On the surface, philosophy is irrelevant and boring, it holds no real meaning. A person can ponder if there is a god, or if humans have free will, but what does it matter? Say a person discovers he has free will, well then good for him. He still goes to work every morning, eats at the same restaurants, and watches the same shows but only now he knows it’s all his own will to do so.
This can be applied to other philosophical questions. Everyone has heard the Marx quote “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.” But very few have done this. It also seems very few have desired to do this. In many ways it seems like philosophy is just back and forth between philosophers and isn’t relevant for the vast majority of people at all.
Philosophers have often told people the way they’re supposed to live their lives. This can be useful to people in many ways. For instance Epicurus tells us what it is that makes us happy. This is an example of a useful form of philosophy. Epicurus has broken his wisdom down into a few simple methods for people to live a happier life. Although most of his writing was lost, the bulk of his writing was on this subject. But then you have philosophers that deal with things like metaphysics or interpretations of history. Things that really only matter to other philosophers. To anyone else it looks like an intellectual pissing contest.
Philosophy does have some relevance in the fact that it helps us understand ourselves better, which is one of the best things you can do for a person. Although many of the things philosophers fuss over seem important, it’s on a more superficial level than you would think. My best advice would be to find a philosopher or a branch of philosophy that holds some meaning to you. There really is something for everyone; themes that deal with love, happiness, sorrow, government, nature, feminism, death, and life. You don’t have to suddenly devote your life to this or read every book you can about it, just a single book can open your eyes and allow you to look at the world in a different way. After that you can start developing ideas for yourself.
So back to the example of the man going to work and shuffling through life. The knowledge of free will might not make a difference to him, but theories on what makes a good relationship might, or lessons on how to find meaningful work. The things that could help him to improve his condition is what has meaning.
So what stops people from diving into philosophy? There is a portion of it that has relevance to the normal person so why not? Well I think it’s the same reasons that people don’t read books in general: 1) Don’t have the time 2) Don’t know where to start 3) It’s too daunting. These are all valid reasons actually.
A person can say they don’t have time to read, but what they really mean is they’d rather be doing something else. That’s a fair thing to say. If you would rather be watching T.V. or browsing Youtube then go right ahead if you truly enjoy it, but I implore just ten minutes a day. Ten minutes a day devoted to reading without the distraction of texting or noise from the T.V. It can even be before bed so you’ll fall asleep easier. It’s a little change such as this that can improve your life.
Not knowing where to begin is justified in the fact that most people don’t know where to start either. The first thing you can do is ask yourself “What do I want to understand better?” and go from there. For instance say a person picked the subject of happiness. All you have to do is google “Philosophers that deal with happiness” and the first result is a wikipedia page with a full list of names and summaries of their beliefs. It’s as simple as that. Anything that has meaning to you can be explored.
The actual text itself being too complicated is another issue. Even if you do find a philosopher you’re interested it doesn’t do much good if you can’t understand their writing. This is where it begins to seem more like a chore than a beneficial experience. It seems ridiculous to have to start from the beginning in the history of philosophy and read onward just to understand a single person. You can find a way around this with a few internet study guides and a dictionary. There are tons of resources on the internet ready to help you understand ideas and terminology. Off the top of my head there is the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the School of Life. School of life doesn’t go into much detail and often has inaccuracies but it’s a good place to start and understand ideas. And for the meaning of specific terminology another quick google search is the remedy.
So as always it’s best to know yourself and know what you want. A good majority of philosophy is irrelevant but that doesn’t discredit the whole profession. Philosophy shouldn’t be for the uptight college professors or the snobby people that read it to say they have. It should be aimed for all people because that’s who it will benefit.