Philosophical Encounters

2016-08-01

As I begin the large and deep task of (re-)reading the complete works of Aristotle, I am spurred to ponder why I am drawn to working through various philosophers in this way. I've come to see that there is an almost visceral element here, of directly confronting the insights of a great thinker and gaining intimate knowledge about how that person approached life and the pursuit of wisdom. In order to do this, I find that I need to read the philosopher's original language of expression: Greek for Aristotle and Epicurus, English for Thoreau and Rand, and German for Nietzsche (which makes me consider learning classical Chinese so that I can directly encounter Lao Tzu). I also find that I need to immerse myself directly in the philosopher's own words and not spend too much time reading other people's commentaries. Ironically, the outcome of my doing so is in each case a book that comprises more commentary! Yet for me the book that I write is merely a record of my personal encounter, which I use primarily to remind myself of what I have learned. Secondarily, I hope that by recording my own philosophical encounters I might inspire you to do the same with the great thinkers you find most congenial (and I would love to read about similar encounters with philosophers I likely won't have the time or inclination to work through completely myself, such as Confucius, Krishna, Buddha, Plato, the Stoics, Montaigne, Kierkegaard, Emerson, and Sartre). What's most important is the encounter itself, because it helps me gain more wisdom as I adopt some of the outlook and practices of someone much more sagacious than I am.


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