Friday, February 18, 2005

On the Importance of Philosophy...

Some people choose a career path, while other people find that a certain career is more of a "calling" than a choice. I think that most people, myself included, tend to associate the idea of a "calling" with people who are artists, or writers, or doctors, or social workers, or pastors. But I also believe that there are people who are just born to be engineers.

I am an engineer. It is more than just what I do for a living, it is also a significant part of who I am. I love taking things apart and figuring out how they work. I love taking things apart to figure out why they aren't working. I love the mathematics of engineering-- the study of physics, statics & dynamics, and material properties. I love that mechanical objects can be described by a set of equations, and that those equations can predict how that object will move or bend or break due to the forces acting upon it.

My job involves an obsession with concrete data-- We determine what data we need to collect, we develop test methods to control inputs and measure outputs, and we use statistical techniques to analyze the data so that we make unbiased decisions about whether something is good or bad. I am comfortable with this obsession. By my nature, I prefer the Empirical over the Subjective. Politics and psychology aren't factors in mechanical systems, so it is easy for me to marginalize their importance in the rest of the world.

Recently, however, I've come to recognize how important it is to understand our own personal philosophies in life. Our decisions and our behaviors are driven by our beliefs, whether we are cognizant of those beliefs or not. If I want to make better decisions or improve my interactions with others, I need to understand how my psychology is being affected by my philosophy. For example, I can say that want to be more patient and considerate of other people, but I'm not likely to change my day-to-day interactions with people unless I also work on changing my heart. When I focus on the reasons why I should value other people-- whether it is my husband, my friends, my co-workers, or total strangers-- my behavior will naturally start to reflect this esteem.

This week, I started developing a list of philosophy statements, and I also am including the ramifications that should be driven by these beliefs. I won't pretend that my life demonstrates evidence of these beliefs right now, but by writing them down, I am hoping to ensure that I will ponder on them and reinforce them in my mind so that eventually my actions WILL reflect these beliefs. And so I have become an engineer with a profound respect for the importance of philosophy...

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