Lesson 83 . Wisdom and philosophy
It is sometimes of a good taste, even in philosophy textbooks, to be ironic about wisdom. One will say that the thinker deals with "philosophy ", in the sense that he deals with "Thinking ", but what we call "wisdoms ", falls outside the realm of philosophy: it should be understood here that we are dealing with the types of thought whose origins belong to spiritual traditions and not to "the philosophic tradition ", that is to a lineage from Socrates to Heidegger, outside of which there wouldn't be any hope. The latest avatar of this attitude of implicit belittlement of wisdom can be found in political philosophy, where it is also a good taste to see in philosophy an intellectual activity whose aim is political, whose values lie in secularism, so that the morality of citizenship of our time would give to philosophy its area and destination.
It is rather curious to notice that Luc Ferry, who was at first in this sphere of influence, eventually became aware of how insufficient this definition of philosophy was. Hence he says that before he used to see value only in secularism, and that now, it seems impossible to him to conceive philosophy without spirituality. Is it not a way to acknowledge implicitly that the attempt consisting in wanting to define philosophy by separating it from wisdom does not make sense?
Can philosophy be defined as something other than the love of wisdom?
The speech of mockery toward the ambition of a philosophical wisdom of life is not new. Plato himself gave it a voice in the person of Callicles. It is important to understand the argumentation of this spokeman of the contempt for philosophy. It is all the more interesting particularly because Calliclès stands firm on the comparison between politics and philosophy and discrediting the second in favour of the first. The speech of Calliclès starts like this:
1) "Here is the truth, and you will be convinced if you give up philosophy to approach higher studies. Philosophy, Socrates, isn't undoubtly charmless, if one is engaged in it in moderation during his youth; but if one lingers there beyond a fair measure, it is a disaster ". We would like to know what is this "truth", what are those "higher studies" mentioned and in which sense the study of philosophy would be a disaster. The answer is rather clear, the"truth" mentioned here, is that there is nothing truer than "politics". The study mentioned here is the art of commanding people, the art of exercising power. Finally, the disaster is to disdain the desire for power, glory, wealth, for the benefit of a simple, neat, orderly life, which finds satisfaction in what every day brings. For Calliclès, what is important is "to become a well brought up and considered man ". If indeed what matters to us is only reputation and the conformist concern to be well integrated into society, it is highly improbable that we will find in the study of philosophy something to flatter our opinion of ourselves and to teach us to become a well provided and opulent middle-class person. Calliclès is a man who calls himself pragmatic, realistic, he is the kind of man who thinks he knows how to make the most out of life. He considers himself opposite in all things to the philosopher that he imagines as a sort of incapable idealist, of an ascetic apart from human business. As he takes care of drawing up in fact an advantageous portrait of himself, as an effective rhetor, he disqualifies the opponent: "The philosopher ignores the laws which govern the city, he ignores the way to talk to others in private and in public; he does not know anything about pleasures and about passions, and, in one word, he has no knowledge of man whatsoever ". But who would recognize a philosopher in this kind of portrait ? Has anyone ever seen this kind of crank's write or say anything intelligent that would deserve the name of philosophy? It is not a description, it is a caricatural representation. Implicitly nevertheless, this representation reveals a great deal about Calliclès's claims and about the nature of his thought. Indeed he claims to know well the laws of the city, certainly to use it skillfully, he claims "to know how to speak in public to others ", so he is a persuasive rhetor in public. As for his moral standards, we can see what they are when he says after: to enjoy pleasures greedily, to give vent to one's passions in order to quench them. What he calls "knowledge of man ", is what Machiavelli calls the knowledge of man necessary to the Prince. People must be seen as greedy beings, full of ambitions, we have to see men as evil beings rather than good beings and treat them as such in order to know how to govern them. If a certain liking for philosophy is bearable while we are young, it is clear that for Calliclès, later, we have to shift to "serious things ": ambition, power, politics. " He would deserve to be whipped ‘he who would still keep a philosopher's soul in active life’.
