Why practise philosophy ?

Publié le 8 Septembre 2007

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WHY PRACTISE PHILOSOPHY?

 

First of all because such a practise trains you to assume an attitude of curiosity while a priori denying the dogmatism of taking a stand. In other words, philosophy attempts to examine the essential issues inherent to our human condition within a universalistic and rationalistic approach with a view to offering solutions. But what has to be kept in mind is that philosophy is primarily a matter of questioning, the art of inner conversation.It enables us to discover that the meaning of any question depends on the skill of "asking the right questions". Therefore this is how it expresses the curiosity of stands taken. Stands on questioning, stands on how answers are developed. That way is it an effective block  against prejudice. The mere stand. The one that is content with asking a question and answering it once and for all. Reading Plato for instance in The Republic means forgetting one's attachment to democracy, our stand, in order to concede primary value to the text itself, which becomes an  object of astonishment(How can an author not be a democrat, that is suggest a different mode of questioning from mine?), then an object worthy of careful attention (is there any form of soundness in that discourse? i.e. why is not Plato's discursivity mine?). Actually Plato, like all genius philosophers, is at first confusing. We were not expecting such a flash of lightning: how can democracy not be the best political organization of the City?  Plato's essential interrogation  is questioning mine: how for me, and contrary to the author of the Republic, can democracy be the right form of political order? The French Vth Republic's contemporary citizen must then set himself aside and listen to another form of discourse. The consequence is extraordinary: thought turns into a wonderful conjunction of possibilities that primarily represent the necessary condition for my freedom of thought. My support of democracy becomes one of these possibilities, given an opportunity to deepen its meaning or else build sounder foundations for its own validity, with full knowledge of the facts. Thanks to the other's discourse, or the other discourse.Whoever once dealt in philosophy sees the limits of his thought, i. e. his spirituality, driven back.

Then again, let us philosophize, because it develops as an essentially practical discipline. Rising to conceptualization, building a thesis and thinking from the dimension of universality is always done under the careful vigil of ordinary existence. For example: what is a happy life? means how far can the characterisitics of an experimented happiness as discussed by philosophers be apprehended again by me within my present state and proper existence? Either I live my happy life differently from what the philosopher proposes, which questions me as he is supposed to a master of wisdom: is my happiness genuine or is it that the philosopher's happiness is not made for unwise me , or else is it that his demands are unacceptable for being contrary to my personal beliefs? I will give meaning to the text I am reasoning about through the resonance it finds in my present life. It induces thought but does it do that only? No, for idea is unquestionably also cause. An idea modifies, upsets or comforts one's choices and vision. It commits one, connecting one to both  oneself and one's experience, orienting and supporting it. This way, philosophy is absolutely not gratuitous. Thoughts and ideas are already reforms.

Philosophy is also an outstanding discipline of unification. inside a fragmented, scattered reality wherein branches of knowledgs are unfortunately partitioned, it bridges gaps between what has been dissociated, supposedly independent or impenetrable. History, psychology, physics, sociology, mathematics etc. often choose to ignore one another through the comfort of specialization and in so doing sever out their study field from reality by isolating it. Philosophy rises to an all-embracing  unity integrating complexity by weaving together the relations that constitute the proper identity of reality. .I am a mind, Psychology's object of study, I am a person with a past, History's object of study, I am a member of various groups, Sociology's object, and finally I am endowed of physical material, Biology's object.

Still I do not have the sensation of living through all those avatars of myself in a mere process of splintering out. Coherence has to be seeked, for indeed the "I" is definitely not a linguistic trick. The "I" is a task to be carried out with an aim to achieving its unity. From those scientific viewpoints of my "I", the targets of epistemologic criticism, philosophy questions the individual as one, its identity, the value of its determinisms, and what is left of its freedom in spite of the forces upsetting it.

Yet philosophy is also a friend to values. Every significance is meaning, and also direction. Truth, Beauty, Good organize the world into a hierarchy, and confer a quality and depth that enable us to escape the repetition of everyday triviality. Our life is our responsibility. The others cannot always decide for me. I must make elections in a totally autonomous way. This way the social world cannot fashion me by dismantling me through alienation, sorrow or disappointment. Simply maybe because of the existence of Art. The universe of aesthetic productions reveals a contemplation that raises our soul up to the purity of shapes and to the intelligence of perception. Way beyond mundane vicissitudes. Is not then Art the utmost form of humanity? Aren't both artist and spectator together creators of beauty? Philosophy questions and magnifies this wrenching out from mere wordly life, collective restrictions and social games. What does this transcendance that makes me be greater than I am in the experimenting of contemplation and creation have to say to me, how am I to think about Beauty in the midst of the often chaotic diversity of aesthetic productions?

Faced with the multiplicity of opinions and with sterile relativism, I have the feeling that ideas are dependent on individual subjects' whims. Man would then be the universal standard. Not true. perhaps because Truth is a requirement. Isn't Truth, by stengthening my thought,  what endlessly enables me to organize reality's multiplicity, to reject contradictions, avoid misunderstandings, the consequences of an ambiguity born from the sometimes spontaneous but more often reified use of language, to wave off the despair brought up by the ready-thought enthusiasts' dangerous and unfortunate controversies? How am I to think right? This is indeed where Philosophy manages to feed on the most valuable concern. In what way does philosophical rationality deem Truth a value? Is it not the Art of  thinking right with a view to ....doing right? A Truth that would lead us to Right.

In action, in the vecinity of the other, in the meeting with that mysterious and often bothering alterity, may principles od conduct enlighten us? Can we put up with one another in the end? Here again we are counselled or governed by a variety of morals, religions, dogma, imperatives or commandments. No matter, nothing should a priori impose itself to the philosopher. Morals protect us from violence as much as they provoke it. Must not Good be defined in priority in front of the violence of the world , in order to offer an alternative solution to the ontological erasement of the opponent, or his disqualification?

Turn back to these morals and think them out from the basis, that is patiently develop an ethics, a knowledge of appreciative judgments of human actions and relationships, this is the purpose of the great works in the history of philosophy. Focused and concerned about acting right!

That is why, in all modesty, we think that practising philosophy is indispensable. Which indirectly leads us to a question, heavy with disquieting even terrifying omens: what if some people were plotting to shoe it out of its legitimate position?

 

BRUNO GUITTON

Rédigé par Bruno Guitton

Publié dans #Introduction

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