The onion of philosophy

One could easily reduce one’s study of philosophy to conclusions alone. For instance, it is simple enough to say this is Plato’s theory of forms and this is what it entails. Usually this is sufficient to pass the exam or appear clever at the dinner table – yet it is philosophy of the most cosmetic and glib kind. It is to declare that the story of the onion ends with the skin.

Digging into the onion and going deeper,  one may look into the arguments of the great philosophers. For example, one could study the arguments that Socrates/Plato offers in the Phaedo for the immortality of the soul. By going this step further the foundation that the conclusions rest upon may be understood.

But why does Plato formulate his arguments in the first place? Another layer down and one will see that the philosophers philosophise to solve some kind of problem. For Plato and Aristotle, their primary concern was how something could change yet remain the same (i.e being vs becoming).

Further still is the core of the onion: Plato and Aristotle say that philosophy begins in wonderment. It starts by not taking things for granted. Sure, Parmenides was obviously wrong when he denied the reality of change and Heraclitus just as wrong when he denied that anything is immutable and eternal – but how we do we know that and what is the solution to the problem? Those with wonder in their hearts will not be satisfied with a taken-for-granted answer and grapple with these things.

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