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Monday, December 31, 2018

The Ethical Problem in Philosophers

The Four Philosophers, by Rubens
There is an ethical problem in philosophers—they want to find the truth, but they will not accept it. Etienne Gilson comments on this problem in Chapter 3, “The Road to Skepticism,” of his book The Unity of Philosophical Experience. Here’s an excerpt:
There is an ethical problem at the root of our philosophical difficulties; for men are most anxious to find truth, but very reluctant to accept it. We do not like to be cornered by rational evidence, and even when truth is there, in its impersonal and commanding objectivity, our greatest difficulty still remains; it is for me to bow to it in spite of the fact that it is not exclusively mine, for you to accept it though it cannot be exclusively yours. In short, finding out truth is not so hard; what is hard is not to run away from truth once we have found it. When it is not a "yes but," our "yes" is often enough a "yes, and . . ."; it applies much less to what we have just been told than to what we are about to say. The greatest among philosophers are those who do not flinch in the presence of truth, but welcome it with the simple words: yes, Amen.
When the philosophers are unable to practice what they are preaching to others, the credibility of their entire philosophical system goes down.

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