On Being a Philosopher
Post from August 21, 2017 (↻ June 4, 2021), filed under Philosophy.
Beside being a web developer I call myself a philosopher. I call myself a philosopher even though I don’t yet have a degree in philosophy. And I call myself a philosopher even though some people would disagree with me being one. Why would I be a philosopher? What makes a philosopher?
The case is actually pretty simple to me. There is a legal side, yes, there’s a differentiation to make, and then there’s one aspect that, in my view, makes the matter quite crystal-clear.
The legal side is simply that the profession of philosopher is not protected—nowhere, to my knowledge. As we’ll see, that’s good.
The next, not so interesting but more relevant point is that one appears to benefit from differentiating between a philosopher and a philosophy scholar.
Most importantly, then, is the understanding of what philosophy means. No, not the meaning of the word (“love of wisdom”). What it means to “do philosophy,” to “philosophize”: Philosophy is an activity.
Yes, one can probably put up rules, and no doubt some people do put up rules for that activity. From my understanding that’s one reason why we teach logic and argumentation theory. While not doing so shifts the burden to other participants in a philosophical discourse—they will need to check for flaws in the philosophizing partner’s reasoning more carefully—, this to me makes for all the beauty. Everyone can go all in to philosophize, deeply think about life and reality, what exists and what it means, and learn from and inspire others.
I see no reason to prevent anyone from doing so, and as such I strongly believe in philosophy as an activity open to everyone.
Walking backwards, personally I don’t see myself become a philosophy scholar; on some page (German) I ran into a few weeks ago someone had quipped how a philosophy scholar wouldn’t even need to be a philosopher. Now I love thinking about existence and realities, I love doing philosophy, I love philosophizing, so clearly, this idea of scholarship is not an enticing prospect to me.
As for how professions define themselves, I believe that those who truly love philosophy—I realize I’ve just charged this point—would not mind others joining in and participating in the discourse, even if these others had no prior training. And those who have studied and taught philosophy with great effort and at great expense, I wish them to be okay, too, for they may still be philosophers, but they are also philosophy scholars, and so no one else would threaten their hard-earned titles and status.
Philosophy is an activity, and everyone who loves and engages in this activity should be free, and proud, to call themselves a: philosopher. That is what I think of this matter; that is what I think about being a philosopher.
I’m Jens Oliver Meiert, and I’m an engineering manager and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for Google, I’m close to the W3C and the WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly. Other than that, I love trying things, sometimes including philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.
If you have questions or suggestions about what I write, please leave a comment (if available) or a message.
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Perhaps my most interesting book: 100 Things I Learned as an Everyday Adventurer (2013). During my time in the States I started trying everything. Everything. Then I noticed that wasn’t only fun, it was also useful. Available at Amazon, Apple Books, Kobo, Google Play Books, and Leanpub.
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