What is philosophy

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Awkward haircuts. Boring voices. Seemingly endless long wordy paragraphs. Meaningless word games. Out of touch academics.

Welcome to philosophy. Or so you thought.

This leads us to the question for discussion today- what is philosophy?

Despite the stereotypes, the true meaning of philosophy has nothing to do with out of touch, socially awkward academics playing word games from their archaic offices. No.

Seneca speaks of no one having done more harm to society than fake philosophers.

“I think there is no one who has rendered worse service to the human race”, he says, “than those who have learned philosophy as a mercenary trade.”

Philosophy literally means love of wisdom. A love of sophia. A love of practical wisdom. In Proverbs 3:13-14, the possession of wisdom is spoken of as being true wealth. Worth more than gold or silver or precious treasures.

Plato’s symposium speaks of philosophy as a point in between ignorance and wisdom. A journey from point A to point B.

Attaining wisdom in ancient times meant achieving a sage status rarely reached. Like Socrates a sage was one who was content, mentally stable, joyful, grateful, not attached to circumstances outside of his control. In Eastern philosophy, Confucius also spoke of this sage status as something which he untiringly and unwearingly worked towards but should never presume.

For the rest of us, we are still on a journey. A journey together.

If we truly love wisdom what better way to show this than through right action. Practical wisdom. A practical focus. Real life processes. Not word games or pretentious paragraphs.

For many Ancient Philosophers, philosophy involved a process of self examination. Much like how Paul asks us to examine ourselves in 2 Corinthians 11.

Here’s Seneca again, “Be your own accuser, then judge, and finally defense attorney.”

This starting point of self examination involves acknowledging our own brokenness and faults.

Demonstrating this is an Epicurean principle quoted by Seneca, “The knowledge of our errors is the beginning of our salvation.” In the Bible to be saved you first need to recognise your own sin.

Epictetus adds, “The starting point of philosophy.. is our consciousness of our own weakness.”

In a similar fashion to setting a destination in Google maps or asking an Uber to take you somewhere you must know where you are at to begin with. Charting a course from the beach to the mountains when you are currently in the desert adds little value. If we know where we are at to start with we can then start to chart the way to our destination.

One building block. One right action at a time.

How does this tie into the Bible you might ask? Here are three main ways:

In the Book of Proverbs wisdom is highly prized and philosophy is a love of wisdom. Thus, true philosophy shapes day to day life and is not merely some intellectual game. Proverbs

8:35 says whoever finds wisdom finds life and obtains favour from the Lord. Proverbs 2:6 reads, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: thus reverence for God shapes the process of true philosophy. Recognising your own sin and examining yourself makes you realise your state of helplessness without God and pursue His wisdom.

Christ is the wisdom of God. In 1 Cor 1:24 Christ is described as the wisdom of God. Christ is the Logos on John 1:1 which links to an Ancient Greek and Stoic concept meaning Christ is the overarching order, true discourse and perfect reason. In the synoptic gospels in passages such as Luke 9:58 and Matthew 11:16-19, Christ uses allusions to the wisdom of God to describe Himself.

To recap. Philosophy is a love of wisdom. In the Bible, wisdom is to be highly prized, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and Christ is the wisdom of God. Thus philosophy is a path from ignorance to wisdom and if the Bible is true this ultimately bring us to Christ. Philosophy thus shapes day to day actions. It is inextricably linked to truth but has outward consequences.

This my friends is true philosophy. A journey. A practical struggle. A love of Christ.

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