What is Platonic Irony?

What is Platonic irony?  When reading Plato’s dialogues philosophers are often keen to highlight irony within his texts.  Irony, however, is not necessarily what we think of it today.  Rather, Platonic irony is carefully constructed and inserted into the text by Plato himself.  Platonic irony is deeply dialectical in the Socratic sense, since Plato’s literary […]

What is Platonic Irony?

Classic Liberal Thought by John Stuart Mill

The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign. John Stuart Mill, On Liberty In last week’s post […]

Classic Liberal Thought by John Stuart Mill

The Trial and Execution of a True Moralist and Philosopher – Socrates

…I say that in fact this is the greatest good for a man, to talk every day about virtue and other things you hear me converse about when I examine both myself and others, and that the unexamined life is not worth living for a man… Socrates, The Apology of Socrates by Plato Socrates was […]

The Trial and Execution of a True Moralist and Philosopher – Socrates

Heidegger: “Being-in-the-World” as “Being-With”

The opening chapters of Heidegger’s Being and Time establishes the structural reality of existential being.  Again, Heidegger is attempting several things in his great treatise, but the boiled down “to the point” project is that Heidegger is attempting to recover the philosophy of metaphysical ontology (being) and, by this recovery, avoid the problems of nihilism, relativism, and […]

Heidegger: “Being-in-the-World” as “Being-With”

Heidegger and the Crisis of Philosophy

Martin Heidegger rose to prominence with the publication of his magisterial ontological treatise Being and Time.  The work opens with a reflection on the nature of being, “Being is the most universal concept,” Heidegger declares, and that the question of being “has today been forgotten.”  Why did Heidegger write his seemingly incomprehensible work and to whom […]

Heidegger and the Crisis of Philosophy

Philosophy in the eyes of some philosophers

voltaire

Not long ago, I wrote about the benefits of philosophy that you can read by clicking on this link:

The benefits of reading (or studying) philosophy

However what is philosophy? I tried to search for famous philosophers’ definitions of philosophy. To my surprise, not all of them gave their own definitions of it.

Anyway, let’s define philosophy.

Philosophy (love of wisdom) is a way of thinking about the world, the universe, and society. It works by asking very basic questions about the nature of human thought, the nature of the universe, and the connections between them. The ideas in philosophy are often general and abstract. The purpose of Philosophy is to seek and find the Truth by debate and Reason. It never had another goal. It has three broad divisions; Logic, Art and Ethics. Each broad division has countless subdivisions. In other words, Philosophy brings the important questions to the table and works towards an answer. It encourages us to think critically about the world; it is the foundation of all knowledge and when utilized properly, can provide us with huge benefits.

Here is how famous philosophers define philosophy:

Philosophy is the highest music, Plato

Philosophy consists in forming, inventing and fabricating concepts, Gilles Deleuze

Philosophy is at once the most sublime and the most trivial oh human pursuits,  William James

That to study philosophy is to learn  to die, Michel de Montaigne

Philosophy to the real world is like masturbation to sex, Karl Marx

The unbearably human “what if” attitude

2018_CKS_15508_0061_000(bertha_wegmann_despair)
painting by Bertha Wegmann

The word “human” is often referred to as the conscious being and probably so far, the only one. Consciousness, as the French philosopher Henri Bergson defines it, is historicity. It is the capacity of being aware of time. Moreover, humans live consciously in the time and have a special relation to it. This is why, we invented the watch, the calendar and timetables; but also we have deadlines, memories, projections and so on.

Consciousness is memory, a link between the past, the present and the future which allows us to go back and forth and to anticipate the future while looking back at the past. in Bergson’s words:

“In reality, the past is preserved by itself automatically … the pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring the future. In truth, all sensation is already memory”.

Is this ability a heavy weight? Isn’t the cause of constantly saying to ourselves “what if”?

Mainly there are two consequences of this: resentment or pro-activity.

Resentment is the sum of negative feelings like regrets, remorse, jealousy and persecution. What if I did this instead of that? What if people hate me? What if I am fundamentally stupid? What if I will never make it? All are legitimate questions which can become psychologically lethal if one is entangled in this obsessive attitude, feeding all kinds of negative feelings. We can easily desire to be constantly feeling bad.

On the other hand, these questions can become the way to a better living only if there is a desire to change and face the new. Bergson said it better:

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly”.

Søren Kierkegaard, the creator of the philosophical journal

kierkegaard

Søren Kierkegaard (5 May 1813 – 11 November 1855) was a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic and religious author who is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher. Much of his philosophical work deals with the issues of how one lives as a “single individual”, giving priority to concrete human reality over abstract thinking and highlighting the importance of personal choice and commitment.

Kierkegaard invented philosophical journals. He wrote over 7,000 pages in his journals on events, musings, thoughts about his works and everyday remarks. Careful not to reveal too much, Kierkegaard wrote aphorisms in literary style which led to many interpretations of his writings. At that time, the philosopher figure was Hegel.

Hegel followed a big tradition of philosophical writing that can be summed as a long demonstration or thesis in an impersonal objective style. He was considered as the philosopher of the system and his writings are a fusion of abstract thinking and concepts. Being monumental himself, Hegel was the power image of the philosopher who inspired countless philosophy students and readers. So Kierkegaard stood as the anti-Hegel, anti-system philosopher which made him the father of existentialism.

 Knowing that his journals would have a big influence on people, In December 1849, he wrote:

 “Were I to die now the effect of my life would be exceptional; much of what I have simply jotted down carelessly in the Journals would become of great importance and have a great effect; for then people would have grown reconciled to me and would be able to grant me what was, and is, my right.”