In Defense of the Philosopher

davidlbowmanPhilosophy, ScienceLeave a Comment


Photograph by Giulia Bertelli


At first, the philosopher appears to be strange. She sits alone in the library or at home; often early into the morning. She’s late for social events and may appear unaware of conversations occurring before her. When she speaks, she sounds strange; speaking in fragmented sentences and incomplete ideas. From afar, it’s easy to judge her as awkward; feeling there’s something wrong. She’s a sensitive soul who desires neither the acceptance nor approval of others. She sits alone at night attempting to understand the inescapable pain deep within her heart. She looks out at the world and it’s simply unsatisfying.

At first glance it’s easy to confuse a real philosopher with an actor. These actors frequent positions of high-esteem within universities and speak at conferences, working to fulfill their intellectual desires; whereas, a philosopher fulfills matters of her heart. She reads over the words of Socrates, Kant and Kierkegaard with tears in her eyes; as their pain becomes her pain. Together, they attempt to discover meaning within their shared world.

After many years, she’ll come to some sort of compromise; finding meaning within existence. She returns to us with wisdom in hand. At first, when she speaks, she sounds just like everyone else. Others laugh quietly behind her back, realizing her conclusions are no different from their own. They think, “What a silly person, to spend years-and-years studying these books of arcane knowledge to only discover what was obvious.”

Yet when she speaks, others listen. They listen not because the words are familiar but because of the depth behind them. What previously appeared to be simple; has revealed itself as complex. She’s considered all ends and speak on their behalf.

To a philosopher, philosophy is not just words on a page; preserved throughout history. They’re the collective thoughts and feelings of generations. They’re the cries of sorrow and exasperation of joy throughout all-time. She preserves this human-history within herself and shares it with others freely. Others hear this and begin to appreciate those long hours alone in the dark.