The consolations and pleasures of philosophy

The ongoing COVID-1 9 crisis has been a struggle for everyone, and some more than others. It has been a heartbreak for those who have lost loved ones, a fear for those who have lost tasks, and a great struggle for those who must suddenly take care of their children full-time while simultaneously trying to do their full-time jobs as well.

I am lucky not to have fallen into any of these three disturbed categories- yet, at least. But I have noticed how difficult these meters ought to have even for others who share my relatively lucky point- simply because everything is cancelled. We were not able to have defendants. We were not able to go out to eat. We may not go to the movies. We may not wander , not without severe quarantine regulations. We may not represent athletics; we may not even watch sports. We were not able to watch, or frisk, live music. Most of our social interactions must be through a medium where we cannot tell whether others are looking at us or at something else on their screen. Even as we recognize others’ impediments are considerably greater, this is all still a major loss of the things we cherish.

Overall, though, I would say these ages has not been able to hit me as hard as they have many other friends in a same situation. And one of the biggest reasons for that is- logic itself. “Theres something” relatively valuable about the activity of philosophy in these difficult times, and this in at least two ways.

First, doctrine often reminds us to make loss of external goods, of the sorting we face in these times, in stride. 20 th-century academic doctrine( both analytic and “continental”) has tended to neglect this line-up of logic, but as Pierre Hadot memo, it still survives in everyday English or French in faces like” being philosophical about it “. It is for this reason that Boethius, the last great philosopher of the Western classical age, entitled his major work The Consolation of Philosophy. Boethius needed consoling if anyone did: once one of the most senior officials in the remains of the now-conquered Roman Empire, he fell out of favour, was accused of treason, and wasted the last year of his life in prison before being implemented. And it was during that time that he wrote The Consolation.

While Boethius was a proselytized Christian, Christianity meets little illusion in this book; it is monotheistic, but with no reference to Jesus. Rather, Boethius gleans his consolation from philosophy proper, which he symbolizes as the status of women, Philosophia( the Latin, grammatically feminine, oath for logic ). Like Marcus Aurelius a few cases centuries before him, Boethius takes the lessons of philosophia to be approximately those of Stoicism. Philosophia tells him that what is most valuable in life is not the decorates and riches “hes lost” but his own virtue and wisdom, which has not been take off him. These are the source of true delight, even true good fortune( felicitas ). With this lesson in head, the honourable Boethius is able to remain happy and consider himself blest, even in his prison cell facing executing.( Buddhism is not Stoicism, but I would reason its tasks are closely interrelated; my dissertation, especially its seventh section, discussed at length how Santideva shares the Stoic’s abandonment of” external goods “. The bodhisattva can remain fortunate and allay even when on fire .)

There is a second reason I help find doctrine valuable in these times, as well, and this is one in which 20 th-century academic thinking can be as good as any other. Here philosophy furnishes not merely succour but desire. That is, there is a significant pleasure in the act of theoretical contemplation itself, in the process of discovering substantial truths. There is a reason philosophy is called the love of wisdom , not simply the possession of it. For this reason Aristotle thought that the gods, who did not need to worry about human concerns like health and fatality, lived their own lives characterized primarily by thought. Near the end of the Nicomachean Ethics he was of the view that the contemplative life was therefore the most perfect form of prospering.

But we do not have to reach the realms of the gods to partake of philosophy’s exhilarations. David Hume, more modestly, equated the solaces of philosophy to the pleases of hunting. He proclaims that” tho’ in both cases the end of our war may in itself be despis’d, yet in the hot of specific actions we acquire such an attention to this end, that we are very uneasy under any letdowns, and are sorry when we either miss our play, or fall into any correct in our deduce .” Each undertaking has a goal, an demise, that it aims. More still that mission” stimulates no real fascination, but is only requisite to support the imagination; and the same person, who over-looks a ten times larger profit in any other subject, is pleas’d to bring home half a dozen woodcocks or plovers, after having employ’d several hours in hunting after them .” The end matters, but the hilarity is not in that end but in the quest for it. Similarly he equates philosophy to gamble: in all these cases we have an end that we endeavour( the game to eat, the wagered goods, the truth) and we are frustrated if we do not reach it, and hitherto there remains a joy in the activity itself, one that does not come from simply being passed the flesh, passed the triumphs, or told the conclusions.

In the case of philosophy- and not of hunting- this joyfulnes is easily attainable even without leaving one’s home. In earlier times, one might still have faced the difficulty of restricted access to diaries, to the wisdom of the past. But engineering merrily fastens this problem: if you are able to read this, then most of the major works constituted before the early 20 th century are readily available to you for free online. And so one thing that these dark meters will not take away is the joy of philosophical pursuing. Nor do they take away the philosophical consolation that comes from directing our attentions away from external goods and their losses. These joys and consolations have been a tremendous blessing for me in these dark seasons. May they is very much for you as well.

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Written by WHS


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