Lets Look Back;
Lets examine how we got to where we are.
“An unexamined life is not worth living“, are words attributed to Socrates when he choose death rather than exile from Athens or a commitment to silence. An examined life involves learning from your past actions and decisions as well as being fully aware of the present and your behavior in the present. Of course, Socrates went further. He considered that true wisdom included helping others to live an examined life and using what you learn from that examination, and the examination of your own life, for the benefit of society and other people. That is why he would not be silenced. It may be that the drama of Socrates death contributed to the preservation of his teachings, certainly it contributed to Plato’s recording the conversations and discussions of Socrates. Socrates, himself, wrote nothing down, so if it were not for Plato we would not have access to Socrates’ wisdom.
Time, i think, for a primer in Philosophy. We’ll start with Western Philosophy and that fictionalized introduction “Sophie’s World“. Jostein Gaarder, the author is a Norwegian philosophy teacher who wrote this book back in 1995. It hit the best-seller lists in 1996 and was reprinted seven or eight times that year. Further confirmation, if such was needed, of the desire for knowledge and for wisdom which is widespread amongst us.
‘Sophie’s World’ follows the adventures of a teenage girl as she is introduced to philosophy. Of course, events in the book also serve to teach us about philosophy and some of the fundamental questions asked by philosophers down through the generations. What we learn will serve us well as we continue our philosophical journey and continue to search for the Wisdom in Books.
Gaarder provides a quote from Goethe to get us started and to remind us of the importance of our history, “He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living hand to mouth”. There are three strands recommended to the search for wisdom, the advice and example of wise people, traditions of wisdom and wise ways of living and behaving which have developed and evolved over the generations and the wisdom in wise books. Much wisdom can be learnt from the past, from the study of the evolution of human cultures, from history. It is advised that all three strands be used by anyone seeking to live a life of wisdom.
Read on, my friends, pay attention to the words of wise people and do not reject tradition without careful assessment of its wisdom.