The origin of Philosophy began on January 1, 465 B.C.
This is not true, but it reflects a truism that goes back more than 2 millennium.
The word philosophy is a combination of two words which are rich in meaning. The word “Philos” means beloved and loving and the word “Sophia” means wisdom. Therefore, a person who pursues an interest in philosophical subject matter is literally a “lover of wisdom, or a lover of the truth.”
The ancient Greeks are known in antiquity as the founders of philosophy as an academic discipline.
The Greeks of the ancient world gave rise to rational inquiry or what became known as “the examined life” (Socrates); the Greek thinkers of yesteryear asked themselves questions such as: (1.) Who am I am? (2.) Where did I come from? (3.) Where am I going? (4.) Why is there life as opposed to no life? (5.) How can I get there?
Across the last 2 millennium, the discipline of philosophy has been manifested by three dominant schools of thought.
There is the classical school which is known as the “foundational discipline of inquiry” (Socrates, Plato and Aristotle). Secondly, there is the branch of philosophy known as “Analytic inquiry,” (Bertrand Russell) and finally, of somewhat recent vintage – in the middle of the 20th Century – there arose what was known as the “Existentialist school” (Albert Camus and Jean Paul-Sartre).
One might ask why knowledge of philosophy is so vitally important.
Glad that you asked… Smile!
The reason is somewhat self-evident. Our ability to exist as a nation or civilization depends upon our ability to nourish both our “minds” and our “spirits”; we must remain thinking people.
The discipline of philosophy or rational inquiry enables one to step back from his or her immediate surroundings and practice what psychologists call “self-awareness.”
Mankind unlike the animal kingdom has the ability to create separation or distance from his or her environment and evaluate his or her actions by “asking why” he or she does what she or he is doing.
We are not slaves to our appetites.
In the past, leisure time was a great asset to our cultural well-being because it afforded people a space to pause, reflect, and read classical literature that probed the nature of man in the nature of the human condition.
Do we still as a people believe in the efficacy of the great classical books? Do we still make time to read and re-read them?
Or, are we so absorbed with social media and entertainment that we are not refreshing our minds as well as our bodies?
Today, both Socrates – and on a Spiritual plane Moses and Jesus Christ – would be profoundly disappointed that we produce scores of successful businessmen, businesswoman and scientists, yet very few people know how to truly think and apply what they learn?
The genius of Western Civilization is that it recognized over the past 2 millennium that 5 historical cities were responsible for its birth, nurture, growth, development, and cultivation.
The contributions from each one of those cities enabled people to grow and live an examined life
The ancient city of Jerusalem (1440 B.C. and 4 B.C.) gave birth to what we call our Judeo-Christian heritage.
Athens, Greece gave birth to philosophy.
Rome, Italy of the first century gave rise to Republican forms of government;
London, England of the Middle Ages was the genesis of modern democracy (Magna Carta 1215 A.D.).
And Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1776) gave birth to a unique experiment in “ordered liberty” (The Declaration of Independence).
Each one of those cities sparked interest and creativity in the hearts and minds of people. Each one of these cities made an invaluable contribution to the Spiritual, Mental, and Physical development of the world as we know it today.
Ancient Jerusalem is responsible for both the Hebrew Scriptures (Genesis through Malachi) and the development of the Christian New Testament (Matthew through Revelation).
Our ancestors of the past spent countless hours reading the Bible and imbibing its truths.’
(Even deists such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson believed that an accurate reading of the truths of The Holy Bible along with classical study was indispensable for the maintenance of a healthy culture).
In the next few weeks, this journalist wishes to share a list of books to read and meditate upon from the “ancient canon” of literature from those 5 cities that can assist us with recapturing our wonderful heritage that we call Western Civilization.
Classical literature can assist with infusing our souls with mental resiliency and setting our hearts ablaze with a positive moral imagination (C.S. Lewis ?).
The problems that we face today in what some have dubbed “the Cultural War” are not so much a matter of political party identification, but a failure on our part to remember the roots of our heritage and to fight to preserve the things in life that sustain our culture and matter the most.