Metaphysical wisdom and desire for happiness. The relationship between philosophy and life

Philosophy is often considered a meaningless activity. Especially in a social context like the present one, whose primary interest is represented by economic questions, philosophy has even less space.

The aim of this article, however, is not to write a defense of philosophy, but to show its concreteness, its existential character because only in this way is it possible to grasp its importance.

This conception of philosophical wisdom, however, responds both to the “aspiration of the heart” and to the “thirst for reason”, because «Men – observes Thomas Aquinas in the wake of Aristotle – naturally have the desire to know the causes of what they see…» (Summa contra Gentes, III, 25, 8). On this point, the history of philosophy is very clear: it leads to the finding of a fact or to detect the presence of a constant: man is essentially a metaphysician and cannot stop questioning himself about the reality that surrounds him, a reality that demands an explanation , a Reason. Here is what the French philosopher Gilson said:

«It is an observable character of all metaphysical doctrines that, widely divergent as they may be, they agree on the necessity of finding out the first cause of all that is. Call it Matter with Democritus, the Good with Plato, the self-thinking Thought with Aristotle, the One with Plotinus, Being with all Christian philosophers, Moral Law with Kant, the Will with Schopenhauer, or let it be the absolute Idea of Hegel, the Creative Duration of Bergson, and whatever else you may cite, in all cases the metaphysician is a man who looks behind and beyond experience for an ultimate ground of all real and possible experience» (É. Gilson, The unity of philosophical experience, Ignatius Press, San Francisco1999, p. 247).

This constant is not only detectable in the history of philosophy, but also in the history of humanity: the action of man is characterized by a yearning for the divine. This means that all men are philosophers because all men – as Aristotle notes at the beginning of Metaphysics – want to know the truth, but obviously not this single truth, but the ultimate truth of things.

Certain historical circumstances can partly anesthetize the conscience of man and render him incapable of paying attention to what is essential, but it takes little to reawaken this desire, the desire to know, as Augustine says, the only reality that makes people happy, the Supreme Measure (see De vita Beata, IV, 34).

Giovanni Covino

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