Monday, 15 April 2019

On A Philosopher’s World

Leo Strauss believed that a Socratic philosopher rigorously stakes out and maintains a position of detachment from human beings, but his detachment is compatible with his attachment to human beings because philosophy is motivated and continuously renewed by the human experience. Here’s an excerpt from his essay, “Restatement on Xenophon’s Hiero” (Chapter 4; What is Political Philosophy And Other Studies by Leo Strauss):
But if the philosopher is radically detached from human beings as human beings, why does he communicate his knowledge, or his questionings, to others? Why was the same Socrates, who said that the philosopher does not even know the way to the market place, almost constantly in the market place? Why was the same Socrates, who said that the philosopher barely knows whether his neighbor is a human being, so well informed about so many trivial details regarding his neighbors? The philosopher's radical detachment from human beings must then be compatible with an attachment to human beings. While trying to transcend humanity (for wisdom is divine) or while trying to make it his sole business to die and to be dead to all human things, the philosopher cannot help living as a human being who as such cannot be dead to human concerns, although his soul will not be in these concerns. The philosopher cannot devote his life to his own work if other people do not take care of the needs of his body. Philosophy is possible only in a society in which there is "division of labor." The philosopher needs the services of other human beings and has to pay for them with services of his own if he does not want to be reproved as a thief or fraud.
Strauss points out that a philosopher has to go to the marketplace because he needs to fish for potential philosophers with whom he can discuss his ideas. Preaching and discussing philosophy is a philosopher's most basic need.

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