I was recently discussing the idea of beauty with one of my colleagues and how beauty should be defined. He brought up the fact that nowadays many beauty standards are set by the media, which suppresses diversity and makes people unhappy about themselves. He concluded that that way of setting beauty standards is wrong and therefore we should fight it.

If I have had this same discussion a year ago, I would have jumped to his same conclusion and we would have started fighting somehow what we considered wrong. Except that now I am philosophizing. What I call philosophizing is the act of pausing one's process of thought, asking why, and challenging one's assumptions. So instead of jumping to the conclusion "standards set by the media are wrong and we should fight them", one would ask why is that wrong? by what ethical framework? and how does one chooses a framework over another? Which takes us to an infinite discussion about ethics, sociology, logic and might leave these questions unanswered.

This got me wondering why should one philosophize at all. I feel that if someone wants to base his actions on a rational ground, philosophy somehow refrains him from acting, because one can never stop asking questions and take clear position regarding some issue. What made me question more the "philosophizing" position, is that I am sure that history was written by people who chose to act because they believed that what they did is the right thing to do, and not those who raised a million questions about their actions.

To summarize:

  1. Is philosophizing incompatible with acting?
  2. If so, why should one philosophize and what dictates the "should"? Should one abandon philosophy :) ?
  3. Have any philosophers addressed this question?

4 Answers 4


I will ask you another question in turn: should chess players think before they play a move?

Another approach is that you might have had a change in your belief system or trust in something. You might need some time to reconsider in general and as every case comes to you again you will have to see it under this new light and find again what is a meaningful stance for you.

Everyone should follow his inclinations I believe, that is the way to offer the most they can. Some people by philosophizing are the thought of the others, helping them coordinate while they run and move. How much you need to change by thinking or how much you need to act to change only you know.

Nietzsche said 'We are a cold river for the warm hands of those who act.', or something like that.


Three simple answers:

  • In your philosophical investigation, you might come to change your opinion or position on the situation.
  • Your philosophy might uncover deeper levels to the situation that allow you to attack it in ways that are more efficient and/or effective.
  • Through philosophy, you might change other's minds about this situation resulting in a larger impact than immediate direct action.

I have a personal distaste for philosophy that never connects back to some form of action. But action without forethought is often (if not inevitably) counterproductive.


Two pointers:

  • In general, there is a subdivision of philosophy called "applied philosophy", which deals with action (and indeed, can be considered to include ethics).

  • Your question on the nature of asthetics can be said to be philosophical in nature, but you could ask it even without insisting on that fact: physicist Richard Feynman had insightful ideas about aesthetics (see Ode to a Flower), even though he was very wary of philosophy and philosophers!


When an individual 'acts' philosophical, they are pretty much completely without a clue as to what 'philosophy is all about.

Ersatz philosophical positionings are just that, false and/or incomplete philosophies as to how an individual lives this one life which they know is theirs to live.

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