Philosophical voices of the human ocean

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If we want to do deep philosophy, we must remember the philosophical voices of the past. The writings of deep philosophers throughout history are humanity’s attempt to address basic life-issues, which is what philosophy is about. As philosophers who aspire to be deep, we cannot forget the history of philosophy and limit ourselves to logical exercises. We must also be in conversation with historical philosophical voices. We are, after all, part of humanity, and our philosophizing is part of humanity’s never-ending encounter with fundamental issues of life.

 

A deep philosophical idea – of Plato or Spinoza, Schopenhauer, Bergson – is not just somebody’s private opinion. A thinker is not an independent atom, but part of human reality. His thoughts come partly from his personal search, partly from his culture’s attitude to life, and in a large part from human existence in general. In this sense he is writing not just for himself but for humanity.

 

Therefore, the writings of deep philosophers of the past (and present) are voices of human existence. When I resonate with them, I am taking part in the grand human choir and its encounter with the fundamental coordinates of human reality. This does not mean that I must agree with these philosophical voices, or decide which one is “correct” and which one is “incorrect.” It means, rather, that I resonate with all of them, as one singer among other singers.

 

As deep philosophers, our relationship to historical philosophies is very different from that of university academics. For many academic philosophers, historical ideas are abstract theories, historical relics, finished philosophical products. In contrast, for us deep philosophers, the voices of past philosophes do not belong the past. Nor are they finished products. Rather, they are part of a discourse which is still going on, part of a never-ending encounter of humanity with the depth of reality. And if I am a deep philosopher, then I am part of this encounter. My personal voice is part of this human choir, and it cannot exist without the choir as a whole. The voices of the past continue to resonate in the present, and if I want to take part in philosophy, I cannot ignore them. I must join them and resonate with them.

 

When I resonate with philosophical ideas, I relate to the great horizons of reality, because philosophy comes from our encounter with reality. When I resonate with philosophical texts – not when I simply repeat them like an obedient university student, not when I analyze them like a historian, not when I agree with them or disagree with them, but when I resonate with them personally and creatively from the depth of my being – then I am facing the grand reality. This is the reality which all deep philosophers conversed with (and human beings in general, although usually without full philosophical awareness and depth).

 

But in order for my philosophizing to turn towards the horizons of reality, in order for it to be more than a game of logic and arbitrary opinions, I must have a certain state of mind, a special inner attitude. An academic analysis may be valuable, and abstract thinking may be interesting, but in themselves they do not turn me towards the great horizons. In contrast, when I resonate with the philosophical voices of great philosophers, when I do so creatively and personally from the depth of my being, then I am turning myself towards the depth and breadth of reality. Then philosophy becomes a true encounter with the great ocean in which I am a little wave. A deep philosophical text is about the foundations of reality, and through it I can relate to those foundations with awe and wonder.

 

One might say that I am describing here a religious attitude, and in a certain sense I agree. Turning myself towards the great horizons is indeed almost like a prayer. However, unlike religion, the deep philosophical attitude has no dogmas or father in heaven, no church, no holly books and priests, no angels and miracles. It only has the free wisdom that emerges from the inner depth of humans like me, and that turns towards the great horizon or reality, towards the vast ocean, the depth, or what I call “Lu.” I cannot capture this Lu in a theory – it is the horizon of my world, not an object inside my world – but when I reflect and contemplate on deep philosophical voices, then I turn myself towards it, I resonate with it, and it awakens my inner depth and fills me with inspiration.

Ran Lahav
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