What Drove Me to Philosophy
Abstract of the lecture
Aristotle tells us that the impulse which drives us to philosophize is gthaumazeinh, wonder at the world. In a way this is right. The most important philosophical moments are when something you have always taken for granted, barely even noticed, strikes you as remarkable, even astonishing.
But there is another side to this wonder, and that is puzzlement. Once you are led to ask questions like these, you donft know how to go on. How should you formulate these questions? How to seek for an answer? This puzzlement can be painful, as much as the wonder is exhilarating; and both together drive you to try to formulate, articulate, deep issues of which you were unaware, issues you didnft know existed in the past (and which others may find weird).
I want to talk of how wonder and puzzlement intruded into my life, and pushed me where I have gone.
At first, I studied history. This seemed to be the best way. Then I became involved in politics; in the ways that politics could transform human life. But underlying all these was an interest in philosophical anthropology: what were human beings, these beings who can speak and therefore articulate, and in this way transform themselves?
In contact with both history and politics as academic subjects, I began to see how often they are studied in a way which shuts out the questions I was asking. Often they suppose a stripped-down, reductive view of human life. A great deal of my work has been an attempt to combat this kind of reductive, over-simple, one-dimensional understanding. Another impetus was a more immediate practical one: how to articulate the political issues of our time, so that we can actually make headway.
From this beginning point I will try in my lecture to make sense of the questions I have tried to deal with, of my understanding of philosophy as not gpureh, but involving a knowledge (in my case) of society and history. I will talk of the discouragements, and then (sometimes) break-throughs, which are inseparable from any life of the gphilosophicalh kind (which it can be seen is lived by lots of thinkers who are not philosophers in the narrow, academic sense).