This type of speech, one we tend to hear very often, is that of the arrogance of the technocrats who privilege effective and profitable action to thinking. Hence people saying: "they had better study accounting instead of studying philosophy "!! Which implies : "make sure they do not reflect too much, but become effective employees, competent engineers, obedient citizens ". It reminds us of Taylor's words faced with the complaint of a worker in the chain, who couldn't think any more : "You are not paid to think, some other people are paid for that "! In fact for Calliclès, in a well structured society, it is necessary that the individual is a well oiled cog, in the postmodern world, a docile consumer who does not ask questions, but obeys. In the same line of thoughts it is better that a politician does not ask questions either, but acts as an effective manager, to run this company which society is, while saving himself the means to protect his power, to live a life of luxury, of varied pleasures, a life where freedom has finally become licentiousness. Of course, explains Calliclès, this way of life is not within the reach of the vulgar, within the reach of the people. But what can a man who has power in his hands, owe to the morality of the people? It is not good for the people to be free. Freedom is a privilege of the strong. Let the weakest serve the strongest and society will be orderly ! It is for the people that "morality" and "wisdom" and "religion" were invented. Morality is an arbitrary invention of the weak to protect itself from the strong. Wisdom is a catalog of rules of life for the powerless. Religion is the opium of the people, as Marx says. When one has power, when one has wealth and power, one laughs at morality and at wisdom and one couldn't care less about religion. One satisfies its desires and one despises these cock-and-bull stories that tell philosophers and priests, one has only sarcasm for these sorts of careful recommendations given to the weak that are words of wisdom! The strong man knows only one law, the law of the strongest and he only feels contempt for justice, morality and wisdom. Or rather he is cunning enough to say: Yes, justice, morality, wisdom, religion, it is very well for the people¸ but deep within he is sly enough to think the opposite without letting himself being duped and follow only his desires.
It means that after all, the strong man according to Calliclès lives, thinks and decides from a cynical representation of life and holds it out. It is useless to add how much Plato's Calliclès would really feel at ease in our postmodern world where cynicism and mockery get on well very often. To laugh at philosophers is in the tone of our time. To chuckle at the only evocation of wisdom is a commonplace attitude. To laugh coarsely at philosophers is indeed the only attitude which agrees to maintain us in our worried freedom from care, or in our arrogance of animal of prey in the economic jungle.
2) It is also the reason why it is also very interesting today to read what Plato or Epicurus could answer Calliclès. In Gorgias, what Socrates retorts to Calliclès, is that first of all licentiousness can not be set as a rule of life. Freed will for power, without self-control, excessive, without the least feeling regarding the damages it can cause, is nothing but brutality, violence in action. Obviously it is not a morality, it is the deliberate choice of immoralism, the deliberate choice to give free expression to madness and to the immoderation of the ego. The morality of a brute if you want, that is, no morality at all. But it is not even a satisfying rule of life for oneself; because to give oneself for rule, as Calliclès suggests, to try to satisfy uncountable desires, as soon as they appear, is to condemn oneself to the torture of eternal unsatiated, it can be likened to a leaky barrel that nothing ever succeeds in filling. The will for power, not only is morally indefensible, but it is also a slavery to desire. Its fate is to draw for those who follow it blindly a road paved with suffering. It is more desirable, retorts Socrates, to prefer to an unsatiated existence, an existence of contentment , settled and satisfied with what every day brings : it is much more desirable to behave in life with more wisdom and less fury, than tread on the dangerous road of the will for power.
