[font=Impact][size=10]Does Philosophy Have a Purpose?[/font]
hilosophy. Figuratively, it means “love of wisdom”; literally, it means absolutely nothing. What is love?
What is wisdom? The philosopher doesn’t know, and if you don’t want to hear his opinion on the matter, you probably shouldn’t ask. As a word,
it’s too abstract. And as a practice? Too impractical. Philosophy is without glory or charm; it is without financial reward; it is like body-odor to
a romantic evening.
A lover of wisdom you say? Love of his own wisdom to be sure. What else can the philosopher know? Everyone has, as deep as their language will allow,
wondered about something besides themselves, and have forged for themselves ideas about the nature of that which they wonder about. We are all
philosophers. It is our function; it is our vocation; it is our purpose to deposit meaning where we see fit; it is our nature—we all love our own
It can be conceived as a paradox that the greatest philosopher who ever set foot on this earth was so anti-authority, so autonomous, so sovereign, and
so indifferent to the abstractions of men, that he wouldn’t dare speak a word of philosophy in fear of becoming what he isn’t, leaving us not a
shred of his golden insight. Luckily, philosophers are not merely lovers of their own wisdom. At core they are artists; and like any artist, like any
human, the philosopher wants nothing more than to share what he’s created. Even the most humble of men put their names on what they create.
Philosophy, in its historical sense, is the the stem from which all branches of thought have grown. It is the tree itself, the tree of knowledge and
bearer of great and dangerous fruits. It is the soil of our culture—our politics, our art, our math, our science, our religion—everything we call
“knowledge” has arisen from a little language, a little childish curiosity, and the need to express it artistically.
But what purpose does this vain pursuit of wisdom, truth, enlightenment and happiness offer us but to curb our own self-satisfying desire to express
reality how we see it, through our eyes and out through our own words? Perhaps there is more. Perhaps the words we leave behind touches someone or
inspires them in such a way that they see their own wide gradient of possibilities and power. Perhaps a new movement is grown on a set of principles.
Perhaps expression itself is our purpose, and the philosopher is taking his purpose as far as he can. Perhaps, despite our words, all is lost.
What happens when we don’t give ourselves a moment to think? Quite obviously we stop thinking—at least for ourselves. We go on autopilot as if we
were well trained enough to do so. Indeed, we are well trained, domesticated if you will, led by a harness in a sort of way that negates the
opportunity to stop and think and to become wild within the chaos of our own thoughts again. These days, the philosopher in us is suppressed and we
become content enough to be spoon fed thoughts and ideas by our televisions and devices. Not a moment to think any longer.
To breathe, the philosopher needs to think. We all need to stop and think. We all need philosophy. But what purpose is philosophy now that it has
branched into the sciences, into the religions, and all foundations from which we derive our insights? Nothing left but a shell, a history, “a
series of footnotes to Plato”, and a practice now left only to professors, priests, and those who can afford the time and leisure to think
profoundly. What use is this shell?
The philosopher still has a use—he has had the same purpose since Thales. Essentially, the philosopher is the critic of culture—the religion,
language, science, metaphysics, mathematics, psychology and politics of any society. The philosopher must do what he has always done—criticize the
culture he finds himself in right down to its very foundations and axioms, to expose what leads us astray.
What philosophy creates comes second to what it destroys. Only after an idea has withstood the criticism of philosophers does it earn a right in our
hearts and mind, in our very culture. Look at our culture! Where are our philosophers? Criticism is discouraged in favour of apathy; skepticism is
vilified in favour of conviction; life is a game and not an adventure; an active curiosity is not left to roam free, to create from the chaos, but is
guided at every turn and stumble. No one wants to know anymore. No one needs the philosopher anymore. For that, philosophy still has a purpose.
Friends, this marks LesMisanthrope’s final thread and departure from ATS. I do not have the opportunities to perpetuate his character on these
boards any longer. I hope, to some, that he was a good enemy; and to others, maybe even a comrade. However the painting is finished. Timid brush
stroke after timid brush stroke must, at some point, end. Like all of those we read, we must say goodbye when we put the book down with the comfort of
knowing they still live among the words within.