Catching the Spirit of Philosophy

Philosophy is unlike any discipline I ever studied in school. The word philosophy (from Greek: phileo, meaning “love,” and sophia, meaning “wisdom”) means the love of wisdom. My first philosophy teachers in college introduced me to the ancient Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. From these three great founders of Western intellectual thought I caught what I call the spirit of philosophy.

137420111While philosophy has gone in many diverse and even contradictory directions over the last 2,500 years, the spirit of ancient Greek philosophy endures. It has remained with me as a fresh resource in living out my life. I concur with Socrates’ famous injunction: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Philosophy at its best demands a critical spirit of inquiry from its adherents.

Allow me to sketch out the three features of the philosophical enterprise that I find deeply challenging and yet also greatly beneficial.

Three Features of Philosophy

First, when people pursue a philosophical approach to living their life becomes an exciting journey in constant pursuit of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Life is then about asking and seeking answers to the big and challenging questions of human existence. This intellectual expedition can be very difficult at times, but it also can provide meaning, purpose, and direction.

Second, seeking after wisdom involves the use of human reasoning. Thus, a philosophical life calls on people to think, reflect, and contemplate. Simply put, philosophy is about thinking carefully and critically about life’s most important issues. Developing the life of the mind is crucial. Understanding and utilizing the laws of logic and rational inference is a necessity.

Lastly, philosophy’s reward is rich and enduring both for individuals and society. The process of philosophy itself can produce a “good life” (a moral education) within a person. And, of course, diligent philosophical pursuers may encounter the great treasures of truth, goodness, and beauty, which they then may choose to share with others.

So while the philosophical task isn’t easy, it is noble. The financial rewards are few but who could put a price tag on a good life?

As a Christian philosopher I have come to view philosophy as the ancient and Medieval Christian thinkers did: as a handmaid to theology. And as a Christian apologist I’m thankful for the tools that philosophy provides to help demonstrate the reasonableness and truth of my faith.

For those who would like to consider taking the noble philosophical journey, here are three introductory resources:

  One thought on “Catching the Spirit of Philosophy

  1. September 16, 2014 at 6:34 am

    Good history! Ilike it too?

  2. September 16, 2014 at 10:23 am

    Thank you, Kassim.

  3. Ernest L Stephens
    March 12, 2017 at 7:29 am

    My first thought from your description is Philosophy falls in the realm of General Revelation except for the word Christian.

    My brother ,sister-in-law & I are traveling to the LA area from Yakima, WA. He is doing a business delivery for Amazon. Leaving this morning.. 4/12

    • March 12, 2017 at 10:20 am

      All the best, Ernest.

      Ken Samples

  4. March 2, 2018 at 4:34 pm

    God is our logical lawgiver. He is also the only infinite being. He is a necessary being because everything is finite and has potential to not be. So, there must be a being who is pure actualization. Philosophy and especially medieval metaphysics are concerned with the study of such things. It has made my own beliefs more secure and trustworthy. The only reason anyone should believe any belief system is because it is true. Philosophy gives us the tools to help verify what is true. Good article, Ken!

    • March 2, 2018 at 4:41 pm

      Thanks, Dave.

      Ken Samples

  5. J J Millhouse
    December 6, 2020 at 11:26 am

    When I started my studies for the Permanent Diaconate in the Seminary one of my classes, before theology, was philosophy. I was afraid, as I had never studied any philosophy.
    A visiting Deacon asked how I was doing. I told him of my fear. He taught philosophy in the State where he resided and told me a good way to start into philosophy was to read a novel about the history of philosophy…”Sophie’s World”. It made philosophy more friendly for beginners to understand.
    He was correct. I highly recommend this little book.

    • December 6, 2020 at 4:05 pm

      Thanks, JJ.

      Ken Samples

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