Tuesday, August 10, 2010



A philosophical problem is not of the nature of a practical problem. To confuse these two is harmful. A practical problem has, in a certain sense, an objective existence. It can be approached by various persons severally; they can approach it from different angles and can bring to bear on the problem different viewpoints and different interests; but all the same they would be dealing with the same problem, a problem with definable, ascertainable, actual features. Not so the philosophical problem. A philosophical problem is a personal venture, a crazy quest for a private Holy Grail. A problem raised by a philosopher is a creation of that philosopher’s genius; it is that philosopher’s original contribution to philosophy.

Again, to seek to find in a philosopher’s work a solution to a problem not raised by that philosopher is as misguided and as hopeless a quest as trying to find Pegasus in the actual world – which, incidentally, our academic philosophers have been seriously trying to do notwithstanding all their loudly voiced disavowals.

The distortion and misunderstanding of Plato started with Aristotle. Plato created faeries, frolicked with faeries, and the faeries whispered to him the profoundest insights about the mysteries of reality and of the human soul, just as the cicadas whispered to Socrates under the tall plane tree by the bank of the Ilissus. Aristotle was interested in the actual world, he sought facts, and could never understand Plato. Like Johnson, he refuted Plato’s Idealism with a dash of the foot. And our academic and professional philosophers continue the distortion and the misunderstanding for the same reason – since for them only what is out there is real.