They 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?
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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, â€œthe philosopher shows no respect for rank and inherited privilege and is unaware of anyoneâ€™s high or low birthâ€. 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 â€œthat the emperor has no clothesâ€, that â€œthe most important thing in life is not material possessions, but rather the cultivation of the soulâ€, that what does â€œa man to gain if he would have the whole world yet he will lose his soul?â€ 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 â€˜dangerousâ€™ 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 â€œcrazy 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 canâ€™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 Doâ€. (Quoted from YouTube, Think Different)
[Photo courtesy DeviantArt.]
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.