At some point in the future I’ll be talking about the importance of philosophy in Christianity. In honor of putting carts before horses, I’d like to talk about the seven things that make a philosopher. Maybe you are an accidental philosopher. Most of us are, we just don’t know it.
A basic definition of philosophy could be the knowledge of truth and meaning of life. If we pay attention, I believe that most of us talk about one or several of these things multiple times a day. What is a philosopher though? How do they view the world or think about it? To understand, let’s ask Plato.
Some might be thinking, what does that clay with such a distinct smell have to do with philosophy? Somewhere around 380 B.C. Plato wrote The Republic. This ancient Greek philosopher asked and answered many questions in his thesis. He describes a good philosopher and writes “to define for them what we mean by philosophers (474B).” This is important to Plato’s study, because in The Republic he believes that philosophers should rule the land. So what makes a philosopher according to Plato?
- “The Philosopher too is a desirer of wisdom (475B)” Because philosophy deals with knowledge, this may seem like a no- brainer. But wisdom is not knowledge, it is the use of knowledge.
- Philosophers are thirsty to learn and are never full. Plato says that they are “readily willing to taste everything learnable (475C).” Do you have a desire to learn? Are you intrigued by many things, not just what your career or present state of affairs involve? If so, you may be a philosopher.
- Philosophers place knowledge over opinion. “And won’t we also claim that these” he says, “devote themselves to and love those things at which knowledge is directed, while the former devote themselves to and love those things at which opinion is directed? (480A).” A true philosopher is bothered by people who place opinion over knowledge, data, or truth.
- Philosophers believe in universal law. his point will be a blog post eventually. Basically universal law means that there are laws that everyone everywhere on earth, no matter gender, creed or religion is affected by in the same way. A simple example is gravity. He says, “Those capable of reaching what’s always the same in the same respects are philosophers (484B).” In other words, these people hold universal truths regardless of the outcome.
- Philosophers want to know everything. This is very close to number 2. It goes beyond the thirst of wanting to know, and speaks of those who have a desire to know everything. I think my dad is kind of like this. As a teenager, we went on many vacations to take tours of things that he will never do in life, but went just as a desire to know how things work. Plato says the philosopher’s desire for knowledge,, “They desire all of it, and don’t willingly give up any part of it, small or larger (485B). “
- Plato simply says philosophers “love truth (485C).” To be a philosopher, and to understand things, you must believe that there are things that are real and true. To believe no truth exists is to be someone who doesn’t understand philosophy, according to Plato.
- Lastly, philosophers want to know spiritual truth. He says “A soul that’s intent on constantly reaching out towards the whole that comprises all of what’s divine and human together (486A).” To be a philosopher, one must study ontology; where did we come from, who are we now, and where are we going?.
So what does philosophy have to do with theology? Everything, but that’s for another time. We will use this to build on future posts involving philosophy. This was just meant to be a little test to see if you are a philosopher. Or if you are an individual who desires to understand philosophy,offering some guidelines of what you should be studying. It is by no means an exhaustive list, and Plato is not the last one to write about what makes a philosopher.
Do you fit the philosopher’s mold? Do you desire wisdom, thirst to learn and know everything? Are you one who places knowledge over opinion and believes in truth and universal laws? Do you think about where you came from, who you are now, and where you are going? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, you just might be an accidental philosopher.
Thank you to Dr. Steve Shumaker, Colorado Christian University, and Andy Giessman, Executive Director of Addison’s Walk Institute for Christian Studies, for showing me the way out of the cave.
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