The pursuit of wisdom

Photo by Nicole Corcoran

In our age of transferable skills, enterprise of the self and self-branding, philosophy has been relegated to an academic role. People read philosophy, study philosophy but rarely practice philosophy.

Philosophy means love of wisdom, not the study of wisdom. Unlike other disciplines like psychology or sociology, whose stem includes the word logos, which means reason or study, the origin of the word philosophy derives from philia which is a form of love, attraction, or fondness. Thus, although philosophy is associated with reason and study, it should be considered as a form of love, which is an emotion or drive.

And just like any other form of love, philosophy is therefore a pursuit.

Those who love, are in pursuit of the object of their desires, hence philosophy is the pursuit of sophia, wisdom.

Philosophy is not about studying but about pursuing. It is a pursuit of meaning, a pursuit of happiness, a pursuit of the good, a pursuit of beauty and a pursuit of the truth. Doing philosophy is about contemplation (theôria), reflection and prudence (phronesis) and practicing that which one has contemplated (praxis). Thus, philosophy is a lived experience, an intellectual endeavour, and a way of experiencing the world.

The study of philosophy is not about reading, learning, and remembering, but about reading, questioning, debating, and more crucially, contemplating. To philosophise, is the ability to contemplate on things, endeavouring towards good judgment and then acting upon it. Doing philosophy is about acting upon and practice what one has contemplated.

The pursuit of wisdom is an act in itself.

In a society dominated by speed, efficiency, and key performance indicators, to philosophise is an act of defiance. Pursuing wisdom is slow, inefficient with nothing to show for it, making it the antithesis to the breakneck carelessness of our political and social leaders worldwide.

This blog is a reflection by Francois Zammit in reaction to the research project ‘Simone Weil: Performance as Nothingness’ conducted by Tyrone Grima, Senior Lecturer at the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology.