Read just about any philosophical dialogue (this is even true of Christian philosophical texts like Justin Martyr’s, Dialogue with Trypho) and a consistent theme emerges in the prologues: a curious individual either finds or is introduced to a notorious thinker from whom they find the answer to some perennial question answered. More times than not, the subsequent dialogue engenders a conversations about a deeper question–one just below the surface of the one curiously asked.
This consistent phenomenon does two interrelated things–especially for the reader of the dialogue: 1) it reveals that the questioner, while commendable for his or her initial curiosity, has not fully grasped the implications of what it is they are seeking; and 2) it places considerable weight and respect on the one being questioned, for they are presumably the one who possesses the salve to soothe the inner restlessness that generally accompanies curiosity.
While the persons asked are unique to each dialogue, a second consistency can be noted: the individual sought is senior to the one doing the seeking. This seniority, however, is not always limited to age; instead, the seniority in question is one’s experiential wisdom. As Socrates rightly notes, concerning such persons:
They’ve gone on ahead of us, as it were, on a road which we too will probably have to travel, and we ought to find out from them what the road is like–whether it is rough and hard, or easy and smooth (Republic, 328e)
Refusal to listen to and learn from those who have gone before, and the decision to brave the road with a maverick and fortuitous disposition epitomizes foolishness. Or, to put it more simply:
A wise man learns by the mistakes of others; a fool by his own (Latin Proverb).
My entire academic career (well, to be quite candid: since high school) has been a pursuit of learning from those who have gone before me in some way. This is not to suggest that I am wise by any means; instead, it is an admission that I desire to travel the path of wisdom in a way that is characteristic of what it means to be wise. What I know for certain is that I cannot do this chosen life alone–I am dependent (a bad word in many circles of modern society). I am like the curious questioner seeking answers to life’s questions.
The nature of this blog is more or less an accounting of my peripatetic learning. I say, “peripatetic” for the simple fact that my life has not been confined to one location for any considerable amount of time. I have also, from time to time, placed myself in various situations where I am able to learn from a diversity of minds and souls. The forthcoming intentional placement of moving to England for PhD studies will certainly prove to be enlightening simply because of the cultural differences between the US and the UK. (That endeavor, by the way, is a substratum of this blog).