I love philosophy, but I wonder if I love it as much as Stephen West. Here is a little bit of his story:
My parents met when my mom was at her cousin’s house smoking weed; my dad was living in her cousin’s dog house at the time, having been kicked out by his parents, both of whom were terribly abusive…. If I were asked to write a book cataloging the different instances and types of abuse I went through in Alabama, I could easily fill hundreds of pages….
One of the classes I signed up for during Running Start [through the community college] was Philosophy 101, and it changed me forever. I hated my teacher and I hated the textbook, but I loved what I was learning…..
But my love of philosophy and my relationship with my then 17-year-old girlfriend became extremely complicated when my dad kicked me out to live on my own at the age of 16. I had nothing. I had no place to live, no car, barely any clothes, and no desire to surrender myself to foster care again….
[Later] I was an 18-year-old kid without a single positive role model to ask for advice. In a strange way, Hume, Kant, Hegel—these men were my fathers. They were the people who made me ask questions and strive to constantly improve myself. I read more than a hundred books about philosophy before I ran out of room on the bookshelf. I had friends who were philosophy majors asking for help with their assignments; in exchange, they gave me their used textbooks.
At some point, I realized that I wanted to dedicate my life to serving others. On a personal level, I always tried to make people laugh and feel good about themselves, but on a professional level, I was at a dead end. I was doing grueling physical labor at a warehouse ten hours a day. How can you enrich the lives of others by stacking freight?
The good news about working long shifts performing a mindless and repetitive job in isolation is that it frees your brain to think about whatever you want. I reflected on myself and my goals and thought of strategies to improve qualities about myself I didn’t like. I also listened to podcasts. I remember listening to the most popular philosophy podcasts and thinking, “How can these people expect the average person who might be interested in philosophy to understand this? Understanding this requires a lot of previous knowledge.”
Finally, I had found my opportunity to serve others! Everyday, I wake up at 5am and work until 4pm. My whole body is usually aching by the time I get home, which fortunately is not a hindrance to the task of sitting in a chair reading, transcribing sources, structuring episodes, recording, editing, etc. When I refer to my “other obligations” on the podcast, this is what I’m talking about. I work on the podcast every single day, and I can’t remember the last time I went to bed and didn’t wish I had gotten more work done.
Mr. West has produced 20 philosophy podcasts so far, which you can listen to via his site, Philosophize This! They are “beginner friendly if listened to in order,” convey an inspiring enthusiasm for philosophy, and should make anyone who gets to do philosophy for a living feel pretty lucky.