But once this has been understaood, the question is raised again, because can wisdom be learnt ? It is not here necessary to rush for an answer without examining attentively the question. Now it is essential to notice that the path of wisdom is philosophy itself and nothing else. It is exactly what the path of philosophy means : a long and patient learning of a wiser life. The philosopher is the friend of wisdom, not that he claims to be himself a wise person, but at least that he has for wisdom a yearning, a desire and an attraction, and it is enough to understand that it is a study that deserves to be pursued. We cannot seek wisdom for a result, for reasons which require efficiency or competence, we can only seek wisdom for wisdom itself. What is at play is not the profitability of the action, but the health of the soul. And it is not a question which deserves to be asked only by the teenager who is confronted to the important metaphysical questions of life. It is a question which can arise at any point of one’s life, when indeed life takes concern of itself and its own direction. And it is here that the words of Epicurus become so meaningful:
" When one is young, he should not hesitate to devote himself to philosophy, and when one is old, he should not grow tired of pursuing the study of philosophy. Because nobody can uphold that he or she is too young or too old to acquire the health of the soul. Those who would claim that the time to philosophize has not come yet or that it is already too late, would be like someone who would say that the time to be happy is not right or that it is already too late". There is a close relation between the study of philosophy, the health of the soul and happiness. The study of philosophy, such as Epicurus conceives it, opens the eyes of intelligence and only a wise spirit can live fortunately in a healthy relation with the body. Only the health of the soul makes possible a deserving and happy life.
"It is not drinking and continual orgies, enjoyment of young men and women, fishes and other dishes that offers a luxurious table, which engender a happy life, but awareness, which looks minutely for the motives about what it is necessary to choose and what is necessary to avoid and which rejects empty opinions, thanks to which the biggest confusion seizes souls ". The word awareness deserves to be commented because it is the key of the problem and the problem itself. Wisdom comes from self-control, madness from the absence of mastery. Wisdom supposes that intelligence inspires and governs the choices which we have to make daily. Wisdom supposes a pointed sense of discrimination between what is advisable to do and what is advisable to avoid. Wisdom supposes the lucidity in which takes place the right decision and the right action. What is it that disturbs the mind and eventually mislead it ? Vain opinions. A mind full of vain opinions is vague, because it did not become aware of the vanity of its own opinions; as it is unaware of it, it considers necessary to pursue what has really no value and in the end, it is the toy of incoherent requests. It is confused, this confusion which "seizes souls " and distracts them.
But this analysis leaves numerous questions behind : should we conclude from it that the search for personal happiness is after all the only ambition of wisdom? What is the link between this conception of wisdom, as opposed to people’s madness, and madness as defined in psychiatry? What does it mean to act wisely ? Can wisdom be reduced to a particular attitude towards life ?
B. From caution to self-knowledge
In our postmodern context, wisdom, when one wants indeed to value it, is for most of us an extremely vague word. When one tries to clarify it, it evokes only a sort of attitude in life which consists in a fair, morally valid use of the experience. Otherwise, it is a word which is associated to an erudite historic knowledge, the one that concerns the obscure history of the Greek philosophers. In the Antiquity, the meaning was much richer. Wisdom resulted from the Knowledge of Being, but it was also the skill and competence which result from it and as a consequence the righteousness of judgment of a really qualified man. Those who were called the seven wise men of Greece were competent legislators, the wise person being the accomplished philosopher, the virtuous, reasonable, intelligent and educated philosopher.This fact may seem strange to us. It is a way to put together things of which we have today a very fragmentary representation. We set apart "competence" by assimilating it to a technical mastery; for us, "Knowledge" is also apart, it is scientific knowledge. We almost do not know any more what "virtue" means but only under the form of a frightened virgin who wants to protect herself from the assaults of a man’s desire. "Reasonable" is a term which eventually amounted to "careful" , in the sense of ‘being slightly afraid’. "Intelligent" is a concept which we reduce to "intellectual". As for "educated", it is only a word which refers to a culture acquired at the university. To sum up, we are very far from understanding what could represent the figure of the wise person in the ancient traditions. On the other hand, we know very well what is an intellectual, an adventurer, an engineer, a politician, a scientist.
