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On the Wings of Philosophy

David Turshyan, Librarian, International Languages Department,

A few years ago, UNESCO marked every third Thursday of November as World Philosophy Day. And so it is, but what is philosophy? “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” says the Prince of Denmark in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Can the term philosophy have such a broad meaning as to encompass all branches of knowledge, learning, worldview and the human experience in general?

Linguistically, the term is composed of two Greek words, philo – loving, fond of, friend of, and sophia – wisdom, knowledge – φιλοσοφίαliterally “love of wisdom.” Pythagoras called himself philosophos – philosopher – “lover of wisdom,” the term sophos meaning wise, a sage, and yet what is “love of wisdom?” Perhaps the unwavering stand – to inquire, to question? If so, then it seems children stand the closest to it, because of their innate curiosity to question just about everything and inquire about their love, their life, their world. And since at one time or another we all have been children, the spirit of inquiry – the love of wisdom –  is in our nature.

Throughout centuries, philosophy, as Shakespeare saw it in Hamlet, has branched, sub-branched and manifested itself under different names and veils, traditions and schools, ideas and beliefs, and yet what is the essence of philosophy? “Can you cleanse your inner vision until you see nothing but the light?” wrote Laozi more than two and a half millennia before us in ancient China. And about a century and a half later, on a different part of our planet, Athens, Greece, according to a legend, the last words of Socrates will be: “There is a sun in each one of us. Let’s let it shine.”

Michelangelo once said that every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. If so, then the task of the philosopher is to unveil the answer, the meaning, the wisdom into life’s essential questions. After all, the answers are there, kindly awaiting to be questioned and to be discovered. ~