Observation 3

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To the question why the ancient Greeks had such important names in philosophy as, apparently, opposed to modern and contemporary names in it, I have given the following answer:

“To your question I can only answer like this: There is a fundamental difference in the way philosophy itself was perceived and understood by the Greeks and how it is nowadays understood and perceived. I believe this very difference can, to a certain extent, explain the big gap in important names of their time and ours. Philosophy was to the Greeks first and foremost a way of life that every boy had to embrace from a very early age. That means it actually stood for what is now widely considered to be the basis of education for the young. Moreover, philosophy was to be lived and even died accordingly, that is, philosophically. Their lives had to be, at least ideally, philosophical through and through, which meant, in simpler words, that every person engaged in philosophical life had to be for ever in the pursuit of the good itself, embodied by the truth itself shaped, if possible, in the splitting image of the beautiful itself, for the good could only be beautiful if truthful to the very characteristics that made it be what it purely was. So, the ancient Greeks’ view on philosophy was completely different from ours. In their case, we can actually talk of a philosophy of philosophy. Philosophy was not only a way of life that everyone who pursued a virtuous existence should go by, but it also was a means of life and a means by which the best of lives was to be lived. This is, undoubtedly, the philosophical life that unquestionably had to be ended in an equally philosophical death (see The Phaedo). The philosophical κοσμοθεωρία of the Greeks was essentially philosophical. Philosophy was eminently philosophical.

“Quite on the contrary, to the modern and contemporary us, philosophy is no longer purely philosophical. Modern and contemporary philosophy has lost its ancient eminently philosophical κοσμοθεωρία. In a way, we might say that today’s philosophy has been secularized in that ancient philosophy, for those who were successful in living it philosophically, was the true religion by means of which man could initially reach and finally attain genuine knowledge of the gods. I think there are three reasons for which philosophy has been thus degraded to an intrinsically un-philosophical way of life. Firstly, philosophy nowadays is an academic discourse. That means it is no longer directed to the masses. Secondly, philosophy is today a technical term that is to be used only by those who have acquired a technical knowledge of it. Thirdly, philosophy is a highly specialized (low-paid) job that is to be done in conformity with a fixed daily schedule. It is not a way of life anymore, but a way of living: it is now a way of making money, of financial earning, and ultimately of worldly profit. It is exactly what Socrates was complaining against and perhaps even fearing in the Republic of Plato. As is probably already obvious, all these three reasons why philosophy is no longer the way of life of the ancient Greeks have to do with its having become a thing of the elite. It is no longer for the masses, who, in ancient Greece, were encouraged to pursue it to the noblest end and ultimately live it most philosophically. Today it is strictly an elitist activity for a closed circle of academic persons. Today’s scholars of philosophy are only the social remnants of, and intellectual successors to, the Greek φιλο-σοφοι, whose philosophy constituted the basis of mass education in stark contrast to the modern and contemporary educational systems for which philosophy has been, only idealistically and theoretically so, at the top of human learning.”




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