Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Philosophical Act: Part I

So now you may ask (as I did...) what does the philosophical act have to do with leisure?

Basically, doing philosophy is leisure's great good or expression. We are most human, when we are philosophizing. If you think about it, this makes sense. What distinguishes humans from all God's other creatures? Animals eat, reproduce, etc. But only humans can ponder and ask, "What is the meaning of life?" We recognize that there is a reality beyond the visible. Further, happiness does not consist in having all my material needs met. (Hence all the rich, unhappy people.) It is when I understand something about myself or the world, that is when I am most satisfied. When what I see everyday is transcended. This transcendence is not an escape from the world but rather, a deeper look (remember that "intellectual vision") into reality. What I can perceive invisibly is more real sometimes, than that tangible item I can hold in my hand.

Father Luigi Giussani's father recognized this need for (true) humanity and would sometimes spend the family's money on hiring a musician to play for his family instead of purchasing food for dinner.

The philosophical act is a disturbance that "knocks" us out of the world of work much like a genuine poem, or a musical experience, or prayer does--it transcends. Thomas Aquinas said that "the Philosopher is akin to the Poet in this, that both are concerned with the "wondrous." Remove this connection with "wonder" and the world becomes a place where "religion is not allowed to grow, where the arts can find no place, where philosophy can not survive."

Philosophy is most pure, and most free, when it is untouched by anything practical. To tie philosophy in with the practical is to give it an agenda, to bind it to an intention to change things, to serve (and thus be slave) to some purpose. But philosophy done right, for its own sake, is where the soul is free to maintain a completely receptive gaze on reality. The realization of this is connected with the presupposition that the world is something "other than a mere field, the mere raw material, of human activity." The world then is something "worthy of reverence, and ultimately, is creation in the strictest sense. (The world is created, by a Creator, and expresses creativity.) This is the essence of philosophy!

True philosophy is founded upon the belief that the real riches of man lie not the "satisfaction of his necessities" but rather having the capacity to understand the totality of existence, of the world. Ancient philosophy says it this way, that "this is the utmost fulfillment to which we can attain: that the whole order of real things be registered in our soul." The conception was consumed in the Christian tradition of the beatific vision as St. Gregory the Great said, "What do they not see, who look upon Him, Who sees all?"

To be continued...


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