What consolation of philosphy?
“Critchley leafs through the pages of his register and concludes, as did Montaigne, that the consolation of philosophy is ‘the stillness of the soul’s dialogue with itself. … It is the achievment of a calm that accompanies existing in the present without forethought or regret. I know of no other immortality.’ … Nor do I.”
-Lewis H. Lapham, writing on Simon Critchley’s The Book of Dead Philosophers in Harper’s, May 2009.
“Cioran’s quarrel with Christianity is not that it is false but that it attempts to cancel the fear of death by the ‘abstract construct’ of salvation. … Still, he admired Christian religion for at least recognizing the abyss. Much worse is philosophy, which is, he wrote, ‘the art of masking inner torment.’ Death is particular to each of us, and the philosophers are wrong when they think that anyone can teach someone else how to die.”
-Joseph Bottum, writing on E.M. Cioran in First Things, May 2009.
I don’t want to get anyone down, but I’ve been thinking about death. And also thinking about thinking about death. I don’t have much to offer here. Just that in ripping these two quotes way out of context, I think we’ve got one possible prescriptive definition of philosophy (and maybe art, too) in the first and a nice descriptive definition in the second. In other words, the first quote explains pretty well what I’m looking for I spend so much of my time reading philosophy and theology and history, and the second quote explains what I suspect I’m finding.
I’m pretty happy right now, thoughts-about-death and everything. I ate a great burrito and drove along a country rode with the windows down. But I’m not sure how to blog about this without sounding like an a gibbering fool. I hope I haven’t wasted too much of your time on this.
Discussion question: how do you feel about lives spent in the pursuit of philosophy? Worthwhile? Solipsistic? A right way to do it and a wrong way to do it?