The meaning of the word philosophy comes from philo- meaning to love and sophos- meaning knowledge. The literal translation is thus a lover of knowledge.
During the age of Classical Greece, between 700-300 BCE, philosophy was regarded as a fundamental piece of education. At that time, the study involved everything from geometry to writing and dialectic. The reason being because the lover of knowledge tended also to be a person of cultivated judgement and action.
Later, philosophy became about how to live ones life well. Many schools arose to this end all providing theories about the best way to conduct oneself. These ranged from the stoics, skeptics, cynics and others all teaching the different ways to approach the issue of being. The schools were aimed at action; to think about these ideas was one thing but to put them into action was another.
Today, philosophy is all but forgotten, as if it were just another piece of ancient history, as if humans have transcended its necessity. Colleges will teach it as a major, as a subset of history and something that can be used only to teach once again. But philosophy is grounded in action and this fact has been lost to us, and it is needed now more than ever.
When did philosophy cease to be a core tenet of being human? The answer can be articulated no other way than by Nietzsche who stated that God is dead.
What Nietzsche meant by the death of God was the loss of an ideal to strive toward, courtesy of science and industry. Symbolically, it means that humans began to question the arbitrary nature of existence. Humans realized that our fate is in our own hands.
In other words, humans have to create meaning because inherent meaning dies with God, or if you prefer, with the atom bomb. The immediate reaction is, “how nihilistic!”, but it is not nihilistic, it is a declaration of freedom. Simultaneously it is a challenge to create said meaning, to prevent the atom bomb from going off.
The freedom to philosophize through action; the human condition can be transcended by living better than yesterday’s human. The requirement is to pose the question, but also to follow through with its answer. The unfortunate reality is that society has stopped short of posing the question…
Life has become easy for modern society, modern medicine pushes the clock and social media hypnotizes the mind into “productivity”. The result is idleness and sophophobia, where people cannot handle the truth when the truth is that we are wrong, and we have been for a long time.
Therefore, what does it mean to philosophize? How does a person philosophize?
To philosophize is to rekindle the relationship with all the things that are not understood. Modern society provides a veil which inadvertently shields people from the unknown, but the unknown is where the fun is. Each person can philosophize but none can be the philosopher, because the philosopher is the ideal, and all ideals must be questioned!
To philosophize is to refuse to take anything for granted and to appreciate the long road that has been traveled to get to the present. Time has been long, history is rich and teeming with mystery and lessons! Social media has blinded the modern human to the existence of history at all; the visibility of everything manifests as an illusion of triviality.
To philosophize is to be better than yesterday, tangibly and with healthy amounts of skepticism. The truth is that being a human with a mind does not imply mastery, certainly some have mastered their mind, but the reality is that the mind does not come with a manual. Each action should be assessed for its value to the whole of existence, not only for the individual, because that was yesterday.
To philosophize is to learn, apply that learning, then question that learning, and repeat. Today there exists more scientific knowledge, historical analyses, and DIY projects than have ever existed in history. There is no shortage of things to learn and ideas to question or perspectives to counter, all in the pursuit of being better.
To philosophize is to work hard toward the goals that will propel society forward, without the desire to be recognized and given a pat on the back. The better human is invisible to praise and recognition, the contribution toward something greater is reward enough.
In this way that one philosophizes and grounds life in actions that reflect principles aimed toward progress and truth. All the while questioning whether ones actions are correct, and always modifying them with the underlying presupposition that there is a better way.
It is easy to put off the effort, to shake the responsibility for just one more day. But then an issue develops clearer than the Milky Way on a moonless night. One wakes up, and cannot claim to be any better than yesterday. The work is in the individual, and the barometer is in the life.
Then perhaps when we have finished dying and our feet are polished, the people who are still dying can look to our philosophizing, and tell us that we did it wrong.