Tuesday, April 18, 2006
What is Philosophy anyway? As anyone who has been reading this blog will know, I am attempting to present a series of reflections on life. In so doing these reflections are just that - reflections. They are not meant to be philosophy in the abstract, a philosophy qua philosophy. Rather they share something of Aristotle’s idea of “phronesis”, that is that we learn by doing, that we get to know what is good and true by doing what is good and true. In this, they are an attempt at getting some sort of “handle” on what we loosely term “life” or “the human condition.” They share something therefore with, shall I say, the store of wisdom handed on traditionally from father to son, from mother to daughter over the ages within any particular culture. They are also, of course, transcultural, as they attempt to offer some truths or approaches to truths that the writer of these thoughts considers of universal value. In all of this I have read widely in Christian, Buddhist and Hindu thought in an attempt to distil for myself some sustenance for the way, the “via” or “peregrinatio” through this life. I have also read as widely as time allows theologians and philosophers of all shades of opinion, from theist to atheist to agnostic. In so doing I have sought to gain an overall perspective on my experience of what life is for me; a practical guide for making my way through life’s vicissitudes more negotiable, and a certain peace of mind allowing me to live with myself with some ease of being, or, if you wish me to put it in more traditional terms, a certain peace of mind that allows me an easy conscience. For me philosophy is: o More a method than a subject per se. o A questioning of everything – not mind you from a cynical point of view. (i) o About growth, growing in knowledge and wisdom as a human being. o About healing the mind of fears and prejudices. o About increasing one’s knowledge of the things of the world and the universe. o Freeing us from limitations. Philosophy says to us: “Why not?” o Awakening to the wonder and mystery within us as well as outside of us. o Helps us deal with problems. o Gives us perspective and openness to the world of persons and objects. o Allows us peace of mind. o Encourages sincerity of being by which I mean authenticity and congruence with oneself (Carl R Rogers) (i)Oscar Wilde gave a marvellous definition of the cynic as being "a person who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing." Another way of defining a cynic to my mind would be to say that he or she would question the motives of the speaker rather than the ideas or thoughts that speaker might propose. By questioning everything I mean that you search out what is really true for you in a certain situation. In this task your motives are sincere, authentic and congruent. The picture I have inserted centre above is of a cave, called The Ear of Dionysus (l'Orecchio di Dioniso) Syracuse, which I took last week on my trip to Sicily. Like Plato advises us in his great Utopic book The Republic we must come out of the cave of shadows into the light of day, the light of truth. Philosophy will help us in this task.