I was struck by how many times the other thoughtful participant during my recent appearance on ‘Phiilosophy and Kids’ on Maine Public’s popular Maine Calling program kept stressing philosophy as a tool for teaching and conversation, after every time that I stressed that philosophy is all about ‘doing,’ all about inquiry.
Philosophy is all about doing — all about rigorous, methodical inquiry of a sort that can forever open new portals of doing, being, understanding. Mere conversation, when it comes to the exalted enterprise of philosophizing, makes so much less of philosophy than it is and was intended to be by the Greeks of old, who understood that the inner and outer cosmos were part and parcel of the same thing — and hence who saw the world like children do, wholly, clearly, with boundless curiosity.
Moreover, when you are teaching philosophy, you put yourself above the rest of those with you. Now, to be sure, sharing with others what has come to be ‘the canon,’ for worse or for better, among scholastics, can be somewhat redemptive, if it serves as the springboard for egalitarian inquiry of some fashion. But in and of itself, any pretentious, jargon-filled, non-methodical approach to ‘inquiry’ is not genuine philosophy ipso facto and may well prove, upon critical scrutiny, hardly to pass for philosophizing.
When you do philosophy with people of all ages and walks of life, when you and your fellow inquirers give equal consideration to one another’s proffered perspectives, examining deeply and thoroughly what speaks for and against a wide variety of ways of seeing things, you are, potentially, forever transformed — because you’ve genuinely opened up yourself and your worldview to new possibilities.
It takes a lot of chutzpah to do philosophy, to inquiry with people from a wide range of experiences and ages and belief systems as equals. All too many who claim to practice philosophy cloak themselves in intimidating jargon, put themselves above others (even though many don’t acknowledge this), love to show off their knowledge of what constitutes philosophical history (though I’d argue that little of it actually is, and has actually set back the philosophical enterprise).
Dare to do philosophy, dare to genuinely inquire in a philosophical way. You’ll be glad you did, I’ll bet.