Protagoras and the Kind Gentleman, a Socratic Gadfly

“Why philosophy?” was what a kind gentleman asked me with a sharp smirk when I told him about my choice of study at a luncheon. (This gentleman, also a philosophy student).

I was quite unprepared, as with most “why questions” in my life, and rewarded the kind man with the most unimpressive answer ever: I “like” it.

I like water. I like having socks on when I sleep. I like philosophy? I felt quite stupid from that day on whenever I saw him, pondering while struggling to put to words why I chose an apprenticeship with the Queen of the Sciences.

It took me until the end of the degree to begin to realize how such an olden subject could affect my whole being, leaving me in some form of angst.

The need to be responsible for my beliefs was a recurring theme throughout my studies but this question of why was the finale. I read Plato’s Protagoras in a graduate level setting. I left each lecture knowing I failed miserably at being a homo sapien. I realized I have many beliefs and opinions, but I was not able to decipher/spell out the precise foundation upon which they were built. Worst of all, I never took the time to evaluate them and pass a judgement on them. Until then.

All my beliefs and all the components of my knowledge are influenced by my Catholic faith but I have always struggled with being held accountable for orally defending a belief or spoken thought. I know, on the one hand, it is not really necessary when it comes to faith just as being in love with a person does not require a rational explanation of the “why” involved. But at the same time, it is not good to allow yourself to be carried away without a mode of transportation. I can’t merely float my way across the Atlantic.

So why philosophy? So that I can get across the giant ocean of life, of its lies and its truths. To get to the island of Wisdom and Truth and Goodness and Beauty. So that all I encounter can be seen through these lenses. As the kind gentleman told me, to fill in the gaps in my knowledge, to build that vehicle (whether it is a bridge, a boat or something else) and fully engage in life. Philosophy like I mentioned in my last post (“An Ode to Her, Wisdom”), is and will always be a tempest. At least for me.

So thank you kind gentleman, thank you for being that Socratic gnat or gadfly (whatever) for me.


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