We’re All Philosophers, Like It or Not

Philosophy is not a topic, category, or subject separate from any act of life. The way it’s compartmentalized in Universities, given a department that ostensibly symbolizes separateness, fuels the illusion that only those who read Plato or actively study philosophy are, themselves, philosophers.

Aware of it or not, we are all philosophers. It’s not that some people are philosophers and others aren’t, but that some people are good ones, others poor ones. Being a poor philosopher is not signified by bad ideas, lack of reading, or even frequently being wrong. To be a poor philosopher is to neglect our duty as one. The poor philosopher is one who is either ignorant to the fact that she is, indeed, a philosopher, or one who consciously shirks the implicated duties.

A philosopher is an active, conscious agent of her own life; involved in every aspect of its being, seeking to exist from the grounds of wisdom. One of the best definitions of philosophy I’ve encountered is from Sharon Lebell’s book, The Art of Living, an interpretation of the great Stoic philosopher Epictetus:

Philosophy’s purpose is to illuminate the ways our soul has been infected by unsound beliefs, untrained tumultuous desires, and dubious life choices and preferences that are unworthy of us. Self-scrutiny applied with kindness is the main antidote.” 

We’re born into this life, and innocently adopt all kinds of implicit assumptions & conventions. It’s philosophy’s job to weed through these, inspect them, discard the bad ones and nurture the good ones. To leave this work to only the “professional philosophers” is a horrible strategy, as they often have no idea how to communicate their findings without using 10-syllable words within 1,000 page books.

For more, check out this great article on Lebell’s interpretation of Epictetus.

 

 

 

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