Philo-sophia: on philosophy and love | Dominican University College

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Philo-sophia: on philosophy and love

Thursday, October 02, 2014

By Iva Apostolova


Philosophy has been described as many things: conceptual engineering, pursuit of the truth . . . But above all, and in translation from its Greek origin, it means

love of wisdom.

And when you think about it, philosophy is a lot like any other love relationship.

You do philosophy, you don’t just study it. You do philosophy for the sake of philosophy, not for the sake of getting results or proving anything.

One of my philosophical gurus, the American Pragmatist William James, once wrote that philosophy is not a discipline but an attitude and a temperament. Philosophy cultivates useful skills such as analyzing and debating. But above all, it is a way of looking at things: it requires a loving gaze and a loving action toward the text and the interlocutor. Because it is only together that you are trying to bring something out: the truth. And just like in any other love relationship, in philosophy you have to believe that your interlocutor has the best intention and is putting forth her best effort to convince you of her view.

And just like in love, there are no winners.

It’s not about winning an argument or a discussion. It’s about owning it, nurturing it and gently pushing it as far as it can go. It’s not about being right or wrong. It’s about being open and remaining open. In other words, it’s about acceptance. And just like love, it is not for the faint of heart: it takes passion, dedication and patience. It's about the passion to pursue and the dedication and patience to weed out the biases and misunderstandings which, willingly or unwillingly, we bring to the discourse.      

Just like love it takes a leap of faith and the willingness to grant second chances. If you are doing philosophy, sooner rather than later, you will have to give it your best shot and own it despite possible scathing criticism. Don't worry about feeling rejected! Yes, it is about your views and yet, it is not. It is about preserving the ‘togetherness’ of the dialogue.

Sustaining a healthy love relationship is hard. It requires maturity and strong character. A strong character is first and foremost a consistent character. If nothing else, philosophy teaches consistency. It always strives to integrate two seemingly incompatible things: passion and knowledge.   

Doing philosophy is about analyzing without losing the unity of meaning. It’s about making the complicated simple without taking away from its essence. And just like in love you lose yourself in the passion or in the knowledge, or both, and yet you are the most you you’ll ever be.