In order to understand what is wisdom, because the idea is vague, it is necessary to proceed by negation, what they call neti, neti, nor this, nor that, in India. We can only get close in full light and in full distinction to what is authentic by freeing ourselves from what is not authentic. What is true appears itself once the false has been eliminated. It is this kind of exercise that Plato is engaged in his first dialogues, the so-called Socratic dialogues. In the Charmide Plato starts analyzing wisdom. Charmide is used as the spokesman of the opinion, Socrates examines attentively his answers and distinguishes the true from the false.
The first definition of wisdom is formulated this way: "One often says that quiet people are wise ". It is vague. But quietness can just be a sort of apathy, a kind of inertia. There are many situations in life where it is necessary to be quick to respond at once to the situation of experience. To respond to a situation of experience vividly and with energy is certainly wiser than to remain passive and lethargic. To remain lethargic and without reaction is certainly not an evidence of wisdom. Wisdom can not be reduced to a form of slowness. However, there is in the absence of haste, in the sense of moderation an attitude which can indeed show a wise behaviour, but the problem is that it does not tell us on what it is based. Furthermore, wisdom is above all a very high virtue, it is not limited to a sort of practical common sense that one can define as peace or moderation.
Charmide stops and proposes a second definition: "It seems to me that wisdom develops the sense of honor and makes man sensitive to shame and therefore wisdom is modesty ". The word modesty should not to be taken in the sense usually understood, as a sort of concern to be seen, here, it is a way of indicating moral sense as a quality which concerns the integrity of the wise person. The wise person is the living embodiment of the true sense of honor, the sensitivity to what is evil and the sense of what is fair and right. The wise person masters his passions, he does not show off. What we have to understand here is that maybe alive interiority can not show off, it is modesty, because it is the invisible Life which never shows itself. Likewise finally, wisdom is associated to temperance, to chastity, to decency, to sobriety in all things. In summary, it is the sense of moderation.
We see indeed that to limit wisdom to modesty is an insufficient definition. Wisdom expresses itself in modesty, but modesty is not wisdom. Modesty is inseparable to the relative situations where it appears, whereas wisdom is not relative to anything. Modesty, stemming from the moral sense, is marked by the duality good /evil. Modesty, as a virtue, is not only relative to the situations of life, but it is ambivalent like them.
Distraught, Charmide uses then an argument of authority to align a new opinion on wisdom: "I remember having heard somebody say that to be wise is to mind one’s business ". The formula is very vague. It can be understood:
a) As an incentive to withdraw into oneself, to be indifferent to others. As a matter of fact, it is the slogan par excellence of the postmodern individualism. The utilitarianism of the XIX Century gave the same advice : each and everyone is competent when it is a question of determining what relates to the private good. Everybody should mind its own business and society will be better ! Yes, but indeed, the exclusive concern of our private interest is the cause of the madness of our world. Indifference is what makes man insensible and cruel. You’d have to be particularly sly to continue to believe that self-centeredness is wisdom.
b) " To mind one’s business " can also mean trying to achieve everything one needs by oneself, so as not to depend on anybody. It is a sort of systematic desire for autarky. Economically speaking, it is a negation of the exchange. Psychologically speaking, it is the desire to break free, but which is also the risk of the assertion of separation. Is it really sensible to see the wise person as an "eccentric"?
c) Finally, the formula brought forth by Charmide also means to carry out one’s personal duty, by distrusting big ideals, ideologies which might be used as alibi, and might divert us from what the current experience of our situation requires. It means that it is better to clean one’s front door than to want to change the world. It is better to concentrate one’s action on the things which depend on us than to dream of a different world: let’s go further, it is necessary first to consider what is very close. It is in this sense that Camus argued that he was not a wise person, that he thought he did not have enough light to be able to change the world. Camus said that to be human is only to try to embody some fundamental values. According to him it is not the duty of the rebel man. There is in wisdom much more than a revolt and it is not certainly an idealistic reverie. The wise person is not " the committed intellectual ".
