Nowadays, the word philosophy is used to describe any and almost all form of thought; this is incorrect and inaccurate. The distinction between ideology and philosophy becomes even more difficult to make when these two words are so often used interchangeably. In everyday situations, the difference between ideology and philosophy can be set aside and disregarded without consequence, but when dealing with heavier and wide ranging topics, issues that may affect many at all levels of existence, the distinction becomes as wide as a canyon.
Philosophy requires deep internal analysis and the willingness to let go of what is found to be erroneous. In the art and field that is philosophy, the goal is to understand life itself, why it is so, and how life is the way it is. A philosopher employs all of his or her mental faculties to understand life, humanity, soul, what it means and how it works. Reason, as in the mental capability to think logically and orderly, is the tool used to reach a higher understanding of the world. There is an openness to a philosopher’s mind as he or she endeavors to find the truth. It is the truth that philosophy seeks, not to quell fears or provide spiritual/emotional comfort.
Ideology is a solidified set of beliefs. Ideology supports and purports current social institutions or even specific organizations. A word that has a close relationship with ideology is dogma. Dogma is a set of unchanging teachings, usually referring to religion.
A person’s ideology is shaped by education, experience, and religion (among other factors). If a person is most influenced and governed by religion, then his or her ideology will tend to be more rigid. If it is experience that mostly shapes the person’s ideology, then his or her ideology will be entangled with emotion and prone to being emotionally manipulated. If education is the primary source of a person’s ideology, then his or her ideology will depend on said education and can be completely skewed and misinformed. For all three instances of how a person’s ideology can be formed, each is prone to manipulation. Through the educationally formed ideology, manipulation can happen through persuasive argumentation and/or indoctrination (being taught to think and believe certain things, perhaps separate of religion, perhaps heavily tied to religion.) For the experientially formed ideology, emotional manipulation can easily occur.
Emotions are the weakness of ideology, yet those who proudly claim to be ideological will further claim to be objective. This happens because ideology does not require self-reflection but self-projection. An ideologue projects and insists his or her ideology onto others. In contrast, a philosopher let’s others arrive to either the same conclusion or allows and guides the person to form his or her own conclusion. It is philosophy that is the objective one.
Philosophy takes study. It is not enough to think about your own beliefs and ideas. Philosophy requires that you think about and study the ideas of others, that you listen to them, that you try to dismantle them, and often, that you fail. A true philosopher is humble, because he or she is willing to admit fault, error, and to let go of false and wrong beliefs.
These are the fundamental differences in the two ways of thinking and viewing the world. Understanding the differences between ideology and philosophy will allow you to analyze yourself, your way of thinking, and empower you to either change into what you desire, or to further understand how you work. Being aware of how you think and process the world will provide insight into your actions and you will therefore know yourself more.
Γνώθι σαυτόν. Know thyself.