Lost in the Process

In a previous post on the challenge of communicating ideals, we noted that:

It is counter-intuitive for someone in the midst of their philosophical journey to turn to others and say “You see how much I have gained? You see the skills I have developed and the rewards those skills have brought me? You see how satisfied I am in my pursuit of philosophy?”
Instead the philosopher is intent on the horizon, on the limits of his understanding. It is hard for someone always focusing on his limits to start telling others about his strengths.

This is what we might call being lost in the process, except that ‘lost’ conveys a negative impression, and ‘process’ a far too neutral one. It would be much better to say that what began as a minor interest or limited pursuit with clear motives or distinct goals will, given sufficient time and attention, become ingrained in your life without clear limits, motives, or goals. Years later, you may have forgotten why you started; you may have no idea why you continue; you don’t know where it will end.

But if you turn your mind to it, you might find the right perspective once you put aside the usual justifications or utilitarian rationalisations. I realised, for example, that I could not to my own satisfaction communicate the value of philosophy under the guise of a ‘search for answers’, since it appears that one’s readiness to proclaim answers diminishes in proportion to the duration of one’s search. Nor could I defend philosophy as a means of developing one’s critical capacity, since this would imply I had some other important field of work for which philosophy was merely preparatory.

To be honest, the most appreciable value of philosophy is that it has become for me a source of deep and unparalleled enjoyment. The search for answers is part of it, as is critical thinking, imagination, history, insight, perspective, struggle, and accomplishment. In short, it is an adventure, one more thrilling than any work of fiction and more real than the superficialities of daily life. It costs next-to-nothing in financial terms, nor can it be purchased and enjoyed except through the serious commitment of one’s own time and intellectual resources.

It may be a little hyperbolic, but the next time someone asks me why I study philosophy I can tell them sincerely: it’s an adventure; I love it.


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