The ambiguity of Charmide’s definition is obvious. It would be enough to discard it. What Plato also underlines, through the mouth of Socrates, is that the separation of individuals does not exist anyway. Absolute autarky does not do justice to the solidarity of all. We live in relation. Individualism in terms of self-centeredness has no sense, what we need to gain for more wisdom is on the contrary, an awareness of human unity, and a consciousness of unity in variety.
At this moment of the dialogue, Critias comes to Charmide’s help. He strikes then a strong definition:
" for my part, I assert that the one who does not do good, but evil, is not wise; and that is him the one that does good and not evil. To give you a clear definition, I say that wisdom is the practice of good ". In the text, Socrates does not begin to refute Critias. He examines the definition not by considering that it contains some falseness, but by seeing it as incomplete. There is indeed a difficulty: this man who does good, does he know himself? When he does good, does he know it or is he unaware of it?
What remains in abeyance is the relation between self-knowledge and wisdom. It happens that the doctor gives a treatment without knowing exactly what he does, however, if he acted usefully, one says that he acted with wisdom. "When he happens to give a useful treatment, he acts wisely and he is wise, but he might not know that he is wise ". Is wisdom some kind of happy inspiration which allows a man to do good? But it would mean that the one who does good in this way does it without intention, without motive, without conscious knowledge? An action which is not based on intentionnality is without a conscious end. It could not be attributed to a desiring ego, an ego driven by motivations, by purposes. Does this mean that the man who is wise is not self-conscious? Does the wise man have any ego? According to Critias, it would seem that the wise person could be in a sense ignorant.
Critias does not want to go in this direction he wants to keep the idea that the wise person is conscious of his wisdom and that he possesses self-knowledge: it is impossible indeed to admit "that a man can be wise if he does not know himself ". And he adds: "to know oneself is wisdom, and I agree with the author of the registration of Delphes's temple ". There are two manners to approach self-knowledge, the negative Way, which emphasizes the refusal of the false, and the positive Way which tries to give it attributes, contents. But we need to know if it is possible to give self-knowledge a definitive formula, so that it can be nailed like a butterfly in a box, or if it is not necessary here to stay in the negation of what is not the Self.
On the positive way, there is naturally a deliberate distinction subject / object, therefore the subject defined by its object and as different from its object. "If wisdom consists in knowing something, it is clear that it is a science, is it someting else? " The knowledge of the self will be then defined as a science, or as second-hand knowledge, and it will not be hard to give it content: to know one’s cultural identity, one’s person, one’s social role, body, one’s temperament, one’s character, one’s personality, one’s personal history, one’s moral person, one’s small ego, one’s object of introspection etc. There are tons of books which give receipts of it, magazines are stuffed with tests of evaluation of all kinds, presented as some types of knowledge of the self. All the philosophic tradition is also here to supply a plentiful analysis of what is man, as an object of knowledge of the self, as a subject of history, as a moral subject etc. Is the wise man he who has collected this knowledge? How could the accumulation of this enormous knowledge make someone wiser? Will a man become wiser after he had run after all the psychologists, wrote his personal diary, read the contents of a library? No. The wise person is not " a scholar ".
To define wisdom as a science leads to a dead end, because in the knowledge of the self, the Self can not be known as an object. The Self is subject and not object. The only solution would be to consider the knowledge of the Self not as a some type of knowledge, but, as a higher form of consciousness. Socrates agrees nevertheless to be lead in this dead end of knowledge. Now, if wisdom was science, one could classify it among the other sciences, next to the fields of knowledge producing techniques such as medicine and architecture. It is true that wisdom produces effects such as self-control, modesty, humility. However there are many differences between the regional limits of sciences and the universal character of wisdom. One can not put wisdom "next to" the other sciences. It is absurd. Critias, understanding this fact, end up then to the idea that wisdom is the coronation of knowledge, the queen of sciences, "the science of itself and the other sciences ". What is remarkable is that on this booby-trapped way, Critias finally rediscovers the highest ambition of Thought: it is in the very essence of philosophy to look for knowledge and Knowledge is always the Knowledge of Wholeness. To know is to know Being as a whole and not divides it into parts. Wisdom would be the knowledge of Being as Being, what surrounds all the particular existences. It is the definition of ontology, the science of Being. It is exactly what a philosophic system tries to formulate. This is what makes the greatness of Platon, Aristote, Spinoza, Leibniz, to have this dimension. However, what Socrates wants to show is that we should not confuse the "thinker" and the wise person.
