{jctv}//what = philosophy...//...to me? Back to 7X300




philosophy = a word//Pericles = Athenian

Philosophy, a word used in all European languages, comes from the Greek philosophia or "love of knowledge, wisdom," from philo- "loving" + sophia "knowledge, wisdom," from sophis "wise, learned." According to Cicero and Diogenes Laertius, Pythagoras first invented the word from philia tes sophias, φιλια της σοφιασ love of wisdom.

Wisdom itself, Pythagoras argued, belongs to God alone. To be called a wise man was blasphemous and showed hubris. He preferred to be called a lover of wisdom.

Pericles, during a speech to commemorate those who died in the Peloponnesian wars, called the Athenians lovers of beauty and wisdom: philokalein & philosophein. Below is the paragraph in which the words appear:

"If we prefer to meet danger with a light heart but without laborious training, and with a courage which is gained by habit and not enforced by law, are we not greatly the better for it? Since we do not anticipate the pain, although, when the hour comes, we can be as brave as those who never allow themselves to rest; thus our city is equally admirable in peace and in war. For we are lovers of the beautiful in our tastes and our strength lies, in our opinion, not in deliberation and discussion, but that knowledge which is gained by discussion preparatory to action. For we have a peculiar power of thinking before we act, and of acting, too, whereas other men are courageous from ignorance but hesitate upon reflection. And they are surely to be esteemed the bravest spirits who, having the clearest sense both of the pains and pleasures of life, do not on that account shrink from danger." From: Thucydides The Peloponnesian War (Book 2.34-46)

The speech as a whole is an extraordinary manifesto of a society seemingly at peace with itself and not a little proud of it, setting itself up as a model. Whether Pericles was describing Athens and Athenians as he found them or whether he was exhorting his subjects to better themselves is an interesting question, but one that can be left to the historians. Athens certainly became a model both on the basis of historical veracity and groundless myth.  Whatever the case, the speech is beautiful and thoughtful and well worth reading. What I particularly enjoy is the emphasis on thinking and discussion as a preparation to well-considered action.

The full essay can be read in manuscript version in the book A Good Use [AND] A Generous thinking

This essay sets out a number of theses regarding the purpose, the focus, the method, the problems and the traps that philosophy becomes involved with.
This essay will argue that:

  1. Philosophy as it applies to the built environment is the attempt to ground a generously conceived attitude to design, development, making and maintenance
  2. Philosophy is a question-driven practice, which has an intimate and inextricable relationship with theory and practice. This does not however preclude the possibility that all three can be given clear roles within any discussion.
  3. Philosophy is a practical discipline, a discipline that requires discipline and practise and one that is primordially useful to us. The concept of use that I shall be putting forward in greater detail elsewhere, goes well beyond what we may describe as uses driven by the paradigms of economic, political, biological or social success or indeed answering to the naïve utopian imagery of something called progress as distinct from continuous evolutionary adaptation.
  4. Philosophy is a practice or game of questions and answers: philosophy calls a theory, as the given, into question.
  5. Questions are philosophical in nature when they analyse and critique and that answers are fundamentally theoretical in nature in that they suggest possibilities, norms, values and priorities, that take account of this analysis and critique.
  6. Any philosophical question can in principle lead to any theoretical answer, which in turn can lead to any practice or action. That there can be no necessary relationship between philosophical analysis, theoretical imagination and practical action (or doing).
  7. Any affective or effective relationship between the three are decided upon or affirmed by the person considering that relationship.
  8. There are, within our experience of the world as we find it, good ways of doing things and bad ways of doing things, depending on what you want to achieve.
  9. Desire (which I use as a qualification of the word purpose or the desire for the realisation of a quality) drives philosophy, theory and praxis to take account of each other in discourse.
  10. The realisation of our desires causes us to produce social space so that every action we undertake reverberates through our environment and affects that environment.
  11. Therefore in the matter of design, development, making and maintenance a hugely important role is put aside for thinking about justice and justification. This role determines both the aesthetic and ethical considerations at the basis of our actions.
  12. Theories are built through philosophical discourse upon other theories, i.e. that there is no absolute ground for any theory that is accessible to us.
  13. The use of a theory as the source of a particular action is decided by the person taking a stand on an issue, but that he may be helped by measuring that theory against the logical consistency of that theory as part of a greater network of theories, against its correspondence to the experience of daily life as well as the experience of scientific and scholarly research, or against its explanatory power to alter experience of any sort.
  14. Philosophy is a discursive practice between philosophical questioning, theory and praxis. That such a philosophy does not evolve in a vacuum but through discourse: discussion, reading and thinking things through.
  15. A philosophy of considered action, of design and making, of technology, has to be a personal possession, a personal consideration of as to what is to be done, taking into account those things that are directly and indirectly relevant to his situation.
  16. Designers, developers and makers must seek out their responsibility in any situation either directly or indirectly relevant to them.
  17. That philosophy has three main branches, metaphysics, aesthetics and ethics; that these branches, which are easily accommodating enough to hold all the rest, have evolved from the questions that drive philosophy: What conditions need to be satisfied for something to be the case? What do we want? and How should be go about getting it?
At the end of the essay I shall present a compact and useful way, proposed by Aristotle, of practicing thought.  The other sections will elaborate and add to a number of the theses proposed above. My involvement with philosophy is very direct: it is part of my struggle with life and I want it to help me, right now. So one of the ways I get philosophy to help me is get me to measure my stand on certain issues. This essay, and the other pages making up this philosophy web-site are part of an ongoing project to think through a way of looking at the world, (metaphysics) a way of thinking about qualities (aesthetics) and a way of realising qualities (ethics).



