What does it mean to be a Philosopher?

old_philosopherThey are always being accused by the establishment as the under-miners of the system! They are mockingly referred to as either the fool on the hill or the solitary hermit in the forest, the madmen, the cave-men, the lone voices in the wilderness, the reclusive fellow in the urban jungle, the poet without a pen, the writers without papers, the thinkers without followers, the warriors without the sword, the soldier without the cavalry, rebel without a cause, hopeless romantic freaks, the darling of the starving masses! Are the accusations justified? In a sense, yes; however in another much larger sense, the labels are not only misplaced but totally devoid of merit.

The existence of the philosopher is a necessary element in any given society. The very existence of them would undeniably reveal the extent of the depth and breadth of the said community. Show me a society that has no philosophers, thinkers, poets, artists, etc. and I will tell you that that society is either a dysfunctional entity disengaged in only worthy mental activity or worst a dead community that can be likened to a large-scale cemetery.

But what precisely is a philosopher?

According to Simon Critchley, the freedom of the philosopher consists in either moving freely from topic to topic or simply spending years returning to the same topic out of perplexity, fascination and curiosity.

It is my contention that philosophers are the critic and conscience of the community and the world in general.

They are the critic in the sense that they tend to show to the people and to their society the weaknesses of its collective characters and moral ills.

As correctly noted by Simon Critchley, “the philosopher shows no respect for rank and inherited privilege and is unaware of anyone’s high or low birth”. Hence, it follows that they are anti-royalty, anti-monarchy, anti-sexism, anti-racism, against all kinds of privileges, and against all forms or shades of the inhumanity of man by man.

Philosophers are humanists. They do not care about the color of a man, his economic status, their religious creed, ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, height, weight and/or physical features. They consider all of these labels as mere historical accidents and accidental qualities. They view man for what he is, as a whole; not simply by his external form; but primordially by his inner substance. They are guided and bound by Reason! They evaluate and judge man solely on the content of his character, the nobility of his spirits, the warmness and independence of his mind, and the goodness of his heart; not by invoking some preposterous and ridiculous categories.

They are the light and the conscience of the community. They serve as the guiding post to show to the people the right way to live, not simply to exist.

They serve as the light of the community by telling society “that the emperor has no clothes”, that “the most important thing in life is not material possessions, but rather the cultivation of the soul”, that what does “a man to gain if he would have the whole world yet he will lose his soul?” and that the ultimate meaning of human life and existence is love! It is in this irrefutable sense that philosophers are the conscience of the world.

Their inherent duty is not merely to admonish people how to live, but undeniably to teach and guide the people how to live good, happy and virtuous lives.

For my last point, I admit with all honesty that exercising self-knowledge and developing critical thinking through constant reflection is not only a noble task, but also a ‘dangerous’ occupation! Why, history has shown us repeatedly that, it is always those critical men and women through-out the ages who uses their thinking for the benefit of mankind, who stood and fought for the general interest of Humanity to change the world!

Who are the philosophers?

To settle the score and to register the main point, so to speak, let me state that:

They are the “crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, trouble-makers, the round pegs in a square wholes, the ones who see things differently. They are not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them, because they changed things. They pushed the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones — we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change THE WORLD — are the Ones Who Do”. (Quoted from YouTube, Think Different)

[Photo courtesy DeviantArt.]
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About Jose Mario de Vega

The writer has a Master's degree in Philosophy, a law degree and a degree in AB Political Science. He was previously teaching Philosophy, Ethics and Anthropology at an institution of higher education in the Nilai University College at Nilai, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia. He is currently a lecturer at the College of Arts, Department of Philosophy at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. As of the moment, he is preparing to publish his first book entitled "Dissidente". It is a collection of his articles, commentaries and op-ed published by various newspapers in Southeast Asia.

29 Comments on “What does it mean to be a Philosopher?”

  1. I beg to disagree that on the point that philosophers are (purely)humanists. I well know people who are philosophers that are very much against the major tenets of Humanism and Atheism (see Dr.William Lane Craig)and I like it!

    The article overall explains well the need of an intellectual “elite” in any given society and philosophers are necessary as opposed to the usual critique of some to the superfluity of Philosophy and philosophers in general.

    1. @BlueStreak

      I don’t know about you, but I am a revolutionary philosopher! A revolutionary politician of the proletariat!

      I don’t belong to those so-called “elite”; I am the darling of the masses, the tribune of the people and the defender of the working class!

    2. Somebody that claims to be a philosopher but against the “tenets” of Atheism cannot truly be considered a philosopher. At best a philosopher should be Agnostic..Unless you don’t really know what the meaning and purpose of philosophy is. Just because someone calls themselves a philosopher or has the formal education to wave about…doesn’t mean they are philosophical.

