We are all philosophers

None of us has a choice in the matter: we are all philosophers. Each of us, whether we admit it or not, have formed beliefs about God, our world, and the self. As rational animals (as Aristotle would put it), we can’t help but think and form convictions about the world around us. We’ve found our loves too—things we are passionate about, things that move us—and these form us as well. Since we have no choice in whether or not we are a philosopher, the only question is: will we be a good or bad philosopher?

All this begs a question: What is a philosopher? Or better, what is a good philosopher? Is it someone who is smart? Is it someone who follows the latest metaphysical fads (those published in philosophy journals like Nous and Mind)? Is it someone how can construct 100 line arguments utilizing the apparatus of contemporary logic plus identity (such as Alvin Plantinga does in The Nature of Necessity)?

Surely it helps to be smart—especially if one aspires to be a professional philosopher (that is, to make a living by teaching and writing philosophy). But there is a more fundamental vision of what a philosopher is that is more relevant to each of us (and not just the select few who have a PhD in philosophy).

C.S. Lewis helps to get us going in the right direction. In his spiritual autobiography Surprised by Joy, Lewis tells of a discussion he was in with Owen Barfield and Bede Griffiths:

Once, when he [Griffiths] and Barfield were lunching in my room, I happened to refer to philosophy as “a subject.” “It wasn’t a subject to Plato,” said Barfield, “it was a way.”[1]

That’s exactly right. The philosopher, for Plato, was the lover of wisdom (and not just part of wisdom, but the whole of it—see Plato’s Republic, 472e). We often (as I do when I teach an introductory class in philosophy) talk about the etymology of the word ‘philosophy’: from ‘philo’= love & ‘sophia’= wisdom; so philosophy is the “love of wisdom.” This is a good start. But, for Plato, it is better to say (and this sounds scandalous) that he was a lover of wisdom, or wisdom’s lover. Wisdom moved him—he sought it with all of his being; he toiled to get it; and he followed the lonely path to find it, realizing it was worth the effort.

And Plato was right—finding wisdom, being moved by wisdom is worth it—being rightly related to reality (both with head and heart) is not easy to come by—but it is the only way we will find true wholeness and happiness.

But here is the interesting part: in Christianity, wisdom is the seeker and we are the sought, wisdom is the lover who pursues YOU. For, it is in Christ “in whom are hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:3).

Think about it—and then, as Plato would say, turn your soul to the source of wisdom (see the Republic, 518d—for Plato it was a turning to “The Good”, I say—a turning to God) and allow the one who is both wise and loving; the seeker and the source of your seeking, to find you.

Here is a nice little video on the nature of philosophy:






[1]  C.S. Lewis Surprised By Joy (New York: Harvest Books, 1955), 225.

2 Responses to We are all philosophers

  1. Pingback: We Are All Philosphers by Paul Gould « Ratio Christi-At The Ohio State University

  2. Pingback: The Gadfly and the Unexamined Life | Paul Gould

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