It characteristically aspires to something quite a bit more ambitious than the rhetorical and political, and presumes to be based on something considerably more substantial than mere assertion. Philosophical investigation is driven by a passion for things like insight, understanding, and truth. Philosophy is thus founded in the human need to make sense of the world and our place in it. What distinguishes it from mere personal opinion and credulity is its rejection of passionate convictions as sufficient grounds for belief and action, and its commitment to careful analysis and systematic reasoning (Granitto n.d.). Philosophy is the discipline which allows a person to be able to think rationally and irrationally. Philosophers are inveterate askers of questions, people who find intractable problems and issues in what to others seems obvious and utterly uncontroversial. It is not for no reason that the philosopher has been considered (to put it politely) a gadfly. So to approach the study of philosophy with the expectation of finding a coolly dispassionate endeavor governed by strict laws of logic and marked by widespread agreement on fundamental issues is to seriously misunderstand its nature and underestimate its difficulty. Philosophy is no mere marshaling of views, no purveyor of irrefutable, absolute truths. It is, rather, a messy and disquieting process in which cherished beliefs and comfortable assumptions are subjected to critical scrutiny. Both philosophy and criticism seek to educate sensibilities and enhance critical awareness, endeavors that, it should be noted, ultimately reduce esteem for the pedestrian and the commonplace. Criticism usually draws liberally on philosophical convictions, while philosophy can and frequently does seek to examine specific practices. Any academic discipline that teaches how to think rationally is valuable and worth studying. Yet it is hardly possible to engage in criticism without employing, beliefs as to what constitutes good or proper thinking: beliefs whose formulation and examination are explicitly philosophical undertakings. Philosophy's historical perspectives are no more lodged in some remote and distant past than acclaimed practices critics continue to enjoy centuries after they were created. Philosophy's voices continue to speak to us, and they have a great deal to say if only we try to understand their assumptions (Minton and Shipka 1990).
Philosophy is valuable as the decisions and actions that shape philosophical practices are undertaken without such scrutiny. Such practices are likely to be haphazard and considerably less effective than we might hope. Even more to the point, they may inadvertently serve ends quite different from those we envisage. One's choice, in other words, is not so much between doing and reflecting as it is between practice that unthinkingly replicates an unexamined status quo and practice guided by critical awareness of carefully considered ends. Anyone interested in thinking who commits to systematic reflection on that interest engages in activity that is to some degree philosophical. Accordingly, the question is not whether to engage in it, but how to do it well. And we would do well to remember that there is more than one way to do it well. It is sometimes claimed that among philosophy's benefits is its capacity to inspire, to instill in people a