PHILOSOPHY IS THE LOVE FOR WISDOM

The two(Greek etymological combination for philosophy are philien Sophia meaning, literally, the love of wisdom or the practice of keeping company with wisdom. A philosopher would be anyone who loves wisdom or anyone who is in pursuit of wisdom. This definition of philosophy as the pursuit of wisdom is about the oldest and, perhaps, the least controversial meaning of philosophy. Since it is a definition that comes from the root words comprising philosophy, almost everyone would agree that it is the native meaning of philosophy. Apart from Greek and English other major languages have words with a similar connotation for philosophy.

The point I want to make here is that the natural meaning of philosophy is the love of wisdom or a concern with wisdom. All philosophers are likely to agree on this but on they will begin to part ways or disagree when the next question, “wisdom about what?” is posed. Now, there are many things in the world, many types of experience that can engage man’s attention. Which of these many things or experiences should require the application of wisdom? Which aspect of human experience should the pursuit of wisdom lead us?

The answer here is that the pursuit and application of Wisdom can be directed to any form of human experience. A man or woman in possession of wisdom or who has wisdom can apply it to any aspect of experience that engages his or her attention. This example will suffice to show that wisdom can be applied to any form of human experience.

This example is the one that concerns two female prostitutes in ancient Israel. A dispute arose between two women regarding the actual maternity or motherhood of a child. Each of the two women claimed the ownership of a particular child. The matter was brought before King Solomon. Instead of ordering a medical inquiry to determine the actual mother of the disputed child, Solomon ordered the child to be divided into two equal parts so that each woman could have just one half of the child. The implication of this is that the child would die. One of the women was happy with the King’s decision and excitedly shouted for the child to be cut into two without any further delay. The second woman protested the decision of the king and pleaded that the child be given to the other woman since that was the only way to keep the child alive.

From the reactions of the two women, it is obvious that the second woman who wanted the child to remain alive is the natural, and the other woman who wanted half of the child, could only be an impostor and a thief. Consequently, King Solomon ordered the child to be given to the natural mother who wanted the child alive, and the dispute was at an end.

What this example illustrate is that wisdom enables the possessor to act on the spur of the moment, to go beyond the empirically limited judgments to reconcile conflicting interests. Wisdom means acting wisely. It means the ability to draw quick implications from actions and utterances. This is the sort of wisdom that philosophical knowledge gives. Wisdom that enables the man of facts and science to judge experience or information correctly, wisely. This understanding of philosophy as the love of wisdom is one of the ways that philosophy has been presented by Greeks and some other philosophers who work in the Greek tradition.