Studying philosophy has changed my life. I can think of at least four philosophical moments that led me to change my personal views about religion, morality, and politics from the ones I was raised to live by.
The first philosophical moment that changed my life was in an Introduction to Philosophy class at a community college. I was raised to believe that God’s existence was basically self-evident to anyone who bothered to look and that denying God’s existence amounted to a kind of intellectual and moral failing. But, after taking an Introduction to Philosophy class it became clear that God’s existence was not self-evident and that divine command theory was the worst option as far as moral theories go. I was devastated, and I’ve never been the same since although it would be years later until I finally came around to rejecting theism altogether.
The second philosophical moment that changed my life was in an undergraduate philosophy of science class. In that class we read Philip Kitcher’s book Abusing Science and I learned that the Creation Science I had been taught to believe made sense only if I accepted “naïve falsificationism” and was based on mistaken ideas about evolution. (This class was at a Baptist university.) After this it became clear that I could no longer accept the Fundamentalist doctrines that I had up until this point believed.
The third philosophical moment was also in an undergraduate philosophy class on contemporary ethical theory. We read, and I very much agreed with, Alasdair MacIntyre’s book After Virtue. For the next several years I explored Aristotle’s philosophy and Thomism generally – which were quite prominent in the philosophy department at my Baptist school – and considered converting to Catholicism. I remained a theist, albeit a skeptical one, until 1999 when I finally came to acknowledge that I didn’t believe those things anymore.
I was doing my doctorate coursework when a fourth philosophical moment changed my life. About mid-way through my undergraduate education I read Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind, which I also agreed with very much. Even though I rejected the religious beliefs I was raised to live by I remained very conservative, politically speaking. Or at least I did up until the time I began seriously reading the works of liberal political theorists as well as “postmodern” philosophers like Nietzsche and Foucault first hand instead of accepting the interpretations of them espoused by conservative intellectuals. Eventually, I came to reject conservatism as a political position and moved closer to liberalism while also developing a greater appreciation for the merits of so-called “postmodern” philosophy.