Written by Catherine Yanko
(uploaded by Hannah Bruckner)
(uploaded by Hannah Bruckner)
Last semester, I found myself in love. I never saw it coming, but it awakened all of my senses. Philosophy, that is the love of wisdom, has captivated me so much so that I can say it is analogous to love. The diversity of opinions about this science stretch far and wide, but what makes this discipline nobler than others? I would argue that the measure of nobility of this science is the degree of acquiring the object of pursuit: wisdom. Wisdom can be defined as, “an attempt to capture all that is good”. Initially, success at acquiring such a lofty object as wisdom seems to be impossible. But, one should note that wisdom is an attempt at capturing the good. The courage to make this attempt is what man needs to conjure within himself. In my opinion, the only way a philosopher can be successful, then, is by having a lover’s heart.
To operate with a lover’s heart is not something that is necessarily natural. It is not always our first instinct to perceive another in need of aid and desire to sacrifice for them. Rather, operating with a lover’s heart is a discipline that one fosters in daily life. To have a lover’s heart simply means that one is familiar with the practice of loving. Given the essential characteristics of love laid out by Dietrich Von Hildebrand in The Nature of Love, it seems to be necessary for this “attempt at capturing the good” for one to be familiar with love.
The process by which the lover arrives at loving the beloved is also analogous to how the philosopher should approach wisdom. First, love seems to require some sort of revelation of the beloved to the lover (21). Then, the lover does not act blindly but instead acts in response to the objective values of the whole person (27). The lover also responds in a way that his/her whole being is invested in the pursuit. Consequently, the beloved person belongs to the lover in a particular way (19). Likewise, the philosopher should react to what is true while dismissing all that is false. With a commitment to wisdom, one is able to decline his or her own desires in favor of the nature of good while holistically evaluating the evidence at hand. This noble conclusion necessitates some knowledge of the good. Initially, there seems to be a need to first capture some of what is true to make a conclusion on it.
But as the philosopher continues from this initial starting point of revelation, this process of
coming to know and respond to what is good does not seem to be something immediate but gradual. The philosopher can find success when he/she learns to continually evaluate goodness in the light of what has been revealed and found to be good and true. This requires a certain resignation of one’s self. For the lover, self-donation enables him/her to live more authentically and existentially in line with what he/she has found to be worthy of love (52). Again, it seems that the philosopher needs to live in a way that does not seek to satisfy his/her own desires but that which is of truth and goodness.
Returning to the definition of wisdom as being “an attempt to capture all that is good”, it seems that the philosopher needs to make a conscious choice to acquire the good. It is not a mere stumbling upon but a direct pursuit. Likewise, Hildebrand says, “love in all its forms always involves this consciousness of the preciousness of the beloved person, and of a value datum so closely united with the person that the person stands before me as valuable, beautiful in himself, deriving all his attractive power and delightfulness from his preciousness and beauty” (19). Love requires a choice to come to a consciousness of the beloved. Without a consciousness of the beloved, the lover cannot truly love. Without a consciousness of the good, the philosopher cannot truly philosophize.
The courting process of philosophy in my own heart has been an adventure. I have found myself in a way analogous to how the lover finds herself. The value of wisdom has not found an end within me. Rather, it continually is deepening as an apprehension of value just as the lover continues to grow in a deeper love. As long as I continue to pursue all that is good, it seems that my philosophical inquiry will continue to be noble and fruit-bearing. This is where nobility of some disciplines over others is determined. The discipline that studies with a lover’s heart reaches far more noble conclusions than the purely intellectual ones can reach. In this way, may our philosophical pursuits always seek to “grasp all the values that one would never see as long as one lived in an indifferent attitude” (23).