For Socrates, philosophical teachings are first and foremost an Awakening before being a system. In fact, what interests Socrates the most is the possibility that interiority has to reveal itself to itself. What Critias runs into, without seeing it, is the paradox of the self-reference of the knowledge of the Self. Consciousness, as the Self can only be known by itself and not in reference to an object, it is self-referent. The knowledge of the Self does not mean acquiring a knowledge on an object, but only to be aware of oneself. And the awareness of the Self tends to provoke a transformation in the individual. The knowledge of the Self that makes one wise is not an objective knowledge, it is nothing else than a constant awakening, a constant awareness. And what is fascinating is that it does not distinguish itself from consciousness, no more than it can be classified in the same order as an object. It is the illumination of the subject, consciousness infinitely in action and infinitely aware of itself. Awakening.
B. Philosophy as the path of wisdom
We are here and we do not need anything else: to be more aware of ourselves, as well as to be more aware of the world, and to be more aware of our relation to the world. In the question: in which sense can philosophy be defined as the love of wisdom? The answer is in love itself.
Since antiquity, the Greeks made a nuance between the philosopher and the wise person. The philosopher is the friend ( philo ) of wisdom ( sophia ). The friend is the one who loves. This love of wisdom encompasses the desire for a wiser life and this desire draws the road which makes a man a truth seeker, that is a philosopher: a man on the path of wisdom. When the search comes true and when the soul realizes what it looks for, the love of unity is transformed in Unity itself, and the philosopher has become a wise person, wisdom being nothing else than the living fulfillment of philosophy. What lacks in the understanding of wisdom in our postmodern world is the opening that lies in the love of wisdom. Our time is certainly very cynical, but there is a difference between cynicism and awareness. Cynicism is awareness without love. And it is necessary to insist and repeat it again and again so that it is perfectly clear that in philosophy there is love of wisdom. Never one without the other. Without love, the activity of the thought is a butcher's shop of the intellect and lack understanding, without wisdom, the activity of the thought is only a cold, technical calculation, without greatness or generosity.
What is necessary so that arises in each and everyone the soul of a philosopher? The opposite of a cold and cynical thought. Plato answers in the Republic: sincerity. "A natural ability not to willingly admit lies, but to hate them and to love truth … It is necessary for the one who feels love for someone, to love all that is similar and relates to the object of its love … As a consequence, the one who really loves wisdom has to, eversince its youth, long as much as possible to seize any truth ".
With the love of truth and sincerity comes the detachment toward relative values that are greediness of wealth and greediness of desire; with the love of truth and sincerity comes total temperence and nobility of soul. " Be careful that there is no lowness of feelings: because narrow-mindedness is perhaps what is the most repulsive for a soul who must try ceaselessly to embrace, as a whole and in their totality, the divine things and the human things ". This awakened soul will look at human life in its mortality, but for it death will not be frightening any more. A human being with this open-mindedness will be sociable and fair, "exempt from greediness, from lowness, from arrogance and from cowardice". Open-mindedness gives finally the sense of impartiality and sets free the intelligence. To be able to contemplate the world as an impartial witness is the only position which is convenient for the spirit of philosophy and if something must be done to help us learn to observe attentively and in a impartial way what is, it deserves par excellence to be taught. To philosophize means to be free to contemplate what is and the wealth that delivers philosophic pondering is unlimited. It is what Bertrand Russel says splendidly: "The mind which is used to the freedom and the impartiality of philosophic pondering, will keep some of this freedom and this impartiality in the world of action and emotions; he will see in its desires and in its purposes the parts of a whole, and he will consider them with detachment as the tiny fragments of a world that can not be affected by the preoccupations of a single human being ".
