Philosophy as Art

December 26, 2014

It seems to me that being a philosopher, I don’t mean academically but a pursuer of truth, should in a few ways be considered more like art than like science. One of those ways occurred to me today.

I was thinking about the fact that when we talk about the development of our personal belief systems, we come to know those developments as an art. Good philosophers, at least, are in the occupation not just of identifying singular problems and coming up with singular arguments, but of developing grand theoretical systems because their goal is a total reality-picture. It’s about fitting several insights throughout one’s life-experience into a whole. We speak of this the way artists’ work is spoken of–one’s philosophy is a lifelong “project”.

Now to speak and to regard one’s theories as an aesthetic enterprise is not to degrade philosophy as a sophistic thing where, in becoming excited with the system one is ‘creating’, one is thinking of it as representative of one’s unique taste or personality rather than an aspiration toward absolute truth. On the contrary, when a philosopher is sincerely trying to sharpen her perception of Reality while maintaining a sense of awe for it, the belief system she forms constitutes an object of contemplation and admiration just as a work of art. Thus, in sincerely undertaking the act of piecing together several scattered convictions to form a system we hope will in some way mirror the Truth of Reality, we fashion for ourselves a thing of beauty and remaining mystery and thereby draw close to Beauty.

This is significant to me because it reconciles the truth-beauty conflict that has arisen in my mind where I am not sure whether I am really after truth or whether I want to believe what is beautiful and experience it as such. Or which I really desire. But if one is really trying to understand the depths of truth and not just to affirm familiar and comforting beliefs, I think he creates a kind of artwork and so understands beauty at the same time.

From this view, I think there is something beautiful rather than lacking in the realization that there is no progress in philosophy, only participation.


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