Wednesday, May 15, 2019

"Love of Wisdom."

What is Philosophy?

Our first answer is: 

1) Philosophy is the "Love of Wisdom."  More appropriately, it is an enthusiasm for discussing interesting things.

To proceed on this track, it is necessary to draw a distinction between "word-for-word" and "thought-for-thought" translations. 

In the first formulation, Philosophy φιλοσοφία, Philosophia, literally means "love of wisdom."  Unfortunately, I have very little Greek and have not read the word in such contexts as it was originally used (it has been suggested Pythagoras originated the phrase).  Observe, however, that English has many more words than Greek, and hence our ability to put our finger on a precise meaning of the term, as it can be expressed in English, goes beyond what the Greeks were able to do.  Originally, Sophia connoted "cleverness, skill", but was subsequently shaped by the term philosophia to connote "wisdom" and intelligence", or Phronesis. Note, however, that Gnosis ("knowledge") is absent from this formulation. As things transpire in history, knowledge will become an offshoot of Philosophy, and today we associate (rightly and wrongly) that knowledge with the word Science. Along these lines--and considering how the word is used to describe all manner of eccentric, obtuse and suspect matters--we might precisely translate Philosophy to mean "an enthusiasm for discussing interesting things."  And if a skeptical nuance can be inferred from my use of "enthusiasm" and "interesting", so much the better.

In the second formulation, our "thought-for-thought" translation, we should carry this nuance forward and, in the consideration of interesting things, we might wonder about the significance, the relevance, and the legitimacy of philosophical utterances. As we pass though our second, third, and fourth answers, we will see this nuance is appropriate. Additionally, we will find it profitable to insinuate "cleverness, skill" throughout our definition.

And thus we close with a consideration of a famous statement attributed to Socrates: "The unexamined life is not worth living." Now, what is revealed by considering an inversion of this formula, that is: "The examined life is worth living"?  Clearly, when considering what examining one's life could mean--in terms of introspection, circumspection, and what such examination could yield--the former is more desirable; that is, if we are seeking an ethical or "appropriate" response to the matter.

Socrates on trial

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