What is a personal philosophy?

So long as we think of philosophy as a set of (hopefully) true propositions, we will continue to be tempted by notions that philosophy can be a “science,” that there is a correct way of doing philosophy, that a philosophical judgment or body of judgments can be true. If instead we allow ourselves to think of philosophy as expression, these rigid demands seem pointless or vulgar. Yet we surely do not want to reduce philosophy to mere expression, to autobiography or poetry, to “subjective truth” or psychic discharge. Although it is an expression of personal attitude, a philosophical statement is better compared to a piece of statuary than to a feeling or an attitude. The philosopher is a conceptual sculptor. He uses his language to give a shape to his prejudices and values, to give his attitudes a life of their own, outside of him, for the grasp of others. A philosophical statement, once made, is “in the world,” free of its author, open to the public, a piece to be interpreted; it becomes universal. But “universal” does not mean “universally true.” Philosophical genius lies not in the discovery of universal truth, but in the seductiveness with which one molds his personal attitudes as universals for others. The philosopher builds insight onto insight, illustration into argument, joins metaphysical slogan to concrete observation, perhaps using himself as an example, his entire age as a foil.

-Robert C. Solomon, Existentialism


One comment

  1. wow, great quote.

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