Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Philosophical Act: Part III

It should be noted that it is not by ignoring man's "environment" that he enters into the totality of being or "world." It is the visible world "the one before our very eyes which we touch with our hands" that the philosopher gazes upon. The philosopher is concerned with the ultimate, what things are in the last analysis.

The philosopher does not ask, "Am I happy?," but "What is happiness?"

Philosophy can not be "done" without the things of the everyday world. (This is what distinguishes a philosopher from say, a madman...who Chesterton once quipped, "has lost everything BUT his reason.") This, for the Christian, makes sense in the analogy that Christ does not save us despite our humanity, but through it.

To philosophize then is not to remove oneself from the things of the world but to to transcend it, to see things in a new light. Not with the agenda to "change" things (this would transform philosophy into a servile "serve" a purpose) but to see the deeper reality.

Philosophy begins then, in an experience of wonder. "The ability to experience wonder is one of the highest possibilities of human nature." Thomas Aquinas believed that wonder is the first step on the path that leads to the beatific vision. Wonder is not just the first phase of philosophy but its ever abiding principle. In the way that a person you are getting to know becomes more and more don't lose that sense of wonder about the person, but even as you get to know more about them, the more there is to learn. As the old saying goes, "The more you know, the more you don't know." It's a paradox and it is connected to the sense of mystery. Aristotle went further and said that along with wonder is joy and as we often say in my Communion and Liberation circles, "the only joy is to begin again." Pieper says, "the joy of one who is astounded is the joy of a soul that is beginning something, of a soul that is always ready and alert for something new, for something unheard of."

Also, there is a hopefulness in wonder. Philosophers are never done with their work (unless they are dead in Heaven enjoying the beatific vision) as Pascal wrote, "we are not, but we hope to be." The structure of hope built into wonder shows how much it is a part of our human nature. Only humans can hope, wonder, philosophize. Neither God nor the animals, but only humans experience wonder.

The word philosopher means "lover of wisdom." According to Plato, only God is wise. The best a man can do is be a lover of wisdom. This is what makes philosophy so noble and so free. The knowledge to which philosophy aspires is never attainable.

Pieper says that "philsophy is shown to be something completely human and indeed, in a certain sense, as the fulfillment of human existence itself."

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