    3. Somebody that claims to be a philosopher but against the “tenets” of Atheism cannot truly be considered a philosopher. At best a philosopher should be Agnostic..Unless you don’t really know what the meaning and purpose of philosophy is. Just because someone calls themselves a philosopher or has the formal education to wave about…doesn’t mean they are philosophical. True philosophy follows logic. Logic does not lead to a belief in a diety. It leaves it open..You are all full of sh!t

  2. ‘I drink, therefore i am’

    We are all philosophers, ( or should be), and some of the most insightful are found in bars – usually late at night!

    Whatever direction or school of thought, the importance of philosophy is to free the mind, raise the level of discourse, and instil the principle of ethics.

      1. Haha

        Toilet graffitti
        Politicians are like toilets – either vacant or full of sh!t

        I live in hope – but sleep on the streets

  3. Philosophy has been reduced to virtually nonsense rhetoric. 9 out of 10 students in America with a degree in Philosophy are unemployed and owing $40K in student loans. Philosophy is facing extinction.

    1. Philosophy also involves analytical thought and an appreciation of facts – of which you clearly lack. Did you go to university, for any subject!

      10% of philosophy students are unemployed for 6 months after degree. (1 in 10)

      13% – architects

      8% – computer science

      7% – business

      Georgetown national review – 2012

      1. Funny you should mention those stats. Back in ’86 I took up architecture at UP. The prospects right out of college were pretty good. Until Cory’s mishandling of the economy tanked a lot of real estate and construction projects. A lot of my classmates, including myself, ended up switching careers. Mostly IT related. The others worked abroad and/or immigrated.

        Funnily enough, I ended up working with a lot of Philosopy grads in IT.

        1. I took PPE – Politics, philosophy, economics at Oxford, then MBA, and also ended up in IT. never did me any harm. quite the opposite.

  4. Just imagine if heads of state would just sit down together to take a collective sh!t like the Romans used to back in the days of the empire’s public toilets. I guarantee many an issue would be resolved before lunch with some very creative thinking 😉

    1. Correct Monk! They are the likes of Hitler, Stalin, etc.

      They are the inhumane and barbaric ‘philosopher’.

      The other ‘philosophers’ that are not humanists are the nihilists, the apathetic freaks, the cynical skeptics and all the selfish bastards!

      To which ‘camp(s)’ do you belong?

        1. @Greg Radke

          Yes, they are politicians, however, their politics was also governed by their ideology and philosophy!

          Hitler’s ‘philosophy’ is in his Meim Kamft; while S

        2. … while Stalin, according to him believes in Marxism, which in my view — he falsified and bastardized!

      1. A philosopher is a person who studies philosophy and aspires to wisdom. You seem to be confusing philosophy with sophistry.

  5. ‘Preposterous and ridiculous categories.’ Hmmm. Mr. de Vega, I must say that if nothing else, my mind was piqued by this phrase. If you don’t mind me asking, what are these ‘preposterous and ridiculous categories’?

    1. Another thing that I shall add here, though it be but a minor one — it is possible to be a philosopher without being a humanist, while disbelieving in humanism, in giving every person his day in the sun.

      1. Its possible, but what kind of philosopher that person would be? An inhuman ‘philosopher’? A heartless freak? A bloody selfish bastard?

        I am a revolutionary philosopher in the tradition of Socrates, Voltaire, Paine, Rousseau and Marx!

        You, what kind of ‘philosopher’ are you? To which kind or type or school of tradition do you belong?

  6. How can really understand our real existence? is much more among the inborn realist, journalist, and communicator if we do not use our conscience as they altogether a law for the societies.

    Its the studies you may justfied in your own word’s entirely we believed is the inclusion “task” after all we can do.Because we admire this challenge in our personality [when we know of ourselves , we somehow have the best of others] man-about-coincidence we are made right because not that we can prove what God had taught us.

    For example, “communication” is the controversial argument thus have our lives that can go better or worse and moreover, it ethically. Similarly, the view to speculate human being carefully “ease east percipi” were there is no reason to be the basis of our decisions convince all of the difference s of our opinion.

    Therefore, our arbitrary concept that is against of the reality to determine our knowledge. Your perception what does it mean between the mind acquiring the being he (or she) is our sense of itself. As we understand they seek the awareness of the philosophical substance is always limited.We base of the world of who you? and not in particular to respect the object to the contemporary inferences our self-perpetuated.

    We are the same person that we are conscious of the past and although it is our equality 17th century French philosopher Descartes the present is true but no longer appropriate.The “I” that we experience our self image bring us the universality the discrimination of our relevant to reassert our inalienable rights or our aspiration the priority to afford our exceptions.

    Despite this matter its through our “intention” that each individual perceive the status may gain in our social lives over the years of time.We can understand another clearly of themselves though we sometimes to have their honesty & attention.

    Our Spiritual Growth knowing ourselves arguably is a thinker our philosophy calls or some action they were the happy people.

    We aim what did we practice the unbearable cultural differences “Diss me , and you die” to regain our wisdom we invoke the essence of morality.We might speak the term respect is “respicere” for that kind of response (Cranor 1975) is worthy “respekt” are not our Darwall’s and Hudson term in their own right.

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