20.5.10

Critchley: 'What is a philosopher?'

British philosopher Simon Critchley launches a new philosophy column
Statue of Plato

Simon Critchley inaugurates 'The Stone', a new philosophy column in The New York Times, by asking the question: 'What is a philosopher?':
There are as many definitions of philosophy as there are philosophers – perhaps there are even more. After three millennia of philosophical activity and disagreement, it is unlikely that we’ll reach consensus, and I certainly don’t want to add more hot air to the volcanic cloud of unknowing. What I’d like to do in the opening column in this new venture — The Stone — is to kick things off by asking a slightly different question: what is a philosopher?

As Alfred North Whitehead said, philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato. Let me risk adding a footnote by looking at Plato’s provocative definition of the philosopher that appears in the middle of his dialogue, “Theaetetus,” in a passage that some scholars consider a “digression.” But far from being a footnote to a digression, I think this moment in Plato tells us something hugely important about what a philosopher is and what philosophy does. [Read the article]

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