Selected bibliography of other people's ideas as to what philosophy is....to them.

Alain Badiou, The Definition of Philosophy in: Infinite Thought, Truth and the Return to Philosophy, (2005)
Alistair Sinclair, What Is Philosophy?: An Introduction (2008)
Arthur Coleman Danto, What Philosophy is: Guide to the Elements (1971)
Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy (1912)
Charles Sanders Peirce, Principles of philosophy, In Vol. 1 of the Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce (1960)
Claude Lévi Strauss, Het Wilde Denken (1968)
Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, Qu'est-ce que la philosophie, (1994) transl. What is philosophy?
Jacques Maritain, An introduction to philosophy, (1930 transl. 2005)
Martin Heidegger, Was ist das - die Philosophie (1955) transl. What is Philosophy?
Pierre Hadot, Qu'est-ce que la philosophie antique? (1995) transl. What is Ancient Philosophy?
Robbert Veen, Filosofie als Gesprek, een inleiding in de systematische wijsbegeerte, (1994)
Thomas Nagel, What Does it All Mean?: A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy ( 2004)

Selected bibliography of different branches of philsophy: Phenomenology and Existentialism

Gordon Marino Basic Writings of Existentialism, ( 2004)
Hubert L. Dreyfus and Mark A. Wrathall, A Companion to Phenomenology and Existentialism (2009)
Hubert L. Dreyfus and Mark A. Wrathall, A Companion to Heidegger (2007)
John MacQuarrie, Existentialism, An Introduction, Guide and Assessment, (1972)
Maurice Merleau Ponty, Basic Writings (2004)
Maurice Merleau Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception (2002)
Shaun Gallagher and Dan Zaham, The Phenomenological Mind, An Introduction to Philsophy of Mind and Cognitive Science, (2008)
Simon Glendinning, In the name of Phenomenology, (2007)
Walther Kaufmann, Existentialism from Dostoyevsky to Sartre, Basic Writings of Existentialism, (1989 and other editions)
William D. Blattner, Heidegger's Being And Time: A Reader's Guide (Reader's Guides) by  (2007)
For the writings of Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger and Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and other notable phenomenologists and existentialists I recommend you build up your own bibliography

Selected bibliography of different branches of philsophy: Pragmatism/Pragmaticism

Charles S. Peirce: The Essential Writings (1998)
Charles Sanders Peirce, Selected Writings (1958)
John Dewey, How we Think (1910)
Louis Menand, ed., Pragmatism, A Reader, (1997)
Richard Rorty, The Consequences of Pragmatism, (1982)
William James : Writings 1902-1910 : The Varieties of Religious Experience / Pragmatism / A Pluralistic Universe / The Meaning of Truth / Some Problems of Philosophy / Essays (1988)
William James, Meaning of Truth (2004) (free digital edition)
William James, Pragmatism and Other Writings (Penguin Classics, 2000)

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