with daily affairs or keen on the pursuit of pleasure. People are unwilling to examine the creeds they have always adhered to because denying their past is painful and requires courage. At the same time, following the crowd is the most worry-free and safest thing to do. Opposing the ideas upheld by the country’s traditions will offend the public. Those who oppose the doctrine advocated by the ruler will be persecuted. As for those who regard themselves as authorities, their highest principle is that “principles cannot be questioned”, and their status is maintained here. Therefore, the ultimate reason why not thinking has become the norm is that all strata of society only care about their own interests and do not care about the truth.

Locke tells us that although people defend erroneous beliefs fiercely, you should not think that many people have made cognitive errors. No, the fact is that they have no thought or opinion about the creed they defend. It is only because they have been brainwashed, because they belong to a certain party, and because of their interests that they fight bravely for a doctrine that they have never examined or even do not understand at all. They claim to have an idea, but in fact there is no trace of this idea in their minds. Therefore, although there are many false beliefs in the world, we can conclude that far fewer people actually believe that they are true than imagined.

People use money to arm their bodies, but they refuse to use knowledge to enrich their souls. They focus on dressing their bodies decently, but let their souls wear second-hand clothes, third-hand clothes, and multi-hand clothes worn by others, that is, Getting opinions from others really underestimates your own soul. Caring for the soul is a major event in life. People complain that they don’t have time to study and think. In fact, if you pay attention to this important matter, you will easily get rid of the control of many small things, thus saving a lot of time to promote the growth of your own knowledge.

Anyone who is interested in philosophy should think carefully about these principles Locke said. Loving to think is the prerequisite for studying philosophy. Only for those who love to think, studying philosophy can be both enjoyable and an effective way to improve their thinking ability.

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