The best use of philosophy is to open the door and invite a walk in the garden of thought.
"Watchman, tell us of the night."
When you stop thinking, night falls.
I enjoy reading philosophy (as I have said ad tedium). And I particularly like it when the philosophers don't agree with each other. There would be no point to philosophy or any form of original thought if they did.
Many philosophers through out the years of recorded history have started out on the journey as mathematicians, measuring the length, breadth and depth of human experience. And then a day comes when they reach the foot of the magic mountain of enlightenment or what they believe or hope is enlightenment and the climb begins. There may be only one summit but the choices of how to reach it are many. And that poses a problem for some people.
I know of a Museum of Philosophy that has a lot on interesting displays and biographical material about the world's philosophers But there is also a computer with a program that lets you answer a whole string of questions, and at the end will suggest a philosopher or two that best agree with your answers. It's a Find Your Own Philosopher game. The temptation is to then read that philosopher's works and none others. One thinks one has found his master and enlightenment is inevitable. But is it?
It's practically impossible to know at the beginning if that philosopher's trail up the magic mountain is a right one. Does it reach the summit or does it lead you into an intellectual gully? You won't know till you get there. The danger is to concentrate on your master's words and ideas to the exclusion of any conflicting thoughts. To follow in the footsteps of one only guru may lead to the green pastures of peace and knowledge. But by not challenging those footsteps as you go you may end up in the shadows.
Most of the inspired philosophers I have read, from Plato to recent times, all say, in one way or another, that the purpose of philosophy is not to tell you what to think or how to think but to get you to think for yourself. In other words there is a general acknowledgment that we are capable of exploring our own thinking, forming our own opinions and testing them out, making up our own minds. Original thought is the birthright of the human being,
That leads to another and even greater opportunity and obligation for the thinking person, the one who has accepted the responsibility of his own mentality. Somewhere along the pathway in that garden of thought are philosophers who know and warn that the issues of our lives are so much rooted in our thoughts that we ought to be careful about what we think. Hence the challenge to every aroma in the garden and every thought that passes through the air like a dandelion seed. And thus the discipline of looking ahead, deciding what you want and what you don't want and tracing them back to the thoughts which produce them.
The same watchman who guards the entrance to the garden is also the guide who can steer us to our right paths if we are awake, alert and thinking.
DB - Vagabond Journeys
Never Give Up