The Philosophical Life


The unreflected life is not worth living according to Socrates. What he meant by reflection, I really do not know. Most perceive it as a life that is dedicated to musing and speculation. Perhaps that is the reason why most people raise their eyebrows when they find out I am a Philosophy student. Mutterings of “Oh you poor thing” usually follow. They think that my life is lived in brooding silence as I question the existence of the world and the meaning of life. The philosophical life for me is not one that only consists of reading, writing, questioning; the philosophical life is one that is also full of action. Action because I am actually going somewhere. The reading, writing and thinking actually have a purpose and are not intended to keep me in the dark with my incoherent ramblings; rather, they are the ones which will put me forward.

Now the question is, where is that going to lead me? I do not wish to be like my peers who shrug their shoulders when asked where it is they are going to. Of course, I know that life is uncertain but I would like to have an end goal, whether I reach it or not, and that for me is truth. My desire for truth is not necessarily sufficient for meriting it, but we do not philosophize because we believe we can arrive at an absolute truth. We philosophize for the very reason that we know we cannot really grasp the truth because it is not graspable, and will never be. It is very elusive, like the enigmatic woman who catches the solitary man’s eye and intrigues him with her sensuality and mystery. The man then pursues her in hopes of being noticed. He is not sure if he will be able to get her attention, but he tries and does not give up the chase. That is how the search for truth is like. You exert effort to understand the mysteries of the world yet you are never really sure if you will be able to taste the sweetness of the answer. Still you persist because maybe, just maybe, you will be able to unravel the mysteries that swathe it.

The philosophical life is a painful life. You do not live it the same way you would breeze through a grassy patch; the road is steep, slippery, and full of jagged rocks strewn along the way. It takes courage, determination, and thick skin to withstand the harshness the answers may bring. It is very difficult since you have to do away with the manner of thinking that you have become accustomed to. What you thought was once true becomes a lie encapsulated in a pleasant-tasting tablet. The very foundations of your belief will be shaken and you find yourself groundless, flailing your arms, grasping for something, anything that you can hang on to. But you cannot settle on one branch because you are never sure if that will really support your weight. Nothing is ever sacred or free from questioning.

The philosophical life is bittersweet. You know that you are geared towards something great, but the journey that will bring you there is hard. The truth will not be served to you on a silver platter; you are not even sure if it will be served to you at all.

Reflection is an important aspect of the philosophical life, but it is not the only component. Life consists of both thinking and doing. There will be times when we will be making mistakes, but these mistakes are vital since they are the things that we will reflect on. Dwelling is not to be taken away from the course of everyday life for it is the simplest thing we can do to achieve our desired end.

A journey. That is the way to view the philosophical life. Like any other journey, it has its detours and its own share of traveling horror stories but that should not deter us from continuing even if the destination can be a bit hazy sometimes. It is a journey that should be taken with great amount of confidence in one’s ability to ask the pertinent questions and the faith to keep on searching even if the transit gets turbulent.