Grad School 2

what is a philosophical community? What does it look like? What does it do?

A philosophical community is not a group of people doing philosophy. It is a group of people all oriented in a certain way toward philosophy. There are two ways to do philosophy (this is not exhaustive): as a job, as a way of life. The former is common. There is nothing wrong with this particular way of doing philosophy. But it is wholly different from the second. If philosophy is a job, it is something you do to get by. The people I interact with are my co-workers, the ones who also do a job like mine. Unfortunately, in philosophy, it seems like the “job” of some philosophers is just to talk. Keep talking. Talk about a philosopher, talk about a logical contradiction, talk about why someone is wrong, talk about why someone is right, talk talk talk. Everyone has to speak. In the end, you must make sure you are right or nothing has been won. Silence seems to be an indication that you don’t know what you’re doing, which is a grave sin in some places. Silence is a weakness, as long as I’m talking I’m doing my “job”. The result is something like an industrial sized chicken coop (if you haven’t heard this go find a video). There’s a lot of noise, but nothing is really said.

The latter way of doing philosophy fosters the philosophical community. The quality that sets this way of doing philosophy above others is authenticity. People are genuine. There is a realization that confusion abounds more than understanding. The path to understanding is walked together. Philosophy becomes an exercise in discovery. When things are said, there is a reason for it. The person speaking is listened to, and is responded to the best of the others ability. There is an effort to understand each person’s language, what words they use and what they mean. In order to understand, you have to listen. When a philosophical community comes together, the bonds made go deeper than work. The work being done is on ourselves. We struggle to clarify our thoughts together. There is struggle, and complete transparency about this struggle. People talk to each other as people and not as something to be conquered. Philosophy is life.

The former is common, the latter is rare. I realize that Plato is right (he always is): “I see, my dear Theaetetus, that Theodorus had a true insight into your nature when he said that you were a philosopher, for wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder”. So, the question is: are you a philosopher?

~ by Barky on December 4, 2011.

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