Thursday, December 21, 2017



D. R. Khashaba

Philosophy cannot be defined by its content or subject-matter like biology or chemistry or history. I have previously said that a philosopher’s whole work is that philosopher’s definition of philosophy. That is so as far as it goes, but it does not give us a general definition of philosophy.

The two statements I made in the lines above – that philosophy cannot be defined by its subject-matter and that each philosopher’s complete work is that philosopher’s definition of philosophy – are two sides of a coin. For, what is the origin, the source, the fount of a philosopher’s work? If it be a genuine philosopher we are speaking about, then there is one valid answer to the question. A genuine philosopher’s whole work stems from that philosopher’s puzzlements.

A philosopher is irked, tormented, by questions — ultimate questions. A philosophymonger who does not suffer under the stranglehold of puzzlements and doubts and who peddles secondhand philosophical merchandise in complete equanimity is a fraud.

A philosopher is a questioner. She or he questions the world, questions herself or himself, questions all received beliefs and inherited usages. Hence a philosopher is a destroyer as Nietzsche said.

There can be no textbook of philosophy as there are textbooks of physics or geology. Philosophy cannot be learned from books. Plato emphatically insisted on this. There is no way for anyone to ‘become’ a philosopher. No one can be a philosopher if not born a philosopher and the born philosopher ‘becomes’ a philosopher by giving way to one’s questionings: in other words, the only way rto ‘become’ a philosopher is to philosophize.

Philosophers write books. What do we get from reading books written by philosophers? A philosopher who presumes to give ‘truths’ ir ‘knowledge’ in her or his book is gravely deluded. The only good you get from reading a philosophy book is to be infected by the philosopher’s puzzlements and questionings and go on to wrestle with the questionings that set the philosopher philosophizing in the first place, impelling you to philosophize for yourself.

To be well-read in philosophy is no guarantee that you become a philosopher. Reading one philosophy book may initiate you to philosophy while reading a whole library of philosophy books may leave you with that ignorance that Socrates called the worst ignoramce, thinking that you know while you know not.

Dear Reader, these are stray thoughts strewn haphazardly without order or forethought. If they annoy you, I apologize; if they set you puzzling, I will have been well rewarded.

D. R. Khashaba

December 21, 2017

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