Re: philosophical or practical martial art?
I think the philisophical side of martial arts will take you further than will the self-defense side of it. The reason being that most people don't need self-defense skills in order to survive in the world. In addition, having a well developed Aikido-mindset means that you'll be able to avoid situations wherein you might normally need to fight.
Let's face it, combat training is very anti-climactic. We never seem to find ourselves in the dark alley surrounded by three assailants the way we trained for. All the cool weapons you train with amount to little more than abandoned toys at a certain point. So where does that leave the individual martial artist? How do we apply all these martial skills in a civilized world?
I've found that through training, I improve my physical health. I look better and feel better. It makes me smarter too, having to remember moves and terminology. It gives me confidence and has allowed me to meet others whom I'd normally never get to know. It allows me to more effectively explore spiritual insights as well. The physical and mental are often connected, but there is a clearly a mental/spiritual aspect of martial arts that is wholly separate from anything combat related.