On the Path to Philosophership: Solitude
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(For more on this topic, I recommend reading the article about Solomon Maimon on this site).
(This is part of a mini-series on Philosocom on becoming a philosopher. Here are the rest of the material:
Why Philosophers Walk a Solitary Path
Philosophers may be regarded with respect, whether within or outside the academia, but they are not loved as much. Hence why love and respect are not the same and thus there is distance in honor. While the discipline itself commands respect, the path it paves can be a desolate one, paved with disillusionment, existential dread, and loneliness.
Philosophy, for all its noble pursuit of truth, can be a profoundly discouraging affair. It invites you to question everything, from the very fabric of reality to the depths of your own ego. This unsettling introspection can make you appear unhinged to the uninitiated (Like with Nietzsche's example), drawing concerned glances and raised eyebrows. I've witnessed firsthand friendships wither and fade under the harsh light of brutal philosophical honesty, leaving me to navigate the world with a dwindling circle of those who can stomach the truth.
The human heart, it seems, craves comfort, not discomfort. By default, it is too weak to handle it unless it is trained to accept uncomfortable, yet realistic notions like grief (which is inevitable). We prefer soothing remarks over unsettling realities, choosing blissful ignorance over the cringe-inducing truths philosophy is meant to discover.
But the philosopher, bound by a personal oath to truth, might not be so inclined to decieve like a manipulative tyrant. They must speak the words, however disturbing, that illuminate the hidden corners of existence, even if it means isolation and other such social risks.
This is the paradox of the philosopher's life: A solitary pursuit in service of a collective understanding. An understanding of a collective that might as well condemn them for their attempted service even if it's successful by the traits they express in their work.
We walk the lonely path, not neccessarily because we are drawn to solitude (and thus asocial), but because we are driven by a relentless pursuit of truth. A truth, that can be both liberating and alienating, too. It is a path few choose as it makes sense that some won't like it. However, for those who do, it is a path paved with the quiet satisfaction of illuminating the world, one uncomfortable truth at a time.
Why Philosophers Must Embrace Their Shadow Selves
Have you ever been told to "just shut up?" Not politely, mind you, but with a venom that leaves mental scars. Yet, the essence remains the same. It's a curious phenomenon, this human aversion to the unsettling truth.
Respect may follow a philosopher's work, but it often lingers at a distance. For once (and perhaps forever, should you endure) you embrace the mantle of truth, the inevitability of upsetting people becomes constant. Your words, like a surgeon's scalpel, will cut through comfortable delusions, leaving raw and angry wounds. Some people are not interested in the truth, as grim and enlightening as it is. But remember, a philosopher's job isn't to be a people pleaser, it's to illuminate. We are the guides, leading the willing out of the cozy darkness and into the overwhelming light.
And not everyone is wants to be guided, and not everyone is even interested in the ways towards the truth to begin with. They may prefer the Platonic cave, more. They might not be interested in the world beyond the minds, but, rather, in the phenomenon their mind creates, AKA, the reality that seems to them.
Yet, the sun's glare blind people with rage, given the fault that is their attachment to their beliefs. Be prepared for the sting of accusations, the dismissive "senile ramblings" and "hogwash" thrown with cruelty by those who cling to their cherished ideals. In reality, they have not the guts to be proven wrong. These are the hazards of the path, the toll paid for challenging the status quo. And here lies the true test of a philosopher: The willingness to face potential the potential opposition as an antagonist, to stand alone in the face of a storm triggered by your own words.
The support of friends, fans and followers is not a given. It is a privilage.
Imagine Socrates, isolated in some a hermitage, safe from Athenian contempt. He might have lived a peaceful life, but would his name echo through the ages, in such a scenario before the digital revolution? No, it was his sacrifice, his refusal to mute the truth, that earned him "immortality". Without resorting to peace, his ideas still resonate, a testament to the power of unyielding honesty.
So, to the developing philosopher, I say this: embrace the loneliness, the scorn, the potential for rejection -- embrace them all as inevitable possibilities. For within these shadows lies the true test of your conviction, along other tests in general. Only those willing to speak when others remain nervous, to illuminate even when it burns, can truly claim the mantle of "philosopher." For in the end, it is not the comfort of the crowd, but the courage to stand alone in the light, that defines the true seeker of truth.
Why Philosophers Crash the Party
Society, it seems, is a master of pretenses. A grand performance where smiles mask indifference, laughter hides anxieties, and caresses are exchanged without warmth, unless people have the courage to be themselves. This elaborate dance of pretense, while preserving social harmony, demands a hefty price: the sacrifice of genuine, deeper connections. In a way, society breeds its own outcasts and rebels by refusing to understand them genuinely.
Here's where the philosopher, a stubborn champion of truth, throws a wrench in the fakeness-generating machinery. Armed with unwavering honesty, they refuse to play along unless it is THEIR morals that tell them otherwise. They see the cracks in the painted smiles, hear the hollowness in the forced laughter, and their words, like harsh spotlights, pierce through the carefully crafted facade. By this reasoning, many philosophers are Overmen, at least by a certain standard.
This, of course, comes at a cost. The philosopher, a perpetual truth-teller, is rarely invited to the party. Their words, though respected from afar, are too jarring, too uncomfortable for the delicate sensibilities of those who find solace in the comfort of illusions. They become the party pooper, the unwelcome guest who exposes the emptiness behind the glitter that pretends to be golden as well.
The Philosopher's Lonely Quest for Authenticity
But to mistake them for condescending barbarians is to miss the mark. Their solitude is a consequence, not a choice. They are ostracized not for malice, but for their unwavering commitment to authenticity, a commitment that demands preperation for agony. Like in love, like in physical training.
So, to those who yearn for the philosopher's mantle, be warned: The path is lonely. You will lose some love in exchange for respect, find followers instead of friends, and trade allies for enemies. Your words will be the bump on every joyride, the unwanted truth in every whispered secret.
Yet, in this solitude lies a profound reward: You become the voice of the unspoken, the mirror reflecting the uncomfortable reality that others dare not face. And of course, you will also have a chance at getting a greater relevancy, long-term-wise, as philosophy itself still remains relevant to a degree, even after millennia.
You are the gadfly, the thorn in the side of complacency, and in that, lies the true power of philosophy: To challenge, to expose, and ultimately, to pave the way for a world where authenticity reigns over pretense. Truth, however harsh, becomes the currency of genuine connection.
And we cannot truly love one another, without it. For we must not deny the truth.