I love philosophy – true philosophy, the love of wisdom – not so much what philosophy has become, which to me is a rather heart-less mental exercise.
I love seeing the world through the eyes of loving wisdom, deepening my understanding of people and life and our place in the universe.
I love making light of our earthly woes and reminding myself that we are not from here, were never supposed to be here, and while we may as well enjoy and make the most of the opportunity of being here, our real task here is to learn to live in such a loving, harmonious and one-unified way that we no longer need to be sequestered here, for the protection of the rest of the universe!
So if this is what the true purpose of philosophy is, deepening our understanding of ourselves and of life, how can you tell if your favourite philosopher is having an off day?
Take Plato, for example, who is a favourite of many.
The man who brought us:
Be kind to people, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”
also said some pretty misogynistic stuff, especially in The Republic.
Do we swallow the lot, hook line and sinker, because Plato said it? Or even worse, use it to justify our own beliefs and prejudices?
Or do we do ourselves the service of truly reading it, and realising that Plato was an imperfect human being, as we all are, living in an imperfect world, as we all do, and subject to the prejudices of the time.
And what about Aristotle?
The man who was once a Pythagorean, and a student of Plato, and worked with the understanding of the cosmos and our place in it … how could he reduce himself to the point where he could say such things as:
“All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind.”
“The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living from the dead.”
The point being:
Everything we read is written by imperfect humans living in an imperfect world. Even if our inspiration is truly divine, the expression of it comes through our imperfect body, which has taken on ideals and beliefs about human life and the way we should live it, and these can colour what is said.
Be willing to trust yourself and what you feel. If it does not feel true to you, if it does not resonate with you, chances are it is not the whole truth. Honour your own body, your own life experience, your own wisdom and allow this to guide your way.
If philosophy inspires you to be more of who you truly are, if it deepens your understanding of yourself, of life and of your place in it, if it inspires you to be more loving and wise in the way you live your life, it is probably true. If it makes you or another feel less, reduced, disempowered, or even depressed, then it may be clever mental gymnastics, but it may not be true philosophy…
Just remember, the meaning of philosophy is ‘the love of wisdom’ … be wise and loving, and discern what is true … and the whole truth always includes love.