Not only this, but, contrary to what the common sense believes, impartiality is not devoid of love, it is on the contrary the condition of a compassion which does not measure its love in the alder of a simple object or a morality. " The impartiality which, in contemplation, arises from an unselfish desire for truth, comes from the same quality of mind which, in action, joins justice, and which, in the emotional life, brings an universal love intended for all and not just for those who are considered useful or who deserve admiration".
Impartiality does not come from the natural attitude, from a limited consciousness, from this consciousness which, as Russel says, made us "citizens of a fortress in war with the rest of the world ". It makes of us "citizens of the universe ". It is not the fruit of the attentiveness of the natural attitude, but it comes from a vaster consciousness. It is indeed Russel, a thinker of our time, and not a wise man from India, who writes also in the same text: "Thanks to the greatness of the world that philosophy contemplates, our mind becomes also great and becomes capable of realizing this union with the universe which constitutes the supreme good ". And the nearness of formulation is such that we can without any hesitation think that it is true that philosophies can certainly be different, but on what they converge as wisdom is one. And this time, we can understand that we must be able to find this supreme Good which is the consciousness of unity with all the universe everywhere, in all the cultures and be of all times. A wise person is the one who lives in the consciousness of unity. That is why we do not hesit to say here that there is a greatness in Plotin's wisdom in the Antiquity, in Ma Ananda Moyi, in Ramana Maharshi, in Sri Aurobindo in India etc. and that closer from us, there are remarkable personalities such as Jean Klein, Stephen Jourdain etc. who, by their experience of the consciousness of unity, were able to see the world through the eyes of wisdom.
It is necessary therefore to go back again and again to awareness. Philosophy is an exercise of awareness. What does it mean to be aware? In brief: to see. To see with the eyes of intelligence, while being at the same time carried by the intelligence of the heart. To see what is. To see what constitutes the activity of the mind, the functioning of the ego, without flight, without division, without condemnation. In Krishnamurti's terms: "To see all this is not only the truth but wisdom. It is from this wisdom that comes the intelligence that will work in daily life, which will not create confusion ". Awareness gathers the energy of intelligence and allows it to take actions.
The seeing of intelligence is what has to preside over the study of philosophy. It is what Descartes thinks when he writes: "Surely, to live without philosophizing is like having one’s eyes closed, without ever trying to open them; and the pleasure to see all the things which our sight discovers is not comparable to the satisfaction given by the knowledge of those that one finds through philosophy; and finally, this study is more necessary to regulate our habits and to lead us in this life than is the usage of our eyes to ve guide our steps ".
Of course, even if we aggree on that, we can still be ironic. To be ironic by creating a complete separation between the philosopher and the wise person, by saying that "man" can have at the most a bit of inclination for philosophy, but could not be considered as a wise person. And we end up caricaturing both philosophy and wisdom. But never mind. We are not going to fight against derision and the pervading cynicism. It is better to turn on the light than to curse darkness as an Indian proverb says!
It is rather sad to notice how much we have lost sight of wisdom, and lost sight of the horizon of the philosophers themselves. We do not do justice to what philosophy represents. Let us draw a conclusion : in our recent history, there have been many thinkers, speculative thinkers, existential thinkers. There have been few philosophers. An academic went so far as to even write that Spinoza was the last philosopher in the West, that after him there were only thinkers and no more philosophers ! It is very excessive, but it reflects significantly the trend of our time. It is time we go back to philosophy, to go back to the source, as others did it, just like Lacan who advocates a return to Freud to save psychoanalysis from its wanderings.
dialogue : questions and answers
Home © Philosophy and spirituality, 2003, Serge Carfantan. Translated by Christophe Daroux.