Philosophy is as old as the advent of human consciousness. Socrates (470-399 BCE) coined the world philosophy from the Greek philos (love) and sophos (wisdom) such that it literally means “the love of wisdom.” Understanding what Socrates meant by that takes quite a bit of study. What we know about Socrates mostly comes from Dialogs (books consisting of conversations) written by Plato. One of those dialogs, the Symposium, involves Socrates and several other characters debating over what “love” is. So we at least have to work our way through that dialog I order to understand what “love of wisdom” may be. One for sure, Socrates considered his pursuit of the love of wisdom the most important thing in his life and he in fact gave his life for it. The Athenians demanded that Socrates either give up his practice of philosophy or be put to death.
Is there anything that you would give your life for rather than give it up? Is there anything so important that you are willing to devote your life to it? How you honestly answer those questions will indicate the beliefs and values that are central to who you are. They are part of your essential self.
We don’t always know our essential selves. It is fully possible, perhaps normal, to get on in life by following the expectations and demands that others put on it. We may obey our parents, obey the laws, obey our desires, and look no further than that. A life of conventional obedience may be an honorable life. It certainly is what others expect of us. We all put a lot of effort into living up to those expectations.
Philosophers like Socrates, Buddha, Jesus, Descartes, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Weil, and others have challenged conventional wisdom and asked us to look into ourselves. Is living up to the expectations of tradition and culture the same as living an authentic life? Maybe so, maybe not. How, though, would you ever know until you take a deep and honest look at your essential self and what it requires?
It is within that realm of questioning that this course, InterQuest” Introduction to Philosophy, extends. My hope as a teacher is that the power of such inquiry will remain with you. Once opened, such potentials are never fully shut out.
There are many ways to continue that questioning. One of them involves writing your thoughts and saving them or sending them for future consideration. Another involves reading and discussing the ideas of philosophers, who are really just individuals who have the need to understand more that what is given by conventional culture. People who pursue the love of wisdom are seeking to become more conscious of themselves and the reality we find ourselves in.
To that end I offer you a keepsake of your study of philosophy in a ten short weeks in college. This is only an opening and a bare hint as to the depths of thought the can be gained by focus on your essential self. I hope that it serves you well over time. So long as I breathe and live I am pleased to hear from you and share in the dialog. Never hesitate to be in touch.
In good spirit,